Originally published in Marketing Profs

Marketing leaders at B2B organizations communicate directly with their sales counterparts to review quantity and quality of inbound leads; to apprise one another of upcoming promotions and sales enablement initiatives and objectives and strategically determine the most effective ways for their teams to work together to benefit the organization as a whole. But often these meetings don’t include a topic that is possibly the most important of all: existing customers.

Why?

Sales teams are hardwired to focus on getting new logos into the pipeline and they want marketing to partner with them to make that happen. Marketers want that too. However, it is important to not lose sight of your existing customers; it is these logos that got you this far! Here are 7 ways in which aligning sales and marketing goals around current customers can be the difference between meeting quarter goals and hoping next quarter will be better

   1. Use Personas to segment your communication

Marketing invests in marketing automation or email marketing systems so that they can track their emails and ensure that they aren’t bombarding their database with too many emails.  That’s all great, but inevitably there is a time when marketing unknowingly blasts an account that sales has an active opportunity with. And it gets noticed because it is a communication that doesn’t fit the customer.  The customer is thinking, “Don’t they know me by now?”

Marketing and sales need to divide the customer base into personas and regularly discuss the buying behavior of each persona.  From there, a plan to communicate with valued information to each persona can be developed that keeps customer engagement high. Additionally, the email communication plan should be very transparent with sales so that they can flag to have their active opportunities removed from communications during the sales cycle if that makes sense.

   2. Ensure sales involvement with referrals

A great sales rep always asks a new customer if they know of anyone else who may be interested in your product. Most reps forget to ask or simply aren’t asking at the right time or in the right way.  On the flip side, sometimes marketers will start a referral program, but forget to engage sales.  Marketing and sales needs to be in tight alignment on this one.  If they are, it can be the best producing channel for leads and customer acquisition.

One of the keys here is that the referral software be integrated into the sales CRM system.  Sales needs to know if the lead came from a referral and who it came from so that they can call up that customer, thank them and get more info on the new lead.  The referral software should also have a way for sales to input new advocates and referrals into the system so that it is fully tracked and referrals are rewarded without causing operational burden for sales.

    3.  Be strategic in approaching cross-sell and up-sell

Your existing customers already know how you have helped them be awesome. Why not suggest ways you can help them be even more awesome and increase their profits by cross-selling or up-selling?

If you are selling into a large company, crossing over into another department can bring all the revenue of a brand new customer.  Usually this is left to sales to have a good enough relationship that their contact will refer them over to another department.  But what if marketing could help? Back to point #2, a referral program can be structured so that existing customers are offered incentives to refer others in their company and to help influence the buying process.

Up-sell gets more complicated because product management is in the mix.  They’ve created release notes for their next great product and it gets sent to all customers via an email blast.  Sigh.  Just a little discussion with sales and marketing could lead to a better understanding of the target customer.  Better yet, the beta customers can be tapped to provide quotes and a use case.

   4. Use the power of your social influence

Social media marketers are often an isolated group.  They are the front-end communication vehicle for the company, yet typically have limited interaction with anyone outside of marketing. And social media channels are often used to push out company news.

But remember; your customers are on the other end of your social conversations too!  Just like email, marketing and sales need to be in alignment with targeted messaging campaigns for social media – this can be at the campaign level, or it can even be at the account level where the social media team is giving “social love” to key contacts at customer accounts.

   5.  Get value from your user communities

Most user communities that exist today are a great resource for product tips and tricks.  Product management and customer support teams have dedicated resources that push content into the communities and respond to product issues.  Fantastic! But where is the effort to leverage that user community for cross sell, up-sell, referrals and advocacy?  Maybe you have a banner ad or two, but is that enough?  If you’re not sure, I’m guessing it’s probably not.

Sales and marketing needs to create goals for user communities so that specific effort can be placed on starting conversations that naturally encourage new product discussions (up-sell) or that get customers talking about what they like about a product (advocacy). Those kinds of conversations don’t organically occur (unless you’re lucky).

So, just like your social media channels, dedicate a marketer to work with sales, product management and customer support to ensure that you are leveraging your user community to its full potential.

  6.  Give ‘em some Love!

In my opinion, you can never give your customers the recognition they deserve, but it doesn’t hurt to try!  You exist because of them.  Their feedback makes you better!  Why not give them love in as many ways that you can.  In most companies, sales and field marketing is fairly well aligned on this.  They help provide company swag and customer events.  But my argument is that more can be done.

Once sales and marketing has discussed the types of customers that they want to attract, it makes sense to highlight the current customers that fit the mold.  And I’m not talking about case studies and press releases, but genuinely making these customers feel good about your brand.  This could be by giving them an award, giving them some love on social media or even inviting them to an exclusive event with executives.  If sales and marketing work together on programs like this, it can be rewarding for all involved!

Don’t wait for a miraculous organizational shift to align your sales and marketing teams; it probably won’t happen. Instead, find the mutual benefits of working collaboratively and communicating regularly. Just throw a few of these items into a calendar invite and re-introduce yourself to your sales or marketing teams.  Increasing revenue for your company is a team effort.

SaaS referral automation