If you’re finding that your conversion funnel is full of holes, it’s probably because your sales and marketing teams are poorly aligned.
It’s important to remember that sales and marketing are not separate divisions, but one team chasing the same goal.
Mastering the B2B customer journey is becoming increasingly complex.
What steps can you take to keep up?
Marketing is doing everything in their power to reach prospective customers that will be a good fit, and sales is doing all they can to turn those leads into sales dollars. But if these teams aren’t in sync, expectations can’t always be met, and opportunities to expand your customer base (not to mention your revenue) can fall through the proverbial cracks.
In fact, evidence from Forrester Research shows that better sales and marketing alignment will result in 32% annual revenue growth. Companies with less aligned or silo'd sales and marketing teams reported an average of 7% decline in revenue.
Tomasz Tunguz explains the perfect analogy for bettering your company’s performance:
What if you could improve how you do something by 1% each day for a year?
You’d be 37x better.
What if your performance declined by 1% every day for a year
You’d lose 70% of your performance.
(The proof is in the numbers!)
Change is uncomfortable, but if your sales and marketing departments are still operating as separate entities, it’s likely time for a change.
Read on for our 6 recommended tactics to better align your sales and marketing teams for future success!
Tips for Improved Sales and Marketing Alignment
1. Aligned Goals & Objectives
More often than not, marketing and sales have different goals stemming from misunderstood roles — especially when they’re organized by function.
Both have objectives that depend on one another. Marketing needs to show their ROI based on revenue coming into the company, and they depend on sales to bring in those returns. On the other hand, for sales to make those returns, they need marketing to send them quality leads to close.
Here’s an example: the number of MQLs (Marketing Qualified Lead) that marketing needs to bring in through ads, email campaigns, and content at the start of the quarter must be higher than the number of MQLs that sales need to convert during the quarter (knowing the ugly truth that not all MQLs will result in a sale). Your shared objective will look like:
“Increase conversion rate of MQLs from 7.68% to 8.65% in Q1”
Marketing will then determine how many MQLs need to be brought in through ad campaigns, and which campaign’s are bringing in the best MQLs. Sales will need to start using the best plays to get those MQLs to convert. Once the two departments have defined shared goals and objectives (ensuring they are S.M.A.R.T. goals), together they can then begin to develop specific strategies to hit their targets and achieve their objectives.
2. Clear Roles & Definitions
What responsibility do sales and marketing have to one another?
This is the big question that, if left unanswered, can lead to different departments pointing fingers at one another. A great way to eliminate potential confusion is to have a clear SLA, or Service Level Agreement. A comprehensive SLA will serve as a guide for how marketing will deliver quality AND quantity leads to sales, and how sales will follow up on those leads according to an agreed time and frequency between the two departments. Chief Marketing Officer at Vendasta, Jeff Tomlin states:
The results that are created by sales and marketing inherently depend on the efforts of the other team. When one slips, it’s only natural to blame the other. That’s why you need both working as one team and a clear internal SLA type agreement in place to ensure expectations of each are met.
An SLA should clearly outline expectations around the following:
- Lead Qualification
- Lead Nurturing
- Average Number of Leads Generated by Marketing
- Average Lead-to-Customer Conversion Rate
- Shared Goals
- Lead Management Tactics
- Key Performance Indicators
Creating an SLA between your sales and marketing teams will create that win-win situation for both sales and marketing!
Your next task is to review your lead definitions. The qualities that make for a promising lead can be a huge source of disagreement between sales and marketing. Outlining clear definitions of MQLs, SALs, and SQLs as they pertain to your organization is one way to clear the air between teams.
Reviewing the lead process and its' definitions will help to decide if definitions need changing, which campaigns need to be scrapped, and which channels are not producing quality leads.
3. Eliminate Functional Separation
Divisions may make budgeting and office layouts tidier, but they can also turn into silos, encouraging a disconnect between departments. When issues in communication or alignment arise, this can lead to finger-pointing and blame being placed on other divisions.
A recent change to the way teams are organized at Vendasta meant going from pivoting around functional expertise, to a customer-centric design. We recreated our teams according to the needs of the cohort that their work benefits, including different types and sizes of partners we serve. This allowed for cross functional teams to be responsible for an end to end customer journey.
Shift the focus from functional expertise to customer experience.
As an example, our Agency team includes both salespeople and demand generation marketers who work with our agency partners—a single team with clearly-defined and shared goals, working together to achieve them. The proof is in the pudding: after implementing this change from functional-divisional arrangements to customer-focused arrangements at the end of January 2019, Vendasta’s conversion rate from January to Mid-February rose from 20% to 57.97%!
Sales and Marketing alignment is critical in any organization. Marketing & Sales are like Batman and Superman; they can be great working in their silos, but they’re unstoppable when they are working together. And I don’t need to tell you what happens when they are working towards different goals or themselves (see Batman V. Superman circa 2017).
Because of the change to customer-focused arrangements, sales and marketing are more focused on the needs of their target customer and aligning their tactics accordingly. Take a critical look at your organization, and you may find that the structure you currently have in place may be putting up unnecessary walls between teams that ought to be driving for the same goals.
4. Consistent Communication
Effective communication between sales and marketing is imperative, as these teams should help each other in everything they do—not just when fires need to be put out. Regular communication can help to tackle problems more quickly and effectively, and can prevent larger problems from arising over time.
Think of it this way: sales is the pilot flying the plane, and marketing is the navigation system. They depend on the communication between one another to get the job done.
Here are a few tips to kick-start communication!
Utilize Slack Channels. Slack is a great application that will create a convenient line of communication for your company, allowing you to create various channels that discuss different projects, announcements, deliver feedback, share important documents, answer each other’s questions, and prevent you from chasing people around your office.
Below is a example of our Lead Feedback Slack Channel. This is one of many channels that help streamline cross-functional communication. It allows us to set up custom questions for the sales team to give marketing some good quality feedback regarding leads coming in. This motivates marketing to make changes to their tasks to improve these lead quality ratings.
Have a regular reporting cadence. Allotting time for weekly meetings between sales and marketing gives both teams the opportunity to bring up issues that need resolving, and will help to prevent team members from struggling along on their own with with small pain points until they get too large to fix.
Furthermore, it’s important to see your progress as a team and react together. Teams that take time to review their progress together are well-equipped to improve together—and when goals aren’t being met, it’s easier to coordinate and make a team effort to resolve it.
Finally, and most importantly, changes need to be communicated. When it comes to improving, adapting, and overcoming, no team members should be left behind. Even something as simple as documenting new changes or processes on a public document—somewhere that team members can stay up-to-date and refer to when they’re unsure—makes a big difference when it comes to alignment. Often, word of mouth isn’t nearly enough.
Don’t be afraid to take people away from their role for a couple hours to learn the ins and outs of another role. It’s impossible for sales and marketing to work together effectively if they’re in the dark about each other’s daily tasks and processes. Setting time aside for sales and marketing departments to shadow each other will, invariably, bring up tons of questions, and will impact the way they do their jobs in the future.
What will marketing learn from the sales shadow?
- What it means to receive a good lead
- Sales pipeline management
- Sales Playbook Techniques
- Product Demos
What will sales learn from a marketing shadow?
- How leads come into the funnel
- How to qualify and unqualify leads
- Which campaigns bring in certain types of leads
Incorporating this shadowing technique into your company is going to open up many conversations about changes that need to be made. After testing this technique in your organization, send around a survey asking:
- What did you learn through shadowing _____?
- Were you surprised during the experience?
- How does this impact what you do in your role?
- What would you consider changing about your own role because of your shadowing experience?
After getting these answers back from your teams, you’ll likely be surprised by the large opportunity for change.
6. Content Collaboration
The best way for people to learn something new is to make them write about it. Content collaboration is a great tactic to align your sales and marketing teams—not to mention that the end result can become awesome content for your company’s blog!
For an example exercise, ask your marketing team to identify popular or valuable topics regarding sales, and start creating a blog series around it. This will get the ball rolling for more conversation between your sales and marketing teams, and will encourage marketing to learn about topics such as sales reporting, sales metrics, sales calls and everything there is to know about what it means to receive good lead.
In fact, you may just find that marketers aren’t the only gifted writers at your organization. Salespeople can write blogs too! If time permits, allow your salespeople to choose a topic that interests them to write about. Your salespeople are also a great resource in terms of knowing the topics and kinds of content that your clients are most interested in reading.
By collaborating through content, sales and marketing have the opportunity to learn about each other's roles and, ultimately, better understand the customer journey.
Check out these sales-focused blogs written by our Marketing Interns!
It's Time to Align.
Now that you’ve read our 6 tactics to improve alignment, consider how you could implement them in your company today. They may seem simple while reading them, but the truth is that they will often require some extra efforts.
Take your time and decide what will work for your company, as well as what won’t. Even if your only implement a few of these tactics, you’ll be off to a great start in aligning your sales and marketing teams for the better, and your company will be better positioned for growth in the future.
Has your organization found other ways to help sales and marketing stay in perfect sync? Leave a comment and tell us about what succeeded, what didn’t, and what you’ve learned in helping your teams to do their best work.