The 3 Crucial Questions You Should Ask Your Sales Team to Improve Marketing Results

Image courtesy Flickr user ** RCB **
Image courtesy of Flickr user ** RCB **

Marketers love to A/B test web treatments, tweaking the phrasing of a message or position of a button to improve campaign results.  But do we really know what content moves the sale forward when our sales team are in front of prospects?

When it comes to determining which messages are most effective in really meeting objectives and moving specific needles, the company’s sales team can play an instrumental role. A new report from Aberdeen’s Peter Ostrow bears this out, finding that top performing sales organizations exhibit strong collaboration between sales and marketing. (Report Link)

According to Ostrow’s research, the collaboration runs deep, exceeding the usual discussions between sales and marking, such as what exactly constitutes a lead and how quickly sales will follow up.  Best in class organizations exhibit strong integration from the very top, in terms of shared goals, and that alignment trickles down through the sales and marketing organizations, providing powerful incentive for the the two teams to work toward the same goals.   In practice, this integration is expressed a number of ways, and 360 degee feedback on messaging and content is one.

Image via Business2Community

If a divide between marketing and sales exists at your organization, an good place to start collaborating is on the messaging marketing is developing. It’s easy to get started and pays enormous dividends in campaign effectiveness and goodwill with sales.

At the outset of a campaign or project – and any time the organization is performing persona research on an existing customer base – marketing should turn first to sales for a deep dive into the customer mindset. The information gleaned will be a rich source of intel and useful in informing message development.

Mining the sales team for marketplace intelligence

Surveying your sales team can reveal at a glance the marketplace challenges customers are facing, the messaging and materials sales finds most useful and most importantly – the gaps that exist between market conditions and the company value proposition.

3 crucial questions to ask your sales team:

  1. What questions do prospects ask for which you don’t have a good answer? The answers to this question will reveal holes in either the brand’s value proposition or your sales enablement tools.
  2. What questions do you hear over and over again? Questions that recur in the marketplace should be red flags for marketing – they indicate a gap in marketplace perception or understanding or sales knowledge (or both.)
  3. What curveballs do customers throw at you? The curveball questions are generally fewer and further between, but they can be an important indicator of early shifts in market needs or sentiment.

A mix of in-person interviews and short, quick-to-complete surveys can deliver insights for the marketing team. If your brand organizes sales teams by vertical market or customer segment, conduct discrete surveys among each group to develop the clearest picture of the market.

Field sales feedback: the ultimate testing tool

Using the insights gleaned from sales is just one advantage marketing can gain from collaborating with field sales. However, don’t stop there. As messaging is developed, test it with your sales teams.

Expose them to the messaging and have key players weigh in on the sales enablement tools. Deploy messaging on a limited basis and collect feedback from the teams involved.

One of my favorite tactics is to road-test concepts directly with clients when invited to present to client groups (something I did regularly.) I’ve given major event presentations dry runs with clients and used their reactions to gauge the stickiness of key messages within. This direct exposure has enabled me to determine which messages and concepts were sticky, and which needed additional work.

At the outset, these hands-on and high-touch methods can seem inefficient, and obviously, because the sample size is small one should not overlook the data sets available to us in our analytics and automation platforms. However, for developing those ‘last mile’ messages that make the difference when the sales team is in front of the client, feedback from the front line teams is crucial.

This sort of feedback and alignment is not abdication of marketing turf. While there are certainly times when the organization will want to limit exposure to messaging, there are plenty of more routine communications and campaigns that can benefit from these exercises. Overall message performance will improve – even for digital campaigns – when the organization closes loops and fills the information gaps that stall sales and leak leads.

Author Sarah Skerik has decades of B2B marketing & sales experience, with emphasis on content marketing strategy integrated with social media, demand gen and public relations. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik and connect on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/sarahskerik

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