I’ve been writing and speaking about marketing strategies and sales strategies for well over a decade. With all the discussions about how web content drives sales and marketing success, it is essential that we take just a little time to look at how the two functions differ and how they are converging.
By making certain we understand the differences and areas of convergence, we can close the gap between marketing and sales and grow business faster.
Old rule – the handoff between marketing and sales
When I was VP Marketing at several technology companies in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the marketing function and sales function were completely separate. Marketing generated awareness and produced leads. Those leads were then handed over to sales.
Salespeople’s job was to engage with the prospects and work them until close. That marketing to sales handoff was total.
In the classic sales funnel we used at the time, marketing owned the top and sales owned the bottom. There was a definite demarcation where the roles changed.
New rule – marketers and salespeople work together
Here is how I see our new world:
Marketing uses content to generate attention of the many people who make up a buyer persona, whereas sales communicates with one potential customer at a time, using content to put the buying process into context.
It is the job of marketers to understand buyer personas—essentially groups of buyers—and communicate to these groups in a one-to-many approach. Marketers are experts at communicating to many people, and typically the potential customers they reach are not yet ready to have a sales discussion.
The marketing team captures the attention of a group of buyers and drives those people into and through the sales process. The content generated by the marketers—blogs, YouTube videos, infographics, e-books, webinars, and the like—can influence large numbers of people. Done well, with a deep understanding of buyer personas based on research, this content generates sales leads and culminates in the buying process.
The role of salespeople is completely different because they influence one buyer at a time when the buyers are much closer to making the buying decision. While marketers need to be experts in persuading an audience of many, salespeople excel in persuading the individual buyers. They add context to the company’s expertise, products, and services. Through them, the marketers’ content fulfills its potential at the precise moment the buyer needs it.
The classic funnel still exists, but it is now a buying funnel instead. When buyers are in charge, both marketers and salespeople must work together to nurture buyers through the buying process to close.