How Sales Informs Marketing

It is only natural that Sales will have an opinion about everything Marketing does and will not be reticent about expressing it. Complaints about the font size or the color of the overview brochure can be respectfully ignored. However, it makes sense to listen carefully when a sales person comes forward with suggestions about how to better target the communications and different ways to evaluate the quality of leads.

Who Is the Target Audience? 

When Marketing creates a communication, whether it’s a brochure, a white paper, or a series of tweets, they’re always starting out with the target audience in mind. Key questions are: “Who are they?” and “What do we want them to do?”
The answers may not be as obvious as you’d expect. Say you are selling a line of socks with bright, silly patterns that appeal to 13- to 15-year-old girls. Is that your target market? Well, it’s one of them. How about the buyers you need to convince to put your product on their shelves? As author Nico Schinagl explains, even when it’s a retail product, “the sales team sees the client as a purchasing director or CEO of a company.”
You’re likely to see this problem described as a confusion of personas. In marketing “personas” refer to a group of fictional people created to represent the different types of customers who may use what you sell in a similar way. It makes it easier to visualize your target audience as one or more personas. In an example where the customers are in business, Schinagl explains, “Marketers should spend more time identifying the different job titles the sales force visits – what benefits and metrics are critical for each of them – and translate this knowledge into several sales presentations adapted by industry and by job title to have a real impact.”

What’s Up With the Leads?

Both Sales and Marketing are numbers games. The key thing to remember is that Marketing deals with numbers that are orders of magnitude greater than what Sales can handle. For example, Marketing could send out a direct mail piece to 20,000 names, hoping to get 100 to 200 leads. Then, depending on the sales process, those leads would need to be qualified and nurtured.
By providing specific, actionable feedback on lead quality, Sales can improve their odds of success and shorten the amount of time it takes to close sales. For example, information about the effectiveness of particular marketing pieces isn’t just quantitative. A sales person can tell from the kind of questions prospects ask whether or not a flyer is explaining the product at the right level of detail. Simply by adding information such as the fact that the T-shirts are cotton not synthetic and the hats are one-size-fits-all could make a measurable difference in sales results.

Market Intelligence

There are other types of valuable feedback that can only be gathered by someone talking to prospects and customers in the field. This feedback is often gathered by Sales and should be passed along to Marketing whenever possible. This includes key intelligence such as competitor information, lost sales data, names of customers, field notes and references. One way to facilitate this sharing is by creating an Employee Advisory Board (EAB) where team members can engage in regular conversations and work together to improve processes in a monthly meeting.
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