It's a joyous day in the Continuum offices as we celebrate the one year anniversary of our weekly SMarketing meetings! If you didn't already guess, SMarketing represents sales and marketing alignment, a way of uniting two seemingly different departments by stressing one common team goal: driving revenue. We are so committed to this philosophy that a year ago, to this day, we instituted weekly meetings between both Sales and Marketing to share compelling metrics, big wins and our progress towards attaining our company's quarterly goals.

Are your sales and marketing departments working together to deliver that nice hockey stick of growth? You can't take home the gold if you're constantly butting heads and blaming one another for lousy leads or insufficient follow-up. Not sure what you'd talk about? Perhaps it's time you both reexamine the state of the modern Sales and Marketing funnel...   

In the world of marketing, some people are saying that the sales funnel is dead. But, really, it’s just different than it was five short years ago. Any idea why? Everything else about the economy and your specific marketplace has changed. Success today depends on understanding the challenges you face as a marketer, so you can more effectively manage your sales funnel. Especially in this age of digital marketing.

What are some of the key challenges facing the Sales & Marketing Funnel today?

1. The buying path zigs and zags

Unlike a real funnel, which is impervious except at the top and bottom, your sales funnel can attract prospects virtually anywhere in between. And it can lose them anywhere along the line, too. Sometimes they come and go, sort of like the wind in your sails.

That’s why tracking and individualization are so important. That’s why scoring to rank lead quality is so important. That’s why staying in touch is so important, especially for B2B companies with typically longer buying cycles. And, in the world of IT, small businesses want a local presence, someone that they can see and talk to regularly.

Understanding the path buyers are taking towards making a purchase helps marketing create better content and helps the sales team take a more individualized approach to selling.

2. Distractions cause lost opportunities

You can’t control outside forces that cause prospects to drop your content in mid-read, but you can ensure your website, blog, etc. don’t distract visitors. Easy navigation to find what they want quickly is critical. Otherwise, you’re dumping them right out of your funnel, and they may never return.

Make sure your website is set up to nurture your prospects through the buying process and that your sales team understands that they're a key part in this nurturing process.

3. Data is good, but it’s not good enough

You have more CRM, website analytics and marketing automation tools, but they aren’t necessarily well-integrated. You can track online behavior, up to a point, but you have no way of knowing all the factors that are influencing prospects offline. Too many marketers don’t take time to aggregate the information they do have, to better understand conversion trends and triggers.

4. Scoring is poorly refined

Quality is not only Number One, it’s the Only One. Stuffing your funnel with vast volumes of “prospects” is pointless and a time- and resource-waster. Effectively managing your sales funnel requires the ability to judiciously sift and sort, so you can focus on your most valuable leads.

5. Segmentation is poorly refined

Identifying your most likely buyers is important, but so is determining how they relate to your company as potential customers. That’s why the advent of personas to help guide marketing decisions is so advantageous. Developing personas can be tedious, but they sharpen your marketing focus – you can aim your targeting at the bull’s eye, rather than some outer ring.

To do that, you have to know how many primary and secondary segments make up your audience, and you have to understand each of those buyer personas so you can prioritize engagement and follow-up activities.

6. Your funnel is populated with existing customers as well as fresh prospects

Every business person knows it’s more efficient and cost-effective to re-sell, up-sell and cross-sell to current customers than to make an initial sale. But repeat customers have to be nurtured differently.

7. Sales and marketing aren’t on the same team

We can't stress this enough. Especially with the rise of inbound marketing, it’s essential to ensure the efforts of your marketing and sales teams are well-coordinated. Otherwise, your sales funnel can get clogged with prospects you’ve inadvertently stranded somewhere along the line, due to faulty follow-up or inappropriate engagement.

Collaboration between the sales and marketing organizations becomes most effective when it cuts across traditional “borders” between their areas of expertise, bringing them together to flesh out personas and identify valuable content topics as well as hone lead scoring. *Cough cough* SMarketing meetings.

In many ways, every trip through your sales funnel is a new experience for customers. But if you’re using all the intel at your disposal to identify what’s most important – for your sales team and for your prospects – you’ll be able to overcome challenges and move on to increasing conversions and, ultimately, increasing growth and profitability. 

So tear a page out of our playbook! Try organizing a recurring meeting between your Sales and Marketing departments. First item on the agenda? Discuss the 7 challenges presented here, brainstorm how else to combat them and establish guidelines to make each department more accountable to one another. And don't forget to celebrate the big wins for each team!

The modern organization is one that eschews silos of any kind. Win or lose, your MSP business can't grow if Sales and Marketing don't come together as a team.