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7 Steps for Sales and Marketing Alignment

You’ve probably seen how sales and marketing departments can often act like rivals. Sometimes they even bear a striking resemblance to bickering siblings. But just as spats between siblings are detrimental to the well being of a family, misalignment between marketing and sales presents a problem for companies.

When the sales and marketing teams are aligned, the entire company flourishes. Research from the Aberdeen Group shows that companies that have best-in-class marketing and sales alignment reap many benefits: 99% of sales team members meet quotas, and these companies enjoy a 9% advantage in annual growth as compared to industry norms.

So, how do you achieve sales and marketing alignment?

Start with these best practices to help foster unity among your sales and marketing teams.

1) Foster a spirit of collaboration in all projects.

Too often, members of the sales and marketing teams stick to their own departments, not collaborating with each other. This presents an impediment to unity between them. In order to align, there needs to be a cultural expectation that sales and marketing will collaborate with each other.

When new projects or campaigns are launched, make a habit of holding a joint meeting between sales and marketing to talk strategy. This collaborative atmosphere will begin to carry over through regular workflows.

2) Jointly create a well-defined SLA (service level agreement).

Problems arise when sales and marketing team leaders feel that the other party isn’t living up to expectations. A well-defined SLA can help circumvent this problem. Both teams should understand what their responsibilities are. For marketing, this might include the number of MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads), percentage of MQLs that become customers, and average revenue generated by those leads. The sales department’s end of the SLA should include SQLs (Sales Qualified Leads), leads contacted, and follow up speed.

The SLA should also include expectations about deliverables. Marketing should provide information to sales for every MQL, and sales should record data in the CRM system after every contact attempt. Standardizing your record-keeping system will allow you to measure the effectiveness of your processes better and make data-driven business decisions.

With a strong SLA in place, both marketing and sales will be held accountable for performance. Typically, this leads to better results. Sales and marketing teams with an SLA in place are more likely to grow than teams that lack an SLA.

3) Define stages of the sales funnel together and implement lead scoring.

With the increase of CRM and marketing automation, it’s critical for sales and marketing to jointly determine the stages of the sales funnel. Determine—in measurable, objective terms—how you will be classifying prospects, leads, and qualified leads. The terminology you use should correspond to different stages of the sales funnel.

When you implement lead scoring in your Marketing Automation Platform (MAP), both sales and marketing should be involved in setting the system’s parameters. You’ll need to talk to each other throughout the process. It’s likely that the process will require some tweaks. If the sales team is frustrated by MQLs that aren’t ready for sales, that’s a sign the scoring system needs refinement. Strong communication can help fix systemic problems so that MAP/CRM integration works better.

4) Collaborate on content marketing strategy.

Content marketing plays a critical role throughout the entire sales process, so sales needs to be involved in the content creation process. Sales representatives have valuable experiences in talking with prospective customers. They understand prospects’ needs, common objections, and points of confusion. The sales team can provide suggestions for content topics based on their experiences.

Sales representatives can also provide marketing with feedback about which forms of content are more (or less) effective. These insights can help marketing to refine the overall content marketing strategy. Marketing knows how to create compelling content and sales knows the customers’ needs. Both sales and marketing are necessary for content marketing that gives that provides value to the customer.

5) Determine relevant KPIs.

Taking a data-driven approach to sales and marketing alignment is not only effective, but also a good way to avoid getting caught up in blame. Without data to guide the process, it’s easy for sales and marketing to unfairly assign blame for failures to the other side. This is unhelpful and promotes enmity between teams. Devise a list of KPIs that you will be tracking in order to assess the effectiveness of your sales pipeline, and assign responsibility for each metric to either sales or marketing.

KPIs for marketing may include conversion rate, deals sourced and deals influenced, and ROI on marketing campaigns. For sales, relevant KPIs are sales quotas, average deal size, and time spent selling.

You should be monitoring these specific KPIs to assess how well sales and marketing are aligned.

6) Implement closed-loop reporting.

Although sales and marketing focus on their own areas of responsibilities, closed-loop reporting helps both teams see a complete picture of the sales funnel.

With closed-loop reporting, the marketing team is able to see the results of their campaigns. This allows them to deduce which campaigns and platforms are most effective in terms of producing paying customers. Sales will also benefit from being able to see which prospects are most likely to become buyers.

7) Train together and hold regular meetings.

While data and technology can help sales and marketing align, human connections are equally critical. To foster understanding between both teams, they should train together so that team members better understand critical job functions. Marketing team members can witness a sales call, and the sales team should learn more about designing a campaign.

Regular meetings can help ensure that bonds are strengthened. At these meetings, attendees should review the current state of the sales funnel, discuss data, and share upcoming plans. Open communication should be the expectation. If there are problems, they should be discussed without assigning blame.

James Meincke

James is the Head of Marketing @ Demodesk, the intelligent meeting platform for remote sales. Previously he was the Director of Marketing at CloserIQ.