5 Actions to Fool-Proof Your Sales and Marketing Alignment Plan

What’s holding you back when it comes to sales and marketing alignment?

While shared technology and tools can help, sales and marketing alignment is more about mindsets and skill-sets than it is about tool-sets. Real alignment is forged by process and people, rather than technology. Of course, technology can help automate tasks, create shared reports, and remove inefficiencies and workarounds. But if you don’t have aligned mindsets and goals, with set processes in place, your efforts to accelerate revenue growth by aligning sales and marketing efforts will crash and burn.

I won’t play the blame-game, but bad alignment happens to good sales people and marketers because their leaders don’t prioritize and focus on it. I get that it’s hard enough to find time to focus solely on your own team, let alone to start focusing on someone else’s. But, if you want to be able to show results and prove your work is making an impact in your organization, it’s worth making time for.

As you head into planning how your company will crush its goals in 2017, think about these 5 actions you can take to improve sales and marketing alignment:

1. Develop a shared “actual to plan” model which maps leads to prospects and prospects to revenue.

This is not a new concept to sales leaders, who live this view of their activities and accomplishments on a monthly or quarterly basis. What is a bit of a twist is having a marketing “actual to plan” model that parallels the sales plan and incorporates historical conversion rates so the number of qualified leads needed to generate the number of prospects, customers, and accompanying revenue within the defined time period is known and tracked.

2.  Agree upon a definition of a Marketing Qualified Lead and Sales Qualified Lead.

Lead quality is the hot potato of sales and marketing alignment. It is frustrating for marketers to hear this when they work hard to generate interest and inquiries and it is frustrating for salespeople who struggle to engage and close leads that are barely more than a contact record.

Getting an agreed upon set of definitions in place and agreeing between groups to a Service Level Agreement (SLA) about qualification criteria, response time and recycling processes is essential. Print it out and have people sign it.

3. Take a “Full Funnel” view of conversion rates and costs from lead to won or lost including month over month growth rates and quarterly/annual trends.

Sales and marketing leaders must unite behind the funnel and own it collectively. It is a dynamic, complex, and living thing that must be constantly monitored and improved. Don’t be afraid of the numbers. Embrace them and know how lead quality changes show up in the numbers or how investment in both sales and marketing efforts is actually paying off.

4. Hold a standing weekly meeting between the VP of Sales and VP of Marketing with a set agenda.

Talk to each other – often. Have a standing meeting, and even better if it is out of the office or early in the morning. Have a defined agenda that parallels this checklist. Communication is crucial to sales and marketing alignment and it starts at the top of the organization. Remember – if you don’t prioritize and focus on this, your people won’t either. Set the example and the tone you expect to see for frequency and quality of communication throughout your organization.

Misunderstanding and conflict can easily grow between two different functional groups that often have different goals and compensation structures. Own and resolve this issue with your counterpart. When you both can speak with one voice in the next executive team or board meeting, your alignment efforts are beginning to bear fruit.

5. Foster an agile mindset to constantly challenge assumptions and improve the customer acquisition and retention processes.

Sales and marketing alignment is a journey. Continually challenge and test assumptions about how customers buy or how the team finds, engages, and closes customers. Be open to new approaches and new techniques. Iterate often and create a tolerance for controlled experiments that can inform process changes and investment decisions. Turn “I think that….” statements into questions starting with “How can we test that….”

Want to learn more about how you can better align your marketing and sales teams? Join us for the first annual Growth Acceleration Summit on September 12-13th. It’s a full day dedicated to helping you learn, discuss and network with like-minded sales and marketing pros.