Numerous reports have shown that when B2B sales and marketing teams work more closely together, in synergy, and without conflict, business results can improve.

But where do you start to fix the problems?

1. Focus on lead qualification, not just lead generation

Not every lead is a quality lead.

When marketing just hand a lead over the fence to sales to follow up, this is where problems can occur. Sales teams don’t have the time to chase dead-end leads, and can get annoyed and blame marketing for poor leads.

Marketing teams should be able to generate potential new leads into the buying funnel through regular events, consistent and valuable inbound content marketing and online advertising, and targeted PR and thought leadership opportunities in well-read industry publications.

Planning, doing, and reviewing all this lead generation activity is hard work, and very time-consuming. Sales teams can often be unappreciative of the amount of work marketing teams undertake in today’s world, and they don’t always see the connections between those activities and revenue. Added to which, marketing activities are often difficult to measure, and therefore perceived as less important than more easily measurable sales outcomes.

But it is a simple fact that B2B marketing teams now own more of the buying funnel than ever before.

The new B2B sales and marketing buying funnel 
The new B2B sales and marketing buying funnel (Source: Marketo)

With owning more of the buying funnel comes greater responsibility to get things right.

From attracting leads in the first place through all the activities mentioned above, to weeding out bad ones through email marketing campaigns, invitations to events or direct marketing activity, marketing teams can start to identify those leads actively looking to buy and pass them onto a happy sales team.

B2B marketing teams need to focus on delivering better, qualified leads to sales teams.

But it all starts by agreeing what qualifies as a good lead ready to pass on to sales (MQL), and what sales decide is a good lead that could potentially turn into an opportunity (SQL), as well as working off the same CRM system and agreeing on the kinds of content that will help.

2. Use content to qualify leads

In today's online world, B2B customers have the ability to spend more time researching and educating themselves on the different solutions and products that meet and suit their business need, which in turn has provided marketing teams with a fabulous opportunity to produce high-quality, relevant content to get in front of potential buyers when they’re researching and when they’re considering purchase.

However, this has meant that content, and the practice of content marketing, is ubiquitous.

It also means that your organisation is competing with numerous brands creating and seeding content out across the Internet – organisations who may have larger marketing teams or budgets than you – and at its very worst a lot of content often turns out to be nothing more than click-bait with no real customer value.

By creating content of real value, and moulding it around the different stages of the buying funnel, based on customer needs at that stage of their journey, both B2B sales and marketing teams will be able to see the value in collaborating and will be able to see real results.

B2b marketing buying funnel content Example of content tailored to where prospect is in buying funnel

The different stages of the buyer funnel require different approaches, different kinds of content, and their identification as a potential lead that moves them on to the next stage will be different.

Mapping your customer journey together in this way will mean B2B marketing and sales teams will reach a better level of understanding on how marketing activities have an impact on driving potential leads closer to purchase.

3. Agree on targets and understand motivation

B2B marketing teams often think sales people are solely motivated by the commission they will receive when they make a sale, especially when it’s a big contract. And this can indeed be true.

However, sales people – especially those with more experience – can also be motivated by achieving overall business targets and making a difference to a client’s business.

Marketing people can often be more motivated by making a difference to people’s lives through selling them their product or service, rather than sales numbers. Most marketers do not work on commission, even though they may have played a large part in driving someone into becoming a client, so their reward can be different to sales.

However, there are many marketers who also get a kick out of revenue and margin numbers.

Both sales and marketing are ultimately responsible for driving revenue into the business.

Have the hard meeting – it’s important for marketing and sales to have an open and honest discussion on what the motivation to succeed is within each team, and for each individual within that team.

The ultimate answer should be achieving company revenue targets – but for each individual, it could be hitting their quarterly targets, improving share of voice, or something else that gets them up in the morning.

With a greater understanding of what each team and each individual is looking to achieve will come greater appreciation of the task at hand – and deciding on a strategy and activity that keep both parties happy will become much easier.

4. Do both sales-driving and brand building activity

Whether you’re a marketer in a large business where sales and marketing are separate teams, or whether you’re in a smaller organisation in which marketing reports into sales, you will have probably come across the following scenario at some point.

Frustrated with the length of the sales cycle, which could be anything from six months to a year or more, and not seeing the immediate value of brand building activity, sales reps push marketing to solely focus on short-term sales-focused activities – email marketing, special offers – that they believe will drive opportunities into their laps faster.

Marketing teams, on the other hand, would probably prefer to focus on strategic activity that increases brand awareness longer term, prompting people to remember and consider their brand when it comes to making a purchase decision.

The funny thing is that both parties are right.

As Binet and Field have shown in their ground-breaking analysis and study of marketing effectiveness, organisations need activity designed to build their brand, and activity focused on activating sales.

Long-term brand building activity results in long-term growth in base sales along with reduced price sensitivity – meaning your product or service is bought on value, not price – when compared to short-term sales activation.

But the two activities – brand building and sales activation – are not mutually exclusive. The Binet and Field study shows that brands that do both, in a way that is right for their category and the emotional state of mind of their customer, means greater profitability for their organisation in the long-term.

Binet and Field have shown that in industries that involve a high level of online research a greater proportion of marketing must be allocated to brand building activity (74%) vs. sales activation (26%).

And this is where the conflict between sales and marketing in the world of B2B – a category which normally involves a high level of research – can occur.

B2B sales teams need to understand that the brand building activity their marketing teams are working on, whilst the results will not be visible immediately – and may not be for a year or more – will reap dividends for their organisation’s success and profitability long-term.

B2B marketing teams need to agree to work on sales activation as well as brand building activity – but they should be careful to not focus on one to the detriment of the other.

Want to talk?

B2B marketing in today’s world is difficult.

From mapping your customer journey, creating content that meets customer needs at each stage of the journey, personalising the customer experience, ensuring leads from your website get into your CRM system and sales know about them, making sure your different systems talk to each other, to using digital channels effectively to build your brand long-term, we can help.

If you’d like to talk, or find out more about how we can help, then just get in touch.