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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistTue, Mar 20, 2018 13 min read

When It Comes To Revenue, Which Comes First, Sales Process Upgrades Or Marketing Tactical Fixes?

Marketing Or Sales, Which Comes First?

It Can Be Hard To Know Where To Start: Marketing Or Sales? We’ll Help You Figure It Out

Marketing Or Sales, Which Comes First?It’s an age-old question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Today, we deal with a similar sequential question. Which do I tackle first, marketing tactical fixes or sales process upgrades?

It’s not a simple question, and the answer is always dependent on the specific situation at your company. But some signals might give you an indication of which path is better suited for your revenue goals.

The exercise we take clients through to help them figure this out is what we fondly refer to as “which hurts more?” Do you have enough leads but can’t close them frequently enough or fast enough, or are you well short of the number of leads you need to hit your sales number given your current sales conversion rates? Which is more painful?

While this doesn’t always produce a clear winner, it does help us decide where to start our conversation and focus our initial energy.

Here are a few other thoughts to help you make the decision regarding sales or marketing (or both).

A Look At Your Conversion Metrics

Understanding your conversion metrics up and down your funnel (or all through your buyer journey) is critical for both sales and marketing today. If you want to consistently impact revenue, you have to know these numbers.

What is your conversion rate for people who visit your website and then become new contacts? What is the number of new contacts who are actual leads for the business? What percentage of those leads are sales-qualified leads (meaning your prospects want to engage in a sales conversation)? What percentage of those sales-qualified leads are actual sales opportunities (meaning they’re ready to buy)? What percentage of those sales opportunities end up with proposals? And finally, what percentage sign their paperwork and become new customers? You have to know those numbers cold.

Not only do you need to know those numbers as they exist today, but you also have to know what those numbers should be for you to hit your revenue goals over the next few months and by the end of 2018. It’s likely that the numbers you have today are not nearly high enough to drive the goals you have set for your sales team or for the business overall.

Knowing the difference between where you are today and where you need to be is your roadmap for both sales and marketing improvements across your buyer journey schematic.

Where Is The Biggest Opportunity?

Sales or Marketing ImprovementsOnce you see the delta between where you are today and where you need to be to attain your revenue goals, you can also start to see where the big opportunities lie

If you have a low close rate, you can increase new customer signings by pumping more leads through the sales process and working with your low close rate. But if you focus your energies on improving your close rates, you’ll have a much bigger impact, in a much shorter time frame.

Back to the client example with the bulging funnel. That data would have identified that nurturing those leads already in the sales process would produce a bigger impact for less effort than trying to generate a ton of new leads, only to have them end up stuck in the process like their other leads.

The only way you uncover the opportunities is to look at the entire process, understand all the numbers and all the current levels of performance, and then come up with an agreed-on attack plan to focus energy on those areas that would produce the biggest results for the least amount of effort.

Your Ability To Deliver Improvements

This is a hard pill to swallow for some companies. After all, most of these challenges are not new. You’ve been dealing with low close rates or long sales cycles for years in some cases. Just because you’ve identified the areas where you need help doesn’t mean you and your team are able to deliver the improvements required to drive up the numbers.

Part of your assessment around where to start should include what you’re capable of improving. Do you have the experience, skills and tools to increase the amount of leads? Have you been trying to drive lead flow at all? If you have but to no avail, then it might be time to consider getting outside help.

Have you been trying to shorten the sales cycle or increase the close rates without success? Then it might be time to bring in someone or a team with outside perspectives, new skills, more robust experiences and different tools to help you improve these key performance indicators.

Often, it’s not about skills, experience and background but rather bandwidth. You and your team (or your current agency) might be working on other equally important initiatives. But this work still needs to be delivered, and it’s time to extend your team’s bandwidth by bringing in additional resources. As long as you’re honest about team’s abilities and skills, you should be able to decide if you need outside help or not.

You Should Not Ignore The Sales And Marketing Alignment Issue

Quality Over QuantityThis issue gets overlooked and downplayed much more than it should. Full sales and marketing alignment is a requirement for any improvements in revenue generation. It’s one of the key non-starters for any of our cross-functional engagements. No alignment means no engagement. Why? For starters, it’s a big indicator of future success. Without alignment, the marketing program will underperform, and the sales upgrades will underperform, too. No one wants that to happen.

To prevent this, you need to make sure both teams are 100% aligned. This means sales knows marketing’s role and marketing knows sales’ role. Both are working toward one single revenue goal, and both teams are working together daily. They have joint team meetings, they co-locate together, they do planning as one team and they share a single revenue target. Most importantly, the communication is constant, free flowing and honest.

While consolidated leadership is also a best practice here, with one VP of revenue (or a chief revenue officer) instead of a VP of marketing and a VP of sales, we see this as a less common outcome at most companies. However, that doesn’t make this any less of a recommendation. Having one single leader is almost always going to make alignment and performance from these two disparate teams much easier to deliver on.

Consider Technology When You Decide

Your prospects are having extended and complicated buyer journeys, which means how you execute your marketing is going to have to match and be equally complex. Your salespeople are dealing with equally complex buyer journeys, and they too need to make sure that their process matches the complexity of the decisions your prospects are trying to make before they hire you.

If everything is much more complicated, what is the best way to deal with the increased and exponential complexity? The answer is with technology.

Today, marketing and sales software tools make complex execution much more automated and simplified. The key is having the right process in place first and then selecting the right software to help you execute. Do not try to fix poor process with new technology. That is one of the biggest mistakes we see people make; it never works.

marketing and sales technologyInstead, fix your processes first, and then work with the technology partners to find ways to automate key parts of the process. Make data collection, reporting and insight generation easy before focusing on tools that deliver improved processes.

For example, if you can have a library of electronic content that is connected to your sales process via the CRM and delivery is automated by the click of a button, you now made it easy for your sales team to deliver content in context. You also made it easy for your marketing team to arm the sales team while getting data on which pieces move the process forward and which ones slow down the process.

Some good data points above should provide you guidance around where to start with revenue growth (sales or marketing, or both). But for me, it almost always comes down to the prioritization methodology we use for clients. What will have the biggest impact for the least amount of effort? That almost always points to sales improvements first.

Quite simply, any upgrades we produce for the sales teams have an immediate impact on opportunities at all stages of the sales process. This means deals near closing usually close a little faster. Deals tend to close at a higher rate, and we sometimes also see deal size or deal value increasing, too. Most of the time, the work to drive this level of impact is on the low side. But more importantly, these upgrades can immediately influence and impact leads and opportunities you’re working on right now.

Upgrades to the marketing execution typically take a little longer to produce results, affect your lead generation efforts and drive top-line revenue growth. However, we also know that work on the marketing tactics are lower risk than work on the sales process. Plus, if we can increase the amount of leads running through the sales process, you can drive top-line revenue growth even if the sales process isn’t perfect.

But perhaps the best scenario is to work on both. Increase leads by adding marketing upgrades and, at the same time, work with sales to increase their ability to close opportunities and close them much faster. This is truly how you drive exponential growth. However, in the end, you have to sequence your revenue generation upgrades in a way that matches your business priorities and budget.

Square 2 Marketing – Revenue Is Earned Through Experiences, Methodology And With Insights!


Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.