Inbound marketing has caused many businesses to rethink their organizational structures. To work well, the sales and marketing departments have to collaborate on identifying prospects and nurturing, then converting leads. Inbound relies on more than the efforts of marketing and companies have to have a “we’re all a part of marketing” mentality to make the most of it.
In many B2B companies, the sales department has long ruled the roost and marketing—if it has existed at all—has only functioned to support them with leads as needed. But because inbound extends far beyond the top of the funnel, using it for B2B requires marketers to be more involved throughout the process. That can easily cause some confusion about responsibilities and who reports to whom.
Getting serious about inbound and your B2B marketing efforts will bring up some tough but necessary questions about where sales and marketing should live in your corporate structure. A restructuring may help each department cooperate with one another during the entire sales process, but there’s no panacea that will work for every B2B company. Any reorganization should be specific to your needs and to improve your own lead-gathering and conversion.
1. Restructure with purpose
Why should a B2B company restructure sales, marketing or both? In most cases, it’s because one of three situations:
- The marketing department is expanding or finally being formally established
- More advanced inbound strategy is being implemented, requiring better collaboration between sales and marketing
- Conversion rates aren’t ideal, implying a breakdown in the lead nurturing process
Each case has their own intricacies and scale, but there are common threads to consider no matter the reason. First, you need to set and hone an inbound sales process. How are prospects identified? When does a lead turn into one that is sales-qualified? How much involvement will marketing have as sales works on converting those leads? When does the hand-off occur?
Defining that process helps dictate how to reorganize. If sales needs more guidance, place marketing leaders in roles that oversee both departments. If marketing needs better communication on identifying ideal prospects, consider splitting operations into more specialized branches with the two departments working side-by-side in each.
The best solution will always start with taking how sales currently operates and plugging marketing in to support it. The goal is to redefine roles to match the evolved inbound sales process. Those new roles should give members of both departments responsibilities more focused on a specific aspect and better suited to their skills.
2. Keep your employees’ confidence in mind
That last part is important: Restructuring B2B sales should be about supporting the strengths of your employees. Whether marketing and sales stay separate but collaborative or whether you blend the two departments together, the end result needs to be teams full of members that provide skills that complement one another. Maybe the sales process and team look different when leads are coming in that are pre-qualified through inbound?
Improved operations can help settle some of the natural unease that comes along with change, but you also need a more delicate touch. Assure employees getting different job titles that they’re not taking on completely foreign responsibilities. Those reporting to a new team leader have to know that they won’t be getting twice as many responsibilities or redundant directives.
To avoid confusion, give everyone plenty of time to understand their new roles and build rapport with one another. Hire new talent with an eye for how they’ll fit in your company’s climate as much as for skill. Inform your employees and give them some say in the matter so the responsibilities, hierarchy and goals are clear.
Though B2B sales is changing because of inbound, that department is still the linchpin of any successful company. Your account executives and closers are still the people who drive growth. The only difference now is that marketing is more capable of actively assisting them. With some reorganization and an understanding of the benefits, any B2B company can ramp up its efforts through inbound sales.