5 best practices for achieving sales and marketing alignment
Customers have decided what sales and marketing do now. We all need to embrace this new reality. At Mezzanine, we often talk about the enormous shift that has occurred in the B2B buying process. I’ve even written a book about it: The Radical Sales Shift. Prospective customers have gone rogue, and they’re doing the lion’s share of their research before they even want to talk to you. The way prospects need to be managed throughout the sales funnel has changed, and sales and marketing need to get aligned in order to meet those changes.
The alignment of sales and marketing is all about the needs of the customer. The two teams can no longer work in their own lanes and expect the same sales results. Larger companies have already made the transition by assigning one leader to sales and marketing and giving them one mission: generate revenue. This new leader is called the CRO (Chief Revenue Officer). However, most small- to medium-sized B2B companies still have separate sales and marketing teams, and that’s ok. But, ensuring that the two teams are aligned and have a good working relationship is vital to success.
Sales and marketing don’t always work hand-in-hand. So, how can alignment between the two be achieved? Here are 5 best practices:
1. Ensure strong lines of communication
Getting sales and marketing in alignment and turning them into a combined revenue generating machine relies first on communication. The more regularly the two teams communicate about the pipeline and what is working and what isn’t, the more likely they will be able to collectively deliver revenue results. Ensure sales and marketing build relationships at all levels. Hold collaborative meetings on a regular schedule and make sure everyone knows their roles and is working toward the same goal. This will also help eliminate work duplication and wasted time.
2. Delineate the sales process
Many B2B companies haven’t taken the time to define the stages of the sales process. Common stages in a customer’s journey, from suspect to prospect to customer include: introduction, needs assessment, demo and negotiation. Most B2B companies haven’t revisited the sales process since they first began. Now, it’s time to map the sales process with marketing in the room, so that each can understand the framework that sales is using. This will help define roles and responsibilities and provide checkpoints and measures for accountability.
3. Get marketing working further down the funnel
Since prospective customers are being more and more influenced by what they read online, it’s the job of marketing to create the content that will steer them to your door (and through it). This means that marketing’s role is to lead buyers further down the sales funnel than ever before. Today’s marketers need to look more than just building top-of-funnel brand and product awareness. Their ultimate job is to generate and nurture high-quality, sales-ready leads before passing them on to sales. Most buyers aren’t ready, or even willing, to speak to a rep until they’ve had a chance to do their own research. Marketing is there to provide the content they need during that research phase, drawing them in and taking them to a place where they are ready to ask for a demo or speak to a rep.
4. Create shared LEAD definitions between sales and marketing
The definition of a qualified lead is one of the most common friction points between sales and marketing in B2B companies. Friction arises at the lead hand-off point from marketing to sales, because many B2B companies simply don’t have a definition of a qualified lead. And since only 56%1 of B2B companies validate leads before passing them on to sales, sales often lacks confidence in the leads they’re given. And then the finger pointing begins: sales says they aren’t being given good leads, marketing says that sales isn’t doing proper follow-up. The definition of a qualified lead is one of the most important topics that sales and marketing teams can work on together.
5. CLOSE THE LOOP!
A closed-loop system is the process of the sales team providing feedback to the marketing team so that all leads can be handled appropriately. Marketing should discuss each lead with sales, and together they should agree on which ones should be nurtured by marketing and which ones are ready for sales to contact. It’s a simple step, but one that most B2B organizations miss. The key to the process is communication and a forum for sales to give feedback to marketing. The best way to do this is to allocate a segment of the regular sales and marketing meeting for the group to talk through new and ongoing leads.
Sales and marketing alignment delivers, on average, 38% more sales wins.2 If you want to learn more about how to bring your sales and marketing teams into alignment to generate more revenue, read my latest book, Walking On The Moon, here. If you want to discuss how we can help you generate more sales-ready leads, we should talk.