Sales and Marketing Alignment: How to Achieve Better Performance From Your Sales Teams
The inbound marketing methodology is rooted in three pillars: attract, engage, delight.
But isn’t that what sales teams are striving for, too? It sure is. Which means that operating in silos doesn’t really make much sense. What businesses have here is two separate departments ultimately working towards the same goal… so wouldn’t it be more efficient to bring these departments together - or at the very least ensure they’re working in alignment - to merge resources and expertise in a bid to develop a more impactful, empowered, super-charged approach that delivers improved results?
That’s what sales and marketing alignment is all about. It’s about forming better connections between teams with similar goals to build and develop processes that allow both departments to work with each other, rather than against each other, in an effort to better serve customers and gain a more thorough view of the target audience.
Prospects Move… Why Don’t You?
As every business already knows, the buyer’s journey is no longer linear. It hasn’t been for some time.
Consider what happens when a sales qualified lead takes a step backwards. As an SQL, they’ve probably been engaging with a sales rep. But now they realise they need more information before converting, and they revert back to MQL status. Yet that same sales rep is still attached to that contact; that same rep is trying to engage with the contact using sales techniques, despite that contact not being ready to be sold to. The sales rep is wasting their time on a low quality lead, and both parties end up frustrated.
What should be happening in this instance is that marketing techniques rather than sales techniques are used to better guide the MQL back towards SQL status. Techniques such as email nurturing and paid retargeting through social media, for example. Prospects jump around the funnel, which means that businesses need to be able to jump around the funnel, too, offering the right approach at the right time. And the best way to do that is to ensure that sales and marketing are working together to deliver on inbound sales goals.
How to Align Sales & Marketing
Effective sales and marketing alignment will ultimately depend on the individual business, and how these teams already work together - or don’t. However, there are some key elements which can help most organisations to create better alignment:
1. A Lead Quality Matrix
It’s possible that sales teams and marketing teams have very different ideas about what a sales-ready lead really looks like. This can make it difficult for marketers to understand when to let go, and for sales reps to know when they need to step in. By developing a shared lead quality matrix, both departments will have a clear view of the lifecycle stages that the average contact transitions through - prospect, lead, MQL, SQL, opportunity, and customer. Both sides will be able to see where they fit into the equation. Typically, marketers will cover prospect - MQL, while sales will cover SQL - customer.
2. A Customer Relationship Management Platform
One reason why sales and marketing alignment might be off is because each department is working with their own segmented data. To create better alignment for frictionless selling, it’s important that both teams have access to the same customer information, that they’re sharing insights with each other, and that both departments are on the same page.
A customer relationship management platform, like the HubSpot CRM, can help. These sorts of solutions keep all customer data in one place, so that anyone, from any team, can see the full picture. It helps to create a seamless transition from marketing to sales for better execution of the inbound sales strategy.
3. A ‘Smarketing’ Culture
A helpful goal is to build a ‘smarketing’ culture within the organisation; a culture that facilitates collaboration between sales and marketing, rather than encouraging the team to work in silos. One of the best ways to build this type of culture is to introduce smarketing meetings, which offer an opportunity for members of both departments to get together regularly to discuss obstacles, identify solutions such as developing a video sales process, and allocate tasks to specific teams or team members. Smarketing meetings should be informal and open, promoting the idea of creativity to resolve complex problems.
4. Closed Loop Reporting
One of the biggest problems with operating in silos is that there are significant limitations on just how far sales and marketing teams can go. They do what they can, with the knowledge they have. But with sales and marketing alignment - with shared knowledge across both departments - it’s possible for both teams to go further. Closed loop reporting is a fantastic method that creates a continuous feedback loop between both teams; it allows marketing to understand how their approach has impacted the final outcome, and it allows sales to understand where customers in the sales pipeline initially came from.
Tracking & Monitoring Progress
Sales and marketing alignment doesn’t happen overnight. And it’s not a one time thing. In fact, if alignment is not prioritised, it’s possible that sales and marketing could become even more distant from each other, creating a disjointed buyer experience.
It’s crucial to track and monitor progress to ensure that both teams are continuing to work together in a way that achieves better performance from both teams. The key to doing this is to hold both sides accountable, introducing a marketing sales SLA that acts as a two-way ‘contract’ to ensure that both marketing teams and sales teams keep up their end of the bargain; that marketing sends an agreed number of leads to sales and that sales engage and convert leads within an agreed timeframe.