By Yvonne McAteer
If you have heard any of these quotes from your sales team, you’ll find benefit in this article.
- “The leads we get from marketing stink”
- “I don’t have any good content to send a prospect”
- “I just need help with the graphics in my sales presentation”
These are symptoms that your sales and marketing teams are not aligned, and it’s costing you revenue.
I have personally said some version of these quotes more than once in my 20 plus years in workforce solutions sales. And if you are like the majority of workforce solutions firms today, your teams are saying these things, even if you aren’t hearing it.
Staffing is, and will continue to be, a relationship business. But how we build those relationships has changed. It’s now combination of personal and digital, which is best achieved when sales and marketing strategies, and teams, are aligned.
Per CEB, B2B buyers are typically 57% through their purchasing decision before engaging with a sales rep. Sales and marketing need to collaborate to meet this change. I look at marketing as little digital sales assistants that can sometimes open doors, and other times deliver just the right thought leadership piece to advance a deal.
Here are two suggestions on how to begin aligning your sales and marketing teams. According to Aberdeen Research, companies that have sales and marketing alignment generate 32% higher revenue and retain 36% more customers. It’s worth it.
(1) Meet regularly, consistently and… – share data
For many companies, sales and marketing teams do meet with some regularity. Updates between departments are needed, but if the agenda for the meeting consists of sales reporting on where they are with MQL’s, or marketing asking the status of a previously submitted RFP, you’re missing opportunity. And over time the teams will feel there isn’t enough value in “sitting through” those meetings. Instead, structure sales and marketing meetings to be more substantive and provide opportunity to revisit and realign on strategy. As an example, we recently started an engagement with a staffing company who had put in quite a bit of time creating prospect personas. Marketing walked me through them. When I met with sales, they advised me that yes, they had participated in creating them but the buyers they were engaging with today had changed slightly, and the business problems the buyers needed to solve for had changed significantly. Somewhere along the way the personas became philosophical, not practical. We suggest to structure meetings with agenda items that keep lines of communication open and able to adjust to changing marketing conditions.
Sales and marketing both play roles in email outreach (that’s a future topic in and of itself), bids, trade shows, in person events, ad campaigns, and online events. Typically, each department has some view of the data or outcome of each component, but not the whole picture. Share the data quarterly and analyze for ROI. Let the data drive the decisions on future investments and the best way for both teams to be investing their time. Some of the connections made or relationships built from these investments won’t materialize within the quarter, so we recommend assigning a value to a new introduction or relationship.
Another key component to analyze is win/loss debriefs. Whether it’s a formal RFP process or a proposal preemptively submitted, we can’t say enough about ensuring someone on the team conducts a win/loss debrief with the prospect. Make sure there are targeted, structured questions that are used every time so that you get the info you need on the strength of your value proposition, the prospect’s view of the competitive landscape, the decision criteria, your areas of strength, and opportunity. This is valuable data that many companies are not gathering. The information provided, especially when trends are identified, can help you create more compelling sales collateral, ad messaging, brand positioning and future RFP responses. Please… don’t skip this step!
(2) Create content that buyers need during the buying journey
Ah, content. One of our favorite topics. And one of the biggest gaps we see between sales and marketing.
Key to success? Getting the right content, to the right buyer, at the right time in their journey. Simple, but not easy. Creating a buying journey roadmap, with all possible touch points is a great place to start. Then outline how the buyer will interact with your brand at each stage. Lastly, identify what they need to know to solve their business problem, assess providers, and incorporate their solution internally. This becomes the baseline for your buying journey content. This is what sales needs to support their work and enable them to nurture client relationships. Typically, marketing is off creating content without the infusion of sales insights; what questions are your prospects asking, what obstacles are they facing getting internal buy in, what do they need to differentiate us? Note that Gartner found that buyers don’t want more choices, they want more confidence in you as a choice. Your sales team is key here, but providing content that the buyer can refer to, use, leverage internally, compare, is critical.
A lot of staffing companies are creating content, and when we engage with them, they say it’s not helping with sales. It’s the wrong content. As an example, doing a quick google search on “how to manage a hybrid workplace” my screen tells me there are 25,700,000 results. Throughout the last few years several of the staffing firms we work with had created similar pieces. Helpful? Probably. That’s what we call DIY content. But when you think about a departmental leader, procurement, or HR making decisions on which firm to partner with for hiring projects, that is not one of the questions they are asking or need to know to get it done.
It’s important to note that the buyer journey is no longer linear – there are starts and stops and new people involved, which supports content creation. Think about a prospect who has gone silent but still has numerous open positions. How helpful would your sales person be if they were able to present a one pager of current market rates snapshot, or a cost of vacancy blog with calculator to help them see the impact of the market and/or the impact of their delay?
The type of content your marketing team creates also matters. Note that eBooks tend to get the most downloads for “top of funnel” engagement, while case studies are typically used by buyers at the bottom of the sales funnel when they are close to making a decision. Does your marketing team know the percentage of deals sales has at each stage, so they can create content accordingly? This is one reason why although marketing teams are churning out more content than ever over 63% of sales people say they don’t have relevant content to send to a buyer.
This level of collaboration between your teams has to be intentional, and will work best when encouraged and facilitated by you, their leader. But we are confident you will see the results.
We have a structured process for both buyer journey creation and a content framework, created specifically based for workforce solutions clients. Let us know if we can help.