The potential for conflict between sales and marketing in any B2B organisation is well known. It is counterproductive wasting significant time and effort. In this post we consider if a transition to inbound rather than outbound marketing may help.
It is an unfortunate fact that many B2B sales teams, pressured by call rate and visit targets, waste significant time on prospects unlikely to contribute to sales numbers. They meet visit targets by visiting those they have friendly relationships with on the pretext of ‘maintaining a relationship’ despite there being little to no business opportunity. They waste time on visits simply to deliver information rather than to gather the knowledge that will lead them down the path to a sale.
Marketing teams, with no real understanding of customers real needs or any field experience set marketing strategies that have no real relevance to the marketplace. They focus on activities with no direct relevance to the day to day grind of generating and progressing sales opportunities. They focus on events without being able to maximise the impact of those events or measure its ROI.
Marketing therefore complain that sales are simply following a path of least resistance rather than pursuing their carefully crafted (although probably invalid) strategic direction. Sales complain that marketing have no real relevance and are of no help in their day to day sales process.
If the organisation has managers for both departments then the potential for in fighting and company politics is obvious. If there is a single manager for both then significant effort is required to be judge and jury between the two.
The Move To Inbound Marketing
With the move more to inbound marketing rather than outbound perhaps there is an opportunity to reduce the historic conflict between sales and marketing. Employing a content (inbound) marketing process can actually drive sales and marketing closer together in a joint effort to close more business.
The theory behind inbound marketing appears logical. It states that prospects, tired of the old push sales process, will seek out the information they need to make a decision. During that research process they will find the information provided by a business, interact with that information and seek out the business when they are ready to engage.
Great in principle, not so easy in practice. What is actually required is a sales process fuelled by content (information). At the top level general content can be used to raise awareness and draw the first customer engagement. Further through the process highly detailed information that addresses a particular concern or makes a direct comparison may be required.
Inbound Encourages Co-operation
The only way this process can work is with close co-operation between sales and marketing. If marketing try to create the required content without sales input it will fail. Sales have the relationship, sales control the process, sales understand the requirement but they do not have the strategic, content generating and content delivery channel experience of marketing.
Inbound marketing provides an opportunity to clearly divide sales and marketing responsibilities. Once that division is in place and both sales and marketing understand the benefits then the prospects for conflict are significantly reduced.
To avoid conflict sales priority should be to prioritise and follow up leads and take them to the point of closure while marketing responsibility should be to deliver high quality, relevant leads. It is not the quantity of content that counts but the quality; measured in terms of its usefulness and relevance.
The trick is to re-organise the sales department into those that prospect for new customers and those that maintain and grow the existing base. The skill set of an Account Manager is often different from a finder and closer.
A change in sales structure and organisation is not sufficient to avoid conflict. Marketing need to understand that it is sales who are closest to the customer. They (not marketing) intimately understand customer needs and information requirements and the process required to take a prospect from enquiry to close.
Sales need to be fully aware of what content is to be delivered, by what means and when so they are prepared for sales conversations but ultimately they must depend on marketing to deliver the fuel for their sales process.
With old push style techniques less and less effective the transition to inbound marketing can be achieved without causing conflict between sales and marketing but only with appropriate planning and role specification.