SpinWeb is an Indianapolis-based digital agency, specializing in enterprise website design & digital marketing

Successful Sales and Marketing Integration: A Love Story

Posted by Abby Stearns on 9/27/16 9:42 AM


Romeo and Juliet. Antony and Cleopatra. Kim and Kanye. Sales and Marketing. All of these are beautiful love stories, but today we're going to focus on sales and marketing. (Sorry, KimYe fans.)  

But wait! Sales and marketing aren't a duo. They're two separate entities that occasionally cross paths, right?  Not necessarily. Sure, you can keep them apart, but they definitely work better in tandem.Like any good couple, sales and marketing aren't exactly the same, and they shouldn't be treated as such. They require two different skill sets, and could conceivably be two entirely separate departments, but that's not a must. If you're running a small business, or if you're understaffed and overstressed,  it totally makes sense to keep the two together, as long as you remember that you must understand both sides of the equation—both the sales and the marketing contexts. 

Sales Goals

It's logical to think that the goal of the sales people is to make sales. This is true, but it's a little more nuanced than that.  

The true goal of your company's sales team is to help your prospects make good decisions; you're not necessarily trying to get their business, or "close the deal", but instead you want them to make an informed decision that's in their best interest. 

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We think of ourselves as consultants who are qualifying leads. We'd prefer to have our prospects know that we're more interested in their best interest than making the sale, which we are, and to have them feel that we're helping them get through a process instead of simply trying to talk them into buying something. Together, we make the best decision for their company. 

Lead Generation

All too often, the whole burden of selling is put entirely on the backs of the sales team. Of course, they're capable of generating prospects and leads, but when you allow marketing to get in on the action, your sales team will be much more successful. 

For example, let's say that Company A wants to increase their business, so they hire a salesperson. Let's call her Sally.  Poor Sally—she starts cold calling, trying desperately to drum up business, but she's left voicemail after voicemail and has gotten no response.  

We would argue that Sally was set up to fail—Company A didn't have adequate volume of lead generation to properly support Sally's hire. 

It's like weight loss— you can try to lose those extra pounds by joining a gym and exercising diligently. When that's not working, you quit the gym and change your eating habits, but you're still not seeing your desired results. Unless you do them both together, it's unlikely that you'll meet your fitness goals.

Sales and marketing should not be approached as an either/or; it should be viewed as a whole. To maximize your success, the two should work hand in hand.

Digital Marketing 

If your sales team is demoralized from spending all their time "pounding the pavement" and getting no results, it's going to result in burnout. It's not a sustainable business model. So what's the alternative? Digital marketing to the rescue!

Digital marketing allows you to develop relationships with your prospects over time through relevant content such as blogs, social media, training, videos, and other tools. This content will not only educate your prospects about who you are and what you do, it will help them understand how you can solve the problems they are experiencing. 

By the time your sales people call on them, they already know about you, and you've developed a reputation as a credible and trustworthy leader in your industry.  Bottom line: Digital marketing is a good thing for sales people. It sets them up for success! 

The Marketer's Role

This is a topic of some debate within the average organization; when you ask the marketing department about their job, they will tell you that they're there to create awareness, generate new leads, and nurture or filter those leads toward the sales team. 

If you ask the rest of the company about the goal of the marketing department, they tend to mention the tasks that the marketing department does—they talk about the emails, the trade show management, or the various the social media platforms they use. While these tactics are definitely part of the marketer's toolbelt, it's not truly the department's role within the company.  

The marketing department's main concern is leads. A lead is someone who fills out a contact form on a landing page. This person could evolve into a qualified lead with a little time and effort.

You might have an entire arsenal of leads, but if you don't do anything with them, they're of no use to you or your sales department. 

This is where lead scoring comes into play. Lead scoring is a method of determining the level of interest of your leads as time passes, and reacting accordingly. Marketers do this through a timeline, which determines the interest level of a lead.

Say, for example, that a potential lead visits your company's website, and downloads an offer for an e-book. Let's call this person John. Now that he's completed the steps for the e-book, his information is in your database. For some companies, this alone is sufficient—they've got the lead! There's nothing more to it. However, you  should consider shepherding John through the marketing process by giving him more touchpoints, such as a follow-up email with other content suggestions that pertain to the piece he's downloaded. 

Now that John's in the database, you can easily track his activity. You'll see that he's visited your site several times, subscribed to your blog, and downloaded other guides and resources. You can easily track his needs and interests to see when he might be receptive to contact. 

Qualified Leads

 In order to be successful, it's smart to work with people who are aligned with what you're doing and who are a good fit for what you do. This is where the concept of qualifying leads comes into play.  Here is our criteria for determining whether a potential lead is a good fit. 

  • Job title—We like to talk to people who have a certain role within the company.
  • Industry—We've become experts in certain industries, so if a client fits within that niche, we assume we'll be a good match.
  • Type of activity—What resources is John interested in? 
  • Level of interest—How oftend does John interact with your company?
  • Custom criteria—You can develop criteria that is unique to your company. 

Once you've implemented digital marketing and have scads of qualified leads, it's time to move them along in the process to the sales team. However, you still want to keep track of the relationship, so now is the time to integrate your marketing database and your sales team's Customer Relationship Management (CRM) so that your sales team can follow through with them accordingly. 

Often, this is where two different integration issues come up: technical issues and cultural issues. 

You want the CRM and the marketing interface to talk to each other. We're fans of Hubspot for our marketing database. We integrate that with Membrane, our CRM. There's a seamless integration between the two when a subset of leads are scored then filtered to the sales team, who can follow up appropriately. Your sales team will be focused on the most qualified leads instead of wasting time cold-calling on people who may or may not be even remotely qualified. 

Segmentation is Key

We segment based on the criteria we listed above. These people are scored based on their responses, which gives them weight toward our engagement with them. Should their activity and response to our criteria make us believe that they might be a good match for us going forward, then Hubspot automatically puts them in a category called Marketing Qualified Leads, meaning that we firmly believe we might be able to help them. 

Sure, your database might have thousands of people, but you must focus on the sub-set of people who are ready for contact. At this point, it's vital to have your marketing database and your CRM stay tightly in sync. 

Ideally, your Marketing Qualified Leads (the people your marketing database has predetermined to be ready for contact) will flow into your CRM automatically. (In our case, Hubspot updates our list in Membrane every fifteen minutes.) 

Now, your sales team has a list full of qualified leads to follow up with—no more cold calling and hoping for the best. Each morning, they open up their CRM to find a full list of prospects that already know about your company and have interacted with you. As a matter of fact, you've been providing them with so much great content, they're coming back for more. This is the key for a successful sales team!

What's Next for Your Sales Team? 

With leads in hand, your sales team can start reaching out to the leads that have been determined to be qualified by the marketing team. If this were a game of tag, the sales team is "it" now. 

First, call the person who's been engaging with your company and start a conversation.  Determine whether you're speaking to the proper person—the person who will be making the decisions. 

Avoid asking "Are you ready to buy from us yet?", but instead engage them with a non-threatening approach. "We noticed that you've downloaded some ebooks and subscribed to our blog. Are you getting what you need? What are the issues you hope to resolve?" 

Sure, you might get a response like, "I don't know", or "I'm not sure if you can help me." No matter what, you could suggest a meeting with them so that you can work through the barrier together. As long as the lead is qualified and you're sure you're meeting with the decision maker, you can help them across the sales finish line. 

Should your company not already have a sales process in place, we highly recommend that you develop one. If you don't, it's very likely that's why your results have been inconsistent. When you have a process, you have a repeatable system. It won't guarantee the same results 100% of the time, but it's far more effective than simply winging it.

With a consistent sales process, you're more likely to have consistent results. 

Say you've handed off your qualified leads to your sales team, but they're not closing on any of them. Sales people are likely to make excuses, such as, "They weren't good leads or they weren't ready." 

The sales and integration of your CRM will allow the marketing people to say, "Hold on... those were good leads, but they're not getting through the commitement phase of the diagnostic process because we're having some difficulty reaching the decision makers." Tracking the sales process wil help you identify any issues, allowing you to tweak the process and fix them.

Culture of Integration

Of course, the integration between the sales and marketing departments is not purely technical; it's also cultural. Here are some of our ideas for helping the two departments work together.

  • Weekly meetings between sales and marketing.
  • Review feedback from prospects and clients. 
  • Review marketing tools and content available.
  • Optimize and course-correct together. 
  • Create content from data and experiences. 

Integrating your CRM will not make any difference if you don't have a cultural commitment of marrying the sales and marketing worlds together. You MUST have regular communication between the two departments so that they can review feedback.  

For example, your sales team can tell your marketing team, "My prospects are asking this question over and over... can we create an ebook or a blog post about it?" If your prospects are asking the question, it's very likely that many others are Googling the same question. It could be a way to introduce a whole new demographic to you and your company. 

Or, if you have a great resource providing a particular solution to an issue in your industry, your sales people can send that content to prospects who could potentially use the information. It will not only make the lives of your potential clients easier, but you're using the powerful content that your marketing team has labored to produce. 


Keep in mind that the two sides of the equation, sales and marketing, can look very different from company to company. 

In a larger company, sales and marketing departments could consist of large teams; a smaller company might have one marketing professional and one or two sales people. Or, there might not be an in-house marketing company at all—many companies outsource their Digital Marketing to a company like SpinWeb (a solution we obviously endorse), or perhaps the marketing team is supported and supplemented by an agency. 

No matter the size and structure of your organization, please consider implementing the following to send you on your way to a successful sales and marketing marriage:

  • Generating leads
  • Optimizing leads
  • Integrating leads into CRM
  • Having sales connect with leads appropriately
  • Implementing a culture of connectivity between the sales and marketing teams

Over time, implementing these strategies can dramatically improve your business development performance. 

Sales and Marketing teams can work together, which will help both sides perform better overall. In time, it will improve your business development model, leading to a more scalable and lucrative organization.

In the end, isn't that the goal? 

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Topics: sales, digital marketing

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