On a recent lead generation training course, I was very surprised to find a large majority of salespeople among the participants. It turned out that these sales reps were attending because their marketing wasn’t delivering leads that made sense from a sales perspective. Some of them had KPIs for cold calling, and results were reportedly getting worse and worse.

This situation again illustrates that the majority of businesses in Europe haven’t yet realised we’ve arrived in the ‘age of the customer’. Not that the customer has changed, but thanks to the internet, social media and new mobile possibilities, buyers have changed the way they interact with us. Organisations that want to secure or grow their business shouldn’t wait any longer to start looking at ways of meeting the empowered customer’s needs.

A well-oiled sales and marketing machine is essential

Buyers today can find loads of information about your products, and your competitors’, in just a few clicks. If you want to do business with leads who are looking for a solution like yours, it’s the marketing department’s job to provide the right information in the right form, at the right time in your lead’s buying cycle.

Cost efficiency and volume are key: marketing generates leads in a one-to-many digital approach. Only leads that meet specific marketing criteria (MQL) are being handed over to sales, who then take over from there. Sales qualifies both the contact and the buyer readiness (SQL), and leads rejected by sales are recycled by marketing into campaigns that can be made very specific thanks to the new insights gained by sales.

One marketing activity that is often forgotten is demand generation: besides capturing ready-to-buy leads, marketing can also create demand through inbound marketing. Leads from these campaigns can be nurtured to hopefully become sales-ready one day. Without demand generation, sales will keep on complaining about the quantity and quality of leads provided by marketing.

So has your machine been oiled to meet new customer demands?

How to get the machine running

If your machine’s a bit sluggish, it’s probably time to stop the ongoing battle between sales and marketing. Take a new look at activities and responsibilities, and create a value chain that helps your customers buy from you.

Here are a few tips to get sales and marketing collaboration on track.

  • Share common goals
    Across departments, increase awareness that we’re all trying hard to achieve the same company targets. Collaboration is key!
  • Share a common vocabulary
    In the age of the customer, replace your sales process with a buying process, and make sure both sales and marketing are speaking the same language. Introduce a clear demand-generation process with milestones based on commonly agreed definitions to make it work
  • Co-development and best practice
    Work together as one team. Both sales and marketing can add lots of value, insights and messaging to improve traction, conversion and ROI on marketing activities. Sales meetings are an ideal platform to keep marketing up-to-date with what’s happening in the market; marketing can take the stage to inform sales about ongoing results and planned activities in line with the sales organisation’s needs, again reinforcing the importance of common goals
  • Marketing: messaging should allows the building of customised content
    Research has shown that that up to 90% of content created by marketing goes unused by sales. Implement a content strategy that enables the building, sharing, measurement and improvement of messaging quality. Messaging should allow the building of content that is customised for different roles, their individual buyer readiness, and context
  • Marketing: ‘why change’ content
    The majority of content aims to convince us why we should choose company X or product Y. But research shows that 60% of opportunities are neither won nor lost; they simply disappear without a sale. The content that explains why customers should change is therefore crucial for creating demand and increasing conversion

Want to find out more and see the whole picture? Watch the webinar ‘How to Align Sales and Marketing’ with guest speaker Pascal Persyn, CEO at Perpetos, and moderator Deva Rangarajan, Associate Professor at Vlerick.


European start-ups would benefit from looking at their English-speaking counterparts’ approach. Brits and Americans tend to focus on promotion from day one. They make sure their target audience becomes aware of their product while continuing to develop it. Belgian start-ups, on the other hand, for example, will invest every last cent on product development in the hope that the product will then sell itself. This is a typical European mentality, and it doesn’t only apply to start-ups; we also see this in product launches from established companies.

The problem isn’t just down to budget allocation. In Europe we often wait too long to recruit employees for our marketing communication department. And when they do come, they have to be real all-rounders: people who can organize lots of different events, create PowerPoint presentations, write press releases and direct marketing and whitepapers, get the right photos – all while not losing sight of Google ratings or neglecting social media. It’s surprising that we don’t specialize in marketing communication more, especially considering we have done in sales for so long already.

Raise awareness before your product is ready

Almost nobody is waiting for products from a start-up. A hard truth. If you launch a product without first raising awareness, nobody will be there, eager and waiting to buy it. Everyone has to go through the same buying cycle process before they are really ready to buy, so it makes sense to raise their awareness first.

Be patient, because this process can take some time, depending on how complex your product is and how urgently your prospective customers want to find a solution for their associated problem. This means you have more time to continue developing your product while preparing the market for launch.

To create awareness at a very early stage of the sales cycle, you can for example invest in whitepapers and distribute news through the press or social media. As long as you’re only spending your marketing budget on media you can use for content that makes customers think about their challenges, and what solutions they need to resolve those problems, then you can already tell them how you can make the difference (without any explicit explanation of the product itself).

Sales will thank you

When you prepare your potential customers properly at an early stage, you make life much easier for your sales department:

  • they have leads ready as soon as they go to market
  • they achieve higher success rates from the very start
  • the cost of sales is considerably reduced, compensating for the marketing budget you’ve already spent