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.

Like many marketeers, we worked extremely hard on our campaigns: webinars, events, trade fairs, workshops, and so forth. This resulted in sufficient new names which we neatly passed on to our sales colleagues. As they are quite result-oriented, they asked for more and more leads.

We did not want to employ another staff member in a marketing position to provide even more push campaigns, so we decided to concentrate in particular on the quality of the leads going in the sales funnel. Lead scoring had to increase the turnover per lead by having the sales department focus especially on promising leads. Within this scope, we were one of the first in Belgium to start working with marketing automation software.

As part of the preparation, we conducted an analysis of the entire process with our sales colleagues to ensure that everybody agreed on the method and the definitions. A rather bothersome and complex exercise, but indispensable to get rid of weaknesses in your funnel. We noticed that some leads were neglected. What is the use of more and more leads if they are not monitored properly?

In the meantime, all leads have been registered and qualified in the marketing automation software. Each contact is monitored and gets a score with every new action, even in case of existing contacts. After all, we often focus too strongly on new names and lose track of upselling and cross-selling opportunities.

Still overly dependent on push marketing

After lead scoring the time was right for a next step. An analysis of our lead funnel showed us 1) that push marketing accounted for the majority of our leads; and 2) that our inbound leads completed the sales process twice as fast. We therefore decided to focus more strongly on inbound activities so as to increase the influx as well as the quality of the leads.

Potential buyers consult their network and other references to make or prepare purchasing decisions. So you also need to lead them to the purchase online. Customers increasingly inform themselves without contacting a supplier. If you only count on push marketing, you often arrive too late in the decision-making process.

Within the scope of our inbound approach, we mainly invest in four kinds of actions: several media channels, SEO, content creation and general branding. We thus want to increase the share of inbound leads to 50% in the long term.

This blogpost is a contribution by Tom Dubois, Worldwide Marketing Manager at VASCO Data Security


Your sales and marketing activities need to help you increase the impact on your customers and on the market. But how to organise this? Seven major tips are given below:

1. Use buyer personas

In B2B, salespeople need to use buyer personas to develop a perfect understanding of the daily life of their contacts: what are their responsibilities and challenges, what are they looking for, is something happening in the branch of industry in which they are active? This information enables any seller to assess perfectly his ability to increase the impact on his customers.

2. No transparent sales techniques

You can train your salespeople all you want, but in the end, people buy from people. You should therefore refrain from any imposed techniques during a sales meeting, as this will cause you to lose your impact on the customer. He notices when you try to pull tricks and is no longer fooled by them.

You need to have a positive intention to really help the customer. Do not think of targets or products you would like to sell, but step into your customer’s shoes, assist him and facilitate the purchasing process. Your mindset and corporate culture play an important role in this.

3. Support your sales in customer facing

We frequently talk about creating marketing materials, but this does not suffice anymore. Customer-facing support – sales enablement – is at least equally important nowadays. Marketing needs to ensure that salespeople have sufficient information and means at their disposal to assist the customers, to approach them in the right manner and to start an interesting conversation.

Detailed buyer personas, briefings on the segment in which the customer is active, battle cards, demo scripts, ROI calculators and so forth. All aids which enable salespeople to perform better. If the sales staff see that the marketing department makes efforts to optimise the sales process together with them, they will actually use the supplied documents and tools.

4. Compete by demonstrating the impact on the customer

Building confidence and engaging in conversations that are useful to the client are the key to success in the age of the customer. Focus your message on the impact the customer will experience by working with you. Avoid the pitfall of making comparisons with competitors and/or discussing the advantages of your products versus competitive products.

5. Provide content in a smart manner

Some companies are overwhelmed by the quantity of marketing materials they need to create for different market segments and the different stages in the purchasing process (buyer’s journey). The entire company indeed has to make an effort to create an atmosphere in which all staff make a contribution to the development of content tools. Fortunately there are ways to reduce the required amount of content.

Within this scope, it is important to take into account the maturity of your product on the market. In case of very mature and well-known products or services, it is sufficient to develop attention grabbers and tools for the end of the purchasing cycle as the customer will not have any contact with salespeople at the start of his journey anyway. In addition, you can engage a third party to provide relevant content. Relevant to your target audience with a link to your business, but not directly from your business.

6. Establish a lead qualification process

If we look what happens with the different leads supplied to companies, it is possible to say that the sales department does not follow up on those leads from a general marketing perspective. However, from a sales department perspective, you can say that those leads were of insufficiently high quality. So you have to establish a lead qualification process that is used and understood by all. Marketing needs to apply efficient lead nurturing techniques to ensure that all leads receive enough relevant information so that they are ready when they are approached by the sales department.

This is the only way to feed sales and to keep sales costs under control. A good example of reinforcing the bond with the salesperson without their involvement is the development of nurturing tracks which automatically send relevant information to the customer from the e-mail address of the seller in question.

7. High-quality and clear data

Do yourself a favour and take care that your CRM system does not contain too many fields and data, but ensure that your salespeople can actually get something out of it. Make sure that all information about all stages of the entire buyer’s journey is available. Develop your CRM system in such a manner that it really helps your salespeople.