Colleges offer semester-long classes on the difference between the "sales" and "marketing" functions within a business. Fortunately, most businesses already know the difference — at least on paper. Things get a bit trickier in the real world. Roles ebb and flow. Salespeople start acting like marketers, and visa versa. Worse yet, the two functions operate as if the other didn't exist. There's no coordination around messaging. There's no — to steal another business school term — "alignment."
This misalignment can affect your bottom line. It can confuse prospects and irritate your sales team. It can give your competitors an opening. Therefore, we'd like to look at ways solar brands can unify their sales and marketing messaging to make sure both functions are on the same page.
First, the Basics: Sales vs. Marketing
While we already noted that most people can differentiate between their "sales" and "marketing" teams, notice we didn't say all people. As a result, some clarification is in order. By "marketing" we mean "back-end" activities like consumer research, lead generation, and advertising. In other words, tasks that are focused on generating interest and developing a deeper understanding of subsets of the general population. "Sales," meanwhile, means converting prospects to paying customers. Unlike the marketing team, salespeople deal with prospects on a one-on-one basis or smaller groups of prospects. (For more insight on aligning the marketing and sales functions click here.)
Now the rubber meets the road: how do these two functions coordinate their marketing messaging?
Understand Challenges Across the Solar Sales Funnel
As solar brands know, they operate within a very challenging industry due to the fact that prospects are generally unfamiliar with the ins and outs of residential solar energy. They have misconceptions about cost, resources, and financing. They are suspicious of "too good to be true" offers. They often don't see the incentive to make the switch. Therefore, the marketing team needs to make sure the solar sales funnel is dialed in to each unique prospects needs and paired with the appropriate inbound content. Of course, it is the sales team that ultimately presents this material to prospects, so make sure these individuals are appropriately trained. Also understand that this relationship works both ways. For example, salespeople may push back saying that a marketing-developed buyer persona doesn't play out in the "real world." Sales members also need to tell marketers about the quality of the leads they're receiving. If a certain kind of lead has been converting at a higher rate, marketers can use this information to generate similar leads.
Get the "Hand Off" Right
When marketers hand off leads to sales, they may be inclined to over-simplify the nature of the lead. Or the marketer's perception of what the lead is looking for may not be properly translated to the sales team. These breakdowns in communication will inevitably alter the quality of your messaging because it won't be as attuned or refined as it should be. Furthermore, marketers should clearly communicate obstacles to conversion. Generally these obstacles will be either price point or lack of perceived value. Hopefully, your sales team will have a strategy in place to meet these obstacles head-on, but again: no two prospects are the same. The cost considerations that may inhibit a big commercial developer from converting will be different then that of a small family in Novato. Similarly, the messaging that will be used to reach these audiences will also be different.
Coordinate Your Messaging
Both teams should agree upon what works based on the marketer's interaction with the prospect. For example, the marketer may find that the prospect finds the phrase "payment plan" less intimidating than "financing." The marketer must convey this to the sales team. The marketer must also convey the prospect's key issues to the sales team; if the sales team asks the same questions a second time, the prospect will become annoyed. Also calibrate your copy based on prior experience with similar buyer personas. What kinds of marketing messaging have traditionally succeeded with high quality leads? What calls to action have proven to result in conversions? That messaging you developed that speaks to Northern California homeowners — did it work?
Ultimately, your messaging will only be as strong as the coordination between your marketing and sales team. Keep the lines of communication open, be aware of unique prospect needs, and fall back on previous successes, and your messaging will inevitably fall into place.
Now we'd like your feedback. How does your team make sure your marketing and sales team are on the same page? What's difficult about this process? How has this process evolved over time?