How to Improve Sales and Marketing Alignment
For too often, the relationship between sales and marketing has just been divisive. There’s often a misalignment of priorities. With both sectors battling to provide the most value and worth to their business.
It’s born from this very 1980s perspective of the old-school field sales model; the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’-esque cigar-toting salesman who closes all the deals over a game of golf and dinner. Without a ‘marketing team’ whispering in his ear.
Now, that travelling salesman can still knock on the door, but the homeowner is already out shopping. The world of the modern buyer is almost entirely digital.
That’s not to say there’s no space for charismatic salespeople. People will always buy from people. Instead, effective marketing should focus on pushing a marketing generated lead as far through the pipeline as possible, before a salesperson can swoop in to close the deal. It’s essentially about setting up easy-wins.
Create Unified Buyer
Sales and marketing teams need to work together to target the same type of lead. Otherwise their efforts are just being wasted. Misalignment can have a serious impact on a business’ top-line, touching everything from quota attainment to revenue growth.
Both teams need to be made to feel involved in the buyer identification process, but not just for the sake of morale. Different schools of thought offer different values. Insight from both sides is always relevant in this discussion.
Don’t Undervalue Marketing Data: There’s no excuse for not using marketing in the ICP process. Insight into keyword searches, SEO and buyer intent data proves reach, messaging, tonality and targeted advertising. Whereas sales will have concise data on deals-won, conversion rate, what worked and how buyers have moved through the pipeline before.
Dismantle Pride & Prevent Wandering: Marketing and sales metrics combine to create powerful and sought-after data that shouldn’t be brushed under the carpet for the sake of pride. Collaboration also ensures consistent focus. Salespeople can often start at the outlined persona and then wander in chase of commission. This leaves both parties firing in completely different directions.
Keep Marketing Collateral Targeted & Branded: Cooperation means that marketing collateral; social media, whitepapers and website resources back-up the sales process from the start. Being created with a sense of passion and pride – rather than begrudgingly. This will also boost customer experience at the same time.
Share Goals & Expectations Early
Confident marketing and sales alignment nearly always begins with setting the tracks for success between both teams. Without an agreed idea for what success looks like and how it can be measured, there’s really no identity for business goals. Remember, salespeople and marketeers are essentially working towards the same goal of business growth and development.
Fostering better collaboration ensures that both parties are held accountable to the same objectives. The only way to successfully achieve that is to ensure that both teams are satisfied with those objectives from the start. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to B2B sales success. It’s worth establishing regular meetings to understand how either operation can be tailored to support pipeline growth.
Remember to take the blinders off: Sales and marketing leaders are known for having blinders towards their own operations. Which can be incredibly frustrating and uninspiring. Of course, both teams will have industry-specific micro KPIs that don’t align. That’s a given. The value is instead in understanding the other party’s unique goals to solve strategy pain points. This will help you to understand why they may be doing something differently to achieve the overarching macro KPI in your business.
You can’t expect to align a sales and marketing operation without good contact. That’s the bottom line. It just won’t happen.
This starts with working from the same centralized points. Shared Google Docs, shared Buyer Personas, one reporting sheet and one goal. You simply can’t afford to keep key reporting data and collateral hidden from either team.
Feedback, results and goals should fall under one umbrella. Otherwise people take personal agendas over combined targets, which are far easier to achieve when teams are aligned. Having shared, centralized assets also boosts accountability and transparency across your business. It’s a solutions-driven process of problem identification, knowing how these arise and solving them without creating conflict.
Don’t be fooled into thinking conflict is a bad thing. Friction between teams can be uncomfortable, but it’s necessary in order to grow. Complacency and acceptance of failing processes dulls your competitive edge.
Transparency is too often labelled as ‘blame culture’. Many businesses avoid conflict entirely for fear of internal politics. In reality, there’s nothing wrong with conflict. It just needs to be carried out in a constructive way.
With sales & marketing alignment, it shouldn’t be a case of blaming a single person. If a deal does fall through, both sides have their part to play. If one team’s work isn’t being done to the set standard, it’s equally the other team’s job to recognize this and hold them to account. Why should that be seen as adversarial?
Effective conversation allows you to diagnose pain points early and give feedback without bitterness or gossip. Difficult conversation shouldn’t be avoided for the sake of respect or acceptance, it should be embraced in an approach that is constructive, respectful and leads to greater successes ongoing.
Trust your Team to do their Job
While there’s obvious value in combining the efforts of your sales team and marketing, it’s important not to blur the lines too closely. Salespeople and marketeers hold these titles for a reason.
No one team should lead the show in marketing and sales alignment. No one is in charge – it’s entirely collective. If one sector is given authority over the other this can be patronizing. Neither Sales nor marketing has greater importance in the pipeline, It’s about creating unity, NOT opposition.
Though, it’s equally important that your team shares their insights. If sales reps require knowledge and data from marketing, openly offer it. There’s no reason to hide information from either side for personal pride. We’re not competing. We’re working together.
Salespeople and marketeers shouldn’t assume that the information their concealing is irreplaceable either. It isn’t. What is irreplaceable is the ability to offer insight across your business on a data-driven level.
Align for Success
As we’ve established, it’s sales & marketing, NOT sales vs marketing. The long fought competition between both is outdated. It just doesn’t spell out growth in the same way an effective partnership does. Marketing will never be able to overthrow sales and sales will never be able to rid of marketing. These sectors need to work together confidently to meet a product or service’s full potential.
The marketing world is forever evolving. Its role in the sales pipeline increases on a daily basis, but that doesn’t mean it threatens the sales industry. Marketing will never be able to solve that final piece of the puzzle. What it can do is give sales high quality, marketing qualified leads, cutting the time the lead generation process takes and supplying those warm leads. Ready to be wined, dined and closed. Both sales and marketing need to recognise this in order to establish any stable partnership.
The reality is: sales relies on marketing as much as marketing relies on sales. Alignment fails when organizations fail to embrace this culture.
Founder of Invanity Marketing- A digital marketing agency focused on transparency, relationships & making you money