Imagine we are back in 2011. You walk into your company’s HQ happy to hear the phones ringing and your sales team diligently taking orders from new and existing customers. Your sales team – your biggest investment – has once again outdone itself and sold to nearly 85% of in-bound leads. You sit back in your chair and close your eyes – the business is good and you are once again assured that spending as much as you do on sales, and as little as you do on marketing, is the right way to go.
Fast-forward to 2015. You walk into your company’s HQ and for the nth time you notice the murmur coming from the salesroom. The phones are not ringing – you haven’t heard them ring more than once a week since 2011 - and every conversation your sales team is having started as a cold-call. Sales are down, customers are no longer coming through the door, and your sales team is having an identity crisis. Used to farming inbound leads, they are now drilling for water in the desert, hoping to hunt down a deal.
Balancing Sales and Marketing
Every company must strike a delicate balance between its sales (push) and marketing (pull) investments. In many small and mid-size organizations, marketing is viewed as a non-essetial that consumes the resources that could instead be allocated to sales. After all, marketing is hard to measure, it takes a while to produce an actual sale, and most companies don’t have the in-house expertise required to develop and execute successful marketing strategies. Sales, on the other hand, are tangible and immediate.
As a result, small and mid-size businesses typically allocate 60 - 90% of their revenue generation investment (ie, what they spend on sales and marketing), to sales rep salaries, sales collateral, and incentive plans that keep sales people knocking on as many new doors as possible. In this “push” scenario, the sales team targets low-hanging fruit in the hope of bringing home the goods as quickly as possible, as often as possible.
The question is, what happens when the low-hanging fruit is gone? And, is it effective and efficient to focus your sales team’s efforts on identifying, prospecting, qualifying, and educating potential clients who may have never heard of your company or product?
The answer is no.
Your sales efforts should focus on converting as many high-probability prospects as possible. But it’s marketing that should educate the market about your business and generate demand. If you are only investing in sales, you are investing in the short-term viability of your business. It’s easy to get caught in a cycle where you depend on new business generated through cold-calling to pay your operating costs and to keep the lights on. Unfortunately, in this scenario, your sales team will likely burn out faster than you can imagine.
To break away from this cycle, and to increase the effectiveness of your sales investments, marketing is needed.
Most small and mid-sized companies are making the shift from a sales head-count to investing in marketing (or some variation of that budget re-allocation). There isn't a magic formula for how much sales investment is 'right' and how much marketing budget is 'right'.
How to re-balance your sales and marketing mix, by enhancing your marketing
Not sure how to make the shift in your business and find the right mix between sales and marketing? Here's a simple recipe for getting marketing going, and moving towards the ideal balance between sales investment and marketing investment:
- Add a blog to your company website and start promoting it via social media. This will generate website traffic that can convert to leads for your sales team to pursue.
- Create a company newsletter that goes to your prospect database and drives traffic to your blog and website, and direct leads to the sales force.
- Share your expertise with your customers, through thought-leadership content like white papers and webinars. You will get prospects names and contact information when they download content.
- Have your sales team maintain an active social media presence and continues to engage prospects via the blog, the newsletter, and social media channels so that once the lead comes in, they never leave your eco system and continue to stay in contact with you.
By following these initial steps, you will be increasing your marketing efforts, which will drive business to your sales team and increase their effectiveness. Measure the investment you make in sales relative to marketing, and gauge the relative performance. The goal is to improve the return on your revenues and profits relative to your investment in sales and marketing combined. If you can shift your sales budget into marketing budget and capture higher revenues, you are accomplishing that goal.
Interested in more tips on enhancing your sales and marketing efforts? Mezzanine's latest book, The Radical Sales Shift, shares lessons from 20 powerful B2B sales and marketing leaders. Get your free section today.