There are companies with great sales teams. And there are companies with great marketing functions. But it's a rare company that has great sales, and great marketing, AND great alignment between the two. It's that last factor that makes the difference between a company that has good revenue generation and the ones that have consistently strong double-digit growth.
It's hard to build a high-performing sales organization. It takes time and discipline. It also takes a lot of work and investment to build a great marketing team. So it's no wonder that by the time a company has accomplished those two goals, it doesn't always recognize the importance of aligning the two functions. But without alignment between sales and marketing, a company risks under-delivering on the promise of sales and marketing to deliver strong revenue growth.
If you've made solid investments in your sales and marketing but aren’t seeing the results you expect, you probably have a sales and marketing alignment issue.
Use these questions to evaluate whether sales and marketing integration is a problem for your business, and a few practical tips to fix it.
1. Do the sales and marketing teams agree on the buyer personas?
Having a definition of the customers who represent the best fit for your company is absolutely essential to successful sales and marketing. But often there is a difference between who the sales team thinks are the best leads and what marketing thinks. Get sales and marketing to jointly develop, or at least prioritize, the personas that you're targeting.
2. Do sales and marketing have a shared understanding of the lead-to-revenue model?
A common shortfall of sales and marketing alignment is that there isn't a complete understanding of all the steps in the customer's journey from becoming a lead to becoming a customer. A lot happens through that process. Marketing is often responsible for the first steps in that process (ie 'top of funnel', when the prospect is researching their problem and potential solutions, and being 'nurtured') and sales is responsible for the latter steps in the process, when the customer is starting to specify their specific needs and confirming pricing. Often there's a gap in understanding - marketing might understand most of what happens in the areas that marketing is responsible for, but become fuzzier when it comes to the steps that the sales team handles. And vice versa. A shared understanding of how prospects go from lead to customer is helpful for both the sales and marketing teams.
3. Have sales and marketing agreed on the definition of a ‘qualified lead’?
Whether you call it a 'sales qualified lead' or another phrase that your company has coined, this is the crucial transition point when a lead is handed to the sales team for them to pursue. Without a solid agreement on what characteristics define this point, you will have frustration and aggravation between your sales and marketing people. Hand off too soon, when the lead is really not interested in having a conversation with sales, and you end up with an annoyed prospect, and sales people who think that marketers waste their time and have no understanding of the buying process. Hand off too late and you may have missed an opportunity. The two teams should jointly define this transition point in crystal-clear terms to ensure a productive relationship.
4. Do sales and marketing know each other’s goals and metrics?
Ultimately, sales and marketing are on the same team - the revenue team. So there's an argument that everyone should be measured on that basis. But practical reality dictates that different metrics are used to guide and evaluate the performance of individuals with different roles. Even so, it's vital for each player to understand what the goals and metrics are for the others on the marketing and sales teams, so they understand what good performance looks like, and how their own activities might affect their colleagues.
5. Do sales and marketing have integrated plans?
An amazing thing happens when marketing and sales activities are integrated. It's basically 1 + 1 = 3, or more.
In B2B, with its complex buying processes and multiple stakeholders involved in any given purchase, customers need multiple touch points. The most powerful way to achieve that is to make sure that marketing campaigns align with sales campaigns and priorities. The way to do this is for the marketing organization and the sales organization to create integrated plans in which marketing campaigns align in timing and message with the revenue goals of the business.
6. Do sales and marketing communicate regularly?
It might seem like an obvious thing, but a surprising (shocking, really) number of sales and marketing organizations don't talk on a regular and scheduled basis - at least every week or two. A great way to build respect and understanding between the two teams is to meet on a fixed schedule to review new leads, discuss how leads are progressing through the funnel (or why they aren't) and to iron out other elements of the lead-to-revenue pipeline. This needs to be a scheduled meeting with an agenda, not ad-hoc, in order to be effective.
7. Do marketers go on sales calls at least twice a year?
Sales people like to complain that marketers exist in an 'ivory tower' and don't understand what life is like at the front line. The best way to avoid that is for marketing to actually go on sales calls. That's even easier when so many sales calls are via Zoom or other conference service. Marketers gain incredibly powerful insight into how customers think and what push back the sales team deals with when they go on sales calls. This is one of the simplest and best ways to build understanding and alignment between sales and marketing.
Getting sales and marketing aligned is an age-old challenge within B2B companies. It's a problem that is vital to solve - because the impact of having sales and marketing aligned will exponentially improve the impact that either team can have alone.