Work as a Team to Build a Strong Pipeline
After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:
- Define key marketing terms.
- List ways marketing generates leads.
- Describe ways that marketing and sales can work together to strengthen the pipeline.
A sales pipeline can remind us of the extremes in life. When it’s good, it’s really good: Leads are flowing in, and your reps have ample opportunity to talk to potential customers and create new business. But when it’s bad, it’s really bad: You don’t know where your next lead is going to come from or how you can sustain your business.
What’s more, while the pipeline is the lifeblood of a sales team, sales doesn’t always control it. Often, marketing is charged with building, or at least helping to drive, the pipeline. Relying on another team so heavily can be scary for sales managers, but it doesn’t have to be that way. In this unit, we talk about how you can work with marketing to ensure you’re building a strong pipeline together.
When sales and marketing work in completely separate worlds, resentments can build, and all too frequently result in rocky relationships. You’ve probably heard something like this before.
Marketing: “We give you tons of leads. Why haven’t you closed them?”
Sales: “Those aren’t good leads. How can we close them?”
Rest of the business: “Why can’t these two just get along?”
When you stop to consider it, both groups are working toward the same goal: generating business. And you really can work with your friends in marketing to make that happen. Sales and marketing may never be besties; in fact, those different perspectives can be very productive. But if you as a sales leader can ask for what you want and need in leads, marketing can be empowered to deliver it.
To foster diplomatic relations, let’s first make sure you speak the same language. Here are some terms marketers often use that are good to know.
- SEO—stands for search engine optimization. It’s a method of getting more website visitors by making sure your company comes up at the top of search results.
- A/B testing—is the process of testing two different versions of something to see which goes better. For example, you can try two different email subject lines to see which one people open more.
- TOFU and BOFU—stand for top of funnel and bottom of funnel, and they are a way of classifying what marketing is doing. TOFU refers to when you first start to engage with a prospect, and provide them with information that is usually a little lighter. BOFU is when you’re getting closer to converting the lead and passing it to sales, and it often involves more in-depth product information.
- CTA—stands for call to action, or what you want someone to do. For example, a CTA can be a “Register now” button at the end of an email that’s promoting a webinar, or it can be a link on a web page to get a demo of the product.
- Copy—is a fancy way of saying the words or text on a website, in an email, and so on. You’re reading copy right now!
Now that you officially speak marketing, let’s talk about what your marketing team is probably doing today to generate leads. In a bit, we'll talk about how you can partner with them for more successful results, but before you decide where you want to go, you have to know where you are.
Here are some common tactics your marketing team is probably using to generate leads right now.
- Website—Think of your website as your storefront or the customer’s first entry point to your company. With product information, demos, customer testimonials, and usually forms to fill out, this is one of the classic ways your team finds leads.
- SEO—Hey, you just learned this term! Basically, your marketing team is making sure that when your customers search, they find your web pages, not your competitors’.
- Email marketing—This is how marketing gets in touch with customers at scale, often sending helpful information (see content marketing) or offers, and getting them warmed up for a conversation with sales. Many teams use applications like Pardot to automate their marketing emails so they are able to send the right message at the right time to customers and prospects.
- Events—These include trade shows, industry conferences, and even your own events, like dinners for executives where you get closer to prospects and show them how awesome your company is.
- Content marketing—A newer marketing format, this is where you provide helpful information to your customers (think eBooks, podcasts, or videos), often after they’ve entered their name and contact information on a form.
Now to the good part: How you can work with your marketing team to make sure you’re getting lots of great leads. The key to getting what you want from marketing is… to ask for it! Specifically, if you work with marketing to jointly define what you consider good quality leads, they can deliver them.
Here are some conversations to have with your marketing team.
- What behaviors define a quality lead?
- What attributes define our ideal customer?
- How do we score or rate leads?
- What counts as a qualified lead?
- What statuses do we use as leads move through the funnel?
- How can we define the sources of different leads?
If you worry that marketing won’t be open to the conversation, let us assure you that marketing wants this to work. They put a ton of time into generating leads, and they want to do a bang-up job of it. With marketing’s skills and the solid info from you about what makes for a great lead, you’ll both be in a great position to succeed. Even more so if you’re letting something like Pardot do the work for you.
Next, let’s talk about how to sift out the best leads and make sure they’re worth investing some time in.