Why inbound marketing and sales teams need to make friends – fast!

Posted by Vikki Pearce on 28/06/16 09:14

According to a recent Corporate Executive Board study, 87% of the terms inbound marketing and sales use to describe each other are negative. But having spent fifteen years myself in both sales AND marketing, I have to say I’ve never really understood the divide between the two. I’m a hybrid lover of both – and after all, aren’t both their goals the same in the end? For both departments, it ultimately boils down to how to convert new prospects into loyal, long-term clients.

B2B customers aren’t always ready to buy on day one

In my early days, I turned to marketing to help me generate leads as I simply didn’t have time to be bashing the phone everyday trying to convince people they wanted to buy our products. What I needed was people already in research mode that were actively looking for services like ours already. Before the real take off of social media and content marketing, I turned to Google AdWords to do the marketing work. It was a success, and ten years on the principles are fundamentally the same – in fact, it's become more and more apparent that you can't sell things to people who aren't ready. Instead, you need to put your business in a position where it can be seen, found and shared and then consult with the people who are looking for you. Desperately seeking people who might be thinking about it or trying to talk around those who aren't anywhere near interested is frankly just a waste of time for everyone involved. Instead, you need to deploy successful digital marketing strategies to warm up your prospects and engage them early on in their buying process until they’re ready to speak to your sales team more seriously.

Marketing and its troubled reputation

The problem is that marketing has always had a bit of an image problem and companies often don’t fully understand its value beyond branding. I have even heard top-level decision makers of multi-million-pound companies refer to marketing as ‘The Crayola Department'. But why? Possibly due to old marketing techniques, which traditionally focused only on branding, look and feel and possibly because of the old untraceable advertising campaigns that made it tough to prove their true value to the sales department or the executive board. Whatever the reason, this style of old marketing couldn’t provide tracked lead generation that organisations need; rather, it was more about general appeal and creating interest rather than delivering tangible, traceable leads. Today however, that’s all changed – and as traditional sales techniques become less successful, it looks like it’s finally marketing’s time to shine and sales teams need to capitalise on the potential of their marketing departments (or get the boss to hire one in the first place!).

The death of traditional sales methods

When you think about sales, you often think about cold calling. But as an expensive and ineffective – not to mention annoying – sales technique, the relevance of cold calling is dying, and fast. It’s not the 1990’s anymore and there are a number of other options available today to contact your prospects rather than cold calls which, let’s face it, are at best irritating and at worst can completely damage your reputation. For businesses such as recruitment that are often stuck in a cold calling sales rut, it’s time to think about  assigning  budget to creating high-quality strategic content and effective inbound marketing services and strategies rather than wasting money on dated techniques. From optimising websites to social media, blogs to ebooks and whitepapers to webinars, in today’s world, content is officially king. Combine that with a shift in sales strategy to focus on consultative, helpful selling approaches with prospects who are ready to talk and you have a powerful business strategy built for today’s new buyers.

inbound marketing and sales

The reasons behind the change

So, why the change? Well, there’s no denying that technology has been a major driver. The advance of technology has changed buyer behaviour and culture forever – which has a knock-on effect on the whole sales process. Buyers are now able to do most of their product research, pricing investigations and reference checks online without the interference of a sales representative. Not only that, but today’s millennial generation is much more savvy when it comes to the online world and are more than capable of making decisions on their own. As a salesman, (well, 50% salesman at least) I understand the desire of organisations to control this process and give the buyer the best chance of understanding your products or services – but the brutal truth is that in this new digital world, buyers don't want to speak to you unless they need to. They want to research in their own time and on their own terms, just like you do. So what does this mean for your business? It means you better nail your website content, your content marketing plan and get your inbound marketing firing on all cylinders or you're out of the race before you've got your shoes on.

It’s time for sales and marketing to work together

So, here we are, ten years on and with over 200m+ globally on the ‘Do Not Call’ list. The phone is basically out of action and cold calling is a dying sales tool, not to mention the fact I've been to four conferences across Europe and the US over the last year in different industries where all of the exhibitors and sponsors were down by an estimated 30%+. So what do we do? Well, it’s officially the underdog’s time to shine as marketing departments are tasked with filling these vacancies by creating intelligent content for all levels of the sales funnel and employing expert automation techniques. But most importantly, it’s time for marketing and sales departments to say goodbye to old feuds and finally start to work together as one team with the same goal. 

Your inbound marketing and sales teams need to support each other – but how do you get them to realise that? The answer is simple: clear communication. Your sales team needs to talk honestly to your marketing department and help them understand what pitches are resonating with your clients and prospects and helping them close deals. In return, your marketing team needs to respond and provide your prospects with access to killer content that hits all these notes, answers all their questions and creates actionable buying signals for your sales team who can then engage with potential customers when they are willing and ready to engage.

Is your organisation ready for this change? If you aren’t already investing in high quality, lead generating marketing that’s fully aligned with your sales team, you should really start now. The traditional routes to leads are stalling and your competitors might have realised this already.

For more information on the power of inbound marketing and sales and how it can benefit your business, download our Inbound Marketing Guide to find out more.

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Topics: Inbound marketing