I recently had an excellent conversation with my friend Greg Alexander, CEO of Sales Benchmark Index, about how marketing and sales can work together more effectively.
I spent most of my career in business-to-business marketing, although for four years I was in B2B sales. So I've seen both sides.
Back in the mid-1990's it was hard to find evidence of love between marketing and sales. At many B2B companies the relationship was downright adversarial. Often, the tension extends all the way up to senior management.
It all stemmed from the sales process involving a "handoff." Marketing generated leads, handed them over to sales, and then the sales team owned them until close.
So Greg and I chatted about how sales and marketing work effectively together. We discussed the new buying process and what that means for salespeople, marketers, and their management teams.
In my simplistic first stab at this, I offered that marketing must create the content that salespeople need to be successful in the selling process. It could be in some repository somewhere where salespeople could access it or it could be free on the web. But the salesperson knows how to get it where it’s located.
This means that what the marketing team does is important for the entire sales process, not just for the top of the funnel as was true just a few years ago, because salespeople are using content all the way to closing the deal.
It is, I said, the salesperson’s job is to understand each individual buyer or existing customer so well that they know precisely which bits of content should be pointed to them.
Adding context to generate magic
But Greg took it much further.
“What the salesperson has to do is implement context,” Greg said. “This is where contextual content marketing actually happens. The marketing department is doing everything you just said, which is huge because salespeople don’t have the time to do all that. And sometimes they don’t have the skills.”
In Greg’s view, the salesperson, as the expert in the customer, takes what the marketing department creates and then personalizes it for each buyer or existing customer and passes it on in whatever method is best: LinkedIn, Twitter, email, or even the good old telephone. It is a reason to make contact.
“Sales reps take the information and say: 'How does this idea, this theme, this concept apply to my account and my decision-makers inside those accounts?',” Greg says. “'How do I make this real them? How do I provide context for it?' That’s where the magic happens.”