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The Marketing and Sales Funnel: Tips for Collaborating to Bring in Better Leads and Win More Sales

Samantha Pratt Lile
 | 
May 7, 2021
 | 
10
 min read
The Marketing and Sales Funnel: Tips for Collaborating to Bring in Better Leads and Win More SalesThe Marketing and Sales Funnel: Tips for Collaborating to Bring in Better Leads and Win More Sales
“Sales teams should understand that marketing teams will be more effective with better data around what's working, and with good marketing insights to the sales team, the sales team will be empowered." -Creative MMS founder and CEO, Ben LeDonni

Because marketing and sales strategies share the common goal of business growth, one might think they would go together like peas and carrots. In reality, that relationship sometimes more closely resembles oil and water. Obviously, business will grow more efficiently if the sales and marketing teams collaborate to bring in better leads and win more sales. But is accomplishing that feat easier said than done?

Before the relationship between sales and marketing teams can be improved, it’s vital to understand how the two ideally should work together. The sales and marketing processes are referred to as funnels because they consist of all the stages involved in acquiring new customers, from the earliest research to the ultimate conversion and everything in between. Together, the stages align in the shape of a funnel— wide at the top and narrowing as the process moves toward the bottom.

A marketing team’s primary job usually is generating both B2C and B2B sales lead generation. In a typical marketing funnel, the top level involves making potential customers and clients aware of the product and its competitive advantage. As the model moves along, the middle of the funnel consists of offering evidence and social proof that that product or service is a worthwhile investment. The end of the marketing funnel ends at the bottom when the lead expresses their interest in buying the product or service and converts to the sales funnel.

Once the marketing team qualifies a lead, the buying journey moves to the sales funnel, where the sales team converts qualified leads into sales and customers. If the sales and marketing teams function at different speeds, the funnels will form a bottleneck, much like what happens in manufacturing if one process takes longer than the following step. Products will start to accumulate at the slow point, leaving the next step waiting to function. If the sales team takes longer to convert leads into customers than the marketing team takes to generate those leads, a bottleneck will occur.

It’s important for the sales and marketing teams to operate at a delicate balance to ensure maximum efficiency and growth. After all, you don’t want your marketing team sitting around and twiddling their thumbs while the sales team catches up, but you also don’t want marketing sending so many extra leads that sales are lost as potential customers wait for the next step in their buying journey. Unfortunately, hastening one step in the process often only leaves another stage as the slowest, forming a brand-new bottleneck. Consistent collaboration is key to overcoming these obstacles.

“It’s all too easy to let egos rule the day, but truth be told, every organization in a company has a job to do,” wrote Pax8 chief revenue officer Nick Heddy.  “Without each arm doing its part, things deteriorate. Though sales shouldn’t treat marketing like their personal lead-gen slaves, marketing’s primary job should be to drive sales.”

While boosting collaboration efforts and overcoming the marketing bottleneck can seem to be a losing battle, there are tried and true tips for improved collaboration to bring in better leads and win more sales.

Foster trust and understanding

People have a harder time collaborating with other teams when they don’t understand what everyone is doing and why. Context is key to promoting collaboration between sales and marketing teams. 

Teams can better work toward shared goals when they are provided with a more holistic view of the entire process as a whole. In addition to initial cross-department training, teams should be encouraged to consistently share information and updates about processes that impact others with shared goals.

“Sales teams should understand that marketing teams will be more effective with better data around what's working,” explained Creative MMS founder and CEO Ben LeDonni while participating in an expert panel for Forbes. “And with good marketing insights to the sales team, the sales team will be empowered."

“Often, when there is a disconnect between teams, there isn't clear transparency around the KPIs for each team,” LeDonni added. “Sometimes that's because systems are siloed and teams are holding data too close.”

With better understanding comes greater empathy for other teams, what they do and the obstacles they might face. That greater empathy then leads to greater trust and support between teams.

Promote mutual involvement

Sales and marketing teams don’t operate in a vacuum. While they have different tasks and processes, they share a common goal of increased sales, and to avoid bottlenecks they must work in conjunction with one another. It only makes sense that they become involved in one another’s planning and processes.

When teams participate in others’ projects, it helps them stay on the same page and better understand how they mutually impact one another’s separate, as well as joint, goals. This involvement can be achieved through consistent interdepartmental meetings and communication, especially when planning new procedures or changing old ones. Leadership can also work together to set common KPIs.

“KPIs must be aligned in advance so both marketing and sales can prioritize the same short-term measures of success,” GroupM head of partnerships Kieley Taylor said as part of the Forbes expert panel. “If possible, use a common tracking method throughout all ABM activities for a holistic view of attribution so future cycles can perform that much more effectively.”

Developing a common language can also help to promote collaboration between sales and marketing teams. If a team or department relies on jargon or other language specific to them, they will find it more challenging to communicate with others. 

If they instead develop a common language in coordination with one another— or take extra care to share their terminology with other departments—it will be so much easier for the teams to acquire the needed understanding of each other to promote collaboration.

Encourage improved communication

Interdepartmental communication might seem like a given necessity for a thriving business, but often teams can become so focused and busy in their fast-paced sales and marketing processes that this vital element falls by the wayside. Prioritizing consistent and effective communication between teams helps facilitate collaboration.

“One of the most important things to implement is a planning session with all of the content that is being released by the teams to ensure a common tone and message,” Ignited Results founder Jon James, also a participant in the Forbes panel, said. “It is important to have a gestalt in the ideas and message.”

Flow charts can be hugely effective at communicating aspects of the sales and marketing funnels, as well as almost any process. These infographics illustrate each step within a process, making it easier to understand each step and how they impact one another. 

When a flowchart is used to present the marketing and sales funnels, it can be much easier to identify the source of a bottleneck or predict when one might occur. Beautiful.ai can assist marketing and sales teams in creating their own communication materials that facilitate collaboration and boost the efficacy of their respective funnels. 

Users can customize flow charts and other infographics with Beautiful.ai’s smart slide templates— just enter the data and watch as artificial intelligence updates the design as you go, based on design principles used by the pros.

Celebrate together

Sales and marketing teams might operate separately, but that doesn’t mean they can’t celebrate achievements together. When one team reaches a milestone, completes a project or achieves a goal, both teams can mark the victory.

“For marketing and sales to be successful, they must equally share in the responsibility of achieving success,” Plat4orm PR founder Valerie Chan said during the Forbes panel. “To do this, it is crucial to put in place shared KPIs where both marketing and sales teams are responsible for achieving different elements of the same KPI. In this way, both teams are incentivized to work together on a shared goal for mutual benefit.”

Celebrations of project completions and other major accomplishments could be in the form of bonuses, company-wide recognition or even larger-scale, off-site events. But they don’t have to be that elaborate. 

Meeting smaller goals and milestones can still be honored through something as simple as a company-sponsored happy hour or a catered lunch— even a short pizza party can help incentivize teams to continue their collaboration efforts.

Samantha Pratt Lile

Samantha Pratt Lile

Samantha is an independent journalist, editor, blogger and content manager. Examples of her published work can be found at sites including the Huffington Post, Thrive Global, and Buzzfeed.