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.


No Lead Left BehindAs is the case in many companies, the cooperation between our marketing and sales departments used to be less than optimal where leads were concerned. Thanks to the internal project “No Lead Left Behind”, we have been able to find a solution for a rather unproductive situation.

Using marketing automation software, we are currently preparing the next steps such as lead scoring and automated nurturing. We should be able to the see the results in about one year.

Number of sales accepted leads doubled

We have developed a process where not a single lead is lost and where efforts are made to follow up on all leads. The cooperation between the sales and marketing departments has considerably improved as well. Generally speaking, the number of sales accepted leads has doubled, with a record 136% increase in the beginning of the year. We have achieved this thanks to the following four steps of our action plan.

1. We have created an unambiguous process to manage the pipeline from lead to deal, with clear agreements on all intermediate stages, definitions and nomenclature. The process also includes the possibility to refuse or requalify leads on the basis of fixed parameters.

2. We have defined all stages of the process in a very detailed manner in our software, so that they are monitored quickly and correctly.

3. Targets relating to data quality, timing and conversion have been calculated for each stage. These targets are documented in an internal Service Level Agreement, which has been accepted by all sales and marketing people.

4. Through coaching and training we have made sure that everyone is motivated and is working towards the same goal.

This blog post is a contribution by Inge Landerwyn, marketing manager at Basware


To remain competitive and successful, companies need to tailor their sales and marketing processes to the behaviour and expectations of customers and prospects. This can also be done by introducing new processes which create demand and support sales enablement. What should you pay attention to during this transformation?

The following seven recommendations help you on your way. They originate from SiriusDecisions and are the result of their market research and the shared experience of hundreds of companies. They were recently presented by John Neeson at a seminar that we organized with our marketing business partner LeadFabric. I was the next speaker and I took notes of his explanation. Here are the recommendations:

Examine where your company is today

Take enough time to find out where marketing communication can make a better contribution at your company. Determine the buyer’s journey. Your marketing campaigns need to act on this buyer’s journey, and your staff need to understand it. Pure lead generation actions will be of insufficient help; ensure a varied and integrated marketing mix.

Provide sufficient operational capacity

Do you have the appropriate means and software to measure your sales and marketing processes? Are you able to collect information on your customer’s needs and how you can help him?

Create focus

Take a look at the sales organisation and align it to the journey that buyers take through their buying cycle. This is the best way to achieve your business strategies and objectives.

Gain appropriate expertise

Changes in the field of marketing and sales imply that your staff need to acquire additional skills and expertise. Posting vacancies is not the solution. Determine what people you have, train them and give them the means to work efficiently.

Measure and report

Measuring is crucial. If you know where your leads come from, you can align your marketing processes and your content to this. Automate your marketing campaigns and build a KPI dashboard that enables external reporting. Only by measuring can you find out more about your customer and improve your processes on a continuous basis.

Share the same targets

The marketing and sales departments must have the same objective in mind. What matters most is not the amount of leads but their quality and the way you deal with them. Determine how marketing can contribute to the pipeline and link individual performance indicators to the business and sales objectives. Do not wonder how marketing can generate more profit, but ask yourself to what extent marketing contributes to the creation of opportunities. The marketing division serves to support this process and to generate demand.

Know your customer

Acquaint yourself with the buyer through personas and buyer’s journey maps. This enables you to perfectly cater to the customer’s needs at any stage of his purchasing process.


Surely it goes without saying that sales and marketing departments work to serve clients? But think about it: is this really the case, and do they work well together? The alignment of sales and marketing is now more urgent than ever. Globalisation and the internet have radically changed the way people buy. Sellers used to be the most important sources of information, but now potential customers look up all their various options for themselves online. They also value their contacts’ and peers’ opinions more, which they can find online too.

So sales and marketing can no longer be allowed to operate as two separate departments working alongside each other. Even though lots of companies have tried to bring them in line over the last fifteen years, there has been little improvement:
“Marketing doesn’t result in any leads that are ready to buy,” says sales.
“Sales isn’t following leads up,” claims marketing.
“Marketing spends a lot of money but can’t measure ROI.”
“Sales has no impact on marketing expenses, and vice versa.”
“Sales always gets the spoils.”

Lower sales cost

Things can be improved by harmonising all marketing and sales activities with the market and potential customers’ readiness to buy. We call this Buyer-Aligned Collaboration, and it ensures the highest possible impact at the lowest possible sales cost.

The client controls your sales process

So promote your client to the centre of your business universe. Then synchronise sales and marketing so they quickly start to work in harmony. In summary:

  • The client’s buying cycle and the buyer readiness is the benchmark for all sales processes
  • Use software to register every decision-maker’s readiness to buy
  • Use CRM as a pragmatic tool for all departments; correct information is more important than the quantity of prospect data
  • Marketing produces sales material to match the various buyer readiness phases
  • Product information targets your client’s challenges and the impact of your solution, not the product features
  • Involve sales when verifying the buyer readiness and pick up leads at the right moment
  • Measure and benchmark all activities throughout the buying cycle and work continuously on improvement

Scientific research has shown that every buying cycle is a sequence of the same mental processes; almost as certain as a law of nature. Our Buying Clock is an easy way to see the willingness to buy of everyone involved in a potential sale:

You can work out where the client is in Buying Clock by asking questions such as:

  • Are 100% sure that the current situation has to change?
  • What can you do with the new solution?
  • Have you calculated the cost and ROI?
  • What criteria will you use to compare suppliers?
  • Are you trying to understand the differences and benefits of the various options?
  • How do you guarantee your future supplier won’t eventually drop you?
  • Have you checked if the new solution brings new problems with it?

Buying-Clock-isolatedThe clocks are far from always synchronised

You know ‘what time it is’ in the buying cycle when you’ve got answers from everyone who has to decide on the purchase. Everyone goes through the same mental processes in a purchase, and it’s very possible that different people are in different stages.

The speed at which we go through the various stages of the buying cycle depends on various factors: experience of buying similar services, understanding the various options’ impacts, the decision’s importance and impact on us and our organization. A buying cycle can last from a few seconds to months or even years depending on these factors. The deal can be sealed when everyone involved has completed all stages.

Understanding this buying cycle leads to better results

Do your sales and marketing teams know what time it is on every client’s Buying Clock? Wouldn’t it be great for your team to discover how ready your client is to buy, so they could approach them in the right way? Then sales would never start talking about product features before the client is ready to even consider buying that type of product. And marketing wouldn’t overload anyone with too much information about all the benefits. Clients will feel better understood, and make a decision faster, when approached with messages that match their buyer readiness.

When everyone in your organization can see the client’s buying cycle, you can develop shared terminology to align your sales and marketing activities and increase your efficiency and effectiveness. To maximize your organization’s potential, make your client’s readiness to buy the reference point for every action. This can lead to the following benefits:

  • Shared terminology for sharing experiences better and improving the whole team’s performance
  • Precise timing of your actions, resulting in lower sales cost and higher ROI
  • Higher conversion
  • Less loss of margin
  • Objective, predictable forecasts
  • In summary: more sales with higher margins at a lower cost