Sales professionals aren't always keen on taking time out of their day to meet with marketing. After all, the sales team's job is to sell. An extra hour a week means fewer calls and fewer deals.
Marketing teams, for their part, are often focused on tasks that can seem abstract and distant to sales. Brand awareness and traffic are nice, but sales and revenue are what keep a business growing.
To keep revenue flowing into the company, marketing can produce sales enablement materials to educate prospects and speed up the sales cycle. This could include videos, buyers' guides, articles, and other content that can be used in the sales process.
In order to provide the sales team with the materials it needs, marketers must be well informed about the sales process, including the questions buyers ask, the objections they raise, and the reasons they say yes or no.
At IMPACT, we run blended sales and marketing meetings every two weeks for members of both teams to brainstorm content ideas and plan for future needs. The most valuable part of the meeting, though, involves sales reps describing a single recent deal. They explain the background and then dive into the questions, objections, and commentary they heard from that prospect.
The marketing team gets an up-to-date example of what's working with customers — and this informs their messaging.
Below, we're going to cover five essential questions marketers need to ask the sales team on a regular basis, whether in a meeting like the one I described or more informally:
What does the sales process look like right now?
What qualities make a lead 'sales-qualified'?
Are leads' expectations too high or too low about what they're buying?
What are the most common objections you hear?
What do leads say about the competition?
Next, we'll explain exactly why these questions are so important to creating the sales enablement content your company needs.
Free Guide: The Beginners Guide to Inbound Sales
The power of inbound marketing
When done properly, inbound marketing can produce a steady stream of high-quality leads for your organization.
Useful, educational content can help your customers move more smoothly through the entire customer experience. This content can bring in traffic, help capture qualified leads, and enable good-fit prospects to move quickly through the buying process.
By the time your sales reps speak with a qualified lead, the majority of their deliberation should already be completed.
Getting the right content to fully complement the customer journey does not happen overnight, though. It takes months of collaboration between marketing and sales to make sure messaging is consistent, all content needs are met, and that every buyer question is answered openly and honestly.
We call this method of inbound marketing They Ask, You Answer, and we've found it to be the quickest, most effective way of turning site visitors into customers.
To get your marketing and sales teams on the same page and to create a culture of sales enablement, make sure your marketers are asking the right questions so they can fully understand your sales process.
Here are five of the most critical.
Question 1: What does the sales process look like right now?
Your marketing team might only have a general idea of the sales process at your company. If that's the case, they need to learn more.
Have a sales rep walk them through the top three most common buying scenarios, going step-by-step.
Make sure they cover:
How sales conversations usually begin.
How long the whole process takes.
What a sales presentation looks like.
As they learn about the sales process, marketers should look for any insights they can use to better prepare prospects in the future. What questions could they answer upfront in content that could speed up the conversation that follows it?
Keep in mind that your sales process is always subject to change. If you launch a new product or revamp a service, the nature of your customers and their questions might change.
Factors beyond your business could have an influence as well. During a recession, for example, there might be a greater focus on issues around price.
Question 2: What makes a lead sales-qualified?
Generating leads with inbound marketing is easy — the challenge is generating a high number of sales-qualified leads.
This is a question that you'll want to re-visit with your sales team regularly.
Marketers will be able to use the information they get from this question to adjust the way they score leads — and to improve the lead nurturing process.
Without an effective lead nurturing strategy, it's extremely difficult to consistently generate sales-qualified leads in a predictable manner.
There will always be the sales-qualified leads that discover your content and reach out to you on their own, but the majority of leads will be marketing-qualified and require nurturing to become sales-qualified.
Question 3: Are leads' expectations too high or too low about what they're buying?
Marketers believe in the products and services they're promoting. After all, it's their job. They want the world to know how great your business's options are.
At the same time, marketers need to set realistic expectations. When you exaggerate or give false hope, you're setting prospects up for a big letdown.
Disappointment is a difficult challenge for sales reps to overcome. Often the lead will feel betrayed and refuse to do business with you out of resentment, even if your product is a good one.
Remember, all purchases, even B2B purchases, are emotional decisions. Your job as a marketer is to play to a lead's emotions, not manipulate them.
However, you also don't want to set expectations too low, or you'll fail to generate as many leads as you could. You still have to give people reasons to be interested.
Marketing and sales teams need to agree on the right balance. You want to set expectations as high as you can, while still keeping them realistic.
Question 4: What are the most common objections you hear?
Customers prefer to do their own research before speaking with a sales rep, and the easier you make that process for them, the more favorable and trustworthy your company will appear.
Still, customers will enter the sales process with questions and concerns. Sales enablement materials that address these head-on will help prospects feel validated and understood.
Question 5: What do leads say about the competition?
At the end of the sales process, the customer ultimately has to say 'yes' or 'no'. Yes, they're choosing you — or no, they're going a different route, whether that means they're choosing a direct competitor or choosing to wait for six months.
Those prospects who answer 'no' are a rich resource for your marketing team.
Was their decision about price? About features? About company culture and 'fit'?
Effective brand positioning requires you to set yourself apart from the competition. You don't want to do everything they're doing — it makes you look unoriginal, and it's likely that not everything they do will work well for you.
However, if a significant amount of leads bring up something specific that the competition's marketing team does, it's worth taking a look at.
For example, let's say you're a SaaS brand, and several of your top competitors have created a series of videos that detail the most important features of their software and how to use them. Your brand only has blog posts with screenshots. When your sales reps are presenting the software to leads, they often comment that they wish you had videos they could've watched.
That's a clear sign that you're competition is doing something that's working and is probably causing you to lose sales.
Whatever your business, information straight from a potential customer about why they choose someone else over you (or vice versa) can give your marketing team a trove of information that they can use to produce better sales enablement materials for future prospects.
Sales enablement content can have an immediate effect on revenue
Many marketing initiatives can take a long time to deliver a return, but with sales enablement material, marketers can have a direct and immediate impact on company revenue.
But effective sales enablement cannot happen without sales and marketing alignment.
According to research done recently by Marketo, businesses with healthy sales and marketing alignment experience conversion rates that are about 70% higher. That translates into roughly 200% more revenue.
Marketers must work with the sales team to become closely familiar with the entire sales process. When they can't meet with salespeople directly, they should be watching recorded sales calls to pick up every bit of information they can.
Then, whether they're producing buyers' guides, videos, or nurturing emails, they know they're hitting the mark and speaking directly to the customers.
The key is asking the right questions.
When marketers assume they know everything they need to know about the sales process, they're almost certainly wrong.