I had a conversation with a prospect today about their demand generation challenges. As is often the case in these discussions, the topic of the sales team came up. My prospective customer, who is an executive on the marketing side of the organization, wanted to know how he could get sales to appropriately respond to the leads that would be generated from a perpetual demand generation program. “Sales has a particular way of selling” he told me, “but I want to make sure they are enabled the right way so that they will respond to the qualified leads we will be sending their way.”
This comment is not all too uncommon from what I hear from many marketing department heads who are wanting to transform their approach to demand generation. They see the tactical approaches they are taking, but often times one of the biggest obstacles they foresee in moving forward is also having sales come along for the ride.
While this is a common issue, and one that marketers are wise to address, it is exactly this reason that organizations need to understand that demand generation is NOT just a marketing activity. Demand generation, when done right, is a discipline that both marketing AND sales must be a part of developing if it is going to be successful. And it is in this area where so many well-meaning marketing departments fall down.
How does a marketing team get the necessary engagement and collaboration from their sales team so they can be assured of success? Here are a few suggestions.
1. Ask Them
It seems absurd and overly simple, but the number of marketing departments that do not include their sales departments in the development of a demand generation strategy is quite large. I hear a number of organizations state that once the program has been developed they “educate” sales on what is about to launch. What usually occurs afterward is that sales does not participate because they had no input into what’s being sent to their buyers.
In the 2015 B2B Enterprise Demand Generation Study conducted by ANNUITAS, less than half of marketing organizations said they included their sales departments in the development of buyer personas. With the buyer being the central focal point of demand generation, it seems quite unreasonable to not gather sales input given they are the ones speaking to their customers and prospects continually. They have a unique perspective.
Marketers should begin by asking sales for their input into gaining customer insights. Understanding who they sell to, what a typical buying process looks like, who is on the buying committee and what their buyers are typically looking for when proceeding through a purchase. As this insight is gleaned (along with customer interviews and secondary research into the market), sales should also be involved with the creation of the personas and journey mapping. By their involvement, the probability of them partaking in the program will increase exponentially.
2. Speak Their Language
Few things will contribute to helping sales make quota then a fine tuned, perpetual demand generation program. PR Newswire took this approach and saw more than a 7% increase in conversions from marketing generated leads.
When speaking to sales, you have to speak this kind of language.
I once had a marketer who worked for me at a software company who would roll his eyes and say, “Sales is so coin operated.” They certainly are, as every sales person should be. But here is the catch, so should marketing! In order to gain the buy-in and needed collaboration with sales, marketing needs to be coin operated and convey to sales what their goals are in terms of driving pipeline and revenue. Once sales sees that marketing “gets it” they will be more apt to lend their time and efforts to a successful demand generation program.
3. Get Them There From the Beginning
The foundation to any perpetual demand generation program is the ability to Engage, Nurture and Convert your buyers along their purchase path. Clearly the conversion (and even some of the nurture stage) will involve sales. To simply involve them “as needed” will not enable organizations to develop high value programs.
It is key to have sales there at the beginning of the ideation stage so they are a part of the core team. Anything less than this will only stymie the progress that one hopes to make in developing this kind of program.
When we kick off an ANNUITAS program with a client, we make it a requirement that sales be present. Granted, it is no small ask to pull sales out of the field, but at the same time there is no better reason for it, as a strategic, buyer-centric demand generation program can and will yield great benefit.
As marketing organizations continually seek to drive better results and enable sales, the best way to enable them is to have them join in and be a part of a collaborative team that is planning and executing a strategic demand generation program.
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