How to Bridge Marketing and Sales in Your Buyer Journey

by Josh Ritchie

Marketing and sales are on the same team—in theory—but in many organizations, they act as though they’re independent departments. Sometimes this is due to poor organizational structure. Sometimes it’s bad communication. Sometimes it’s a truly antagonistic relationship (hey, it happens). No matter the source, the problems usually look the same in companies of all sizes, across all industries. 

  • Sales criticizes marketing for bringing in unqualified traffic/leads they can’t close.
  • Marketing thinks the sales team’s narratives are inconsistent and miss the “big picture.” 

Sound familiar?

Ultimately, this breakdown is bad for everyone: marketing, sales, and above all, customers. When sales and marketing don’t work well together, it’s nearly impossible to create the consistent, cohesive, and seamless buyer journey you need to move prospects from stage to stage. After all, a complete buyer journey incorporates both marketing and sales.

The good news? It can change. With the right approach, marketing and sales can become not just partners but truly symbiotic resources that help each other succeed. 

To help you make that happen in your organization, today we’re sharing our best tips to bridge the gap, get aligned, and deliver the best brand experience to customers.

What’s the Difference Between Marketing and Sales?

Before we dive in, it’s important to understand each department’s specific role in the buyer journey. Without that clarity, you may be stepping on each other’s toes, creating the wrong type of content, and turning customers away before sales ever has a chance to get to them. 

  • Marketing’s job is to attract people, start a conversation, and get them interested in learning about who you are, what you do, and what you have to say. 
  • Sales’ job is to convince people, to provide the solutions and support they need to make a confident purchase decision. Note: In B2B, sales’ job is increasingly to serve as a sounding board and resource as buyers navigate the wealth of information out there on their own. (For a deeper dive, find out more about the difference between marketing and sales.)

People don’t like to be sold to, but they love to buy.

 —Jeffrey Gitomer, author of The Sales Bible

It’s important to not only understand but maintain these boundaries between departments, as the lines can blur, especially as marketers are asked to do more and more to contribute to revenue growth. 

3 Ways to Bridge Marketing and Sales

So how do you collaborate effectively with each other to create the best possible customer experience? Go back to the basics, clearly communicate, and get on the same page.

1) Reassess your buyer journey. 

It might sound obvious, but the first step to bridge marketing and sales in your buyer journey is to build an accurate and comprehensive buyer journey. This is the only way to identify your opportunities to improve, close messaging gaps, and create the seamless buyer experience you need to increase conversions and, ultimately, sales. 

Unfortunately, we often see buyer journeys that are incomplete, inaccurate, or created without key stakeholders in the room (aka sales). In the worst cases, brands don’t even have their buyer journey documented. (Don’t get us started on that.) 

Make sure you have relevant stakeholders in the room when crafting your buyer journey.

Thus, it always helps to go back to square one with fresh eyes. 

  • Understand your roles at each stage. As you build your buyer journey together, you need to understand each department’s roles and responsibilities, as well as opportunities where you can work together or support each other. For example, sales may provide helpful content ideas around the customer pain points they hear the most often in conversations. Conversely, marketing may be able to help create sales enablement content to support those later-stage conversations. 
    • Stage 1: Awareness (Marketing)
    • Stage 2: Consideration (Marketing)
    • Stage 3: Analysis (Sales)
    • Stage 4: Purchase (Sales)
    • Stage 5: Loyalty 
  • Identify key moments. What are the key moments/touchpoints that need to happen along the path to purchase? What are common pitfalls? Gaps in the journey? Who owns what? Think of your buyer journey as a timeline, where key moments are represented by the following:
    • Triggers: What common events lead to someone realizing they have a problem that needs solving? For example, a computer networking company might be able to predict that a business will need networking solutions when a company moves offices.
    • Hand-raises: What actions from the prospect signal increased interest in your product or service? Examples might be website visits or downloads of certain content—your CRM data should guide decisions here.
    • Aha moments: A bit more theoretical than the other key moment, aha moments are realizations on the prospect side that you’ll tailor to your business. These might be moments where the prospect understands answers to common misconceptions or realizes your product solves their problem.
  • Refine messaging. What do people need to hear at each stage to move to the next? How can sales’ insights help shape those messages? Creating this messaging together is crucial if you want to tell a consistent story between marketing and sales materials. With sales’ buy-in it is much easier to stay on the same page and create the right marketing materials to move people along the path to purchase. 

Granted, you can’t dictate the timeline of when or if anyone becomes a customer; it’s up to them to decide when they’re ready to buy. But if you design your buyer journey well and thoughtfully, with both teams’ input, you will be more likely to collaborate effectively—and massively more successful.

To complete this full process, use our free guide and template to map your buyer journey

2) Create content to support sales enablement. 

Although marketing should not do sales’ job; marketing can support sales in their job. Marketers are expert storytellers, and good sales content tells a compelling story as much as an explainer video does. Having crafted a comprehensive buyer journey, you now know key messaging moments, gaps, and opportunities to reinforce your brand story. 

Think of ways to create sales content that can bridge those gaps, help sales communicate more effectively, or deliver information in a more engaging format. This can include a variety of content, such as:

  • Case studies
  • Pitch Decks
  • Proposal Templates
  • Demos/Tutorials
  • One-sheeters

Note: We personally know how successful these tweaks can be. To reposition ourselves in our market, we revised our messaging, built a fresh content strategy (including sales enablement content), and increased our sales 160%

Conduct a content audit to assess your existing content and spot opportunities to add or improve content. You can also audit your competitor’s content to see what gaps you might fill, what best practices you should adopt, or what creative ways they are bridging sales/marketing in their messaging. 

For more tips to do that, find out how to create content that empowers your sales team.

3) Optimize automation. 

Marketing to sales automation is another big area where teams can use their journey model to collaborate more effectively. The data between sales and marketing CRMs should be integrated and continually improved to support both functions. 

  • Are sales and marketing using the same technologies? If not, do they communicate? 
  • Have you defined when an MQL becomes an SQL?
  • Is your CRM set up to alert the sales team when an MQL becomes an SQL?
  • Does marketing continue to provide touchpoints to move contacts down the path to purchase? 
  • Is there a consistent workflow? 

The more you can take advantage of automation, the more insights you can gather and the more you can optimize your journey to work smarter, not harder.

How to Stay Aligned Going Forward

Like any relationship, the key to good collaboration is communication. The more you interact with each other, the more likely the teams are to understand each other’s perspectives and work toward common end goals. Over time, you’ll come to understand when and where to involve the other team’s members in decision-making and action meetings. Some simple ways to get your team more aligned: 

  • Have regular conversations. The more ways you can find to break down walls, the more effective both of your departments will be. Set up a regular check-in meeting to catch up, share what you’ve been working on, share and review reports, ask questions, etc.
  • Invite sales into content brainstorms. It doesn’t have to be super formal, as sales people aren’t accustomed to brainstorms the same way marketers are. A quick virtual coffee chat or brainstorm doc can also be an effective, disarming way to solicit input and feedback. 
  • Share interesting or relevant information. In our #Slack channels, we are constantly sharing interesting inspiration, articles, podcasts, or insights we’ve had from customer conversations. These small touchpoints can help spur conversations and ideas for the good of sales’ and marketing’s collective goals.

Most importantly, celebrate your wins together. Every department has a hand in every sale, so that success is something to be shared. While there are always opportunities to improve, taking the time to acknowledge each other’s hard work is a great way to stay connected, aligned, and motivated to succeed—together. 

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