The Business Leader’s Guide to Marketing and Sales Alignment

marketing and sales alignmentDiscord between marketing and sales departments is an age-old story. The marketing team gets annoyed at the sales team for failing to follow up on leads and in return, the sales team is annoyed with the marketing team for generating low-quality leads in the first place.

As it turns out—neither team is wrong. Research shows the average sales team ignores 50% of marketing leads (source). And, conversely, 61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to sales, yet only 27% of those leads are qualified (source). So, what’s a business leader to do?

If you’re ready to get your marketing and sales teams on the same page, keep reading. Today we provide you with several tried and true tactics to facilitate better alignment between your marketing and sales organizations.

5 Ways to Facilitate Better Marketing and Sales Alignment

1.     Get executive buy-in and prioritize company-wide adoption.

In order for your marketing and sales teams to truly come together, you must communicate the importance of sales and marketing alignment and prioritize it as a business initiative. Start by getting executive buy-in.

Whether you meet with marketing and sales leadership alone or involve all your executives in the initial conversations, it’s important to come to this first meeting prepared. Use numbers and data to highlight just how harmful misalignment is and ultimately, how much money it’s caused you to lose as an organization. The following metrics will give you a good idea of how aligned the two teams are:

The percentage of marketing leads that sales follows up with.

If this number is extremely low, you know you have one of two problems: the leads generated by marketing aren’t good enough, or sales isn’t doing a good enough job with follow-up. In most cases, it’s a combination of the two.

The percentage of marketing-generated leads that result in opportunities.

This number will give you better insight into the quality of leads marketing is generating. High sales follow-up and minimal opportunities indicates low quality leads.

The average number of touches it takes to convert a prospect into a customer.

How many times must sales or marketing communicate with a prospect before they actually make a purchase? Is this number higher or lower for marketing generated leads? If this number is lower than the average, your marketing team is likely generating high-quality leads.

Once you’ve established just how big the gap is between marketing and sales, use these same numbers to illustrate how much more successful your organization would be if your teams were aligned.

Once leadership is on board, it’s up to each of your executives to communicate to their individual teams. Although marketing and sales alignment starts at the top, it can’t just stay there. Everyone in an organization must be involved and willing to participate. This brings us to step number two.

2.     Create and maintain an open line of communication between the two departments.

Did you know only 30% of CMOs have a clear process or program to make marketing and sales alignment a priority (source)? To bridge the widening gap between the two departments, you must create and document a definitive, inter-department communication strategy.

We suggest that you start by holding an ongoing meeting to agree upon the answers to the following questions:

  • What does the marketing team need from the sales team?
  • What does the sales team need from the marketing team?
  • From start to finish, what does the standard sales cycle look like?
  • Do marketing leads typically have a good understanding of products and services prior to talking to the sales team?
  • What are the agreed upon buyer personas each team is working with?
  • Which content and campaigns tend to attract the most high-quality leads?
  • What does a good lead look like?
  • A bad lead?
  • What can each team do better?

Once both teams come together to answer these questions it’s important to continue having regular meetings to distribute reports, discuss progress, and come up with ideas to improve marketing and sales alignment further.

Communication is key to a successful business. Without it, both marketing and sales efforts will suffer.

3.     Come up with shared definitions and goals.

One of the leading causes of misaligned marketing and sales teams is the fact that the two departments often operate with separate goals and success metrics. Think about it—if a marketing team is told to generate a certain type of lead without any input from sales, how do they know if they’re even targeting the right type of buyer?

For this reason, it’s vital that you establish a shared set of goals and universal definitions. We recommend the following:

Strategize:

Develop a shared plan that maps leads to prospects and prospects to revenue.

Define:

Agree upon the definition of a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) and a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)—and get specific. The more ambiguous your definitions, the more room there is for misunderstanding and misinterpretation.

Think big picture:

Take a full funnel view of conversion rates and costs—meaning, constantly analyze where leads come from, how much they cost, which ones turn into revenue, and ultimately, which campaigns can you duplicate to generate more of them.

Report and Communicate:

Only use shared dashboards and reports. Meet regularly to discuss your findings.

Evaluate:

Constantly challenge assumptions and improve the customer acquisition and retention processes.

4.     Establish a Service Level Agreement—or SLA.

For those who aren’t familiar, a Service Level Agreement (SLA) is a type of formal contract between marketing and sales. This contract outlines exactly what each department is responsible for and it should be created during initial meetings between marketing and sales leadership.

Using the goals and definitions mentioned in the previous section, set clear expectations for each team and the metrics you’ll use to measure success. Marketing goals can include things like leads generated, qualified leads generated, opportunities created, and revenue. Sales goals should include follow-up time, follow-up frequency, and the percentage of leads sales is expected to follow-up with.

Although this may seem a bit formal and unnecessary, it’s an important step to take if you want to achieve marketing and sales alignment. In fact, research shows that companies who have an active SLA are (source):

  • 34% more likely to experience greater year-over-year ROI than companies who don’t have an SLA.
  • 21% more likely to get greater budget allocations than companies who don’t have an SLA.
  • And, 31% more likely to be hiring additional sales reps to meet demand.

5.     Invest in technology that supports alignment.

The simplest way to bridge the communication gap between marketing and sales is to work with technologies that integrate. When platforms integrate, data and workflows are no longer kept in separate silos. This facilitates better communication and gives each team more insight into the other’s daily activities, best practices, and common challenges.

When building your technology stack, consider your CRM, your B2B contact database, prospecting tools, content management systems, and any other tools your team utilizes. Be sure each of these tools is accessible to each team and work together with one another.

Key Takeaways

Marketing and sales alignment is no longer optional. Businesses who fail to align their marketing and sales departments inevitably fail to align their marketing and sales strategies. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. Not only will marketing and sales alignment bring peace and harmony to your organization but it can make both teams more productive, ultimately driving more revenue. Consider these statistics:

  • When marketing and sales teams work together, companies see 36% higher customer retention and 38% higher sales win rates (source).
  • Marketing and sales alignment can generate 209% more revenue from marketing activities (source).
  • Companies with strong marketing and sales alignment achieve 20% annual growth rate. Whereas companies with poor marketing and sales alignment have a 4% revenue decline (source).

Reap the benefits of a tightly aligned organization! Use the steps above to get your teams on the same page today.