When sales and marketing align and work seamlessly together your business will become more productive and more profitable. Achieving this has been a major challenge for businesses for some time but now, in the modern business environment, failing to guarantee sales and marketing alignment will see vital objectives missed and, more importantly, customers lost.
The sales team has nothing to work with if marketing doesn’t provide insightful content that attracts prospects and results in leads. While the success of marketing is dependent on the sales team’s ability to close deals with the leads they provide and turn them into customers.
Research has proven that sales and marketing alignment is crucial to business success. A MarketingProfs study found that organisations with tightly aligned sales marketing had 36% higher customer retention rates and achieved 36% higher sales wins. While Forrester Research insight found that aligned organisations enjoy an average of 32% annual revenue growth, with less aligned firms experiencing an average 7% decline in revenue.
It is therefore crucial for sales and marketing teams to be closely aligned and work together. The relationship needs to be approached as a partnership, as opposed to the separate, competing entities they have been considered in the past.
Solving a historical problem
Traditionally sales and marketing have been seen as competitors, battling each other for business and blaming each other when goals are missed. Sales has been closely aligned with the CEO, which makes it easy to demonstrate its value, while marketing spends its time coming up with creative strategies and tactics that will generate leads for the sales team.
As a result, Sales is often seen as bringing in money that marketing spends. If sales goals aren’t met then the CEO wants answers, so the sales team blames marketing for not delivering enough leads or not delivering high-quality leads. While the marketing team blames insufficient budget or the sales team for failing to close the opportunities they’ve created.
Further underpinning the issue has been the mindsets of the two teams. Marketing tends to think longer term, devising plans that aim to boost brand recognition and nurture leads, while sales move at pace and work hard to swiftly meet their quotas.
Moving with the times
While sales and marketing alignment has been a struggle in the past, that is changing as the rise of digital has empowered the customer. Over the last decade, the buyer has changed more than it did in the previous century.
The customer has evolved to become more socially connected, always-on-the-go via their smartphone and digitally empowered – meaning they have unlimited access to information and people. As a result, sales and marketing have had to become increasingly integrated.
The growth of social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter opened up a wealth of information that is crucial to sales and marketing alignment. They now have access to key insights such as the buyer’s identity, relationships and interests that help them become more visible and relevant to the customer. To do that, marketing and sales must work together to ensure salespeople have all the information they need to sell and communicate as effectively as possible with their target audience.
The marketing team, therefore, needs a deeper understanding of sales and, likewise, the sales team needs to understand marketing’s requirements, if they are to both fully understand the customer. This will make sales more effective and have a better chance of hitting their revenue targets.
The power of enablement
Training is crucial to equipping salespeople to be as effective as possible, which can be achieved by investing in the emerging concept of sales enablement. The business needs to create standardised guidelines and enablement programs that focus on the value of social selling, as well as advising on best practices and practical advice to get them up to speed as quickly and possible.
Investing in sales enablement will help businesses achieve tighter sales and marketing alignment. According to Aberdeen Group, companies that are best-in-class in their industry have 50% higher quota attainment than average companies. And those best-in-class companies are twice as likely to be investing in sales enablement.
Once you have sales enablement in place ensure they’re stored in one shared place that makes it as easy as possible for salespeople to access them.
Sales and marketing alignment in action
A well-oiled sales and marketing alignment will see your business developing lead generation and demand generation, prospecting, nurturing leads and retaining customers, as well as hitting goals. In short, when sales and marketing align you’ll be more efficient, guarantee happy stakeholders and have a strong bottom line.
The journey to that sales and marketing alignment nirvana is different for every business, and each organisation needs to develop their own tailored sales enablement and sales and marketing alignment playbook. However, there are a few simple steps that every business can implement to get moving in the right direction.
Establish goals and KPIs: Outline the goals and expectations both sales and marketing departments have and the metrics that define whether they have been met. Ensuring the two teams are clear of each other’s objectives they will better understand their thought processes and be better positioned to help each other at every stage of the process.
Create ideal buyer personas: Combining customer and prospect feedback with sales team input will help you understand the audience your marketing team needs to be targeting. That will then define the messaging and offers they need to put to the market and the channels they need to use to reach the audience. This level of preparation, with sales’ involvement, will provide the insight required to prevent salespeople blaming poor close rates on marketing.
Define lead generation strategy: The sales team also needs to provide feedback on the lead generation strategies being provided by the marketing team. This is essential to ensuring marketing’s plan is in line with what Sales is aiming to achieve. Collaborating on a strategy will ensure both parties understand the approach and improve communication between the teams, so this step is crucial in delivering sales and marketing alignment.
Define what a warm lead is: Sales and marketing need to work together to get the full picture of how leads and prospects interact with the brand. That information, combined with marketing automation techniques, will enable marketing to help the sales team accurately identify and prioritise the best leads.
Measure your success: It’s important for sales and marketing alignment to extend to measuring success, so both departments should regularly meet to evaluate their performance. This will include assessing marketing’s efforts in bringing in quality leads, how the buying cycle should be shortened for customers and sales tools or collateral that could help the sales team to close more deals.
Encourage positivity: Sales and marketing alignment success is reliant on both teams feeling comfortable opening up to one another and bringing ideas to the table. That means not instilling a culture of fear where you’re threatening the safety of jobs if targets and quotas aren’t met. Employees will get more fulfilment from their job by practising positive reinforcement, and this, in turn, leads to happy customers, more creative sales and marketing strategies.
Evaluate and optimise: Constantly evaluating data to assess strategies that are working and identifying opportunities for growth is vital to sales and marketing alignment. Track activity to develop stronger, more efficient future strategies.
The role of technology
Sales and marketing alignment cannot be achieved without the aid of technology. Implementing a CRM and marketing automation platform … Many tools exist in the marketplace, some of which are free and others require investment, so it’s important to define your requirements then match them to the available tools. If you make the right selection then it should be easy for your teams to start using the technology and amend their working practices.
Embracing sales and marketing alignment
Sales and marketing are on the same team, and it’s vital to encourage them to work together. The traditional blame game no longer applies and the success of your business is dependent on successful sales and marketing alignment. Ensuring sales and marketing work hand-in-hand will help your business meet the needs of the modern consumer and, as a result, encourage increased productivity and profit.