Closing sales and achieving customer loyalty requires harmony between your education sales and marketing teams. Even though both share the same objective, each department must understand its role at various stages of the sales process. In a recent CB&A Expert Series webinar featuring Matt Gambino, founder of PROPEL Skills, Matt joined me and laid out the framework for cultivating a more collaborative sales and marketing partnership by establishing tight processes, a common language and a unified leadership structure.
EASING THE TENSION BETWEEN SALES AND MARKETING
Your sales and marketing teams both seek to gain and retain customers and drive revenue. If that is the case, why do they often experience tension?
For example, do you ever hear from sales:
- “Marketing is not getting us enough leads,” or
- “We aren’t getting enough ‘leave-behinds.’”
Conversely, do you hear from marketing:
- “Sales isn’t doing a good job of developing the leads we give them,” or
- “They can’t manage the expectations of customers.”
Most of the time, providing clarity and accountability can reduce any conflict between the two departments. This means:
- Identifying a shared process and adopting similar language
- Creating the right leadership structure
- Assigning responsibility for any “leftover” tasks
SCOPING OUT THE SITUATION & DEFINING RESPONSIBILITIES
First, you should get both teams to speak the same language. Sales and marketing must agree on the definition of a lead, a suspect and a prospect, for example. Once they agree on a definition, they should understand how each moves through the sales funnel and what activities will move them from one stage to the next.
At the same time, both departments need to recognize the situation they are encountering at any given time to know what proof they’ll need to provide to prospective customers. This gives marketing an idea of the type of information sales will need to present to a prospect. Similarly, both teams should agree on what they’re prospecting for.
- When you are prospecting for customers, you are prospecting for meetings—not email open rates or website clicks.
- Sales should own 99% of prospecting, not just the sales presentation and closing.
- Marketing should understand the market challenges the prospect faces and share that information with sales.
Matt suggests that sales representatives are responsible for writing the prospect letter, but that marketing should play a major role in crafting the challenge statement. A good prospecting letter differs from marketing boilerplate and requires the following elements:
- A purpose statement – Establish upfront that the purpose of your email is to ask for a telephone/virtual meeting.
- A challenge statement – Mention the primary challenge you hear from people or organizations similar to your prospect. Explain how your products or services solve those.
- A “we-help” agenda – Explain how you have helped other customers successfully overcome their challenges, and show your prospect how you did it. Then ask them about their needs.
- Time available – State your availability specifically. For example, “I’m available between 9 a.m. and noon on Tuesday or Wednesday. Does either day work for you?”
While including videos and white papers about your products and services may interest your prospects, they can also distract them. In this case, your objective is to schedule a meeting.
SETTING UP A LEADERSHIP STRUCTURE THAT BALANCES SALES AND MARKETING
If your business is large enough, it might include both a vice president of sales and a vice president of marketing. Ideally, these leaders should work together and report to the same executive. However, your marketing team might report directly to a vice president of sales. While neither structure is wrong, if sales leadership oversees both functions, they will often prioritize sales and revenue generation over marketing activities.
It is important to empower both teams. Marketing leadership should oversee corporate branding efforts and “interest arousal” events such as trade shows, reports and other activities contributing to prospective customers’ “feelings” about your company. These activities help create positive perceptions of your company and your products. With shared accountability for their leadership roles, education marketing and sales department heads can ensure that their teams work together to carry out their tasks successfully.
BREAKING DOWN THE ROLES OF SALES AND MARKETING
Sales develops leads and follows up on those leads through prospecting. Marketing should be responsible for creating events and experiences that could result in “bonus” leads. For example, they might attract leads in a trade show kiosk that they then pass on to sales. But once sales relies solely on marketing to get leads, Matt suggests that is when the process can break down.
Here are ways in which marketing can support moving leads through each stage of the sales funnel.
- Prospecting: challenge statements—a brief description of an organization’s specific problem or difficulty. For example, two- and four-year colleges see more students needing extra help in foundational mathematics.
- Discovery: reference stories—real-life examples or case studies demonstrating the value of your product or service and how your solution has successfully addressed similar challenges in the past.
- Proof: situational demos, testimonials—customized product demonstrations tailored to your potential customer’s specific needs and/or statements or endorsements from your customers that highlight their positive experiences with your product or service.
- Closing: proposal draft content—language that outlines the proposed solution, approach, and products that can help solve your potential customer’s challenge.
- Upsell: reference stories—real-life examples or case studies of how your existing customers have successfully implemented your product or service. These stories provide social proof and demonstrate the value and effectiveness of your solution.
On the other side of the equation, your sales team can support these activities by providing regular market feedback. Because they spend a lot of time in front of potential customers, they can see opportunities for new marketing and product development strategies. They can share their learning by developing a marketing memo each buying season.
Creating a positive working relationship between your education sales and marketing teams is critical to closing sales and generating repeat business. Rather than pulling in opposite directions, the two departments can work together to strengthen their impact—and close more sales.
Want to unlock the full potential of your sales and marketing teams? Watch our May Expert Series event replay Better Together: Tightening the Sales and Marketing Partnership in Education.