Marrying Sales and Internet Marketing

June 29, 2011
By Danika Atkins in Online Marketing

I have two friends who would make the perfect couple, if only they would get over their differences. Try as they might, they always run into the same problems: one will think they’re more important than the other, neglect the others’ needs or say something to embarrass the other in mixed company.

My friends’ names? Sales and Internet Marketing.

I just don’t get it. What should be a harmonious relationship always seems to end up in a tug-of-war. To me, the roles are simple and complementary. Sales’ job is to convince the customer to buy. Marketing’s job is to convince the customer they wanted your product all along.

As a sales rep, the most comforting words I could hear from a prospect were “Yeah, I’ve heard of you guys before.” In those moments, I wanted to run to our marketing department and give each and every one of them a high five (and maybe a hug). Because as most sales people know, turning a cold call into a warm call can shave months off of the sales cycle.

Let’s end this age-old battle once and for all. Sales guys and Internet marketers, it’s time to learn how we can work together to achieve higher conversions and interoffice harmony.

How to sync SEO with your sales cycle

Internet marketers, think of SEO as the vitamin you hide in your kid’s ice cream. Although you know it’s good for them, Sales might not care too much to swallow your SEO mantra, or even have the patience to understand.

But one thing that all sales people like to talk about is money, and there is money to be made by investing in SEO. The key is to not only translate SEO into ROI, but to tap into sales to inform your strategy. Carve out some time to meet with a few sales reps (remember, every moment they’re away from the phone or a meeting with a prospect is money out of their pocket, so keep the meeting short and to the point). You’ll want sales to inform you on a few key elements:

Keywords

Use your sales force as inspiration for keyword research, especially if you’re looking for long-tail, purchase-focused terms. Sometimes the tools we use for keyword research don’t delve into the nuances that sales reps are able to pick up on in their conversations. They’ll know which words or phrases resonate best with customers who are ready to buy.

In general, you’ll want to keep your SEO copywriting and sales lyrics as in sync as possible. Sales reps, pay attention to the wording of the website. Your Internet marketing team has spent a lot of time researching popular keywords and phrases. Whenever I needed to switch up my lyrics a bit, I would use our website as a source of inspiration.

Site structure

Not every sales call is structured the same way, but for the most part your sales reps will have a process in place to guide the customer to closing. Ask them about the typical flow of their conversations. My sales process looks something like this:

Prepare for the call -> Opening -> Assess the prospect’s needs -> Summarize their needs -> Present the product -> Summarize the benefits of the product -> Offer -> Close

Your company’s site structure should allow the customer to easily follow this path, or at the very least access all the pieces of information addressed in the call. Ask your sales reps if customers have any common questions and integrate their answers into your FAQs or About Us page.

Every page should have a call to action that urges the customer to either pick up the phone and contact a rep (the ideal situation), send an email or submit a contact form, which should be tracked to show which page prompted the customer to reach out. As a sales rep, I would take a quick look at the content of the referring page before the call to figure out what might have sparked the customer’s interest and to have a jumping off point for the conversation.

Link building with sales in mind

SEOs, let’s pretend that you just landed two backlinks from a reputable blog with 7 PageRank and the potential for an ongoing monthly contributor spot. Now try asking your sales force to care. Although the sales team doesn’t need to be kept in the loop about every guest post and directory listing you secure, it makes sense to involve them in the process.

Internet marketers’ creepy obsession with PageRank can sometimes lead us to ignore backlinks that might be valuable from a sales standpoint. Remember to focus as much on the audience as the numbers. Less than perfect PageRank is okay from time to time as long as the link is being placed in front of a valuable group of potential customers – that’s new business and you should measure your campaigns by more than just backlinks and rankings.

Sales, if you’re trying to prospect within certain niches, tell your Internet marketing guys. They may be able to develop relationships with these communities and sniff out good prospects to pass along to you.

Align your expectations

Sorry, sales guys. I know we like to think of the marketing department as our own personal lead piggy bank, but when it comes to lead generation and Internet marketing, it’s more like a 1-year CD. You might be tired of the buzzwords, but link building, SEO audits, relationship management and social media marketing all come together to make it easier for you to sell. You just need to be patient.

Internet marketers, your sales force is your front line. If they’re giving you feedback about your business based on conversations with prospects and customers, you need to listen. Sometimes we surround ourselves with a wall of data without room for the valuable anecdotal feedback our sales reps can provide. Also, be frank about the benefits of SEO. Putting everything you do in terms of lead generation capability might only come back to haunt you or force you to dive into riskier forms of SEO.

Well, Sales and Marketing. I’m glad we had this talk. Hopefully this time you’ll be able to work out your differences and let your relationship blossom into the positive force it’s meant to be.

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