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For this episode of Ecoffee with Experts, Matt Fraser hosted Mike Nink, Vice President of Account Services and Operations at MODintelechy. Mike throws light on the process and necessity of aligning sales and marketing teams, cultivating a seamless customer journey, and much more. Watch this episode to drive more conversions and maximize growth.
Businesses need to understand what the customer journey is and who is responsible for each stage of it, and why or why not a particular lead is converted.
Thanks for having me.
As a child born in the seventies I answer to both Mike and Michael. But I like to go by Mike.
So I’ve been working on the marketing side, for both agencies, as well as internal in-house for about 20 years, most of the spin on the agency side. So I’ve had the opportunity to see across lots of different clients and formerly we were brought in from the marketing perspective to help the marketing team. And a lot of times it’s we’re diving in to understand the problems and what solutions we can help with. We start realizing that there’s a challenge for the marketing side. But there’s also usually a big disconnect, when it gets to the point it goes to sales as well. And I’ve seen that time again, with different companies, where marketing has their idea of what they need to be accomplishing, they have their goals they’re marching towards. And that doesn’t necessarily always align with sales, and what sales are trying to accomplish. Nor does a feedback loop, a lot of times exist between the two organizations, either sales without talking to the customers, they had the best bead on what customers are responding to. And that information would be valuable to marketing. You see time and again, is that thing just kind of more of a communication gap and misalignment when it comes to goals. Each group trying to hit the KPIs that they’re being measured on. And missing the mark on the larger goal for the business as a whole of what needs to happen.
I haven’t experienced that personally. I’ve also worked with a lot of smaller agencies being rep versus larger agencies. So with a smaller agency, we’re all in the same room having the same conversations every single week. And so I think there’s a lot of alignment there, which I think that’s where it comes back to is that communication cycle, just having everybody’s in touch with what’s happening.
Let me talk about the first step. I think we talked about having an integrated sales and marketing team. What first comes to mind for me is having the two teams on the same page from a communications perspective. And having a shared goal in mind between the two of them. Marketing yes, they are typically their departments. But the two need to be having a back and forth, two-way communication between each group, as far as what they’re trying to accomplish. Marketing is off generating campaigns and trying to identify what they feel like they need to be doing to drive leads. They’re potentially being measured on traffic to the site or form fills and things of that nature. And sales are being measured on conversions. The problem that I see happen is, when sales without receiving leads, and the leads aren’t the right quality, they’re not the right kind of leads, they’ll get rejected, and unless there’s communication back to marketing, marketing, don’t know they’re doing anything wrong. So I think we talk about like, how do you get them into alignment? I think the first part is- (A) Understanding who the customer is that you’re trying to reach? What was that buyer persona? Agreeing on that buyer persona, different people, different personas are going to purchase differently, they’re going to engage with marketing differently. So having an agreement on who the buyers are, is one of the first steps. And then from there, understanding what the process should be between sales and marketing. When do leads flow into sales from marketing and sales? Like when do you go from a marketing qualified lead to a sales acceptably and then to a sales qualified? Is it several engagements that you’ve had with marketing? Is it lead scoring? Ideally, it’s lead scoring. But different businesses are going to have different requirements. And then having a feedback loop from sales back to marketing, I think those are the first three that I would start with on trying to kind of align the two groups together.
That is a huge hurdle, the data component of it. That feedback loop in the data, that’s always going to be any kind of marketing you do, it’s only going to be as good as the data that you have. Whether it’s on the personas or the prospects, the business that you’re trying to go. If you’re talking about ABM, marketing, or if you’re talking about direct to consumer, direct to the buyer, what that persona looks like, you’re right, I mean sales they have the direct connection, they’re the ones talking to the prospects. They’re the ones understanding what are the pain points that would make somebody want to buy the product. And it’s trying to identify, there gonna be different kinds of buyers out there. So try to identify how can we put these buyers into these buckets into these personas? What is the ideal customer profile going to look like? And what is that engagement going to look like? You know, in sales, we talked about the data that they have. They understand when they’re talking to a prospect, what level of education does that prospect need to have about the product by the time they get there to kind of help that sales process? Do they need to have engaged with multiple pieces of information before they get there or can it be more of a cold lead, and they can do the education on their part? And think that all that ties back to back to marketing and what marketing can do to help that, that process.
The first part is just- (A) making sure that we’re marketing to the right prospects, to the right audience. If we’re all aligned on what that buyer persona is, that makes it easier for us from a marketer perspective to understand, who do we need to be targeting? Where are we targeting them? And then what is the message? A lot of times you kind of go into it thinking, Okay, our message needs to be X. And this is where I think having that feedback from sales is extremely valuable as understanding, what are they hearing from prospects? Like, what made that prospect of that lead come through, click through, fill out a form want to talk to us want to buy from us? What information can we glean from that, that can help us tailor our messaging and our campaigns from a marketing perspective to better target and better influence other buyers that are in a similar situation? I think that’s the start of it. After that, it’s all about how do we keep them engaged? And this goes back to kind of that lead scoring model of what can we do you know, how much engagement do we need to have before we feel like that prospect is ready to move over to sales? Because yes, you can have somebody fill out a form and say, okay, hey, they’re qualified and shoot it over to sales. But are they truly, really qualified? Are they ready to have that sales conversation? Or it feels right to get and think, okay, yeah, they filled out a form, but they are nowhere near the right audience, the right contact, or the right level of interest, at this point in time to buy. And that goes back to making sure that we’re all aligned on what qualifies as an actual appropriate lead to move over to sales from marketing.
That is a great idea.
It’s a crazy marketing science that we have now to identify, like, what people are engaging with, and what they’re not engaging with, to be able to move them through a pipeline to educate them and get them ready for sales. There are lots of different tools out there. There are different ways to slice and dice it. But at the end of the day, it’s all about making sure that we’re nurturing those leads in the right way, with the right content, and with the right cadence to keep them engaged, educate them, and prep them to the point where when we hand them off to sales, they are warm, and they are interested, and they’re primed and ready to buy then.
I mean, from a nurturing standpoint there are several different kinds of marketing automation tools that are out there. Everything from enterprise-level Eloqua to it’d be probably more small, medium business. Things work using HubSpot, from a marketing perspective, or a marketing automation perspective. Marketo, Pardot, even Zoho, are used for a lot of smaller businesses. Which is a CRM system that has some marketing automation capabilities as part of it. Each one, the way they all have a similar function and how they work. How they do it though is kind of different across each of the different platforms. And that’s from how do we set up marcher nurturing campaigns that can feed those prospects the right information and keep them engaged? The next part of the technology platform is having a CRM system so we can keep a track of them, we can share that information with sales, so sales can see what campaigns they’ve been a part of? What have they been touched with? What information have they received and engaged with? What information do we have on them? Everything from the name, address, region, and things of that nature. And then when we’re talking about the technology needed, there are third-party systems that can also be used to help. We’ve got to work out and fill in the gaps of information that doesn’t maybe exist already, using platforms such as a Demand Base, Zoominfo, or LinkedIn navigator to help fill in gaps of information that we may not have on a prospect that will, it’s great for us from a marketing perspective, but as information that’d be valuable for sales to have.
What can sales do? So one of the things, and I think we’ve talked about this a little earlier before we started the call. When sales get leads, they need to engage with those leads and hopefully, we’ve walked through the process, you talk about what can the two teams do together to work closely together? It starts with identifying what the process should be, for when we send leads over and what those leads look like, and we’re all in agreement on what’s going to be considered qualified or not qualified. But when those leads come over marketing’s expectations are that sales are engaging with those leads and that they are starting to reach out to them. If they’re not, we all know those leads are just gonna get colder and colder, and to the point where they’re not going to be of any value. So I think that the first part is that it feels nice to engage with the leads because we’re working on the assumption that the leads that we’re sending over, we’re all agreed on are the qualified leads. I think the next thing that sales can do to help marketing is to provide feedback. I mean, I would encourage every marketer to attend the sales meetings, go listen to what they are talking about in their meetings, where they’re talking about their quota from the challenges they’re having. That information can be extremely valuable to a marketer. Now, is it going to help the marketer hit their goals? Yes, or No, I mean, maybe not right away, but it could help the marketer realign to what their goals should be, if they’re not, right, based on sales made. Sales are essential, client number one for marketing. Our job is to help them do their job. I’ve seen extremely valuable information and insights come out of attending sales meetings, to the point like, where you just need to demand to have a seat at the table, to understand what they’re saying. But it’s also an opportunity for you to share what you’re planning to do from a marketing perspective with sales so that they can get a better idea and they’re in alignment with what you’re planning to execute and what to expect for leads coming in. And it really kind of help establish that communication and that trust between the two organizations.
We all know that not every lead that marketing sends over to sales is going to be a home run. And I think that’s what sales need to be able to tell us back? Why does this one work versus this other one? And it’s also important to have marketing understand that we need to have some way to know, maybe the leads are not ready, maybe yes, it scored correctly, but they’re just not ready so have remarketing efforts back to them. Re-nurture programs are set up that sales can send leads back to. But it all comes back to making sure that we have the technology flag right between the CRM and the marketing automation systems to be able to identify and send those leads back and forth between the two groups.
And it’s one of the things we are always talking to clients about when we’re consulting on CRM systems and marketing automation system integrations. Yes, they may want to have an automated process. But what does the process look like before you automate it? Like, how are things working without those systems in place? Because you can’t just go create a system and say this is going to work if it’s not. If you don’t have a process in place for the two teams to work together, without automation, just automating something is not going to be the right answer.
And be realistic about what that is.
Correct. And before we started talking, I said the experience I have is that I don’t think anything is going to be completely done. Is it gonna be rocket science or a completely new revelation on how things work? But you’d be surprised at how many times we’ve talked with clients, we’ve gone into situations where that kind of information doesn’t exist. And it’s one of the things like, it’s kind of the basics to start with. But sometimes those basic parts get overlooked for the shiny or new things that people are trying to accomplish or just sometimes how do we keep the lights on from a business perspective, and just keep sales going and keep leads flowing in without really thinking through what should the process be to make all this work seamlessly?
I think there are different ways to do it depending on the business and what works best for the business. But yeah, that sale liaison would be the easiest way to go about doing that, identifying the one person from each department to engage and share information back and forth into that feedback loop that I talked about. That goes back to where I say as a marketer, you should ask or demand to be allowed to be in the sales meetings because that’s part of that feedback loop. Being able to hear what they’re saying and what they’re getting from the customers, just having one on one conversations with sales reps. Where depending on the size of the company, some companies have 1000 sales reps. Having that one on one conversation is not feasible or realistic. But having a representative, from your point about the liaison, totally works. If you’re a smaller company, you could have situations where you could have the sales reps all in one meeting, pull everybody together and have a marketing representative there to ask questions about what they’re seeing work with sales reps. I was in a situation where I went down and spent a week with one of our client’s sales teams, to better understand what the process looks like, from their end. I spent an entire week there, where I was embedded with them, and watched how the leads came into the system, how they called them, how they emailed them, how they engaged with them, and what the process looked like, on their end when they were developing quotes. What were the limitations? There were assumptions that we made. In our rooms we were talking about marketing that was blown out of the water, when we see the kind of actual real-world execution of it of what the sales reps could and could not do. And then we had a forum where we pulled everybody together in the room, and we said, walking through, this is the program that we’ll roll out. This is what this looks like, this is what your customers or prospects receive from us. We’d love to get your feedback on what you think from a messaging perspective, from a timing perspective. What are you hearing from them as far as what’s working and what’s not working? So, there are different ways to do it. It just comes back to figuring out, what’s the right cadence? Is it a monthly or weekly cadence? What information is the most valuable for you to get back? Is it information on the quality of the leads? That should be one of the top things in my opinion. But then also what’s the word, the language that prospects are using to engage with us that we can then turn that into content or revise our content to better aligned to how people speak about us? So a couple of different ways to look at that.
I think that’s an extremely valuable way to do it. I think the one challenge with that is, I guess it’s more dietary challenges, depending on the organization, getting all those custom fields added to the CRM, but then having people actually use it and use it correctly. So yeah, but I mean, in theory, it’s great. I think it comes down to I would say, the smaller the sales organization the easier that is to execute. But it’s just making sure that the sales team is also trained on what to expect. That’s an expectation of what they have to do as part of their job.
I have seen those things. I have seen that same research and I have also experienced exactly what you heard, which is you have the CRM systems but all the information that’s kept in there for one reason or another. Some people keep it on an excel spreadsheet on their desktop. Training the sales team on why you should use CRM. I think of at least ten reasons why you wouldn’t want to use CRM. You have technical challenges or there is fear that if you put all of that information in there, somebody else can just come in and take my key and log in and take my leads. There are a lot of different reasons why not. But if we all understand that for the greater good of the Company that we are working for that Marketing is trying to do their job and sales is trying to do their job. If we can all make sure that we have accurate and up-to-date information in the CRM system then we can all do a better job and drive more revenue for the company. That should be the end goal for all the departments.
On this topic there is a lot that I can go into on it. But I would just say that a lot of times it feels like there is a us versus them mentality between Sales and Marketing, and the more that we can work together, the more that we can break down those barriers and have communication and understand what we are trying to align on, and what the other side is trying to align on, is for the better benefit of the company to drive more revenue for us all, the better all our lives are going to be. It takes reaching out across the aisle to forge those relationships and forge those bonds with the other team to start having those honest conversations. Get out of the clouds and get down to brass tacks, don’t be afraid to hurt somebody’s feelings by saying these aren’t good. But also be ready to justify why they aren’t good and have some very honest conversations about what is happening between Sales and Marketing.
I would say yes. That’s probably the biggest one.
LinkedIn is the best way to engage with me.
Well great. Thank you again for having me, Matt.
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