Bringing sales and marketing closer together

With all the tools and technology available to sales representatives today, you might think pitching has gotten easier. However, this is not actually the case. Business-to-business buyers are more informed with the advent of the Internet. Content marketing plays a major role in most big purchasing decisions. Your sales team needs a way to proactively manage the buyer’s journey and engage with potential customers, from Internet lead generation to closing the deal.

The sales cycle isn’t getting simpler or shorter. In fact, informed buyers are taking longer to reach a decision and they are more selective. An integrated marketing platform can help your organization create more relevant content.

Content marketing is more difficult than ever to execute properly

For the past few years, content marketing has been all the rage in the B2B sphere. Firms use this technique to draw buyers in and provide information to nurture them through the sales process. Content marketing was once considered a competitive advantage and now it’s a necessity. The vast majority of buyers rely on blogs, white papers, case studies and other marketing materials to make informed decisions. However, it can be difficult to get content marketing right and buyers are wary of overly promotional materials, according to an article for Diginomica written by Jon Reed.

Many B2B firms generate sales leads at trade shows and they try to replicate this experience in their online content, but it tends to fall short. These events can build trust because potential clients interact face to face with sales professionals, but this usually doesn’t translate to the lead’s experience on the blog. Buyers are suspicious of aggressively promotional content. B2B companies need to focus on creating conversations rather than blatantly pushing a sales agenda.

One of the reasons there is a gap in content marketing expertise from the business side is because sales reps are too focused on their process. All marketing materials should be mapped to buyers’ actual journeys in order to be more relevant, Reed wrote.

Marketing and sales disconnect can cause major problems with content

Whether you’re a small firm with no dedicated marketing team or have separate sales employees and marketers, content is an essential component of the buyer’s journey. Whichever marketing and sales environment applies to your business, issues with content can easily arise. Sales professionals may not have accurate visibility into leads’ processes. If you have an independent marketing team, there could be a lack of collaboration with the sales department, and this can contribute to significant gaps in lead generation and content marketing effectiveness.

The first step to bridging this gap is more accurate information, You Mon Tsang wrote for MarketingProfs. Your customer relationship management platform is a crucial tool for collecting and assessing this data. Each interaction can generate important information that allows marketing and sales employees to engage with potential clients. If you have a separate sales and marketing team, they need to have a set of shared metrics to make sure each of their efforts are on track. For example, marketing can create more relevant content if they know what characteristics sales employees are looking for in a qualified prospect. Working from the same set of criteria can drive the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts and improve lead generation.

Genuine interactions still matter on the Internet

Even though the majority of the buyer’s journey takes place online, B2B brands still need to prioritize making real connections with their prospects or they won’t be able to win the sale. Because of the challenges created by a longer sales cycle and more informed buyers, sales teams need to work hard to establish credibility with their prospects, according to a blog post for Salesforce written by Walter Rogers. Building trust with potential customers impacts a number of facets in the sales process, including lead nurturing and pitching to clients. Because of this, all content marketing materials should aim to increase credibility.

Rogers listed some tips that could apply to both content creation and pitching, including the following:

  • Don’t push the sale forward when it isn’t the best choice for the customer: Not every lead will be a good match for your product. Lead scoring can help determine this before sales reps waste too much of their time chasing a deal that probably won’t happen.
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep: Buyers are already less likely to trust highly promotional marketing materials, but if you make unrealistic promises about the power of your solution, either online content or in a pitch, it will only damage your credibility when prospects discover their expectations aren’t met.
  • Don’t disappear after the sale: Winning the deal is just the first step in a long relationship. If any problems arise, customers will want to be able to contact someone from your company to get a solution. Providing assistance after the sale can improve your reputation with other leads, especially since buyers are more likely to ask their colleagues for recommendations than trust branded content.
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