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The Secret To The Marketing-Sales Handoff? There Is No Handoff

By Nick Price

This article was written by Tom Koletas & originally appeared on MediaPost

What does a host say to you before seating you at a nice restaurant? “Your waiter will be right over to take your order.” Imagine if the first thing your waiter said was, “Welcome to the restaurant, are you interested in dining here tonight?” Duh! You’re already seated!

Or worse, “You really need to get the lobster.” Hold on, buddy, I just opened the menu!

People expect that once they start to interact with your organization, you’ll be on the same page in the process. If your marketing team is the hostess, sales is the waiter. A cold handoff is not the way to go. Neither is a hard sell coming out of nowhere. The hostess might retreat as the waiter takes the lead, but the two are always present, and work together to nurture a good experience.

Typically, marketing should interact between 6 and 8 times with a viable lead, usually online, which creates a rich data history. Yet all too often, sales calls a prospect as if it’s a cold lead, missing the ability to connect and ruining the momentum marketing created. With the data trail the typical customer leaves these days, it’s not just nice to communicate in a consistent and relevant manner to prospects, it’s a requirement to close. This is the backbone of good Account Based Management (ABM.) As eMarketer recently reported, most B2B organizations aren’t using these strategies. Only 47% of U.S. B2B marketers have an ABM strategy, according to August 2016 Demand Gen Report research.

Emphasize the “Account” in Account-Based Marketing

According to Forrester, 59% of buyers prefer online research to interacting with a sales rep because the rep often pushes an agenda rather than helping to solve a problem.

Companies should reward marketers for creating programs to help sellers continue the engagement process, such as suggestions for content to share with a prospect based on previous behavior. Rather than hiding behind dashboards, prospect engagement history should launch a conversation between marketing and sales on best next steps.

The more sellers see the work that marketing does to warm a lead, the greater their investment in activating with relevant conversations and additional development tactics. Sellers should be trained on the content, and be aware of lead engagement within the sales review.

Prepare for a Party of 2, 4, 6 or More

Rarely does a single decider, owning the budget and contract, execute a B2B sale. Buyers come in packs, from 2 to 20 stakeholders. In this complex scenario, marketing’s role as a support throughout the entire sales process is vital. Finance stakeholders need different content than IT leads. Junior champions need content to forward to the boss who holds the purse strings. It’s akin to serving a big rolling party, not a quiet table for two. The waiter ensures the guest of honor is well fed and that the person paying the check gets a free drink, but it’s a team effort.

Harvard professor Benson Shapiro notes that Proctor & Gamble has over 100 people on the ground in Arkansas servicing the WalMart account, including a highly integrated team of marketers and sellers. In these cases, marketing and sales collaborate on traditionally segregated decisions such as price, product, and support.

Share the Tips

Marketers state the end goal as creation of the lead itself and the big report that they can show to prove it. Sellers get paid when they close the lead.

But taking “credit” for the lead or the sale is problematic. A hostess is much more likely to help an overloaded waiter if they share tips. And tips come at the end of the process, requiring everyone to stay alert throughout the engagement. To get everyone on the same page, all agree to the same goals, including lead qualification definitions, KPIs and more.

You know you’ve successfully eliminated the marketing handoff after a deal is closed and you see a seller congratulate a marketer. A good way to get the ball rolling is to take everyone out together to break bread; they might even learn something from the seamless crew at the restaurant.

Nick Price

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