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If your company has ever experienced a bit of a growth slump, you’ve probably had to break up this fight between two vital teams: Marketing claims it’s generating a high number of leads, but sales complains that those leads aren’t converting into customers.

Each side blames the other for this state of affairs. Sales accuses marketing of failing to deliver quality prospects, while marketing accuses sales of failing to do what’s necessary to seal the deal.

In my experience, a big part of the confusion stems from the two teams not sharing a common understanding of the lead development process. It would be wonderful if every lead actually led to a sale, but it isn’t quite that simple: research from Marketing Sherpa suggests a whopping 73% of B2B leads are not sales-ready, and Everything Technology Marketing estimates that on average, only 5–10% of qualified leads will ever convert.

Here are four steps that will help marketing and sales work together to generate more revenue for your company.

1. Define your leads

Before you can improve the coordination between your two most important teams, you need to educate them—and yourself—on the differences in their roles and tactics. Marketing’s goal is to cast a wide net, building brand awareness and educating target markets on your company’s unique selling point. Sales is focused on a smaller number of highly personalized engagements that occur much closer to the final transaction. Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL), therefore, are much earlier in the buying process than Sales Qualified Leads (SQL). Research from the Aberdeen Group found that 36% of MQLs become SQLs on average, while 33% of SQLs become real sales opportunities.

2. Re-build your assembly line

To ensure you’re converting as many leads as possible, you need to establish at a senior level guidelines that determine when leads are ready to be graduated from marketing to sales.

Take a simple example: You host a whitepaper on your website, which can be accessed in exchange for contact information. Sales may see a download as a buying signal, when it’s actually just an indication of possible interest. Instead of alienating that prospect with an immediate sales call, marketing should use the initial interaction as a cue to attempt a few more. By holding sales off until you’ve turned the downloader into an MQL, you can build brand equity without the risk of scaring the prospect away.

At Mezzanine, we work with our clients to help them build their lead nurturing and CRM processes so as to set sales team members up for success.

3. Collaborate on collateral

Aberdeen’s research suggests that 47% of industry-leading companies believe effective rich media content to be the most important sales-enablement solution.

At Mezzanine, we build sales collateral—the brochures, emails, and pitch decks used to close a deal—in partnership with select sales team members. In speaking with sales, marketing can glean important, highly personal information about customers’ challenges and needs, and use this information to create strategic content. A solid pitch deck with consistent branding that can be customized by sales as needed improves brand perception, saves time and conveys tried-and-tested messaging that buyers can believe.

4. Build your revenue team

At my company, we see sales and marketing united under the single banner of “revenue,” and we build our strategies accordingly. The same team that meets with prospects and closes new business also quarterbacks marketing efforts. We do this to ensure that all the information gleaned from our lead-nurturing process can be incorporated into the marketing plan. To further strengthen the cooperation between sales and marketing, our marketing strategies always take into consideration a company’s existing sales funnel, utilizing CRM tactics such as data cleanup and maintenance or LinkedIn training on optimal profiles and social selling.

• • • • •

Sales teams with solid marketing and brand awareness are happier, more productive, and more profitable.

Lisa Shepherd is author of the new book The Radical Sales Shift: 20 Lessons from 20 Leaders on How to Use Marketing to Grow Sales in B2B Companies and president of The Mezzanine Group, a business-to-business strategy and marketing company based in Toronto. She has been the youngest female CEO on the PROFIT Ranking of Canada’s Fastest Growing Companies and is a frequent public speaker on B2B marketing strategy and execution.

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