5 Tips to Align Sales and Marketing for More Quality Leads

By: John Seroka

Everybody wants great leads that are easy to close and profitable.

Did you know that according to a study by Marketo, sales and marketing alignment extracts 208% more value from marketing? Better alignment means a better experience for your prospects and more positive interactions with your company as they move down the decision pathway. And that means more and higher-quality conversions.

The customer experience (CX) has become a core focus for companies throughout the mortgage and real estate lending industry.

At a recent conference, a tech company shared with me a situation where they were contacted by a prospect to see a demo of their system. The prospect later invited other members of her team to see a follow-up demo. Despite these positive interactions, the prospect was still retargeted and receiving emails to schedule a demo.

This is not what a frictionless journey looks like.

It’s now more critical than ever to make sure sales and marketing are aligned and have open and consistent communication. This is especially true now because buyers no longer follow the linear marketing-to-sales-to-customer funnel. With the quantity of information at their fingertips, they can easily move up and down the funnel or develop their own custom journey.

One prospect may know they want to do business with you before speaking with a sales rep because they were convinced by social media activities. Another prospect may speak with a sales rep based off an ad they saw but still need additional marketing materials.

Two very different experiences that require very different communications activities.

Follow these tips to align your sales and marketing teams and create a better experience for your most qualified prospects…

1) Sales and marketing must work together to create customer personas.

Customer personas are fictional representations of key segments of your target audience.

For example, the head of IT and CEO. These two individuals may want the same product, but that product will fulfil different needs for each. The head of IT may want it due to better integration with the tech stack and the CEO may want it because it will speed up loan processing, providing the company with another competitive advantage.

Because they each have different concerns, each requires a different marketing message.

In developing these personas, both sales and marketing have information the other would find valuable.

Marketing knows what content is resonating with prospects based on data they gather during campaigns and research they’ve conducted with the audience.

Sales has direct conversations with prospects that can reveal insights that the marketing department may not be aware of.

Therefore, it would be advantageous to have marketing create the initial buyer persona(s) and sales to backfill additional information prior to final approval.

2) Gain agreement on the definitions of a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) and a Sales Qualified Leads (SQL).

Whether you’re a wholesale lender, a PPE, LOS or any other company, you need to think through how to measure, or size-up, each prospect to determine if they are an MQL or SQL.

There is no absolute standard for any business. Even competing businesses offering basically the same solutions will have slightly different ways of defining these terms.

The critical point here is for marketing and sales to agree on several items…

    • Defining the target audience in terms of…
      • Company size,
      • Origination volume or sales volume depending on your business,
      • Who the influencers are by title,
      • Who the decision-makers are by title.
    • How each persona steps into the buyer path and what they react to that could make them an instant SQL or an MQL that needs marketing to move them further along their journey. Note that I’m not referencing the age-old “funnel” here because prospects haven’t followed a linear pathway for many years. Marketing and sales must adapt to how people choose their own pathways.

Generally, an MQL may have interacted with your content, like your website or maybe they even signed up for your newsletter or downloaded an e-book. An SQL shows activity at a deeper level, indicating an intent to purchase/do business with your company. This could be exhibited through…

    • Multiple website visits
    • Reviewing FAQ’s
    • Joining a product-specific webinar
    • Requesting a demo or pricing

…just to name a few, which takes us to the next point.

3) Build a lead scoring system.

If a prospect “likes” a post of yours on LinkedIn, what value do you assign to that? If that same prospect downloads a white paper, what value do you assign to that action? What if that person is an influencer, but not a final decision-maker? And what if they are a decision-maker…then how does that point value potentially change or how is that prospect routed to the next step?

These are all questions you should be asking and why you need a lead scoring system.

A scoring system provides both sales and marketing with a way of assessing leads so that time is not wasted on the ones that don’t fit your criteria as sales qualified.

Use a scale of 1 to 100. This will give you plenty of leeway to assign point values to various interactions with your content. Each piece of content should be classified as top, middle or bottom of funnel with progressively higher point values.

Be sure to assign point values to…

    • Website visits,
    • Various social media interactions, including likes, shares and comments,
    • White paper downloads,
    • Ebook downloads,
    • Newsletter sign-ups,
    • Email opens, click-throughs and much more.

Also, assign point values according to how well the lead fits your criteria as a decision-maker or influencer.

4) Sales and marketing should agree on content that’s of value

Speaking of content and scoring, did you know that according to a report by the CMO Council, an average salesperson will spend 40% of their time either looking for content created by marketing or creating their own because they can’t find content that fits their needs?

It’s critical for your marketing team to understand the sales process. It also needs to understand what content sales will need to help them close deals.

With this understanding, marketing can ensure the sales team has the content they need to deliver.

Sales can identify pain points that the marketing department may not be aware of.

Content ultimately needs to be developed for each part of the buyer journey and be customizable for the salesperson. Here’s a quick overview.

Top of funnel content: blog posts, videos and any content designed to establish interest

Middle of funnel content: white papers, case studies, webinars and any content designed to educate and guide the conversation

Bottom of funnel content: datasheets, advanced webinars and any content designed to build a relationship

5) Gain agreement on when a lead is handed over to sales

What must occur before a lead is handed over to the sales team? What is the minimum score that a lead must attain?

Once the lead is handed over to sales, it doesn’t necessarily mean that marketing activities aimed at that prospect cease. Remember that each prospect these days is in charge of their own journey, and it’s very likely that he or she will jump in and out of the funnel, reversing course or advancing very quickly through the journey. There is no linear progression due to the volume of online information prospects come across that can drive them to reconsider or question.

Therefore, moving a lead along the purchase path is a combined effort.

You need to develop a clear picture of how leads will be handled with respect to ongoing sales and marketing activities.

Consumers overall expect much more from their experiences on and offline than they ever have before. Therefore, CX will continue to take center stage for the foreseeable future. A solid focus on CX, and succeeding will be tantamount to your sustainability as a company.

If you would like to better align your sales and marketing teams, contact us for a free consultation!