While many companies will talk a lot about creating awareness, strengthening their brands and engaging in conversations, at some point, when push comes to shove, what they’ll really want is some leads.
They’ll want prospects to raise their hands and indicate they want to take things to the next level. And they’ll want to pass them over to sales so they can do their magic. Everybody wins.
Or so you’d think.
Fast Company recently ran a great article: Why Sales People Actually Hate Leads. It highlights the fact that, unless a prospect is ready to buy, sales generally aren’t interested in leads generated by marketing. In fact, most of the time, they’re more than happy to do their own lead generation thank you very much.
It’s an issue that’s at the core of sales and marketing (mis)alignment.
Sales looks at the leads marketing generates and simply can’t see why they’d prioritise them over those prospects they’re already pursuing (and with which they already have some contact).
Marketing gets frustrated because sales either ignore the fruit of all their hard work or go in like a bull in a china shop, scaring the poor prospect witless.
And in the gulf between, way too much business vanishes to the competition.
The problem is primarily one of timing and patience. In everyone’s understandable eagerness to close a deal, they’re using the wrong approach at the wrong time.
More specifically, they’re trying to sell a solution before the prospect has really got their head around the problem.
While there are lots of options about how you label the stages of a B2B sale, here’s the one we like:
Marketing tends to focus on stage 2. Sales on stage 3. While most prospects are probably at stage 1.
The answer is to nurture sales for longer than you think you need to. Only hand them over to sales when they are deeply into selection and about to tip into the decision stage.
In doing so, match the right content to the right part of the cycle. There is no point giving a prospect product information before they’re in the right mindset – if anything, it will have the opposite effect to the one you want.
By the time you hand off to sales, you should have:
Then you can hand the lead across to sales (especially if you’ve armed sales with the tools they need to carry on the conversation).
While all this may sound like hard work, with today’s marketing automation systems and some smart content planning, it doesn’t have to be as complex as you may think.
And, if you get it right, you’ll have happy salespeople, closing more deals and taking credit for all your great work (well, no approach is perfect).
Jason Ball is the founder and managing director at Considered. With a multi-decade career in B2B marketing, he’s worked with world-leading brands such as Adobe, Google, EY and Cisco together with niche specialists in technology, manufacturing and professional services.