Along with the ideal of marketing integration is another much-sought-after goal: the integration of sales and marketing. But the persistent gap between sales and marketing is a real problem for a lot of businesses and can result in tension, lost opportunities and poor lead-gen results.
Marketing is often faced with a limited budget for lead generation, and the sales team can be frustrated by the low-quality leads that can produce. To fix this, sales and marketing need to communicate more effectively—and they can, Pardot's Blitzer said.
“If you're working toward the same goals from day one, and you establish tactics to meet these goals, it gets harder to point fingers at the other department,” he said. “Agree on such things as what defines a good lead, how much presales nurturing should take place, how quickly sales must follow up on leads and what to do when leads say they aren't ready to buy.”
Blitzer stressed that concrete metrics—evidence of marketing's contribution to overall business success—enable companies to feel more comfortable adding resources to marketing's efforts. In turn, sales can see how marketing helps it meet its goals.
“The sales team usually has very defined processes, so why not start there?” said Kristin Hambelton, VP-marketing at Neolane Inc. “Start by piggybacking on those processes used by sales, aligning content strategies and marketing goals with stages of the sales cycle.
“By establishing a common language and metrics, marketers can better support the sales team and its ability to generate leads and nurture them from awareness and consideration to intent and conversion,” Hambelton said.
The most fruitful next step in lead generation is using digital channels to augment the sales channel, said Yuchun Lee, general manager of IBM Corp.'s Enterprise Marketing Management Group.
“In the b-to-b space, the two major channels in business are the sales force plus the online channel, such as a website,” Lee said. “Other than making sure your site works for ordering and research, we see that the insight and behavior from site visitors is extremely valuable and informative for direct sales.”
Along with others, Lee said the long-awaited convergence of the marketing and sales functions may finally be at hand.
“In the old days, meaning five years ago, I saw plenty of cases where companies spent millions of dollars to generate leads,” Lee said. “By the time you actually got the leads back to the organization, half of them dropped on the floor, meaning no one followed up.”
Lee said much of that had to do with the inability of companies to pull leads from all the different channels, making sure the leads flowed effectively to the sales managers and ensuring follow-up takes place. But he sees this changing.
“Organizations are starting to pull together their lead management optimization as part of a system engagement that allows for a holistic way of interacting with the customer,” he said.