The biggest benefit of digital marketing is that everything is trackable. The biggest downfall of digital marketing is that everything is trackable. However, the difference between winning and losing is your ability to demonstrate your impact on sales using digital data. That’s not an easy feat as it requires to focus on the back-end and front-end, automation/workflows of customer journeys, and user-interface and creative design as a whole.
In essence, digital marketing is a lot of work, as is demand generation and working with sales.
As a marketer, the way to support your sales team depends heavily on your job scope. Let’s discuss how to support sales from different roles. Please bear in mind, each role I describe below differs from company to company and from industry to industry. In addition, many of you are likely wearing multiple hats and need to understand multiple roles to better support your sales team.
Roles based on management scope:
Roles based on your marketing functions:
- Email Marketing
- Event Marketing
- Social Media
- Demand Generation
- Digital Marketing
- Content Marketing
- Media Planning
- Brand Marketing
- Marketing Operations
- Co-marketing or Partner Marketing
- Sales Enablement
Supporting Sales Based On Management Scope:
As an individual contributor:
The best way to start is to clearly understand your own roles and responsibilities. Are you doing email marketing? Are you managing social media channels? Perhaps you are a content creator? Or, if you are wearing multiple hats, what marketing tactics do you use? What marketing channels are you responsible for?
Next, talk to the sales team to understand their challenges and needs. When you ask sales what you can do to better support them, it’s going to be like opening Pandora’s box, they will tell you many, many things that they need your support on.
Here are the 5 must-ask questions, I created a YouTube video to show you why. Check it out.
5 questions you should ask your salespeople:
- How do you handle rejections?
- What was the biggest deal you closed in the past 5 years?
- For those accounts which you lost, should the contacts go back to the marketing database for further nurturing?
- What content do you find most useful?
- How can I do to help?
You need to categorize and prioritize their requests, then identify the items that you can help with based on the context of your roles and responsibilities. That’s why you need to know your own roles and responsibilities. This is especially true in a big company where roles and responsibilities are narrowly defined. That’s one way to start: a bottom-up, informal approach.
Another way is to create a formal request with solid recommendations on what you plan to do after your discovery and research. Present it to your management and sales, seek their support and get approval and funding before you start. That’s a more formal way to go about it.
As a marketing director:
As a marketing director, you likely have a team and a budget already. You probably have a plan in place to leverage your team and budget to achieve your marketing objectives. Start having conversations with your sales counterparts and understand their challenges to see if you can address some of them with your current plan.
Sometimes, there is low-hanging fruit, such as revising select marketing content for sales’ needs or sharing a messaging framework or even helping with onboarding training. Again, the key is to incorporate what you can do as part of your deliverables. The best time to do that is during the company’s annual planning cycle. Get a fresh start and have a discussion as part of the fiscal year planning.
As a VP of marketing:
The most ideal way to start sales enablement is top-down. As a VP of marketing, you have the authority and power to initiate collaboration with the VP of sales.
Obviously, you have your marketing plan and initiatives for the year, as does the sales team.
Understand the sales plan and key imperatives for the year. Identify the areas where marketing can add value. Get the VP of sales’ buy-in and identify team members from both sides to form a task force or a virtual team, since many small projects start with some forms of a task force. This is a good way to start if you can’t add headcount immediately.
To keep the momentum going, it’s essential to request timely updates from the team.
Supporting Sales Based On Marketing Functions:
Even though Marketing does email marketing, sales reps are doing email marketing campaigns on their own. Sales would find some relevant content and send that out to their network or prospects to keep the relationship warm or as a conversation starter.
While you are working on your nurturing campaigns, you may need to be cognizant of the number of emails that your customers are getting. Many of us don’t have full visibility into how many emails our prospects receive from us when email campaigns are de-centralized and your CRM or marketing automation tools may not capture all the email sent by your marketing and sales teams.
Here are some suggestions to help your sales team:
- Segment email list for prospects and existing customers and accounts. Make sure existing customers’ clicks on email campaigns and content are incorporated into CRM. Or better yet, conduct content consumption analysis and share your insights with your sales reps so that they have additional intelligence to carry relevant conversations with their customers. It’s another form of Account-based Marketing (ABM)
- Identify prospects based on email nurturing, but work with Inside Sales or Biz Dev to pre-qualify them before sharing with sales
- Communicate with sales the types of content or email that are sent to existing customers so they can avoid duplication
- Work with sales to prepare email campaigns as part of ABM (Account-based Marketing)
Prior to the pandemic, sales usually worked closely with their event team. Event marketing managers worked on logistics to ensure everything was set up on-site so that sales could have conversations with prospects or conduct customer meetings. During the pandemic, many events have been cancelled, and event marketing teams need to “re-think” events and build online mechanism to help sales carry conversations online.
Here are some ideas:
- Use webinars to attract prospects and educate existing customers on new features
- Recommend creative ways to reach out to clients with unique gifting ideas. Check out how to use Alyce to come up with unique gift recommendations for your sales team
- When building online event platforms, event marketing managers need to make sure attendee information is captured in both marketing automation and CRM. When prospects are qualified as sales leads, sales can easily see the information in CRM.
- Even when there are no online events, it’s important to come up with online or virtual event ideas to give sales opportunities to discover prospects or engage with customers.
In the B2B world, sales see social media as the top of the funnel. Many salespeople see social media as time-consuming work that doesn’t get results in the short-term. They are not wrong. In addition, the social media team doesn’t usually have a close relationship with sales in many companies. Many social media managers are not aware of the company’s potential new accounts and what audience the company wants to attract. They focus on doing their jobs, but they also need to have a broader view of sales strategy.
Some suggestions to think about:
- Social media managers can start tracking key customers of strategic accounts and new accounts that sales want to pursue. Help sales gather intelligence on social media.
- Social selling is a hot topic. Social media managers may not know how to “sell”, but they know social media etiquette. It’s nice to share with Sales the dos and don’ts. Social media managers should see if Sales has any social media questions that they can help with.
- There is a lot of ‘noise’ on social media. All the data in various social media channels don’t need to be fed into CRM per se. It would end up creating too much data for sales to absorb. It’s important for social media managers to understand the overall sales strategy, key accounts, and new accounts. By connecting the dots, social media teams can craft a plan to better support sales.
In the B2B world, demand generation usually means acquiring leads for your sales team. Therefore, appropriate tactics include paid media, email marketing, and even event marketing. If you are a demand generation manager, your scope will determine how you support the sales teams. Depending on your role, you can see other ideas in different roles in this blog post.
The biggest misalignment between demand and sales is usually the definition of marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales accepted leads (SALs). It’s important for the two teams to reach an agreement and articulate MQLs with a clear and crisp definition, such as MQLs are leads that match an Ideal Customer Profile or those that opted in to request a demo.
Lead scoring should not be the determining factor for MQLs, but it’s still important to gauge prospects’ intent and anticipate what they will do. Also, you need to educate sales about the relative importance of quality vs. quantity of leads. If marketing focuses on quality leads, then sales need to reset their expectations on the number of leads.
Lead definitions and quality vs. quantity are touchy topics, but again, it’s a discussion you need to have with your sales team.
This is a broad term for any marketing job. Almost everything we do is digital nowadays. In some companies, digital marketing means owned media such as the company’s website, e-commerce, and user communities. There are many ways that webmasters or community managers can provide help to sales. Your company’s website can easily incorporate sales-centric conversion buttons, content, copy, and chatbots to deliver sales opportunities to your sales team.
- Build a sales-centric conversion journey into the website, e-commerce or community sites
- Share user feedback with the sales and product teams
- Conduct surveys on-site or within communities to answer sales questions
- Pre-qualify with an on-site chatbot or “contact me” sales inquiries before routing to inside sales or biz dev teams
- Use plug-ins and CRM to inform sales about strategic account engagements on your website and communities
- Integrate booking and sales scheduling as part of your website
- Allow existing accounts to automate certain types of repeat orders
- Offer digital space (landing pages/contact forms) on your website to continue sales reps’ activities from trade show booths and conferences
Content plays a big role in enabling your sales team, especially in B2B and complex sales cycles. Because your products are complex, you will need content to help either explain your products or use case studies or benchmarks to substantiate your claims.
However, there are differences between sales-centric and marketing-centric content. Many salespeople use marketing content as part of their email outreach to continue the relationship or as a conversational opener.
Here are some ways for content marketer to help your sales team:
- Map recommended content to different sales stages so that the sales team can see the types of content available
- Communicate content by products, by personas, by industries, and by sales stages. Help sales understand where content is located (it’s the best to have a sales enablement or sales-centric content management library.)
- Customize content for specific accounts if necessary
- Understand how different formats of content are used online or in virtual conference calls in the current environment
If you do media planning within a company, it’s likely that you don’t work very closely with the sales team unless your media plan is involved in account-based marketing (ABM) or demand-gen campaigns with calls-to-action (CTA) to contact sales. As part of ABM efforts, you’ll need to have a complete list of accounts for targeting to help the team determine the appropriate channels and publishers to use with the media plan.
The sales team may not want to hear all the media planning details so the key is to understand the key metrics that the sales team cares about and set your system up to track that. Focusing on regularly reporting out is key.
It’s hard to demonstrate the brand’s equity or value to sales unless your brand is global and highly recognized by the mass population. If your brand is new or niche and you’re the brand manager, here are some “quick-win” suggestions to demonstrate your value-add to the sales team:
- Create sales-centric branded templates (PowerPoint deck templates, sales-centric collateral, email templates etc.) for the sales team to use
- Lead and own branding training sessions as part of sales onboarding training
- Engage in and approve co-branding activities from sales quickly
Don’t let your sales team wait, and respond to their questions or requests as quickly as possible. Do what you can to help them win.
The scope of Marketing Operations is different from company to company. It usually covers people, process, and technology throughout the stages of planning, budgeting, execution, and analysis. Think about metrics, infrastructure, business processes, budgeting, and reporting.
Most marketing operations people are not classical marketers, they tend to come from process-oriented or analytic-centric roles. I was an operations-person-turned-marketer. I love creative and digital marketing communications. However, I tend to focus on backend and process, when I work with my clients. That has a lot to do with my past experience in operations.
In many cases, data analytics is part of sales operations. If data analysis and reporting is part of operations, I’d recommend that you understand the type of questions your sales team wants answers to.
Here are some suggestions for marketing operations managers to help their sales team:
- Work closely with Sales Operation to ensure marketing automation tools are connected to sales tools such as CRM
- Prepare marketing reports in the context of sales metrics to help sales understand marketing’s contribution
- Take on the martech (marketing technology) and sales tech integration role to ensure customer data flow from marketing to sales or vice versa
Co-marketing or Partner Marketing
Partner marketing is when two or more brands collaborate on promotional efforts. In the tech industry partner marketing is a key channel for driving demand for new technologies. Co-marketing is usually driven on the sales side: A strategic account-based approach in which both companies contribute marketing dollars to drive demand for both companies. In many cases, it can be complicated in terms of jointly determining the creative decisions, copywriting that benefits both brands, and even logo arrangements. Not to mention how data is captured within the two companies’ database.
In some cases, it can be as simple as the co-branding of one piece of content or co-sponsoring a trade show or conference.
Since co-marketing is driven as part of sales’ strategic direction, it’s important to update sales on their co-marketing efforts.
- Understand the co-marketing clauses as part of the sales agreement
- Create a co-marketing plan (joint messaging, joint creative and the media plan) with clear success metrics and update sales reps
- Launch co-marketing campaigns
- Present campaign updates and metrics updates to sales management
- Route qualified leads to Inside Sales for follow-up
Every company does sales enablement differently. This function can reside within Business Units, Marketing, Sales Ops or even HR. Many define sales enablement as sales onboarding and training. With digital marketing and complex sales cycles, sales onboarding and training can encompass many elements on the marketing side, especially account-based marketing and content marketing.
Work closely with your marketing team and continuously communicate different curriculum that you are creating. Ask marketing to source the content and invite them to be part of the training session to help you deliver on-boarding and training needs.
There is a consistent theme when embarking on the effort to enable sales regardless of your roles:
- Know what you are doing –> Know yourself
- Seek to understand sales’ challenges and pain points. –> Know your sales team
- Identify challenges that you can address –> Know what you will do
- Map it into your overall plan deliverables –> Create a plan to execute
Getting started is easy with a can-do attitude and scrappy implementation. We all need to start somewhere. The challenge is how to keep the effort strong and on-going. The best way to sustain that is the top-down approach with a strong commitment from senior management of sales and marketing.
I’d love to hear how you support your sales team. If you have a good story to share about supporting sales, please let me know. Love to interview you for my podcast. Contact me at email@example.com.
If you want to continue reading about marketing and sales alignment, check some of my previous posts: