- Identify the ways in which the marketing function supports the sales function.
- Describe how the sales group of a company can support its marketing efforts.
Traditionally, sales and marketing are like oil and water—the departments don’t mix well. Salespeople are typically among the highest paid employees in an organization. At the national printing company Moore-Wallace, for example, salespeople are five of the seven top-paid employees, with the CEO coming in at number three and the CFO at number five. As a result, jealousy can occur.
University of Georgia professor Tom Leigh was consulting with an organization when he asked salespeople to describe marketing. One salesperson said the marketing department was a black hole that sucked in money and gave nothing back. In the same company, a marketing manager described salespeople as selfish glad-handers who often skated on the wrong side of ethics. Unfortunately, these perceptions exist at too many organizations.
What Marketing Does for Sales
A firm’s sales and marketing groups can work well together. We’ll focus first on how marketing managers help salespeople.
Marketing Shortens the Sales Cycle
A company’s marketing activities include creating advertising and promotional campaigns, participating in trade shows, and preparing collateral. Collateral is printed or digital material salespeople use to support their message. It can consist of brochures, position papers, case studies, clinical studies, market studies, and other documents.
Salespeople use collateral to support their claims. Although a pharmaceutical rep selling a drug might claim it works faster than competing medications, a clinical study would carry more weight. If such a study existed, the drug maker’s marketing department would prepare a brochure to give to doctors that highlight those findings.
Traditionally, firms have used their marketing groups to create awareness for their offerings and brand names through advertising. Brand awareness opens doors for salespeople. Few businesspeople sit in their offices hoping a salesperson will drop by. They are too busy to entertain every salesperson who walks in! But when a salesperson does come by from a well-known company, the businessperson is far more likely to be courteous and listen, however briefly, to see if there is some value in continuing the conversation.
Marketing professionals also support salespeople by providing them with lead management. Lead management is the process of identifying and qualifying leads in order to grow new business. Closed-loop lead management systems are information systems that are able to track leads all the way from the point at which the marketer identifies them to when they are closed. Figure 13.15 “How a Closed-Loop Management System Works” illustrates the process and shows how marketing groups use the information to evaluate which of their activities are earning their companies the biggest bang for their buck.
Unfortunately, many companies lack such a system. So in many cases, marketing personnel identify leads, turn them over to sales representatives, and that’s the last they hear of them. Was the lead a good one, and did it ultimately lead to a purchase? Was the trade show that produced the lead worth the money spent attending it? These companies don’t know. Closing the loop (meaning closing the feedback loop to marketing) gives marketing personnel insight into what works and what doesn’t.
Ram Ramamurthy is a marketing professional for Sri-IIST, a company that has a closed-loop lead management system. Ramamurthy met Frank Zapata, a potential customer, at an industry trade show held annually in Las Vegas and gave Zapata a demonstration of his company’s new offering, a software service called DG Vault. So when Curtis Hamm, the Sri-IIST salesperson who handles Zapata’s account, followed up on the lead, he knew that Zapata had already seen the product. Instead of two or three sales calls to build interest in DG Vault, Hamm only needed to ask Zapata to gather all the appropriate personnel together to review the service, and then present its financial benefits to Zapata’s CFO. Because of the meeting at the trade show, at least two stages in the sales cycle were eliminated. After Hamm closed the sale, he also closed the loop, providing feedback to Ramamurthy about any lingering questions Zapata may have had. Using that feedback, Ramamurthy can strengthen the next trade show presentation.
Marketing Improves Conversion Ratios by Scoring Leads
Marketing groups also help their firms’ salespeople improve their conversion ratios by scoring the leads they send them. Lead scoring is a process by which marketing personnel rate the leads to indicate whether a lead is hot (ready to buy now), warm (going to buy soon), or cold (interested but with no immediate plans to buy). As you can imagine, someone who has had a conversation at a trade show with a company representative, seen a demonstration, and answered questions about her budget, authority, need, and time, is close to being a prospect already. The more hot leads you put into the sales cycle, the more conversions to prospects and customers you can expect.
Lead scoring is not just a function of asking questions, however. A potential customer who visits your company’s Web site, downloads a case study about how a product solved certain problems for a customer, and then clicks a link on a follow-up e-mail to watch an online demo of the offering has shown a significant amount of interest in the product. True, the lead has not answered questions concerning BANT. The buyer’s behavior, though, indicates a strong interest—a much stronger interest than someone who clicked a link in an e-mail and only watched a portion of the demo.
When should marketing pass a lead on to sales? If the lead was generated at a trade show, then the salesperson should get the lead immediately. The people and organizations designated in Leads generated through other means, however, might be targeted to receive additional marketing messages before being passed along to a salesperson. Closed-loop lead management systems provide marketing managers with the information they need to know when to pass the lead along and when more marketing conversations are effective.
Improving conversions is not just a matter of finding more hot leads, however. Marketing personnel can improve salespeople’s conversions by providing materials that help buyers make good decisions. Advertising, a company’s Web site, activities at trade shows, and collateral can all help, and in the process, improve a sales force’s conversion ratios. To be sure, some educated buyers, once they have more information about a product, will realize they don’t need or want it and will go no further. But this is better than their buying the product and becoming angry when it fails to meet their expectations.