Lessons from #INBOUND16: The Team Sport of Selling

One of the key talking points at this year’s #INBOUND16 conference was sales and marketing — more specifically, the elusive relationship between the two. We learned that marketing teams work hard to generate leads for their sales organizations, but 79% of leads do not convert to sales. Furthermore, of the leads that do get passed to salespeople, 73% never actually get contacted (HubSpot, 2016).

Today, buyers are delaying their engagement with salespeople. B2B buyers complete over 80% of their research before reaching out to a sales rep. In the research or awareness stage, they’re reviewing marketing material such as blog articles, eBooks, social posts, webinars, and more. This means that sales and marketing need to be more aligned than ever. Marketing content needs to be valuable and tailored to the buyer in order to engage the right target audience and generate high-quality leads.

That’s why, years ago, HubSpot coined “smarketing — the term that refers to the alignment of sales and marketing, created through direct communication between the two teams.

Smarketing in a nutshell

In short, it’s a symbiotic relationship where both parties benefit one another. Inbound marketers produce content, such as white papers, case studies, and blog posts, that educate and inform buyers. Meanwhile, salespeople use these pieces of content to meet the needs of individual buyers and guide them through the sales funnel. From these sales interactions, sales reps gain insight into what buyers care about the most and communicate this to the marketing team. In turn, marketers use feedback to create better content.

What is Smarketing?

Sales teams complain that marketing isn’t generating enough quality leads, while marketing criticizes sales for not working their hard-earned leads enough. To get the most out of both parties’ efforts, organizations need to promote communication and collaboration between sales and marketing. How can you get the two departments on the same team, and hold everyone accountable?

Everyone plays a role

On the sales side:

  • Provide feedback on lead quality, as this will help marketers understand which types of leads are most likely to close. And back this up with data!

On the marketing side:

  • Sit in on sales calls and help close deals when called upon. Ensure everyone understands the value of each marketing-generated lead.


  • Schedule a regular meeting to share progress updates and celebrate big wins as a joint group.
  • Track both teams’ results month to month.
  • Discuss pain points or frustrations in a constructive manner. Learn what customers care about and cater to their needs.

Metrics to measure:

  • Lead flow: Ensure that marketing is evaluated on the volume and quality of leads that get handed over to sales. The quantity and quality of leads should ideally grow month over month.
  • Percentage of leads worked and close rates: The percent of leads worked will measure your sales team’s productivity. As sales follows up with their leads, the close rates from prospect to customer should also remain steady. Should these metrics decline, it may be a sign of poor lead quality or lack of team members available to handle the lead volume.

If the sales team believes the lead flow was light, give them the data from previous months to prove otherwise. If marketing thinks sales isn’t pursuing their leads hard enough, get lead data that shows the percentage of leads worked in a given month. This information will keep sales and marketing accountable for their efforts.

Closing more leads: The buyer’s journey

Marketing departments need to understand the buying process used by prospects. This is the buyer’s journey, which is broken down into three essential stages: awareness, consideration, and decision. Each stage requires a variety of unique content offers, ranging from site pages and blog posts to downloadable offers and demonstrations.The Buyer's Journey

  • The awareness stage centers around discovery. A buyer is aware of a problem and is interested in learning more via high-level, educational content.
  • A buyer in the consideration stage is conducting deeper research and evaluating various solutions. Looking at pros and cons, they’re comparing vendors and products, reading case studies, and reviewing product demos.
  • Finally, in the decision stage, the buyer has had objections addressed and is ready to make a final choice. In order to make a final decision, additional content needs to convince the prospect that one vendor will be the best fit.

As we reach the end of the buyer’s journey, the prospect will have built up trust and confidence in a particular vendor to make a purchasing decision.

Inbound marketers need to gain insight into the buyer’s need for information at every stage of the journey. Marketing can then pass the knowledge gained about each prospect’s unique priorities and objections on to sales, so that reps can engage qualified leads with greater insight and understanding of how to close the sale.

Peter Drucker said in 1973, “The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous.” And those words still ring true — sales is a team sport, and your marketing department is a key support player. According to HubSpot, inbound marketing-sourced leads cost 61% less. Sales and marketing alignment will result in better, faster results at a lower cost.

Building a sense of connection between the two teams, and encouraging constant communication, will help them understand each others’ problems and opportunities. Marketing campaigns that directly support sales, whether it’s lost deal campaigns or drip marketing, will help bridge the gap. This collaboration will make sales and marketing feel like they are fighting the same battle — the best outlook for achieving a common goal.

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