Want fast growth, higher win rates, and improved customer retention? The answer lies in tightly-aligned sales and marketing processes. Research shows it’s more important than ever that these two departments meld together – by aligning the two, organizations see an average of 32% annual revenue growth (Forrester), 38% higher win rates, and 36% greater customer retention (both stats from MarketingProfs).
What’s the Buzz All About?
You’ve surely heard the term “sales and marketing alignment” by now. According to Forrester, 62% of B2B buyers say they can now develop selection criteria and finalize a vendor list based solely on digital content. This has caused a dramatic shift in the buying process, and B2B sellers are beginning to understand the importance of incorporating marketing into their sales process, and working to implement alignment in their own organizations.
Sales and marketing alignment doesn’t sound hard in theory, but put into practice it’s a big commitment and requires a culture shift. It’s more than an annual sales and marketing meeting; it’s a weekly, monthly, and annual grind to keep marketing and sales on the same page.
All too often, companies struggle to achieve complete alignment due to lack of vision, resources, and tools. This blog outlines five ways to begin the transition to a better-aligned sales and marketing organization.
Start at the Top
Like any other key initiative, alignment starts at the executive level. Sales and marketing leaders need to agree that alignment is important, and commit to working together. Only then can it trickle down into the workforce.
One way to do this is to introduce a Sales Operations or Sales Enablement role. This person works directly with both marketing and sales leadership and their teams to make sure they’re working together and that effective tools are being created and put in the sales people’s hands.
Don’t have budget for a Sales Operations person? At the very least, executives should continually remind the sales and marketing teams that working together is important, by:
- Having quarterly meetings where sales and marketing work together on sales challenges and develop necessary tools together.
- Ensuring that sales and marketing teams have the opportunity to bond with one another – their ability to work together effectively depends on good rapport and relationships.
Identify Your Ideal Customer
Everything sales and marketing does should be centered around one thing: your company’s target customer. A common problem we see is that sales and marketing have a different understanding of who this person is.
With marketing in charge of a potential buyer’s first touchpoints with your company, you can’t afford to have a disconnect here. Likewise, sales gets to know firsthand what their customer’s challenges are and how they like to buy – this valuable intel needs to be relayed to marketing.
A great way to bridge the gap is through prospect personas. Have your sales and marketing teams work collectively on outlining detailed descriptions of your target buyer, their needs, and their interests. Ask:
- What’s their typical personality?
- What does a "day in the life" look like?
- How are they measured?
- What are their goals?
- What are their challenges?
- What drives them crazy?
The answers to each of these questions and more should be at the fingertips of marketing as they craft messaging and content that resonates with the person whose hands it belongs in, and this comes from your experienced sales people.
Fix Mixed Messages
Inbound leads (from SEO, in this case) close about 15% of the time, while cold outbound leads close at a rate of about 2% (Hubspot). Why? Because they’re already warmed up. To lose this kind of quality lead is totally frustrating for sales and marketing alike, but it happens, frequently, if the two aren’t using the same message. Why it happens is because a prospect has positively responded to a marketing touchpoint, but upon speaking to sales and hearing a completely different message, they lose interest and/or trust.
This can be resolved again buy revisiting the personas and their interests. Then marketing and sales materials can be tailored to sync up with one another. Whether it’s a website message, a case study, or a cold call, all these assets should cater to the same persona, enhancing their buying experience and echoing the same message.
Include Marketing in the Sales Process
The first stage of the sales process has evaporated, and has become marketing’s domain – lead generation. In an increasingly digital world, B2B buyers are drawn to companies and making purchasing decisions based on online factors, like online presence, digital advertising, available resources and content, websites, and response time to inquiries. A company’s digital presence is now a primary source of sales leads, but it’s managed by marketing.
Once marketing is generating solid leads, hand-off to sales becomes of utmost importance. Streamline this process with qualified lead definitions to ensure these leads are in fact high quality, defined roles and responsibilities for sales and marketing, and a clearly-outlined sales process that outlines the steps of handing off and running with a lead. A visual flow chart is a great way to outline this process and get it in front of both sales and marketing teams for ongoing reference.
Align Marketing Content with Sales Process
Outside of lead gen, sales and marketing alignment is equally important to ensure sales has the right collateral to use in the sales process. So often, we see misaligned collateral that looks good from a marketing perspective, but that sales doesn’t find useful. This is because marketing doesn’t know the sales process and the needs of the sales team.
As a result, many salespeople don’t use marketing assets – in fact, 60-70% of marketing tools go unused by salespeople (SiriusDecisions). Instead, they spend time creating non-marketing-approved content to fit their sales process needs. To fix, marketing should involve salespeople in the content planning and review process to ensure they get collateral they need.
It takes continual commitment to get these once-siloed groups to work together harmoniously. Although it's no easy feat, the payoff can be huge for your organization. We encourage you to study your sales and marketing groups and find ways to boost alignment by incorporating suggestions from this blog.
If you need assistance, reach out to Sales Result to get customized recommendations from our expert team on how to reach your sales and growth goals.