The role of marketing in the sales cycle

Rich Tipple

Posted on: August 27, 2020

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Category: Lead conversion

The role of marketing in the sales cycle

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It’s the B2B Olympics.

But the relay race rules have been changed.

Before each runner covered 200 metres of the selling track. And now one (Mark Etting) must cover 273 metres and another (Sal Esteam) must sprint the remaining 127 metres.

The inevitable confusion reigns.

This is a metaphor for how companies must respond to the changing face of the modern B2B buyer

The sales team’s role has, in effect, been pushed later and later into the decision-making process. And this means that management of much of the buyer journey has shifted over to marketing.

It has never been more important for marketing and sales teams to work together to ensure leads are not just generated but nurtured, qualified and converted.

So, what is marketing’s role in the modern sales cycle?

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Marketing in the modern sales cycle

One thing is for sure: the pressure to generate leads has not eased off.

Instead, additional pressures have been added. 

Marketing’s responsibility is far from over having placed a new lead into the mix. The handover to sales remains a long way off.

  • It is at this point that the perceived value of a lead is assigned through lead scoring. 
  • After this, relationships are created that will help add value to each lead via lead nurturing.
  • It is only when agreed benchmarks have been meat that a marketing qualified lead (MQL) can become a sales qualified leads (SQL) and the sales team pick up the process.

Marketing and lead generation

With the modern buyer placed in control of information flow thanks to search engines and social media the need for a sales team to ‘educate’ has diminished from the early/middle stages of the sales cycle.

The oft-quoted stat here is that nearly 85% of business buyers say that the availability of online information means they are more informed about product and service options than ever before.

It is highly rare to find an uninformed buyer these days. 

And so, marketing’s role has become to place itself in the process of information gathering and decision making to try and influence outcomes. Using inbound methods, buyers are draw in through targeted, online content.

Again, a couple of stats often rolled out here include the revealing nine out of ten buyers who say that online content affects their buying decision process (which must be weighed judiciously against the 75% who claim to be royally narked by the sheer scale of irrelevant content they are exposed to.

Marketing and relationship building

Marketing’s role also extends to creating brand awareness, building brand identity and developing relationships with existing customers.

The best form of content marketing will help you both generate leads, qualify these and assist in the longer-term promotion of your brand and fostering of lasting, valuable relationships with customers.

Marketing and lead scoring

A core problem in achieving sales and marketing alignment is that, historically, the two departments have used different metrics to measure success.

Lead scoring is the solution to this – and also helps balance quantity and quality concerns. 

Lead scoring is based on an agreed definition of what a SQL looks like. This means only leads that achieve this definition are handed over to sales.

Marketing will lose lead nurturing tactics to further qualify leads to achieve this, usually through an automated process

The process of setting scoring for leads is an incredibly useful one in promoting alignment between the departments.

  • Marketing gains insight into the leads that convert better for the sales team – and which campaigns these come from.
  • Lead scores reveal interventions – or nurturing opportunities – that could push underachieving lead groups further down the sales cycle
  • Sales can focus on only the most valuable leads and close deals faster as a result

Marketing and lead nurturing

Very few MQLs are pret-a-purchase – that’s Frenglish for ready-to-buy.

And that’s why lead nurturing is used.

Lead nurturing is the process of building a relationship with potential buyers, usually through content. It is the careful targeting of relevant content to educate, build awareness and develop trust. 

Lead nurturing is a two-way street. As your lead finds out more about you, you also gain insight into them, helping you ‘score’ their potential value as a buyer.

It is in this area that marketing’s role has expanded to replace what twenty years ago would have been seen as a sales role.

The Handoff

We started with the excitement of athletics – and we’ll close by returning to that most fraught of sporting moments. 

Anyone who has watched a relay race will know about the importance of the handoff.

In the sales cycle the handoff between marketing and sales is vital. Get it wrong and you drop the baton.

It’s no good having two world-class runners if that moment when the race is handed from one to the other is not smooth. You will never be first over the line.

The sales cycle is a shared space. 

And both marketing and sales must perfect their handoff technique.

 

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