September 29, 2010
How To

Bridging the Gap: 5 Objectives for Improving Relations between Sales and Marketing (Part 2)

SUMMARY: With the first of two MarketingSherpa B2B Summits taking place in San Francisco next week, we felt the time was right to address one of the biggest challenges facing B2B marketers – alignment with sales.

In the conclusion of this extensive excerpt from our B2B Lead Generation Handbook, we explore ways to establish a mutually beneficial relationship with sales – focusing on how strong communications can help you build your database and better understand the sales team's strategies, challenges and insights.
[From the MarketingSherpa B2B Lead Generation Handbook. Click here to see Part 1 of this two-part excerpt.]

Objective III: Help Them Sell

"Classically, sales and marketing are like cats and dogs," said Doug Ziewacz, Director of Marketing, Everon. "But, sales loves every single lead that I bring in.

"We believe marketing is supporting sales and we go with a very integrated approach. We’ve gone through and templated every aspect of that lead; the life of a lead, from lead open all the way to customer and on through customer service. We have emails; we have proposals. Our customizable sales proposal can be done now in just under 20 minutes, but it’s rich. It’s full of content. It says the right things. It’s talking to the needs of the potential customer. We know it’s consistent and the sales guys can just move the process right along.

"Adding key information to our website is another of the biggest things we’ve done. I can’t stress enough how it’s been valuable to our sales organization. We’re having dramatically different conversations when people come to us and start speaking to us because they’ve gone through our site. They’ve read our whitepapers. They’ve read case studies. They’ve read customer quotes. They know our pricing. They know everything there is. They’re essentially regurgitating it back to us what our business model is by the time they get to us. As a salesperson, that’s great because you don’t have to spend time doing that kind of stuff. What you can spend time on now is really focusing on building the relationship and addressing their needs as an organization."

Sales support materials used to be 50% or more of a typical B2B marketer’s time and budget. In the past decade with the recession in 2001-2002 and more recently, "measure it or lose it" ROI-focused management, some marketers have taken their eye off the sales support ball. Marketing is too busy pulling in, qualifying and measuring leads to "get out the slick sheets."

Sales definitely still needs support in this area, and anything you can do to make sales happy repays itself hundredfold to your department later on.

Objective IV: Gather Sales’ Contacts and Feedback

Sales reps tend to keep their own private lists of prospects, customers, users and connections. Naturally, you’ll want to pry this information from them to add to the main database. Also, the sales department will resist this. They don’t like the idea of anyone touching their cherished files.

Database consultant Bernice Grossman, President DMRS Group, said, "They have absolutely no interest in giving me their data. The only thing I’ve ever found that works is to make an honest deal with them. They like money, but I could never give them as much as they’re earning. So, I offer the one other thing I have that has some value to them -- to clean up their records and make them more accurate and then send the records back to whatever CRM system they are using."


o Make it easy -- Salespeople hate admin and don’t have any time to waste in the day fiddling with lists or systems. If getting the list means typing, copying, or more than a split second of admin work, offer to send over a staffer to do it for them.

o Give sales control -- Sales reps are worried that, if they give you their contacts, they’ll lose control over what is sent to or done with those contacts. You must be able to assure them they have input into and veto power over all marketing touches. Your database must be able to flag certain names as "untouchable" by marketing. Sales must be able to go into the marketing database at any time to request information on contacts -- regardless if that contact is officially sales-ready or not. They must also feel assured that no one else can possibly steal "credit" for a sale or contact that rightfully belongs to them.

o Make it a competitive sport -- Great sales reps are competitive by nature. Nothing gets their blood racing more than to see their names and scores compared to other sales reps’ performances. Turn the practice of helping the marketing department into a sport, with scoring, publicity and rewards. Score for value to the organization; for example, instead of considering just total contacts, how about determining which contact lists have the highest email open rates?

o Get the head of sales to support you -- Salespeople respects the person who has life or death control over their job and the person who signs their commission checks. If those people back your requests to the hilt, you’re golden. This means you have the power to escalate any unanswered requests to the next level and that higher up will take swift disciplinary action to make sure your request is acted on. Many marketers automate this, using email systems and online reporting to spotlight reps that don’t perform. However, get buy-in from seniors first and go carefully. You don’t want to look like you’re going behind sales reps’ backs badmouthing them.


Do you have a "black hole" in your organization? Do reps take meetings and/or make calls and then never tell you what happened afterward ... unless, of course, there was an account win on the spot? Without feedback, marketing can’t improve the quality of leads deemed sales-worthy. Plus, without feedback, marketing can’t pitch in to help out when a lead might need more marketing touches before the next sales call.

But sales doesn’t always see it this way. They are very busy. They hate paperwork. They have to make this month’s or this quarter’s quota. They do not have time to go filling out endless paperwork for the marketing department.
Your job is to make it as easy and comfortable for them as possible. This can involve technology. For example, you can program an email autoresponder to send a sales rep an automated questionnaire after every major sales call. They can sit in the airport or hotel room and answer the darn thing.

Make sure fields you already have data on are pre-filled (nothing makes sales crankier than typing unnecessary information). Don’t require too many fields or make the form too arduous. Give them checkboxes instead of drop-downs. Give them an open-form field for any comments. Promise no other rep will see or can poach their information. Use a system of rewards and punishments. Give reps points that are good toward a big-screen TV if they fill out the most information the quickest. Send the Sales VP a red flag email when 72 hours go by without a rep responding.

Jill Snyder, VP Corporate Marketing, Aprimo Inc., set up an automated email system to survey reps 24 hours after each of their scheduled appointments. Reps hate to type, so Snyder made the survey easy to fill out by just ticking buttons and including an open box for any other notes. Questions focus on sales lead quality, purchase timing, and budget. If the rep doesn’t answer a survey, the email system automatically generates an email 48 hours later to Snyder and the company CEO.

As a result, nearly 100% of surveys are filled out on time. The request has escalated to the CEO only a handful of times. Snyder explained: "Reps love doing it. They love offering their opinion. They know if they answer it that they’re going to get more leads. They know that by telling me how well it went, it will determine what type of leads they will get in the future. Reps don’t like to prospect. If you can tell a rep, ‘I’ll do the prospecting for you,’ there’s nothing better."

Or you can use a low-tech approach, have an assistant call each rep at a prearranged time, such as when they are waiting in an airport or relaxing on a late Friday afternoon, to get their feedback verbally.

Objective V: Gather Sales’ Marketplace Insights

Not enough marketers take advantage of sales’ frontline experience with prospects. Instead of just asking how a sales call went, ask for more insight into the prospect. Small details it might not occur to sales to mention can mean the world to marketing copy, offers or strategies.

"When marketers go to new jobs, some say, "Here’s my plan. I’m going to do all these things," said Kelly Vizzini, CMO, DataSynapse. "That’s the kiss of death. Why would I presume to create a plan when I haven’t sat down and talked to my internal audience? You have to ask them where their pain is, what works and ‘where are you struggling?’ "

Before launching her first campaigns for DataSynapse, Vizzini asked all the sales reps who could make it to a special meeting in person to help her understand their challenges. Three items were on the agenda:

1. Everyone wrote down all the sales objectives they got from prospects on a piece of paper. Why not shout them out? Vizzini didn’t want to risk a "me-too" fiesta or to limit individual thinking.

2. Vizzini wrote down all objectives on a whiteboard, grouping them into themes as they emerged, such as "never heard of us" or "want to see our financials."

3. Sales reps rated each theme by when it occurred in the sales cycle: early, mid and close to signing.

Then Vizzini used these themes and timing to create her marketing materials attack plan. Over the following year, company revenues doubled, thanks in part to sales’ influence over marketing.


Sales-marketing alignment and other important lead generation topics are covered more in-depth in the MarketingSherpa B2B Lead Generation Handbook and at the upcoming B2B Marketing Summit ’10, in Boston and San Francisco.

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