Lessons Learned

Breaking Down Silos in Sales and Marketing to Boost Revenue

by | Sep 15, 2020

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
– Albert Einstein

sales and marketing

Introduction

Are your sales and marketing teams exchanging enough information? Your company’s growth and future success might depend on it.

One question I’ve been trying to answer has to do with how the feedback loop between sales and marketing affects the bottom-line revenue. I’ve observed that sales teams learn more about what potential buyers are thinking, what they want, and what objections that prevent them from buying.

So how can marketing take advantage of this information to refine their messages and bring better qualified leads to sales? More importantly, how can sales and marketing teams break down their own silos to facilitate this information exchange?

To answer these questions, I interviewed nine sales and marketing professionals. Here are their thoughts:

Sales and Marketing Teams Share Similar Goals

When sales and marketing teams both work together in synergy, the cost of customer acquisition goes down as sales cycles shorten and customer lifetime value increases, improving both revenue and cash flow.

Michael Dautner, the Head of Content at iNECTA says: “Marketing is all about gauging what people think they want in a product, and sales is all about finding out what customers actually need when they’re ready to put pen to paper. Marketing is the necessary pillar in which sales stands upon.”

However, it’s not just about numbers and dollars. It’s also about delivering an improved buyer’s journey that results in happier customers, some of whom become your evangelists who do some marketing for you.

How content creation ties sales and marketing together

The Director of Marketing & Business Development at Big Water Technologies, Jessica Rakowicz, manages a marketing team that is deeply integrated with sales and business development. “I like to be right in the middle of things. If a salesperson says something during the meeting I might say ‘I have some content that would be great for that’. It’s also about having my sales team use the content and the types of content I want them to use,” says Rakowicz.

It’s interesting that Jessica brings up content because, as Content Strategist Jan Nichols says, it can be used to create targeted prospects and identify sales qualified leads (SQLs) for sales to convert into customers.

“As a content strategist, writer, and creative team leader, I think that sales and content marketing should be very, very closely aligned. Throughout the buyers’ journey, each discipline has distinct responsibilities where they all share a common goal, which is to accelerate sales through the pipe and generate revenue. In order to achieve this goal, sales and marketing, though separate, should be aligned as one,” says Nichols.

The Head of Sales at the Content Marketing Institute, Peter Loibl, sums this up nicely: “Sales and marketing teams have focused, yet similar, goals, none more important than articulating the brand’s value to an end user.”

What happens if sales and marketing are not aligned?

Rakowicz explains that without her weekly meetings with sales, she wouldn’t get the information her marketing team needed, and sales also wouldn’t get insights from marketing to help them succeed.

“I don’t think it’s possible to separate the two and when you leave them separate, you get things like salespeople asking for your marketing team to make them a random PowerPoint while you’re in the middle of another project,” she adds.

Loibl also explains: “If these two cogs of the engine are working independently, then diverse stories to prospects and customers can send mixed messages and deliver less than desirable results. A good strategy must begin with cohesive marketing and sales alignment, period.”

Maria Velasquez, the co-founder of the Cybersecurity Marketing Society and current Head of Marketing at Unibuddy, wrote an entertaining blog post that serves an object lesson in scenarios where there is little or no alignment between sales and marketing teams, or both teams are just concentrating on hitting their own metrics.

Positive Feedback Loop Between Sales and Marketing

sales and marketing feedback loop

As long as information flows freely, learnings from both sales and marketing can contribute to a positive feedback loop that drives revenue:

1. Sales teams find out which messages are working and which are not. Gives such data and insights to marketing.

2. Marketing adjusts their messages to double down on what works, builds content around those messages.

3. Sales close more, earning higher win rates.

Of course, this is an oversimplification of what really goes on between sales and marketing.

Passing insights up and down the two-way funnel

Piotr Szałkiewicz, the Head of Content at LiveChat talks about sales teams eliminating some guesswork by gleaning insights from the lower part of the funnel. “Incorporating this knowledge into your content marketing can have a great influence on your performance and ability to feed sales with new leads.”

Szałkiewicz adds: “Marketing, on the other hand, can use the knowledge about a lead or a customer and come up with content that not only helps with nurturing prospects but also extends the entire value proposition. Building these feedback loops into each team’s workflows can have a very positive impact on revenue in the long term.”

The Marketing Operations Manager at Biscom, Mary Skuse, agrees that sales can have specific conversations with customers about their thoughts and objections, and that sales teams have a responsibility to report their findings back to marketing and product management teams. On the flip side, “I also think that marketing can bring behavioral data to the table to help complete the customer’s profile. To that end, marketing teams should also be invited in on customer conversations when possible,” says Skuse.

Using a push-pull content strategy in MOFU

The Digital Marketing Manager at Bigtime Software, Bridget Poetker, makes the case for a push-pull content marketing strategy involving both sales and marketing: “When sales and content play off each other, sales has better content to send to their prospects, and content has better talking points based on previous calls and emails to build better content. This creates a powerful loop that helps move prospects along in the buyer journey.”

Poetker also argues that there’s a sweet spot in the middle of the funnel (MOFU) where sales and marketing can both use a push-pull content strategy: “There are so many layers to a great content strategy and how to maximize conversions. But there’s certainly a sweet spot in the middle of the funnel for a sales ‘push’ to capitalize on educating their prospects using a ‘pull’ method like content marketing.”

Keeping focus on the customer

The key for sales and marketing alignment is sharing common goals that keep their focus on the customer, rather than themselves or their own metrics.

Skuse shares her experience where she feels fortunate enough to be with a company that, using weekly check-in meetings, seems to have broken down the silos between sales and marketing. In their meetings, sales teams discuss recent opportunities and customer stories while marketing presents new campaigns and ads.

Skuse says: “We also have a monthly review of win/lost opportunities and the reasons for each. Having all stakeholders in that meeting ensures we all hear the same information and can learn from each other’s questions. I think the really successful teams are just that – teams. There should be respect for what each professional brings to the table while keeping the focus on the customer.”

How the Content Marketing Engine Fits Into the Sales Cycle

It’s important to understand that having high-quality content that both educates and entertains is critical for every stage of the funnel or buyer’s journey. You could create dozens of different types of content specifically for each stage of the buyer’s journey to help nudge potential buyers onto the next stage.

Let’s walk this through.

We create content for top of the funnel, where potential buyers learn more about your product or solution when they aren’t yet ready to make a buying decision. These types of content would be educational and informative but would also go easy on the sales pitch. There’s no need to come off as a hard sell in our content to create targeted prospects and identify qualified leads moving to the next stages of their buyer’s journey.

As they move through your funnel, your content helps them become informed buyers before the sales call.

This, in turn, makes the sales call more productive while taking some pressure off your sales teams. And there could be even more content best suited for potential buyers during and after the sales call. As Rakowicz said, your sales representatives could feel empowered to send better content to prospects by saying “I have some content that would be great for that” or “I have some content that might help” and passing that on.

Then feedback from these sales calls leads to even better content from marketing.

content marketing engine for sales and marketing

The prerequisite to a content marketing engine that drives revenue is close alignment between sales and marketing. “Sales and product teams should be kept in sync with the marketing team in order to create the content marketing engine that produces high-quality pieces in every delivery-format,” says Prateek Gupta, a limited partner at Hack VC and the Developer Content Lead at QuestDB.

Annual and quarterly content strategies for long and complex sales cycles

The way I see the entire sales process for B2B is 1) pre-sale marketing, 2) sales, and 3) post-sale customer success.

For better or worse, many believe that content marketing is focused more on the pre-sale part. This makes sense considering all the fuss about SEO and brand awareness.

However, I challenge you–the reader–to think about the potential value in creating content for both sales and customer success.

My conversation with Jan Nichols about this topic led to some great insights.

“If a business has a more complicated product and an extended sales cycle, you’ll see a marketing demand funnel that’s something like this: awareness, interest, consideration, intent, purchase, post-purchase, customer advocacy,” says Nichols.

Within the context of the usual B2B sales process, awareness and interest would fall into pre-sale marketing. Consideration and intent make up the basis for SQLs. Nichols goes on: “If we (both sales and content marketing) have done our jobs well, we will transition a satisfied buyer into a successful customer who will, in time, become a devoted advocate. In the circular fashion of sales and content marketing, customer advocates will ignite pre-sales and accelerate the sales process by building trust, consideration and intent to purchase among other qualified leads.”

Nichols and I particularly agree, in the case of SaaS-based businesses, on the importance of having a well-integrated content strategy with total buy-in from sales, marketing, product and executive teams. Nichols adds: “I absolutely, whole-heartedly believe that content supports the sales team, accelerates the sales process, enhances the lifetime value of a customer, and drives annual recurring revenue (ARR) for SaaS.”

The Crucial X Factor: Customer Success

We should not forget the work that customer success goes into increasing revenue, both of which increase customer lifetime value (CLV) and bring more referrals through customer-led marketing.

Content for customer success teams is another topic that I would like to explore in the near future. As Nichols and I believe, content is not only for pre-sale, but also for sales and post-sale processes that increase retention and extend CLV.

It’s time to crack open these silos and allow information to flow freely between sales, marketing, and customer success teams. Better yet, build a content strategy that involves all three.