Aug 01, 2018

Aligning Sales and Marketing— New Perspective on an Old Problem

Ah, the age-old problem strikes once again: misaligned sales and marketing. It’s the bane of all marketing departments worldwide, and the hot topic at practically every marketing conference in the industry.

Yet no matter how much we talk about it, no matter how many meetings we schedule, no matter how many thought leaders dissect the issue: the alignment problem remains.

The truth, however, is that aligning sales and marketing is simple. Keyword: simple, not easy.

The fact of the matter is that all alignment takes is getting both departments on the same page. This starts by showing each department how they complement one another  and help each other achieve the common goal of increased revenue.

Breaking that up into actionable items, though, is where things start to get a little muddled. To help your company begin attacking the disconnect between its primary customer-facing teams, we’ve put together a short guide of practical advice you can start implementing today.

Bring Leadership Together

By far the most important step in the sales-marketing alignment process is first bringing together leaders from the departments to understand that they both aim to achieve a common goal. It’s impossible to bring two departments together if the leaders of said departments are at odds.

Action item: schedule a meeting to get sales and marketing leadership together (yes, it’s going to be an expensive meeting to get your top revenue operations leadership in a room together for multiple hours, but it’s worth it).

Make expectations the primary topic of discussion: find out what sales want from marketing, and vice versa. Identify what individual success looks like for each part of the organization, and how that fits into the company’s vision for corporate success.

Make Marketing’s Value Clear to the Organization

One of the most common reasons for unaligned sales and marketing departments is sales simply not seeing and believing in marketing’s value. After all; the sales personnel are the ones who typically close the deal. Marketing, however, rarely is directly involved in the final steps leading up to a signed contract.

This disconnect happens especially when you have a sales team that spends a significant amount of time prospecting and identifying their own leads. Sales leaders find it difficult to understand what marketing brings to the table when marketing’s primary function—funnelling in leads—is obscured.

In the leadership meetings we discussed above, leverage data to establish that marketing earns its keep by showing how marketing-qualified leads are closing and bringing in revenue. Also, use whatever brand reputation and recognition your department has built up to show how it continues to add value in a way that sales simply can’t.

In essence, you want to show how marketing and sales complement each other in a manner where one cannot operate to its full potential without the other.

Understand the Sales Process

It’s absolutely integral for marketing to understand the sales process in order for them to comprehend sales’ exact needs and funnel leads accordingly. In order for this to happen, marketing has to be involved in every step of the sales process:

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in most organizations. The typical workflow looks something like this:

  1. Marketing generates leads.
  2. Marketing qualifies these leads using an internal process, then hands them off to sales.
  3. Sales either accepts or disqualifies the lead, then follows up to convert accepted leads with their sales process.

The disconnect happens right after step 3; after sales accept a lead, marketing has little to no understanding as to how that lead converts into a customer. The knowledge of that process, however, is absolutely crucial in order for marketing to develop excellent leads that produce high conversion rates.

To fix this predicament, marketing has to intentionally develop a high-level understanding of the sales process. Do this by ensuring that all current as well new-hire marketing personnel spend time shadowing their counterparts in the sales department.

Regular Sales-Marketing Connect Meetings

Beyond a high-level meeting that brings sales and marketing leadership together, other personnel and leaders from those departments also need to be meeting regularly to keep on track.

During these weekly/biweekly discussions, talk about the following:

    • Is marketing providing enough leads to keep the sales team busy?
    • What percentage of marketing-provided leads are being worked by sales?
    • At what rate are marketing-provided leads converting into customers
    • What are the most common reasons for sales to disqualify a lead?

Knowing the answers to these questions will allow you to keep constant tabs on how well sales and marketing are working together as a team, and whether sales and/or marketing is being derelict in their duties.

Last but not Least: Get Friendly

Even if you have the most comfortable and casual work environment, the best way to get to know your colleagues is always outside of work. Familiarity builds friendship, and friendship means a much better working relationship where you’re all aligned with common objectives.

Schedule a team outing, offsite meetup, or happy hour once or twice a quarter, and allow personnel to mingle and build relationships outside of a stiff professional environment.

Remember that sales and marketing alignment doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it’s a deliberate process that has to happen as an intentional effort put into place by both parties.

The effort, however, is well worth it in the end.
Want to learn more? Find out why you shouldn’t rely on technology to align sales and marketing here

Keeping Sales and Marketing in Sync with Lead Definitions

The Twin Pillars of Profit: Sales and Marketing

The Mistake of Relying on Technology when Aligning Sales and Marketing

How to Prevent Data Breaches Through Sales and Marketing Alignment

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