Sales and Marketing Alignment: A Q&A

Seven years ago, ZoomInfo wrote a blog post about the newest trend in the B2B space—smarketing. If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s what we now refer to as sales and marketing alignment.

In 2010, we wrote: Sales and marketing alignment is all the rage right now, as companies grapple with how to blend the two disciplines together to create better efficiencies. But first they have to break down the silos, and we’re not about to hold our collective breath on that one.

As it turns out, not much has changed.  Sales and marketing leaders are still debating the merits of alignment and struggling to bridge the gap between the two departments. With seven years more practice, research, and general insight, we’ll try to answer the same two questions we tackled in the original post.

1. What are the concrete steps organizations can take to meld the two disciplines?

In 2010, we weren’t far off. We advised companies to facilitate communication between sales and marketing leadership and also recommended sales leaders leverage the marketing department as a resource. While both of those suggestions remain valuable, here are a few more steps you can take to create a stronger alignment between your sales and marketing teams.

  • Develop a shared plan that maps leads to prospects and prospects to revenue.
  • Agree upon the definition of a Marketing Qualified Lead and a Sales Qualified Lead.
  • Take a full funnel view of conversion rates and costs.
  • Hold a weekly meeting between sales and marketing leadership with a set agenda.
  • Constantly challenge assumptions and improve the customer acquisition and retention processes.

A recent blog post does a great job of explaining these steps in further detail: 5 Actions to Fool-Proof Your Sales and Marketing Alignment Plan.

2. What are some of the pitfalls companies can avoid when trying to bridge the gaps between sales and marketing.

Looking back, our 2010 answer to this question was lacking actionable steps. Today we try to remedy that. Here are four common sales and marketing alignment mistakes you should avoid:

  • Operating under separate goals: If your sales and marketing teams are working toward separate goals, they are less likely to be engaged with one another. A common goal gives the two departments motivation to work together.
  • Relying on faulty or disjointed reporting:  If each team has access to separate dashboards, metrics, or even worse—no data at all, you’re likely creating a divide between the two departments. Keep everyone on the same page by using shared metrics and dashboards.
  • Depending on technology: Although sales and marketing automation tools are a necessity in 2017, don’t depend on technology to facilitate sales and marketing alignment. Internal alignment relies on open communication and human interaction more than anything else.
  • Ignoring feedback: As a marketer, it’s important to listen to your sales reps. Maybe prospects respond better to a certain type of campaign; or perhaps your newest lead generation idea is a flop.  It’s important to take this input back to your team and apply it to your next campaign. This works both ways. Sales should seek out messaging and content from the marketing department to move prospects through the funnel more effectively.

Although sales and marketing alignment requires time and consistent effort, research has proven its worth. In fact, companies with strong sales and marketing alignment achieve 20% annual growth whereas companies with poor sales and marketing alignment have a 4% revenue decline (source).

If you haven’t made internal alignment a priority, it’s time to do so. Contact ZoomInfo today to learn how we can fuel your marketing campaigns and increase sales productivity.

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