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Why Sales Should Influence Marketing’s Goals

dart board with dart in center

At Element Three, our sales and marketing arms are one and the same. As the only “sales person” in the organization, I work very closely with our entire marketing team and together we are responsible for growing the Element Three business by bringing in new clients.

At some point in the last year, we realized there really isn’t much of a defining line between sales and marketing, outside of who is actually in the room speaking with potential prospects; we now call ourselves a revenue team collectively. However, for most traditional sales and marketing departments, there is still a very clear break between sales and marketing. Sales has its own objectives, which are most commonly based around quotas for new revenue (whether we’re talking about inside sales teams or outside sales teams); and marketing has its objectives, which often center around lead generation, return on advertising investment, and other high-level metrics such as website traffic.

However, when you break it down, sales and marketing have the same big, strategic directive: grow the business. Why do we so often break out the goals of each into separate categories with so little conversation regarding how one influences the other? There’s a better way. When organizations are winning, the sales team portion of the revenue team is helping to influence what marketing is working on, and marketing is consistently getting more, better information from their sales team on what’s working, and what’s not. Want to win your market? Start letting sales influence marketing’s goals. Here’s why.

Sales is on the front lines with prospects—so they learn more in real time

One of the biggest challenges marketers face is not being close enough to customers and potential customers. This is why it is so important that marketing is informing sales of the message being brought to the marketplace, and that sales is reporting on whether or not that message is working.

The story’s the same with goals, as well. Marketing teams may have a production goal related to creating content, for example, and sales can definitely influence how this goal is created and achieved. For example, if salespeople are constantly hearing from prospects how great the blog content is on their team’s website, it’s a sign that web traffic is influencing the pipeline in a positive way. In this scenario, the marketing team can focus on innovative ways to serve up new, interesting, useful content on the website. This could come in the form of personalized content, more interactive mediums such as video and podcasts, and client testimonials which help to paint the picture of who you work with and what problems you solve. You know that the investment will be worth it because you know your audience is consuming the content.

On the flip side, salespeople may be getting the majority of their new prospects through a different marketing channel such as partnerships, and that also can dictate what marketing’s goals should be. In this situation, content on the website takes a back seat to creating assets for your partners to share and utilize during their sales process. This could come in the form of partner hubs or portals which have sales collateral, best fit situations, and referral program details.

It is always about ensuring the buyer process for your prospect is as “them-centered” as possible. Whether that means you need to have a goal around creating content to drive organic search or supporting your partnership channel doesn’t matter, but your goals should adjust accordingly.

Sales and marketing have the same overall goal: driving new business revenue

Marketing may have many core KPIs (website traffic, leads generated from specific campaigns, brand sentiment, PR opportunities—the list is endless) but at the end of the day, most leadership teams really care about how much revenue marketing helped to drive for the organization and how many sales can be attributed to marketing efforts.

If this sounds like the same goal sales teams have, that’s because it is.

Given this alignment, marketing departments should be shifting their focus away from any goal that doesn’t increase revenue and towards revenue driving goals, same as a sales department. A team of business development representatives doesn’t spend all day prospecting just for fun. It is a production task associated directly with driving new opportunities for their organization.

It’s important to remember, however, that not every single task that is important is going to be tied to short-term revenue. Brand, for example, can be valued astronomically high—and even aid in purchasing decisions more than any sales person—but it is very rarely associated with short-term revenue growth. Your sales team can still help to influence a brand-oriented goal, however. If your team is hearing phrases like, “well, I’ve heard of your business in my network and it’s always good things,” or, “it just feels like your team really knows what it is doing and can help me solve this,” then your brand is paying off. Sales can actually support more long-term goals by showcasing the moments when they’re helping to drive revenue. This sort of cross-functional collaboration and support makes goal setting much easier and brings the team together around one focus.

Marketing is simply sales, scaled

This has become one of my favorite ways to think about sales and marketing. Sales is marketing on a micro, individual level, and marketing is taking sales and scaling it to a full marketplace. This is why account-based marketing is proving to be so impactful for many business-to-business revenue teams. You’re able to leverage the hyper-focus of sales with the macro-focus of marketing to reach your target customers and begin a relationship.

With this in mind, taking into consideration how your organization sells is a great place from which to develop marketing goals. For example, let’s use two very different sales styles: SaaS and a marketing consultancy. We’ll use the marketing consultancy because we’re obviously very familiar with it, and SaaS because it is an industry that many people know a lot about.

In many SaaS environments, organizations are using large teams of business development reps and account executives to close a high number of deals and then transitioning those accounts to largely self-service with some support from a customer success role. In this sort of environment, transaction number is the name of the game, and it’s about giving your sales teams as many at bats with as many qualified prospects as possible. Ever heard of a technology sales professional being tired of giving demos? Most likely not. They know their platform can handle it, and more demos means more sales.

In these high-volume environments, marketing needs to be in front of as many potential customers as possible, the demo instance has to be great for the prospect, and the sales team has to be equipped with the appropriate tools and collateral to follow up on any opportunity in short order.

On the other hand, in a low-volume, highly consultative sales process such as working with a marketing consultancy, marketing has a very different role. In these longer sales processes in which everything is custom, no two sales are ever exactly the same, and the same kind of volume simply cannot be supported. Is there a place for paid advertising? Of course. But these purchasing decisions are made on trust and relationships—they’re not transactional decisions based on product specifications. This means marketing needs to be crafting a great message around who your business serves, creating client-focused case studies that truly give prospects a peek into what working with your team is like—not just bragging about results—and then helping sales to execute lead-nurturing activities such as direct mail sends and specifically targeted advertising.

It all starts with understanding the organization’s goal—then running hard toward it together

When sales and marketing get siloed and make goals independently, it can feel like two teams running toward divergent objectives. Marketing wants to focus on a website update while sales is still leaning into cold calling and prospecting. Could the website update support sales here? Yes, it could, but is that as impactful as creating fresh collateral for your sales team to use in their process? Depends on how much that website needs an update, I suppose. When you go about setting your marketing goals, remember to keep sales in the room. The best sales people will bring direct inputs from prospects, information on where deals are coming from, and specific requests that will help make the sale easier, more qualified, and ultimately better for both your business and your prospects—and isn’t that what we all want, anyway?

Joe Mills Team Photo at Element Three

“Whatever you are, be a good one.” This advice has served Joe well as he’s worn many hats throughout his career–from college soccer player to marketing expert to Business Development Manager. He’s passionate about using big ideas to build mutually beneficial partnerships, because “to help yourself is to help others.”