A VP Sales is a true sales leader who knows how to ignite a fire to invigorate sales managers to drive results. It’s no secret that VP Sales is responsible for:Leading their sales team to meet and exceed sales goals Promoting the company’s products and services Creating and executing sales strategies Developing and managing the sales department budget.
However there is another key responsibility a VP Sales should stay on top of that is often forgotten;Bridging the gap between sales and marketing, and communicating the need for using social engagement insight in the sales process.
Lately, I’ve been able to speak with many VP Sales professionals. During these conversations, I found many gaps in fully knowing how their colleagues in marketing were currently generating leads, where the leads were coming from, and what insights were gained that would help the sales team work the leads efficiently once handed over to them.
The most common reason for this gap was mostly due to the lack of communication and alignment between the two departments.
Establishes Internal Communication
It’s of the utmost importance that sales leaders open the communication channel with marketing, in order to have a good understanding about the processes and tools marketers use to generate high-quality leads, especially when it comes down to a VP Sales managing the full sales process from qualifying leads (MQLs) to closing business.
After all, everyone wants smooth and efficient sales cycles.
It’s also so important for leaders in both sales and marketing departments to acknowledge the time and effort it takes to bring high-quality leads from the “just browsing” phase to close.
With social media being the third largest engagement channel, just after email and website, this means that both sales and marketing leaders need to help one another find the next lever to enhance lead generation and social selling capabilities.
So how can both department leaders begin to shorten the sales cycle without sacrificing the quality of leads and help sales close more opportunities? Simple: It all starts with sales and marketing alignment and getting more insight on business prospects.
Talk With One Another
It’s a funny thing but many of us know all too well that there is this unspoken tension between marketing and sales. Both try to avoid stepping on each other’s toes and neither like to hear that they could be lacking something in their processes. But the truth is that one cannot survive without the other. Sales needs marketing and vice versa. I mean, let’s admit it, sales and marketing teams strive toward the exact same goal: generating new business.
LinkedIn’s research indicated that 87% of sales and marketing leaders believe that collaboration between the marketing and sales teams enables business growth, and 85% believe that alignment across the sales and marketing teams is the best opportunity they have for improving their business performance. Sadly, 96% of marketing and sales professionals stated that the two departments are misaligned across strategy, processes, and goals. Here are a few reasons why:Sales and marketing don’t report to the same executive Marketing and sales don’t measure success on the same KPIs Marketing and sales don’t share goals and objectives
In order to ensure that no unspoken tension exists between marketing and sales, both department leaders need to make sure these two teams are working together, not against each other.
This brings me back to my earlier point about how some of the VP of Sales I’ve spoken with had no insight into how their marketing team executes the lead generation process of getting the volume, value, and velocity of high-quality MQLs.
In contrast, it’s important that marketing leaders know what insights sales needs, in order to do their job better. This means that both department leaders should make more of an effort to sit down more often and talk about how they can reach their goals together.
Alignment On The Lead Gen Process
Bridging the gap between sales and marketing needs to begin with alignment and what better way to start the alignment effort than for the VP Sales and the marketing leader to talk about each stage of the traditional sales funnel and the resources/processes needed to win at each stage. The topic that usually starts this process is lead generation.
In tech companies, much of lead generation has been taken over completely by marketing which generates marketing qualified leads (MQLs) that are then pushed over to inside sales reps, or SDRs, for qualification and nurturing. However, I would say most organizations would agree that both sales and marketing are responsible for lead generation – together.
Gartner predicts that as much as 49% of sales leaders believe that focusing on accelerating early pipeline and lead generation/management efforts will be the most critical areas to ensure success as we enter 2021.
But when opening up a conversation about lead generation, where both department leaders should be involved, the conversation should not just be about how many leads do we need or where to get them from, rather the conversation should first start off by going through a few key questions and answering them, and make it more about quality over quantity.
Why? Well if you think about it, marketing and sales leaders have a different perception when it comes to what makes a high-quality lead. Marketing often believes lead quantity is most important while sales believes the context around “why the lead is sales ready” is most important.
Both views are right; however, focusing together on answering a few questions (below) and finding alignment on these when planning lead generation efforts, will ensure the success of finding the right leads that fit the ideal client profile (ICP) and have the needed insight that will indicate the sales readiness of the leads.
Key Questions Sales and Marketing Leaders Should Address During Alignment on the Lead Generation Process:Customer Personas – who are we as a brand targeting and what business problem(s) are they struggling with? Positioning – What is the unique value that our brand/product offers that no one else can and how do we communicate that clearly and consistently? Messaging – How do we speak the language of our customers so that we can connect with them easier and start a conversation? Market Intelligence – How can we empower our sales people to have higher-value conversations with prospects that position them as a strategic advisor rather than just a sales rep? Content – How do we thoughtfully produce content that addresses the needs of the customer and key stakeholders at each stage of the buyer’s journey?
Once these questions have been touched on, it’s a good idea to look at what methods or tools are currently being used to be able to execute these areas, and what methods or tools might already exist or are needed to help amplify and track them. This all will ensure the lead generation process is successful and predictable.
Once the alignment on lead generation process has been made, it’s key that the VP of Sales helps his/her sales team also be aware about the alignment on messaging, ideal customer profile, universal lead definition, qualification criteria, and lead routing.
This is key as the VP of Sales manages the full sales process from qualifying marketing qualified leads to closing business; including the sales development process.
When it comes to closing business, it can be easy for salespeople to point to a lack of qualified leads as the reason they aren’t closing new business and for marketers to point to the sales team’s abilities to close deals as to why they aren’t driving more marketing-generated revenue.
Unfortunately, the harsh truth according to Gartner is that 55% of sales teams reject marketing-qualified leads. In another study conducted by ReachForce and Marketo 50% of sales time is spent on unproductive prospecting, all while salespeople ignore 80% of marketing leads. This loss in productivity and wasted marketing budget costs companies $1 trillion per year.
The main reason why salespeople ignore such a huge portion of marketing leads is more than often due to leads either not being the right fit or they lack insight. Every salesperson knows it takes time to look up a lead’s phone number, company name, email address, and where and how they engaged with the product or brand – time that could be used to close more deals and push opportunities faster down the sales funnel.
According to Gartner the second biggest priority for sales leaders is improving the prospecting process and focusing on early pipeline activities. A big part of that improvement goes to making the sales development process as effective as possible. The VP Sales needs to make sure that sales development is working the high-quality leads handed over by marketing, and that marketing is obtaining meaningful insight on the leads.
Unfortunately, as we already mentioned over half of marketing-qualified leads are rejected by sales. Sales teams, including SDRs don’t want to follow up leads that lack information or take them unnecessary time to find out the relevant information.
When seeking insights on their leads a shocking 75% of sales reps struggle to figure out what is valuable to work, in other words which leads/business prospects to prioritize. 72% of reps struggle to find capabilities to extract meaning from all of the data in front of them, and 64% struggle with knowing how to access the right information.
The Importance of Social Engagement Insight
Social media being the third-largest engagement channel just after email and website. Means that when it comes to the B2B buying journey more than 50% of B2B buyers now turn to networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Instagram, in order to get peer reviews and information that can help them with those key strategic purchasing decisions.
Understanding the buyer’s journey in B2B is vital to converting a business prospect from a potential buyer to a client. Think about it – if your prospects are in the decision stage that means they’ve finished their research, so now is the time to know how to convert them towards your solution.
In contrast, if they’re only becoming aware of their needs and your sales outreach or marketing is forcing them to decide, you run a huge risk of alienating them. But how do you know what stage they’re at, especially if you don’t have a full view on what they’ve been engaging with and where?
As already mentioned, over haIf of your target buyers are active on social networks. So being able to track how engaged a lead is with your brand or your sales team on social networks gives you and your sales reps a pretty good idea on how interested they are. And by being able to track and see how many times they clicked through on your company’s tweets and Facebook posts, or how many times they retweeted or shared those posts is key.
Even better is being able to see if they commented and what they said, as it will help your sales reps personalize their outreach and tweak their overall outreach process. It will help them stand out and also help them know where they should mostly engage with their prospects: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
Sales VPs that find solutions for their sales teams to have actionable and clear social engagement insight not only allows them to have a better understanding of their business prospects core interests, in turn, understanding the buyer’s journey, but will create a robust prospect-to-customer process and move the buyer down the sales funnel faster.
Social Engagement Insight Enables Growth
Last but not least, I think it’s safe to say many VP Sales are data-driven and for many companies data is in their DNA. However, data is not enough to win. Just as marketing leaders need insights to help them make informed and intelligent business decisions, so does a VP Sales.
With all the tools and products a company has that are in most cases also referred to as ‘Revenue Stacks’ (sales and marketing tech), this causes an issue almost all companies face; having siloed data.
As we all know, the definition of a data silo is a situation wherein only one group in an organization can access a set or source of data. Once again, in order for sales and marketing teams to be aligned and and be able to measure the success of their efforts, both teams should have access to the same data.
It’s important for a VP Sales to be able to see how many conversions there are from lead generation efforts, almost as important as it is for the marketing leader. Being able to see how many opportunities have been created due to social media and from the sales teams being active on social, also helps the VP of Sales realise that sales teams need to take an immensely active role in helping the business grow by amplifying its message and receiving those all too important engagement insights.