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Getting the Message: How Sales and Marketing Can Get on the Same Page

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Guest blog by Peter Mollins, VP of Marketing at KnowledgeTree.  He is passionate about sales, marketing, and gardening tools.

Are you sending prospects and accounts the right message?  For most customer-facing teams the answer is not “yes” or “no”.  It’s “I don’t know”.  When your customers aren’t getting the right message it means less effective selling and less happy customers.

So, start asking yourself.  What do my sales and account management teams communicate to their audiences?  How do they get these messages and use them?  Are they using the most current, relevant, and effective messages?  The answer is often a concern.  That’s because there’s a disconnect between the messages that marketing creates and tunes, and those that customer-facing teams use.

The Divide! The Divide!

Ah, the sales and marketing divide.  Pundits have discussed it since the first marketing team came into being.  And it’s a problem that’s still with us.  In fact, KnowledgeTree recently surveyed business-to-business (B2B) teams and discovered that 50% of sales people weren’t satisfied with marketing’s output.  That’s not a good number when you’re talking about the two teams that drive revenue.

The divide, in fact, has become more pronounced in recent years for many B2B companies.  Why?  Because of a shift in the go-to-market models of many companies.  Increasingly buyers don’t interact with a sales person until later in the sales cycle.  In fact, some analysts suggest that more than half of the buying cycle happens before an interaction with a sales team.

The New, New Sale

That change in buying behavior means that each interaction that a customer-facing team has with a prospect has to be meaningful.  They should communicate messages that resonate with the buyer.  Messages that are finely tuned to their context and information needs.  That’s why we’ve seen the rise in not only Content Marketing, but also its cousin, Content Selling.

For sales people, that can mean using case studies and thought leadership materials that help convince buyers of your company’s relevance.  And for account managers it can mean delivering best practice guides and ROI calculators that help encourage renewals and upsells.  It also means that the two teams are speaking with a unified voice to customers – pre and post-sale.

But in KnowledgeTree’s survey we found that the second biggest problem for customer-facing teams was the inability to find the right content to use in a sales situation.  That is, the content that speaks to different prospects and accounts, depending on their information needs.

On Message Means Better Conversations

This is a major area of concern for marketing and sales operations teams.  They need to ensure that every single interaction the company has with prospects and customers is impactful.  And that means delivering the right message.  But how?

First, we should start by identifying what messages ought to go to different audiences.  Customers in danger of not renewing and prospects interested in a trial are two different groups with different information needs.  You should communicate to them differently.

Second, you should understand which accounts fit into the different personae that you’ve captured.  Once you can track and see the different people you’re targeting you can better match them to relevant content.  Technology like Totango helps your team identify which accounts fit into different categories so you can better target messages.

Third, get the right content into sales and account managers’ hands.  Great messages aren’t valuable unless they get to a prospect.  When sales people can find and use relevant content, they can structure a compelling message to their target accounts.  That’s a key area that KnowledgeTree focuses on – delivering the right content, at the right time, to sales and account teams.

Fourth, we need measurements to understand the effectiveness of different messages.  Which content is actually advancing a sales process – and generating ROI.  That gives you hard numbers to help determine which content should be reused.

Some Results

How’s this worked in practice?  One major technology company in the US uses this approach to learn which content to target to prospects.  They determine which content to use by how well it drives the advancement of a sales cycle.  And the results?  They’ve managed to double their sales-proposal win rate and generated millions in additional revenue.

When sales, account managers, and marketing are aligned around which messages to send they can be radically more effective.  That means more informed prospects, happier customers, and more revenue.

Jill Rubin

Jill is a senior marketing and business development executive with experience leading successful teams in both large companies and startups. She has taken companies from early stage to strong revenue growth and propelled established businesses to industry leadership positions.

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