We all know sales and marketing alignment is extremely important. This Kapost article references an Aberdeen Group stat that “Companies with strong sales and marketing alignment achieve 20% annual growth rate, and companies with poor sales and marketing alignment have a 4% revenue decline.” (Now if I could just find that pesky Aberdeen stat… although this stat is referenced everywhere, I’m citing the Kapost article because I couldn’t find a public version of the original stat from Aberdeen).
Knowing it’s important isn’t enough though, as actually attaining true sales & marketing alignment is challenging.
To that end, these are five specific actions that I’ve found sales and marketing can do together to drive alignment, and achieve the resulting business performance. I choose the word “sales and marketing” and “together” very precisely, as the key to this is that equal responsibility and commitment is taken from both groups within the company’s revenue team.
#1. Be overly transparent with each other
Within pockets of sales and marketing teams, the “default” mentality towards the other group may be that of mistrust. The best way to address that proactively is to be overly transparent.
From the marketing side, share regular communications around strategies, program plans, program performance, program optimizations and what’s working and what’s not working.
From the sales side – same thing. Share insights around what’s working and what’s not working, identify areas to improve opportunity conversion rates and win rates, and also over communicate around how the business is trending towards meeting its monthly or quarterly revenue/bookings targets.
#2. Diligently focus on opportunity creation targets as a KPI
I’ve seen sales and marketing relationships stumble when marketing drives attention to MQLs as their KPI. That can lead to friction if marketing “celebrates” MQL performance that isn’t translating downstream to opportunities or deals.
MQLs should be seen as a “means to the end”, and if both sides are laser focused on opportunities created it has several benefits:
- Marketing drives towards MQLs, but also has a keen interest in working with sales to ensure MQL to Opportunity conversion rates improve
- It opens up the perspective of Sales Management to focus both on what’s closing (what they would typically be monitoring each day/week/month), and also using Opps Created as a KPI for them to also monitor to ensure that a healthy pipeline is continually being built to feed the months ahead.
#3. Regularly dialogue on how to improve opportunity conversion rates
With Opps Created as a KPI, marketing and sales management should openly dialogue about how to improve conversion rates from MQL to Opportunity.
When I say openly, it should be done acknowledging that there are always improvements needed, and it’s not a criticism of either group. Specific areas to look at:
- How are MQLs specifically being generated? (e.g. forms, webinar responses). Is prospect intent made clear? Are there any improvements to that process that can help how sales follows up?
- What is the systematic lead handoff? Is it real time? Do the sales reps have clear visibility into the right data they need to best follow up?
- What is the response time to follow up? This is where SLAs come in to ensure there are standards across all of the reps.
- Is there a defined follow up approach – both number and frequency of touches, as well as guides for the conversation?
These are all areas that require consistent attention and improvement.
#4. Create an aligned approach to lead scoring
The SiriusDecisions Research from their 2015 Summit reinforces the need for approaches to engage buyers at the earlier phase of the buying process, when they are most open to support and guidance from people (reps). I’ve been outspoken in cautioning the perils of attempting lead scoring before you’re ready, and the key is that sales and marketing both need to be fully bought into lead scoring and design it collaboratively. Keep the initial lead scoring models simple. The types of questions to answer during a lead scoring creation exercise include:
- What’s the profile of prospects that we want to talk to?
- What content would a prospect consume that would lead us to think he’s most open to a conversation?
- What content would a prospect consume that would lead us to think he’s in a buying process?
- How do we want to consistently follow up with prospects for each of these scenarios?
#5. Build joint programs
Finally, a great way to build alignment is to build programs together. There does not need to be one recipe as to how sales and marketing share responsibilities in executing programs.
In addition to traditional marketing executed programs, ways to build joint programs include marketing sourcing the data for a given target audience and sales leading the outreach (email, phone, social media) to the targeted list. Another scenario could be marketing sourcing the day and designing integrated email & phone outreach that is executed by Sales or SDR/Teleprospecting resource. Monitoring the success of these joint programs, and improving them, helps to build the alignment.