Vendors know that sales and marketing alignment drives about 20% more growth and see the win-win in enabling their Partners in this direction. However, if our conversations are any indication, many Channel Partner organizations have adopted a few best practices towards integrated sales and marketing strategy (aka SMarketing), but there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
As a Vendor, the question remains; how can you enable Channel Partners to make a full move in a new direction when they’re already stretched too thin, multi-tasking across multiple Vendors, and lacking time or resources for one more “marketing thing.”
Why Channel Partners need SMarketing:
We’re all aware of the push-pull between sales and marketing . Sales thinks marketing can’t stop tossing unqualified leads into their laps; and marketing starts the ball rolling then grabs and runs with it thinking they did the lion’s share of the work while sales takes over, hits the goal, and takes all the credit. Unfortunately, it’s a common scenario in Partner organizations when the two teams are misaligned.
Leads vs. SQLs vs. MQLs and other communication breakdowns:
The biggest showstopper when it comes to alignment is the use of language. Often sales and marketing teams at Partner organizations haven’t created common definitions, which leads to problems. Thankfully, Vendors can help remedy this by educating Partners on how to align terminology with the sales funnel:
Demand: Often confused with leads, demand is the use of social media, advertising, SEO and other marketing channels to create a general marketplace awareness for products and solutions.
Funnel phase: Awareness
Who is responsible: Both. It’s most commonly a marketing tactic but salespeople also drive demand through their own social platforms, events, and other activities.
Lead: Leads are curious enough about a Partner’s solutions to invite future interactions by volunteering their contact information. For example, exchanging an email address for an eBook download or signing up for a newsletter.
Funnel phase: Interest
Who is responsible: Both. Lead generation is typically a function of marketing via demand generation activities as well as salespeople driving leads through social media, networking, and events.
MQLs: Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) are the segment of the lead pool that marketing deems most likely to (at some point) become a customer. Typically this is defined by what type of content they consume, how often they visit the website, and how many downloads they’ve completed. It might also be signaled by interactions on social platforms.
SQLs: Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) are MQLs that move from the interest phase of the funnel to the consideration/decision phase. Typically they are the leads that exhibit buying signals such as filling out a contact form, download pricing information, or requesting a demo or quote.
No universal definitions exist for MQLs and SQLs. The key is for each Partner organization to create their own definitions in order to put incoming leads on a tract that moves them through their unique funnel. MQLs need to stay within marketing for nurturing and SQLs should be (quickly) tossed over the fence to sales. Helping Partners define and agree on what makes a lead “sales qualified” is a great way for Vendors to help Partners align.
Help Partners define lead criteria:
Bringing sales and marketing teams together is the fastest (maybe the only) way to resolve definition issues. Start with these three steps:
Step 1: ask the right question I
In order to classify leads, Partners need to know what signals “sufficient customer engagement” to move a lead forward. If you’re in marketing, what distinguishes a lead from a MQL? The number of times they visit your website, how much content they consume, or something else? For sales, same question, what level of engagement signals a move from MQL to SQL? Is it one specific action or a combination of actions?
Step 2: close the loop
Closed loop reporting defines the process of tracking and sharing sales and marketing metrics. While it isn’t a new concept, most organizations fall down on execution due to lack of resources, time, and the diligence it takes. Sure, marketing and sales may mention outcomes in passing for example when marketing finds out at a company or team meeting that a MQL ended in a sale but really, that level of communication isn’t helpful. Marketers within Partner organizations need facts that allow them to trace a buyer’s journey from lead to MQL to SQL regardless of the outcome, in order to refine strategy and better understand what’s working or not.
Step 3: Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.
If the hope is to truly integrate sales and marketing, they need to walk in lockstep, which means transferring critical information back and forth. Encourage them to integrate sales and marketing meetings and other departmental communications and in addition to closed loop reporting, sales needs to tell marketing what conversations they’re having with prospects. This includes customer likes or dislikes, why deals fell through, what new problems they figured out how to solve, and other important information. Doing so feeds the content reservoir that marketing uses to generate demand and fill the funnel.
Looking for more information on SMarketing? Here are a few resources or contact us, we’d love to talk strategy!
Channel Maven Blogs:
The Latest Thinking in Through-Partner Marketing: