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When I started building our in-house marketing department at Columbus, I imagined two funnels: one for the sales team and one for the marketing team. However, working closely with both the teams has taught me one thing: these two funnels simply cannot exist separately. Since then, the search for the ultimate sales + marketing funnel became my Holy Grail.

Why do I focus so much on this funnel? Well, I must confess, I am obsessed with trying to prove the value of a company’s investment in their marketing-related activities. I started off with creating a funnel for inbound marketing, where I could determine the prospective customers’ activity at each step of the way. However, I soon realized I could not look at sales and marketing separately and the reason behind this convergence was our customers.

Even though traditionally marketing and sales are two different departments, there is a huge paradigm shift in the customer buying behavior. We think that once a customer has completed his research from online and offline marketing materials, they go into a personal meeting with the sales representative.

Let me put it this way: this is a myth. Let’s take an example from reality.

The funnel is dead

This is a real example from our in-house CRM. The road to winning a customer is not a straight line anymore. It’s a zig-zag, a long winding road, if you will. A new customer visits our website and downloads a guide. Immediately, they get a call from a sales representative from our company. They may not be able to make a decision at the time, so they visit our website and register for a webinar. We email them again, asking to connect. The journey continues..

The customer buying journey winds between stopovers at sales and marketing for several months, to finally – hopefully – result in a deal.

What conclusions do I draw? Well the buying process is certainly not linear and does not go in an organized fashion from one department to another. It’s a long windy road, with many signs that guide a prospective buyer to becoming our customer.

Here’s my attempt to summarize the success factors that lead to a winning deal:
Diverse content to cover the customers’ pain points:
If you look at the image, even when the agreement was signed, the customer continued to register for our webinars. Plenty of relevant content on our site, allowed the customer to explore and make decisions on how we could help solve their pain points.

Transparency is a big deal:
The information on the customer was available to the entire sales team. This allowed them to create a more personal dialogue and they could jointly work with the marketing team to supply the customer with even more relevant material. Transparency allows both the sales and marketing teams to work together to win a customer.

Stay cool – good timing is the key:
The buying process is quite long in some cases. Ironically, it takes over six months for a customer to get on the phone with us after the first site visit. The trick is to find the right time to initiate a personal dialogue with the customer.

What next?
Step 1: Break the silos
The magical handshake between the marketing and sales teams does not exist anymore. There is never a clear handover between the two departments. It’s time we put a nail in the coffin of siloed thinking.

Step 2: Stronger together
By joining hands, both the sales and marketing teams will get real rewards: the feeling when they discover that there are no more cold leads, simply prospective buyers that we convert to customers.

I keep sharing my learnings on my LinkedIn profile. Follow me on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/hannanatt/

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