Successful Sales and Marketing Alignment, Part 1: Get Started

Successful Sales and Marketing Alignment Part 1 Get Started FI Successful Sales and Marketing Alignment, Part 1: Get Started

This post is part of a series to help B2B organizations improve sales and marketing cooperation. In part one, you’ll get the basics of beginning the process along with the information and agreements you’ll need to put in place in order to ensure success.

Sales and marketing alignment is key to business success. You know it, and the research proves it. According to a survey from Demand Metric, 66% of organizations reporting complete alignment achieved their revenue goals, compared to 41% who reported no alignment. Meanwhile, 80% of respondents who said their sales and marketing systems are highly integrated achieved their revenue goals, while only 36% of those who report no integration made theirs.

Clearly, if your sales and marketing teams aren’t going to collaborate, you’ll pay the price as your revenue suffers. What can you do to foster cooperation? First, you have to agree on goals and expectations, and then you build a collaborative sales and marketing process. It sounds simple, but it can be a complex process with a lot of moving parts. Let’s take a look at the basics of gaining alignment between these teams and find out how to build a fully synched-up process that can help these two groups work together more efficiently.

Before You Begin

Let’s start with the basics. Many times, sales and marketing cooperation is hindered by a lack of communication and the inability to find a common language that can help the parties reach an agreement. The first step to fostering cooperation is for sales and marketing to sit down and speak with each other. During these conversations, both parties should focus on a few specific areas.

Start with the end in mind

What are the organization’s business goals? These could include increased market share, net new acquisitions, more recurring revenue, reduced churn, a boost in customer lifetime value, or a host of other objectives. Whatever they are, they must first be defined and mutually understood, and agreed on.

Agree on the target buyer

A failure to reach a decision on who the target buyer actually is one of the biggest breakdowns between sales and marketing. In such a case, marketing tries to attract one type of buyer while sales wants to sell to a different type of buyer. This problem can be avoided by defining the target buyer before executing any marketing or sales process.

Define what a qualified lead actually is

The lack of qualified lead definitions is another common breakdown between sales and marketing. A “qualified lead definition” is an agreement about what the stages of qualification are, how you know which one a lead is in, and when a lead is ready to be passed to sales. The definitions should include demographic information (such as company size) and behavioral information (such as a request for a demo of your product). Once the definitions are created, both sides can agree on a lead hand-off process, which will define when and how marketing will pass a lead to the sales team.

Create accountability

Effective cooperation is cemented by accountability between sales and marketing. You’ve already created your common lexicon, with shared definitions for leads and stages; now track metrics to see whether both teams are meeting their commitments. For example, marketing will hold itself accountable to sales by signing up to deliver a minimum number of qualified leads, while sales will be accountable to marketing by guaranteeing they will follow up on those leads in a well-defined, timely manner. (See Get It In Writing.)

Once you’ve covered these basics, you’re ready to move on the developing your process. Here are the 10 steps to ensuring sales and marketing cooperation.

  1. Agree that you will work together, and determine the collaborative process. Before you can do anything, both sides need to sit down, meet, agree on the core issues, and then continue to meet and communicate regularly.
  2. Define your goals. Next, you need to come to a shared understanding and agree on the business goals you will pursue.
  3. Agree on the target buyer. The target buyer profile should be created using data such as current customer information and anecdotal feedback from sales. (See Buyer Persona Basics)
  4. Design the lead process. The lead process tracks the steps from the point at which a lead is generated to when the lead is handed off to sales. It also includes sales feedback on lead quality. This process may evolve as you try different campaigns and tactics, and get feedback.
  5. Develop a qualified lead definition. The qualified lead definition is an agreement between sales and marketing on when a lead is ready to be passed to sales. It should cover both demographic information such as company size and behavioral information such as whether the lead requested a demo.
  6. Design the lead hand-off process. Once the qualified lead definition is created, both sides should agree on the process by which leads will be handed to sales and how sales will subsequently follow up on these leads.
  7. Develop service-level agreements (SLAs). Marketing and sales must agree on performance metrics that they will deliver as part of this relationship. For example, marketing will agree to deliver a number of qualified leads or sales will agree to follow up on qualified leads in a timely manner. These are written documents, signed and countersigned. ( Download an SLA worksheet.)
  8. Agree on metrics. Sales and marketing must be on the same page on the metrics that will be used to track the success of the program. The metrics should follow the overall lead process. For example, marketing metrics to track could include qualified leads generated and number of leads accepted by sales.
  9. Leverage technology. Technology plays a critical role in sales and marketing cooperation. Together, the teams define the sales process. Strategies and steps are identified, and buying signals are agreed on and can be scored. The process is then automated. Using automation, marketing can attract, qualify, and manage a volume of leads through the buyer’s journey, and then pass qualified leads to sales at agreed-on points. Existing customers can be sorted and segmented according to factors such as location or product used, and then cultivated for recurring revenue. Marketing automation also makes it much easier to track and report on metrics.
  10. Hold regular feedback and optimization meetings. Sales and marketing should meet on a frequent, regular schedule to review and optimize the lead program. Review results, metrics, and compliance with SLAs. This is also a time for sales to provide qualitative feedback on lead quality. In separate content-focused meetings, sales and marketing should discuss how to create and optimize the content that the sales team requires to sell more effectively. In these meetings, marketing will receive feedback from sales on current content and discuss new content requests.

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