In B2B marketing, seamless cooperation between sales and marketing is essential

What is the difference between sales and marketing? Nothing if we look at their definition: “affecting people’s decisions and actions”. Then, why are sales and marketing often separate organizations if both target the same goal?

It is safe to say that sales and marketing departments are typically two separate units in most companies – even to the point where they seem to be competing with each other. In order for the company to succeed, however, the two should work together seamlessly. Everyone is familiar with companies from both ends of the spectrum: some companies ignore marketing and company visibility, and their business is solely based on aggressive direct sales, while some companies put all their trust in content and produce high-quality marketing material and wait for customers to come recommended by others. The ideal state of affairs probably lies somewhere in between. I will discuss the subject using these extremes.

1. How can a marketing-oriented organization make their sales operations more active and effective?

“We don’t want to be profiled as telemarketers / a sales organization.”

Not to worry. Activating your sales does not automatically mean aggressive direct sales attacks but rather a change in the way of thinking. Even a small organization can make their sales more active with their existing employees, but this, of course, requires putting your mind to it. People need to familiarize themselves with the subject and, most of all, they need to have the right mindset. When you are creating marketing material, the first step is always to define at which stage of the customer journey it is aimed, in other words, what its goal is. This adds a sales aspect to your marketing, and it is important to create material for all stages of the sales funnel: awareness, convincing and action – not forgetting the existing customers, a stage we could call the nurturing stage!

Now that the organization has taken its first step towards a more active approach on sales, it’s time to look at ways of contacting potential customers. Direct selling over the phone requires a lot of training and it isn’t for everyone. Luckily, there are other ways to contact potential customers. For instance, social media channels offer handy contacting options even for the most introverted among us. The way you contact prospects needs to be in line with your company’s key message: if you invest in high-quality content and want to underline your expert image, contacting can’t consist of just “buy, buy, buy” mantras. The purpose of contacting is to reach potential customers for the first time, create room for constructive conversations and get your content within the reach of your prospects.

The most important thing is to have the right mindset. Without active selling, resources used on marketing might be money down the drain. If you are backed with a strongly built marketing funnel and high-quality content, simply starting a conversation might be enough, attracting the potential customer’s interest almost spontaneously.

2. How can a sales-oriented organization build an effective marketing funnel to support its direct sales?

“Marketing is wasting resources when direct sales is efficient enough.”

Sales staff can often be heard making depreciating remarks about marketing, and often all the credit for the hard work goes to them, as they are the ones who get the customer to make the “final decision”. But I doubt that any salesperson would deny the fact that it does make a difference whether the prospect knows about the company before the cold call or if the organization the seller represents is completely unknown to the prospect. Aggressive high volume sales is a different matter, but when we are talking about consultative professional sales, awareness is always beneficial. The truth is that people rarely trust in something that they have never heard of.

Let’s imagine that a company has a specific B2B customer segment based on, for example,  company size, industry and job title – with good luck they even have a contact list. Now, let’s do a small-scale imaginary A/B test: half of these prospects get a cold call from the company, while the other half is targeted with the company’s awareness stage marketing for a month before they are contacted. If the segment is reached with enough precision, hardly anyone can deny the effect of visibility on the sales process.

When things are explained to the sales department like this, everyone is likely to agree. I believe that most of the discord between sales and marketing derives from lack of understanding. Both should spend a day in the other’s shoes, so that everyone would get an understanding of what the other party’s job is and what it requires.

Will a salesperson turn into a customer servant if the lead is inbound?

Not necessarily. Sales staff need to do their job well even if the prospect has contacted them first or sent out a request for a quotation. The sales encounter often defines if the client relationship will become a lasting one or if the order will remain a one-time thing – and it has much to do with the professional salesperson’s skills. Will this salesperson then go and high-five the marketing team? They should as a deal like this owes its success largely to the actions of the marketing department.

I’m sure that every salesperson would prefer to call to warm leads only, and each marketing professional would like to see deals happening almost as if spontaneously. If your company has separate sales and marketing departments, you can get closer to a situation like this by clarifying their goals and improving their cooperation. If you have a smaller company where there are no separate organizations, your business culture needs to support both functions and engage all staff to act as sales and marketing promoters.


Business-Driven Marketer

Aapo is our restless globetrotter but also a business-oriented marketer. Amongst other things strategic marketing planning and LinkedIn advertising are his areas of responsibility.