Sales and marketing alignment – a business necessity

Sales and marketing alignment – a business necessity

As a CEO, you strive for harmony among your functional teams.

It’s a comforting feeling during those weekly leadership meetings to hear that sales and marketing efforts appear to be coordinated – key personnel are collaborating on projects, keeping each other informed, using a common language, and possibly even delivering cross-functional reports from Salesforce and other analytical tools.

But beneath this veneer of peaceful coexistence, are your sales and marketing teams truly integrating their efforts in a way that will add impact – and revenue – to your bottom line?

Chances are, in your organisation, true sales and marketing alignment – a level of connectedness that includes joint planning sessions and common goals – remains elusive.

Marketing technology provider Hubspot, in its own gauge of the global marketplace, found that only 22 percent of corporate employees would consider their organization’s sales and marketing relationship as “tightly aligned” – though, separately, both cited lead and traffic generation among their most mission-critical current challenges.

With so much riding on executing an effective and efficient go-to-market strategy across all aspects of the organisation, making sure sales and marketing are aligned through all stages of the customer’s buying journey is more critical than ever. If your sales and market teams are not aligned, it’s time to focus on getting them there. This standout recipe calls for Marketing and Sales to be in perfect harmony. To achieve this requires collaboration and agreement on a number of definitions, targets and metrics—and leadership from the CEO. I was recently speaking to a highly experienced, top industry performing Sales Representative who told me,

“I never got a decent lead from a marketing team EVER – I had to develop all of my own opportunities. Yes, I got dozens of business cards – but they weren’t close to what I would consider a lead.”

This is a fairly common theme I often hear from sales executives. The marketing team delivered against their “Lead targets,” which were the names scanned off suspects walking by the company booth at a trade show. So what’s the solution? Fundamental Marketing and Sales leader dialogue and agreement is the difference between success and failure. Marketing needs to be seamlessly filling the top part of any sales funnel and Sales needs to be executing the follow-up engagement.

The last thing we want our highly paid direct sales people doing is cold calling on random leads.We need them engaged in account strategy, developing and closing opportunities with as much face to face time with prospects as possible. So to drive direct sales productivity we need Marketing Leadership to deliver a consistent flow of “qualified” leads to the sales force. Much has been written about lead quality, but I think it really comes down to getting a specific agreement between the sales and marketing leaders, and it doesn’t hurt to get buy-in from their teams. In the case of the representative who “never got a decent lead,” those leads were defined as business cards dropped off in a fish bowl at a trade show to earn a chance at a prize. That is a far cry from a lead. To optimize resources, and have each person contributing efficiently to building a strong pipeline, a bench mark lead should have the following explicit definitions documented and agreed upon between the two teams:

  • Target and engage specific job titles or levels of Decision Makers. If your target market decision maker is a CTO, then only leads with a CTO contact should be passed to a Sales Representative.
  • The Decision Maker resides within targeted industry segment and is of desired company size.
  • The contact has indicated there is an issue or opportunity that needs to be addressed.
  • There is acknowledgement by the Decision Maker that there is a timeframe within which this issue/opportunity needs to be addressed.
  • Set up qualified Decision Makers for the best next step with the direct Sales Representative.
  • Deliver transparency to both teams through agreed-upon metrics, reporting and inspection.

In today’s on-demand world, buyers expect timely follow up or they move on. Marketing must insist that the Sales organization be held to similar standards on their lead engagement and sales activities for both parties to win. If Marketing is going to deliver fewer but more highly qualified leads, then Sales needs to treat them like gold and execute a disciplined follow-up sequence of activities. Best practices for sales team follow up begins with a pre-call plan that involves the following:

  • Identify who you may know in common to establish rapport and break the ice. (Refresh is a fantastic pre-call planning app that delivers insight on your day’s appointments.) Be prepared to share industry expertise or a case study to show relevancy and establish credentials and garner interest to establish your credentials.
  • Have an understanding of the key issues typically found in that particular industry.
  • Begin by summarizing what has been already captured in the lead so you don’t mow freshly cut lawn.
  • Follow up requires tenacity, as it can take 6-8 tries by phone and email. (I suggest alternating with different messages to be most effective.)

The Marketing and Sales leaders need to meet at least monthly to review lead quality and lead status, holding each other accountable for executing the agreed upon activities/deliverables. Like cooking, none of this is hard to do. It takes focus and precise execution. Then, simply place it in a 400-degree oven for 90 days, and you’ll soon be enjoying the fruits of a delicious pipeline.

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Sara Brian
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