10 Jan Sales and Marketing Alignment: Bridging the Gap
Sales and marketing have always belonged to separate silos. So much so to the point that the two are considered to be part of an age-old skirmish.
Information is often competitively withheld and interactions are minimal with zero collaborative efforts. This can greatly hamper the overall performance of the company.
While sales worries about meeting quarterly goals and why it has to generate its own leads, marketing thinks it is the only one thinking strategically and complains that sales ignores the leads that they generate.
But times are different. The two need to work together more than ever now. Especially in the B2B space.
Buyer behaviour has changed and marketing must own a significant portion of the buying process. A recent Sirius Decisions poll of 300 sales leaders highlights this: “The top third of the sales cycle has gone away. Salespeople believe that the beginning of the traditional sales process has evaporated and that buyers are self-servicing their needs instead of engaging with salespeople.” At this point in time, sales is very much dependent on and closely related with marketing.
To put things into perspective, let’s take the help of an analogy.
Let’s compare a company to a film production.
The marketing team would be the production crew: The producers, set designers, make up artists and choreographers. They help set up the production for a relatively smooth filming/sales process experience.
The sales team would be the cast: The lead and supporting actors. The main performers. They take over the set and earn good reviews. Or in this case, maximum sales.
Just as in a film production, good results cannot be obtained without close working between the two. Marketing and sales should be aligned around the same goal now more than ever.
Sales and Marketing – The New Power Couple
In modern-day sales, there is an average of 5.4 stakeholders involved in any given sale. And to further complicate things, buyers are much savvier. In most cases, 90% of the buying process is over before a salesperson talks to a lead.
As a result, sales teams now lean heavily on marketing teams to produce content that helps them tell a story, communicate value, and ultimately move the lead down the funnel from prospect to paying customer.
Aligning sales and marketing strategies is a novel approach. It brings about better communication, more collaborative efforts, greater efficiency and, as a result, enhanced profitability.
There’s even a nifty term for it. “Smarketing”
Smarketing involves the agreement to align goals between sales and marketing teams through frequent and direct communication. They are held mutually accountable for measurable goals that each team agrees to hit.
For example, marketing may agree to generate a certain number of quality leads, and sales agrees to follow up with a minimum number of those leads.
Smarketing is important because the new reality is that sales and marketing need to know more about each other, and everybody needs to know more about their customers.
How does smarketing help you?
The modern B2B buyer journey has become far more complex. Buyers are digitally driven, socially connected, mobile, and empowered, with nearly unlimited access to information and people.
Sales and marketing alignment gets rid of the artificial funnel division between marketing and sales, and instead leads to a holistic view of the buyer journey from start to finish. Instead of looking at each step in the B2B buying process as a hurdle, looking at it as a touchpoint will help you serve your audience better and create loyal customers as they move down the path to the sale.
According to a study by Forrester Research, aligned organizations achieved an average of 32% annual revenue growth while less aligned companies reported an average 7% decline in revenue.
When sales and marketing align, sales has better leads to work with and marketing is able to get direct credit for ROI. This way, the ROI for both departments is boosted, allowing the company to achieve business goals at a much quicker rate. Further, this alignment also improves the company environment with greater team cohesion.
When the two teams interact and brainstorm regularly, they can collaborate to amplify the impact of their efforts. Working together like a well-oiled machine, marketing and sales can launch campaigns designed for maximum impact, handle leads effectively, and engage prospects in a way that impresses potential buyers.
B2B organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing operations achieved 24% faster growth and 27% faster profit growth over a three year period. (From a study by Sirius Decisions)
What we understand from this is that to maximise revenue, the two teams have to work as closely as possible, just shy of combining them.
What drives successful integration of smarketing?
With such positive metrics to outline the benefits of smarketing, companies worldwide are looking to implement several strategies to promote better collaboration between the two teams.
If marketing gains visibility into the revenue generated from a lead, and where the lead was sourced from, they can quickly discern which of their lead generation strategies was most effective. In turn, sales can ensure that a lead or prospect has an excellent buying experience by understanding buyer personas through marketing engagement metrics.
In this way, both teams benefit from working together, and drive overall growth and increased revenue.
Well defined lead transfer process
Leads can be either marketing qualified (MQL) or sales qualified (SQL). MQL’s are usually contacts who have expressed an interest in the product or service and are in the consideration or interest stage of the funnel. An MQL becomes a SQL when the sales team determines that the lead is indeed worthy of a direct follow-up.
A lead handoff occurs in the last, bottom part of the funnel. It’s important that both teams have the same information. When an MQL is considered ready to be an SQL, the contact details should be passed on to a sales representative who can then determine if they’re really a potential customer.
Implementation of a Service Level Agreement (SLA)
A Sales-Marketing SLA is defined by what each team commits to accomplish in order to support the other to reach the shared revenue goal(s). An SLA can break down the complex B2B process of inbound lead generation and sales so that everyone involved in business development has a clear and deliberate plan. This leaves no room for unknown expectations between departments, wasted efforts pursuing low-value leads, and any sort of process confusion.
Only 26% of respondents in a 2018 HubSpot report have a documented SLA between the two departments, yet organizations with an SLA are three times as likely to be effective.
As traditional marketing and sales tactics become outdated, future-forward businesses will focus on cultivating an environment that promotes Smarketing to increase revenue, build a cohesive employee team, and effectively grow the business in the long-term.
In the words of global sales speaker Jack Kosakowski, “Sales can’t live without Marketing and Marketing can’t live without Sales.”
So it is of utmost importance that companies breakthrough the existing relationship between the two and foster a mutually beneficial and rewarding one.
By aligning marketing and sales, these two teams can formulate a strong sales and marketing strategy that incorporates the strengths of both teams, using up-to-date, accessible online sales funnel information and content to their advantage.