The sales game has changed. Nowadays, sales’ role is more than just to “close the deal” as fast as possible. It’s about nurturing and understanding what your prospects want and need in order to build a good relationship, provide value, and ultimately ensure a good fit over the long-run. The marketing game has also changed. No longer is generating leads your marketing team’s only responsibility to your sales team.
Thanks to the growth of technology, marketing can now help in the process of consultative selling more than ever, from evolving beyond brand awareness to building long-term relationships with your prospects in a potentially long sales cycle. Sales and marketing can be aligned and work towards the same goals: Getting more high-quality customers that grow over time. Let’s look at the role marketing can play in providing consultative support to improve your sales performance.
Mapping the buyer’s journey
Image source: HubSpot
The increased crossover between sales and marketing efforts starts with a much clearer map of the buyer’s journey. For a B2B sale, it can take you anywhere from three weeks to three months to make progress. Due to the size of many of these deals, the impact they have on your company, and the number of decision-makers involved, the sales process is extensive.
And yet many companies lack the resources to commit salespeople to dozens of prospective deals over the course of several months. Most salespeople will focus their efforts on low-hanging fruit — prospects who are near closing. But this leaves a lot of fruit on the tree. That’s where marketing comes in.
By mapping the complete buyer’s journey, from the moment someone in the prospective company identifies a need to the final signing of a new contract, it’s possible for your marketing team to take a much more proactive role in the process. But it requires both sales and marketing to coordinate and map out what the journey looks like. You should start asking questions like: How long does it typically take for a deal to close? How many stakeholders and decision makers are involved? Who is our typical sponsor when pushing a new deal through this process? What pushback do we generally hear? What are the most common causes of our lost deals? The list is exhaustive, but the more time you spend filling in these gaps, the more effective your marketing team can be.
Shortening the Sales Component of the Journey
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A consultative sales process is all about guiding the prospect, rather than the product, through identifying their problem, evaluating potential solutions, and selecting the right one (ideally yours). For a large B2B deal, it can take months to get there, though, which is why marketing can be such an effective partner. Consider the following situations in which marketing can step in:
- Capturing leads earlier in the funnel – Many companies only capture leads when they are ready to talk. If they aren’t ready to pick up the phone and talk to a salesperson, what’s the point, right? With a marketing funnel, however, you can capture new leads on your website much earlier in the buyer’s journey, when they are just starting to research their problem and potential solutions.
- Nurturing leads with educational materials – A big part of the consultative sales process is providing insights as a subject matter expert on how to find and select the right solution. If someone is preparing to upgrade their computer systems, they need a provider to make the upgrade, but they also need insights on what questions to ask, the timeline for such a project, and potential issues that might pop up. Marketing can provide those insights earlier in the life cycle of that lead with downloadable white papers and eBooks, webinars, and email contents.
- Tracking lead activities and pushing to sales – With the use of a marketing automation platform, marketing can assign point values to different actions leads take. Opening emails, downloading content, completing forms, or visiting key web pages can be automatically scored. This scoring allows your sales teams to prioritize active, ready to talk leads when they are ready.
For a sales professional, the six stages of a successful consultative sale can be time-consuming. Marketing can help qualify leads, prepare them for that conversation, and identify when they are ready, thereby improving the quality of the conversations between you and your prospects.
Collaborating on creating more effective content
Image source: E-Commerce Times
Marketing delivers content in the form of advertisement. Sales delivers content in the form of a proposal, whether through a phone call or in-person pitch. And both sides need to work together to understand their prospects and targeted audience to get the right message to the right people.
If you’re in sales, insights obtained through marketing research can be valuable for you to personalize your pitch for each potential customer. At the same time, marketing can utilize the feedback and insights drawn from the prospects through the sales team to create better marketing materials.
For example, there are certain questions that sales often receive from customers. An effective collaboration between marketing and sales team would lead to the publication of an article to address those questions so that in the future, prospects can find these answers before contacting the sales team.
Aligning on what “qualified leads” mean
Image source: Business 2 Community
The “rift” between marketing and sales is a cliché at this point. Marketing blames sales for dropping leads. Sales blames marketing for low lead quality. With a consultative process that effectively targets, qualifies, explores, assesses, and develops solutions for the right prospects, this doesn’t have to be the case.
Marketing can help to build a more robust and productive sales follow-up process. Sales can take action on leads that have raised their hand and shown direct interest in having the next conversation. And by closing the loop between the two teams, both sides can see the results of the others’ efforts, responding in kind.
This approach is not only effective in building a stronger pool of leads to draw from, but it also helps identify what a quality lead looks like and measure actual ROI from marketing and sales efforts. For both sides, this is a big win and will ultimately help to grow your organization faster.