Marketing and sales alignment is a topic that has been absolutely beaten to death by just about every SaaS vendor I can think of. A quick Google search pulls up 7 unique ads that all (somehow) appear above the fold, mercilessly dwarfing the organic results and promising greater conversion, productivity, and sales.

1 How Marketing and Sales Development Can Work Together to Book More Demos

So I guess that begs the question: is sales and marketing alignment truly where it’s at for B2B companies?

Hmm yeah, it kind of is…

Whether you’re a VP of Sales or a VP of Marketing, your main goal is to get business in the door. Everyone is familiar with sales quotas, but as a marketer, I can assure you that we have quotas too, and we sure as hell can’t get there without our sales team.

Since covering the spectrum of topics on “sales and marketing alignment” is such a daunting task, I’ve chosen to narrow the focus a bit and hone in on sales development and marketing alignment. So many top B2Bs are adopting the account-based approach, while simultaneously investing heavily in inbound marketing, which means more leads, more touch points and (unfortunately) more confusion, frustration and – dun dun dun – scapegoating.

At Datanyze, things are pretty rosy. Our sales development director, Jason, is a stud and his reps are solid. Jason and his team are in the process of moving towards account-based selling, while ratcheting up our inbound lead generation to fill the funnel. For others that are making the switch or have made the switch already, I’ve compiled my thoughts on the two main challenges of this setup — attribution and conversion.

Attribution: Is it inbound or is it outbound?

Challenge: When ramping up both your inbound lead generation and your SDR team, you’re going to encounter some overlap between leads driven by marketing and leads sourced by sales. There will be many “fringe” cases where one side may have to concede, but if you have a firm sales/marketing service level agreement in place and the right tools to measure influence, you’ll do just fine.

Thoughts: First things first, marketing and sales should have their own individual numbers to hit, but they should be working towards the same larger revenue goal. Once everyone’s on the same page with an overarching goal, you’ll want to create an SLA between the two departments that defines what constitutes an inbound versus outbound lead/opportunity.

Here are some factors to consider when a lead comes in:

  • Was this lead last touched by sales or marketing?
  • Was a sales rep working any other leads in the department or company?
  • How many people work at this company?
  • Was there any prior correspondence between a sales rep and this lead?
  • Did a sales rep set a task to follow up with this lead?
  • Did this lead come directly to the site or were they driven by a marketing channel?

Once you’ve created the SLA, make sure you hang it up somewhere in the office so everyone is on the same page. Know that it’s not going to cover every case, but if you do it right, things will even out over time so that no one side is favored.

Another detail to consider when discussing attribution is influence. As a marketer, influence is almost as important as lead generation. For example, knowing how your middle and bottom of the funnel content is impacting sales conversion is just as important as knowing which top of the funnel article drove the most leads. To measure this, I recommend looking at the campaign level.

In the below example, you can see our Dreamforce campaign divvied up by opportunity stage. Now, it would be silly to measure Dreamforce ROI solely on new opportunity generation, so in this case, we created a campaign report that helps keep track of every lead we met that was part of an open opportunity. Keeping tabs on how these progress through the funnel will inform our sponsorship decision-making process next year. (Yeah, okay we’re gonna go no matter what.)

2 How Marketing and Sales Development Can Work Together to Book More Demos

How can marketing help SDRs break into their toughest accounts?

Challenge: When the SDR team moves from a wild wild west outreach strategy to one dictated by a dedicated list of accounts, hyper-personalization becomes a huge point of emphasis. In most cases, reps are glued to their list of 150 or so accounts, and in order to get more, they have to have made sufficient headway with the accounts they’ve got.

Solution: There are many ways marketing can help the SDR team penetrate their target accounts, but I’m going to cover the data side — i.e. what information can marketers provide to their sales team to make their outreach that much more relevant and timely.

Providing Lead Intelligence

It’s pretty simple – the more informed your SDRs are, the more personalized they can make their pitch and the more likely their prospects are to respond favorably. Marketers must strive to give their SDR team the most timely and accurate lead intelligence out there so they can put their best foot forward in conversations with executives.

At first, lead intelligence was all about having firmographic data on a company — SDRs would use data points like location, employee count, revenue and funding to qualify out accounts and tailor their outreach. If you were a rockstar rep, maybe you’d even read a few of your prospect’s recent press releases or skim a 10-K – but that’s reaching.

I would classify this information at “baseline intel,” meaning that it can be very helpful in deciding which accounts to prioritize, but probably won’t get your reps very far in finding a solid hook.

More recently, reps have begun to supplement the baseline intel they receive from marketing by digging into each decision-maker via social. This means a bunch of things:

  • Googling the prospect’s name
  • Researching the prospect’s work history and accolades on LinkedIn
  • Checking out what the prospect finds interesting on Twitter
  • Gathering information on a prospect’s current initiatives via conversations with gatekeepers

This kind of research can uncover some valuable prospecting information that may give way to a hook or two (finding mutual connections, mutual LinkedIn groups, or mutual alma maters) — however, I can assure you that prospects are getting tired of feeling obligated to respond just because they have a personal detail in common with a sales rep. This leads me to the final layer of lead intelligence marketers can provide to SDRs – the one that takes the cake as far as I’m concerned.

In my mind, you can know exactly who to reach out to AND how to hook them, but if you call your prospect 2 weeks after they’ve already invested in a competitor’s product, you’re history.

That’s why context and timing are the keys to success as an SDR. Give your reps this, and they’ll be running through accounts so fast, you’ll have to hire more closers.

But as a marketer, how do you provide lead intelligence that offers context and timing? The key to success is buying signals. In SaaS, this could mean:

Here’s an email that puts everything together. In this case, the rep noticed that we started using a sharing tool that was hosted by his competitor. I wasn’t even looking for alternate solutions, but this email blew me away to the point where I just had to respond.

3 How Marketing and Sales Development Can Work Together to Book More Demos

Yeah it’s long, but it absolutely held my attention because it:

  • Acknowledges that we’re using one of their competitors products
  • Highlights why his solution provides more value and functionality
  • Gives a stat to support his argument

So that’s that — well not quite. I’d love to hear about any challenges you’ve encountered when working with marketing. What processes have you put in place to ensure success? Feel free to leave your answers in the comments!