When your sales and marketing teams aren’t exactly seeing eye-to-eye, your overall productivity, revenue growth, and profit might seriously be suffering. In fact, companies who don’t have alignment between their sales and marketing teams could well be leaving a significant amount of money on the table each year.
According to a study conducted by MathMarketing, businesses with the greatest degree of alignment:
- Grow 5.4 points faster than their less-aligned counterparts when compared with businesses in the same industry
- Close 38% more proposals than non-aligned businesses
- Lose 36% fewer customers to competitors
So, why aren’t more companies making sales and marketing alignment a top priority?
Well, the answer is complex. Essentially, there’s no easy solution to fix this all-too-common problem. Some of the deep-rooted disconnect between sales and marketing stems from a cultural difference between the two different natures of the work.
- Marketing departments often see themselves as the primary driver behind the strategy, and sales as the delivery mechanism.
- Sales departments commonly believe themselves to be the primary driver for business and revenue, and view marketing as a sales support role.
And there’s often a dispute over leads: “Too few, too poor,” says sales. “You don’t follow up,” counter-charges marketing.
The reality is – both views are correct and both are skewed.
So, in the spirit of the recent match-making holiday, we’ve compiled a checklist of five actionable ways to empower both essential teams to succeed interdependently.
1. Speak the Same Language
One of the quickest, and simplest ways you can get your marketing and sales team on a level playing field is by learning to speak the same language. Sales and marketing speak two completely different languages in their day-to-day jobs, but one language that they have in common is data. In order to get in front of future confrontations, spend the time doing the leg work to agree on a common definition of a qualified lead.
Marketing and sales likely have much different definitions of what “ideal prospects” are. Use the data gathered in your marketing automation and CRM systems to help you find commonalities, and begin to craft a mutually accepted definition of a qualified lead.
To get the ball rolling, start by asking sales and marketing teams – separately – this set of questions:
- How do they define a qualified lead?
- What rules do they follow for discarding or disqualifying leads?
- What demographic or behavioral traits do they associate with qualified leads?
- How do they define the various stages for managing leads?
By completing task #1 on this checklist, you’re probably already miles ahead of most organizations who struggle with alignment issues.
2. Establish Service Level Agreements
Service Level Agreements (SLAs) take the ambiguity out of what each party expects from the other. By establishing, and clearly defining, a Service Level Agreement between sales and marketing, you are ensuring that each function knows exactly what is expected of them. This actionable agreement helps to jointly create a plan of action.
The end result of an SLA is a set of agreed-upon performance metrics. These will look different for each organization, but a few general things to agree on might be:
- The number of sales-ready leads to be delivered by the marketing team;
- The minimum amount of information to be collected before a qualified lead is passed to sales;
- The maximum time for a sales rep to follow up on a qualified lead;
- A time-frame for providing feedback to marketing on lead quality, especially regarding rejected leads.
Here’s an SLA template you can download and use.
3. Use Marketing Automation to Automate Lead Qualification
If you’re in sales – who here hasn’t felt like they’ve been on the receiving end of an unequal distribution of quality leads? If you’re in marketing – despite your best efforts, how many times have sales reps complained to you about this? Sales and marketing teams often disagree on how leads are distributed to individual reps, in both number and quality. Marketing automation helps you in two ways:
- Lead scoring. Sales and marketing can hammer out an agreement about how much value any particular action a lead takes should have. Marketing automation watches engagement and interaction, keeps score, and surfaces the leads that earn high scores by behaving like they’re eager to buy.
- Timely lead notification. Sales reps can set alerts to know whether and when a particular person or company visits a particular page, or takes some other specific action. And, not surprisingly, firms that contact leads within an hour of receiving a query are seven times as likely to qualify that lead.
4. Use Common Reporting Metrics to Close the Loop
Now that marketing and sales have agreed upon a set of common definitions, goals, scoring schemes, and deliverables, it’s incredibly important that the two teams use the same metrics to report on progress. Develop a “single view of the truth” using closed-loop reporting processes to measure progress against shared goals. This shared insight also improves prospect engagement with unified and consistent communications and content offers.
Sales and marketing technologies (particularly when they’re integrated) also help you view the lead lifecycle in its entirety. By giving your sales and marketing greater (shared) visibility into how prospects and leads move through the pipeline and how customers behave, the two teams can make informed decisions about where to focus their efforts.
5. Check in Early, Check in Often
Unfortunately, alignment isn’t a one-and-done kind of thing. This will be a lifelong process for your organization. You’ll need to continuously follow up on initiatives, progress, and improvement, and pay attention to changing buyer behaviors. Adapting to organizational changes, business objectives, and a changing marketplace is a shared accountability between the two functions. With your new shared performance metrics and SLAs, a recurring check-in should be held in order to deliver feedback and adjust according to progress.
Above all, delivering on commitments established in your SLA should be the driving metric for success when it comes to alignment. Furthermore, you’ll want to review conversion rates at key stages in your pipeline, average lead follow-up times, number of leads passed to sales, and major customer wins and losses. The culmination of these metrics should give you a good pulse on the successes of your alignment initiative.
Check out Act-On’s eBook, “Alignment, Technology, and Revenue Impact,” to learn the direct relationship between alignment and revenue performance and how the use of the right technologies will support business success.