7 simple tips to align and boost your marketing and sales

hans-christianby Hans Christian Bothmann,
Partner,
Blue Business A/S.

Way too many companies suffer from misaligned sales and marketing teams that live their separate lives and don’t pull in the same direction.

That is expensive. Research shows that an annual loss of 10% in revenue is not an uncommon consequence. The good news is that, according to a report carried out by research house, SiriusDecisions, you can quickly gain significant growth in revenue and profits, when you approach the alignment challenges in the right way.

The following anecdote from the real world tells a tale of why sales and marketing don’t gel – yet there is hope on the horizon if you tackle it well.

Recently we met up with a B2B customer to talk about smart lead generation with their marketing- and sales teams. At some point during our discussion we touched on each department’s focus and their motivation. We asked each team to describe the three most important metrics for success in their respective roles. Here is what we heard.

We then asked them collectively what they considered to be the perfect lead? That question gave some very interesting responses. Here are three:

Take a guess which response were from marketing and which were from sales? The dialogue continued with both smiles and some serious reflections on why there were such misaligned views.

At the risk of generalising, we can conclude that while sales and marketing work towards goals that in their own right may be legitimate enough, the point is that they don’t work towards a common goal.

Also, the company has an unclear understanding of what constitutes a good lead, which is one of the biggest pitfalls. And believe me, they aren’t alone. A remarkable high number of companies have not realised how crucial it is to find common grounds for success between sales and marketing.

Industry analysts concur: A huge untapped potential exists and one culprit is lack of communication
Several reports indicate that a lack of alignment of processes and technologies can cause some serious side effects. IDC, the research house, for example states that B2B companies can lose up to 10% of their revenue annually when the misalignment issue is not addressed1. And Forrester points to the fact that tension between sales and marketing likely will continue since these teams have varying goals and timelines. The research house further states that both teams may have the same focus, but they are not being measured in the same way and same metrics2.

That said, there is a big potential getting all this addressed and managed. SiriusDecisions states that companies that communicate clearly inside its teams with highly aligned sales- and marketing processes achieve revenue growth 24% quicker and profit 27% quicker than average companies over a three-year period3.

Assuming you believe even partially in these findings, there is substantial gains to be made. So, what can you do?

7 practical tips to unify your sales (S) and marketing (M).
It doesn’t have to be complex. It’s all about structure and good communication. Start off by clarifying the common grounds between your departments. Here are seven steps you may find useful to get momentum as you begin the process:


1. Same focus
Decide – and be decisive – that sales and marketing have a joint focus; to improve your business through serving your existing and prospective customers so they come to you, buy from you and stay with you. Period.


2. Agree on the goal:
Clarify the goal of your lead generation – is it acquiring new customers, nurture and qualify existing leads, cross-sell or upsell or retaining customers? It is important that all parties understand that a goal for example is to find 300 new leads as opposed to nurture and qualify your 750 existing leads in your database.


3. Define your leads
Ensure that you document exactly how your leads are defined. Create a table containing your agreed lead terms, definitions, criteria and points for your lead score. Having this shared document to hand makes you stronger as a team and removes any risk of misalignment.


4. Find one common KPI:
Create at least one common key performance indicator (KPI) for your lead generation success. Sales and marketing teams can certainly have individual goals that complement each other (e.g. number of qualified leads for marketing and sales quota attainment for sales), but establish at least one lead generation KPI that is shared between you. Above average companies for example, have a joint sales pipeline KPI.


5. Clarify the lead process

Set in motion a description of how your lead management process works. In other words, how a lead is captured, registered, nurtured, qualified and handed over to sales. Produce a visual flow chart that shows the ‘journey’ for a lead internally between marketing and sales. This could be a 2-3-page lead management guideline document or a poster on your office wall. The benefit? A clear and shared reference with less ambiguity.


6. Who does what:
Align expectations and ownership for follow up (e.g. lead is qualified by marketing, sales follow up within 12 hours) – agree on how a lead is optimally handled and show in the above lead management guide. Some call it an SLA – a Service Level Agreement, but essentially, it’s just a fancy word for a clearly defined handshake that defines who does what and when in a professional fashion.


7. Communicate and meet up:
Align expectations and ownership for follow up (e.g. lead is qualified by marketing, sales follow up within 12 hours) – agree on how a lead is optimally handled and show in the above lead management guide. Some call it an SLA – a Service Level Agreement, but essentially, it’s just a fancy word for a clearly defined handshake that defines who does what and when in a professional fashion.

As you can see, the recipe for success is equal parts communication, process and goal setting that contributes to a ‘one team’ that embodies the one for all – all for one approach.

Take advantage of a common technology platform
The final dimension to bring into the equation is about making the most your technology stack. Most companies have platforms for managing relationships at the bottom of the buyer’s journey for sales (opportunities, pipeline, deal closure). Those companies that implement marketing automation (MA) to manage contacts and leads at the top of the funnel (attract, capture, nurture, qualify) and connect to their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform get the best of both worlds. That combination gives marketers the ability to follow their leads through the entire lead-to-revenue buyers journey. Is that relevant? Indeed, it is.

Imagine using your marketing automation platform to follow a new website visitor e.g. from organic search/PPC (attract), who downloads an e-book in return for their contact details (capture), then enters your marketing nurture program (nurture) and in turn qualifies as lead ripe for sales hand-over. As the lead is accepted by sales, converted to an opportunity and becomes a customer (convert) in the CRM system.

Now that is transparency and insight that matters – all underpinned by a common vision between sales and marketing.

What are your learnings – and what steps are you taking to get alignment between marketing and sales? Would love to hear your thoughts.

SOURCES:
1. IDC, International Data Corporation.
2. Forrester Research, Despite Modern Marketing Improvements, Sales Alignment Challenges Persist.
3. SiriusDecisions, Inc. B-to-B Confidence Index Study.