Today, in spite of the advances made in sales and marketing technologies and strategies, many companies still find it difficult to align marketing and sales strategy. There is a fundamental difference between the ways the two teams operate: where the marketing team focuses on generating leads, the sales team focuses on converting leads into customers.
The divide is further compounded by the difference in the perspectives of the two teams - the broader perspective of generating lead pools vs. the focused perspective on a single lead.
However, they do share a common goal: revenue generation. Therefore, aligning the two operations towards this common goal is of paramount importance, especially if the company’s growth needs to be scalable. Bridging the divide between the two teams can result in a number of benefits including: shorter sales cycles, lower market entry costs and sales costs.
In this article we’ll cover the three C’s of strategy alignment: Communicate, Coordinate and Collaborate
Encouraging transparency between the two teams at every level is necessary to ensure that the two teams stay in sync.
1. Start at the top
Before starting in on any alignment tactics, businesses need to ensure that the need for alignment is understood and accepted by every level in the company - including the top management, i.e. the executive level. It involves meeting with the leaders of both sales and marketing teams to understand where the divide is. Following that, the team leaders need to be brought on to the same page by getting them to see the importance of aligning the two teams and what the company stands to gain from it. Without assured commitment from the top level, any further efforts to align the teams will be pointless.
2. Meet regularly
One of the major factors that contribute to the divide between the sales and marketing teams is a lack of transparency. Both teams need to be aware of how the other team will contribute to the overall process. This means ensuring that both teams agree upon what defines the business’ ideal customer and the actions needed to ensure that the conversion is a success.
In smaller companies, arranging one-on-one meetings may not be difficult. But as the teams expand, this can become a challenge. Here are some ways in which you can get the two teams on the same page, working towards a common goal:
- Hold onboarding “smarketing” meetings with every new salesperson to ensure that they are aware of the best practices, processes, and resources in your business.
- For larger groups of sales persons, hold monthly meetings to share expectations on how the teams should work together, and field questions from new employees might have about the process.
- Hold monthly audits with your sales and marketing managers to analyze the results of the Service Level Agreements such as lead generation rates, MQLs (marketing-qualified leads) and conversion rates.
- Encourage active sharing of ideas and knowledge through multiple communication channels like conference calls and internal message boards.
3. Train to align teams towards the common perspective: the buyer
Aligning sales and marketing team require to focus on the common perspective, which is the buyer. Therefore, it’s necessary to recalibrate the mindsets of both your teams to focus more on meeting your buyer’s expectations throughout the cycle, and that will require regular training sessions. Proper training can ensure the teams are on an even footing when it comes to their individual perspectives, as well as on the joint perspective.
On the individual front, training can ensure that your sales team is able to recognize the precise point where they can leverage the marketing to push a prospective lead into a successful conversion. Likewise, the marketing team will need to learn to create effective messaging that influences the buyer at every stage in the cycle. On the joint front, training can help the teams synchronize their talking points (see below) and language to ensure that customers can understand them.
4. Effective email communication
Create a common e-mail alias that goes out to both the sales and marketing teams. This e-mail can be used to share information and updates in both directions.
Even though their approaches vary, marketing and sales teams need to ensure that those approaches are oriented towards the same goal.
5. Coordinate content marketing campaigns with sales team
When the marketing team creates new offers and promotions for the business, make the sales team aware of those offers. Keep them fully informed about every aspect of the offer by including pertinent details such as:
- Talking points: Give them two or three points which need to be highlighted while promoting the offer to customers.
- Lead list: Share the list of leads generated through the offer with your sales team, as well. This will allow them to take immediate action.
- Quote: Come up with a general quote or statement that reflects the purpose of the promotion. The sales team can use this quote or statement in their conversations with customers to entice them into making a purchase.
By knowing what special offers their new leads have received, they’ll be able to keep their conversations up-to-date while talking to customers. There are a number of ways to bring the sales team in on your marketing plan:
- Create a shared calendar to be used by both the sales and marketing teams. Then, use this calendar to update any upcoming promotions or campaigns, along with pertinent details about the campaign like the URL, description of the offer and specific talking points.
- Dispatch a detailed email about the offer or campaign to the sales team with talking points, quotes and other relevant details.
- Invest in a CRM to make it easier to share lead lists generated by the offer with your sales team.
A new campaign not only provides an opportunity for new customers, it can also be used to re-engage older leads. Therefore, create follow-up email templates with details of the new offer for your sales team to share with these old leads.
6. Agree on lead qualifying factors
When there’s a disconnect between the sales and marketing, the quality of leads suffers. Companies focus more on stuffing the funnel with a high volume of leads, and then leave it to chance that some of those leads will successfully convert into sales. This tactic wastes a lot of time and resources, and results in a low ROI that can eventually derail the business’ goals. Both sales and marketing teams need to agree upon a strategy to decide which leads are more likely to get them the best returns.
Today’s buyers are more perceptive and rely on their own research before opting to make a sale. Therefore, to qualify their leads, businesses need to reorient their focus on the buyer’s journey and not the sales funnel. Businesses need to meet the buyer with the right tactics - marketing or sales - at every stage of their journey. This will ensure that the sales team only gets the leads that have a higher chance of converting into a sale, while the marketing team focuses their efforts on edging the buyer closer to the purchase stage before handing them over to the sales team.
7. Tie back to MROI
One of the major challenges faced by marketing is the ability to quantify their contribution to the company’s revenue. This is largely due to the focus on the number of leads pulled in, rather than on the number of qualified opportunities that came from that particular campaign or investment.
This necessitates finding a means to map successful sales to the marketing efforts that influenced that sale. Therefore, sales and marketing teams need to agree upon a unified strategy that will work towards the same goal: generating revenue. This involves getting both teams to clearly define what the Ideal Customer is, and what factors define a Marketing-Qualified and Sales-Qualified Lead (MQLs and SQLs). SLAs should also be put in place to ensure that both teams are held accountable at every stage of the revenue generation cycle.
Marketing and sales teams can develop a symbiotic existence by leveraging each other's’ expertise and responsibilities to their own advantage.
8. Showcase your salesperson's expertise
The marketing team can make the sales a part of their marketing effort by showcasing their salesperson’ expertise. They can do so by having the salesperson ghost-write a blog post or by interviewing them and creating a blog post around that interview. This can help increase exposure and build credibility for your sales team amongst customers. Another way is to encourage your salespeople to become active on social media by sharing your company’s content.
9. Make a marketing expert available during sales calls
Marketers can be a great asset to the sales team, since they can demonstrate the business-oriented advantages and features of the product to the customer. So, encourage marketers to set aside some time every week or month to be at hand during a sales call.
10. Listen in on a sales call
Marketers can learn a lot by listening to the calls fielded by the sales team. This can help them gain a better understanding of the customer profile, and in turn, create better customer-oriented marketing content for both new and follow-up marketing efforts.
11. Maintain sales enablement resources in one place
While the marketing team works hard at marketing collateral to boost sales, their efforts can go to waste if the sales team is unable to use them in their efforts. Therefore, make use of a common sharing space or drive which can be accessed by the sales team. This common sharing space can also be used to host other shared resources like the calendar, links and information about upcoming offers and other content resources like buyer personas and marketing guidelines.
12. Get to know each other
Set aside time for the teams to get to know each other outside the confines of the office. Organize get-togethers, team outings, and happy hours for them to blow off steam and just have fun. This can help improve team camaraderie and build trust. This can make team alignment efforts a lot easier.
Aligning your sales and marketing teams has a clear-cut benefit: increased long-term revenue. Therefore, ensuring that these teams are synced on a personal, more direct level can drive excellent results; automated technology should only be used to supplement the relationship, not define it.