The reason it’s so vital? The way modern buyers now go about making their purchasing decisions.
60-80% of modern buyers will head online and do their research, long before ever speaking to a sales rep. This means that marketing is now playing a bigger role than ever before in the sales process – one that reaches far beyond simply filling the top of the sales funnel.
In recent years, B2B marketers have even started talking directly to prospects and leads, which has been a frightening development for some sales organizations!
But what the most successful teams have long known, is that marketing can do a much better job of bringing in good quality leads, if sales is involved in the process and feeding back all insights. Just like sales can close more deals if they only have to concentrate their efforts on high quality, well qualified leads and have access to the right sales materials.
Having a customer centric business model can often be a deciding factor in whether you will have a winning strategy.
It may be time for you to look internally, not just at what sales and marketing are doing, but at the bigger picture of what your customers actually need. Your aim, if you really want to strengthen your bottom line, should be to bring all departments in line to fulfill those needs.
Smarketing is basically about creating value together. You need to get everyone involved to sit around a table together and decide what is going to be best to do, by when and by whom, in order to provide the customer with what they want.
According to a 2013 study by MathMarketing and Marketo, with a sales and marketing alignment technique, there is a 67% higher probability that marketing-generated leads will close.
The same study also found 108% better lead acceptance too, if sales and marketing are aligned.
What this could mean for your business, is shortened sales cycles (i.e. you’ll be making more sales faster), through being better aligned with your customer needs.
DemandGen asked a selection of US-based companies what the top issues are when trying to bring sales and marketing together. They highlighted the following:
- Broken/flawed processes
- Different metrics
- Lack of accurate data on target accounts
- Reporting challenges
- CRM issues – lack of common data
- Lack of accountability on both sides
What marketing wants from sales is better follow up, consistent use of the CRM, feedback on campaigns and more use of tools provided.
What sales wants to see from marketing is better quality leads and more of them, plus more competitive information and greater general brand awareness.
The interesting thing is that when you start the process of aligning your sales and marketing teams, many of these issues will start to improve and the company as a whole can gain a competitive advantage.
Sorting out the communication gap and defining a mutual strategy are the two biggest areas that companies need to focus on, when thinking about implementing Smarketing.
Effective communication is important in any relationship and sales and marketing teams are no exception.
It may sometimes feel like the two teams are coming from totally different worlds. So, spending time together and talking regularly may not be high on everyone’s idea of fun. However, forging positive communication channels is possible, it may just take a while to achieve.
It’s definitely achievable, especially if you have buy-in at the top level and make it clear why you’re restructuring things and what is to be gained from it.
Putting the customer first
As we’ve touched on, the most successful companies are focused on the customer. They decide what needs to happen, based on their customers’ needs and wants, rather than only looking at what a department may think.
Going for it with this approach may call for a complete change in thinking for some companies. Making such a major change is never going to be a quick fix either, it will take time and care to get it right.
It’s important that both teams understand the need to align and focus their efforts on working towards a shared vision. But placing a greater focus on customers will ultimately lead to happier customers in the end.
The ‘let’s do this’ meeting
In the beginning, several meetings may need to take place to get your new procedures and processes set up. These will need to take place until everything is running smoothly and all teething problems have been ironed out.
The first meeting will be one of the most important, as it is where ideas will be presented and the first steps towards change will be taken. Here are some of the key issues you may need to look at:
Do any rivalries exist between the two teams? If they do, then this needs to be addressed early on. There is no way that you can move forward and change the way the company operates, if you’re stuck in the past and simply introducing new processes on top of old problems.
Define shared goals
It’s easier to work out any differences and issues, if you agree on a shared goal and vision. You need to define what you want to achieve together. For example, your goal might be to close twice as many sales per month by this time next year. This is something that needs input from everyone – marketing, as well as sales and other departments too. By documenting your goals, you’ll help everyone stay focused.
Listen to each other
Actively listening isn’t always as easy as it sounds, but it’s so important. Start by listing out all the things that each department wants and needs. When you share this information, make sure you’re truly listening to each other. Try to understand the other team and their point of view. Avoid discounting or dismissing anything until you do. This is one area where calling on the support of a professionally trained coach, trainer or mediator can be helpful.
No blame game
Be careful to avoid any finger pointing or blame. This is not what the process is about. It is about acknowledging that there are differences – maybe even big problems – and laying them on the table to figure out how best to solve them together as one team. Again, having a professional in the meeting to moderate can be a good idea, especially if finger pointing is involved.
Challenges on either side
Make another list with all the challenges that are being faced on both sides. Look at finding some common ground. Often, just listing out issues and talking about them can throw up simple solutions that will eliminate some of the challenges. With others, it will take a little more refining and discussion.
Once any issues are out in the open, it’s time to look at how to solve them. What processes need to change in order to overcome the challenges? It’s quite possible that a separate strategy meeting may be called for, to thrash out all the details. But in this first meeting, just aim to agree what you’re going to work on together and within what timeframe.
Solving communication issues
Communication is hugely important and the easiest way to solve any issues in this area is to communicate more frequently, to share information and actively listen.
When it comes to aligning sales and marketing, taking the following steps can be very effective:
Hold regular strategy meetings
These should be held at a high level and include the heads of each department. The overall aim here is to firstly define a strategy and then regularly return to it and adjust as needed. Key strategic decisions will be made at these meetings.
Check back on what’s happened. Decide what issues need to be addressed first and how. Were goals achieved? Or is a strategy adjustment necessary?
It’s about looking at the past to make sense of it and determine what the future should look like.
Hold regular collaboration meetings
The closer both teams work together, the better everything will work.
Hold regular collaboration meetings that focus on the actual work that needs to be done. Feedback on what worked and what didn’t, plus any processes that might need fine tuning. This is also the time to check on any service level agreements (SLAs) that are in place and to discuss next steps.
Service level agreements (SLAs)
Agreeing who does what is a necessary ingredient of achieving sales and marketing alignment. Have it down in writing, so everyone on the team is clear. Discuss fulfillment and any other issues that have come up, at every meeting.
Attend each other’s meetings
Teams can learn a lot simply by attending each other’s meetings. Work out a rota, so that everyone involved has a chance to attend the other team’s meetings. It will help you work together, as well as being a quick way to figure out how to overcome any challenges or bottlenecks.
Learn from each other
Opening up to the other team may not be that easy. However, if you’re focused on the customer and achieving your mutual goals, then it becomes important to exchange information and intelligence. No matter what they are. From attracting in a potential prospect, right through to turning them into a paying customer.
Developing a marketing and sales alignment strategy
Shared sales funnel
Traditionally, marketing and sales teams would have viewed the sales funnel very differently.
For marketing, it often finished the moment sales took over a lead and sales wouldn’t really care what had gone on before and where a lead had come from.
But true success lies in working together to develop a shared sales funnel.
Buyers today don’t always follow a straight path when making a decision. They will often jump back and forth, and cross this way and that, before a sale is made.
If you define a sales funnel together – one that focuses on the customer – you will eliminate some of the frustrations a client may otherwise have had. This will encourage them to stick with you and learn more, rather than going to a competitor.
Buyer personas and target market alignment
Sometimes, when you listen to sales and marketing departments, it may seem like they work for very different companies. Often the question ‘who do we want to sell to?’ will generate very different answers. You can overcome this by defining your target markets and buyer personas together.
One of the major complaints that is often cited is that different departments use different KPIs to track, measure and report. It’s, therefore, important to define a couple of numbers you can both agree on that will show how well your strategy is working. Of course, you can adjust these further down the line, but you always need to have some kind of common measurement in place that you will all look at.
Once you’ve agreed on what you’re going to measure, you can start defining common goals that make sense for everyone. These are the goals that you will check and report back on at every feedback meeting.
Agreeing who will do what is crucial. Many organizations have implemented an in between step to help qualify sales leads before they are passed from marketing to sales. This may be a person who phones leads coming in via the website.
As an example, a website development company may decide to offer a free website audit. While talking about the offer with a prospect, they can use it as an opportunity to better qualify them and their sales readiness.
The key question here is who does this person belong to, marketing or sales? You need to reach an agreement on that. The role of the person calling to qualify will sit exactly between the two and could play a vital role in bringing it all together for you.
Define what is a good lead
You may be surprised how much opinions differ over the question of what makes a good sales lead. Sales and marketing may have very different ideas, and customer services could take a different view altogether.
Sit down and define what the criteria is, then develop a mechanism for sorting out your leads. The ideal scenario would be for a sales person to engage with a lead once it is clear that they are a good fit, have a need and are ready to do business.
In this way, sales and marketing alignment can help you eliminate waste and inefficiency. Make sure you look at implementing a decent lead qualification process together.
Define the process
- Content: who needs what, when and how
Certain materials are going to be needed by sales to support them in closing more deals. You need to talk to each other to make sure these are available and that they can be accessed at the right time.
Content marketing can be made much stronger and a lot more targeted when sales is involved in its production. The content will speak far more directly to leads and deliver the information they are after, if it is based on genuine questions, insights and feedback that the sales team has heard.
- Lead scoring, nurturing, management
This is an involved process and the more leads you generate the more time you will need to spend finding ways to automate the process. It isn’t too difficult if sales and marketing decide together how best to do it.
- Who talks to the lead first
This is an important decision and one that needs to be mutually agreed. Think who will touch a lead and when, and what should happen afterwards.
- Develop campaigns together
All companies that have sales and marketing working out campaigns together, report phenomenal success. And that’s no surprise, as it’s putting their shared knowledge to best use.
- Share analytics and intelligence
Develop a system where everyone can see everything at once. Decisions on what to do with a lead become much easier and will result in far more positive outcomes, if the entire history is known.
- Use technology
Each department has their own tools and systems. It can be tricky to make them all work together but that is your goal here. Make the exchange of information as seamless as you can and automate wherever possible. This will leave teams to concentrate on what really matters – talking to potential clients.
To successfully do this, start by defining what each side needs. Try to find tools that will work together. Closed loop marketing is going to be key for measuring the success of your efforts. It’s simply about being able to see exactly what happened before lead ‘xyz’ became a customer.
Invest in good training and make sure you drive good engagement rates. Everyone needs to understand and be happy using the tools.
Fast track ideas
There are two tactics that will really help you fast track your efforts, when it comes to aligning marketing and sales:
1. Get the teams physically sat down together.
2. Work together on improving your social selling activities. It will help you shorten your sales cycle and close more deals.
We hope to have inspired you with ideas for your own Smarketing and how to implement it successfully. It isn’t always easy, but once you’ve nailed it, you’ll never look back.