“Sales alignment” began as an interesting concept. For its critics, that’s all it remains. Skeptics may say that a lot of the theory and frameworks for alignment are either a) academic, written for students with little real life application, or b) too idealistic, describing an evangelistic way of thinking. I have to say I largely disagree with this. The truth is, while a good theory often turns into a plan, less often does that good plan get fulfilled. This is because it takes a lot of time and effort to put theory into practice.
Or does it? Let’s take a look at the theory/practice intersection in realistic phases, and talk about how to build the foundations before the roof.
Theory: Develop a strategy across the entire sales and marketing funnel.
Practice: I’m sure you’ve heard people opine ‘we need a strategy for this,’ but what does that actually mean? Firstly, make sure representatives from both marketing and sales are present. A logical strategy needs to be jointly developed to create guidelines for the process – from initial engagement to closing the deal. As a result, the requirements at each stage will be met in a timely fashion.
Theory: Produce content across the sales and marketing cycle.
Practice: What this means is: you need to create and disseminate awareness content which is higher level, designed to deliver solutions to actual industry problems. Furthermore, your content needs to be varied all the way through to the point of decision. It needs to give your audiences reasons to choose you – think case study here. Also make sure you have consistent messaging on your supporting content such as tweets and blogs— if you fail to do, your branding messages become diffused and so the customer journey will not be optimised.
Theory: Have a well-defined process for lead management and internal team management.
Practice: It’s all very well generating leads, but if there is no process to nurture the lead through to conversion, they will get lost in a black hole. Your sales and marketing teams must agree on when a lead is to be passed to sales; this is a key concept of sales alignment. For those leads that don’t close, always make sure you remarket to them by passing them back to the top of the funnel. How? Use lead statuses (such as “marketing qualified lead”, “sales accepted lead”, “sales qualified lead”…even a simple A-B-C is better than nothing) and make sure they are well understood by both teams, or their definitions will be rendered useless.
Theory: Measure what matters and use meaningful stats to educate both Sales and Marketing.
Practice: With intelligence and analytics becoming more complicated by the day, a simple start here is to ask key stakeholders which key KPIs they need or want to track. From there identify the most useful ones and build them out in your CRM, if you have one. If you don’t have one, it’s time to get one, as without it this whole process won’t work. Don’t measure a rash of KPIs. The smaller the number of them, the better. And measure results if possible – rather than activity.
Theory: Communicate effectively – make sure everyone understands what they’re doing, how they’re doing it and why.
Practice: Processes and strategy are always going to fall down if the personnel delivering on it are not well informed and engaged. At every stage of the process both the sales and marketing teams need to be involved.
In summary: First you need a well-thought out, agreed-on process. Then you need to automate that process so sales can pick up leads in a timely fashion. Those leads will be better qualified, as well, and you’ll spend the same amount of effort (or less) to get more of them.
To prove what I’m saying actually works, please attend a webinar on this subject presented by myself, Simon Donkin – Commercial Director at SuccessFlow Ltd, and Atri Chatterjee – CMO at Act-On Software. We’ll be showing you real customer examples and expanding on the thought behind the theory.
Click here to attend the live webinar on February, 5th, 2015 at 16:00 GMT, 11:00 EST, 8:00 PST.