The 4 Pillars of Flawless Marketing and Sales Alignment

29 Jul 20

Organizations with marketing and sales alignment experience 36% higher customer retention rates and 38% higher sales win rates than those who don’t have as much alignment. The marketing and sales alignment surround four key pillars: big bets, the customer, process, and accountability.

As a native marketer, I've only been on the same wavelength with the sales team at one company and was always surprised (not so much anymore) about how marketing and sales teams do not get along well.

Does the following sound familiar from your organization's sales team?

"All leads from marketing are useless."

"We don't need marketing; we create our leads."

"Marketing just spams people's inbox."

How about the following from your own marketing team?

"Sales never follows up on our leads."

"Sales only wines and dines clients."

"Sales just spams people on LinkedIn."

Marketing and sales misalignment makes more of an impact than one would think. MarketingProfs shares that organizations with tightly aligned marketing and sales teams experience 36% customer retention rates and 38% higher sales win rates than those who don't have as much alignment. As marketing leaders are held more and more accountable for revenue attribution, it is essential to work towards achieving alignment continually. There's no such thing as too much alignment in marketing and sales.

In working with various clients across different industries, there are four key areas to align on that lead to marketing and sales alignment success. Successfully aligned marketing and sales teams align on big bets, customer, process, and accountability. You can download a marketing and sales alignment checklist tool here.

Executing Big Bets Depend on Cross-Functional Interlock

'Big Bets' are generally planned and prioritized throughout the quarters of a year. They highlight key areas an organization is pursuing in order to achieve revenue goals and are placed by leadership with a view to 3-5-year horizons and applying EBITDA or operating income margin (by product line).

Marketing and Sales leaders must work in tandem to successfully execute on the Big Bets that are focused on Go-to-Market execution. It starts with understanding each teams' capabilities. Do you know what the sales team is capable of? From lead management, account management, account segmentation, to revenue enablement? Does the sales team know what your marketing team is capable of? Without mutual understanding, your marketing team will be talking around the sales team and vice-versa, leading to a lack of execution rigor.

This also provides an opportunity to dismiss the 'finger-pointing' and allows for GTM planning to be more proactive rather than reactive. The conversation will focus on "what can we do to avoid missing our number? How can our GTM teams work together to achieve our number?" Teams are more motivated to collaborate when their individual success relies on the success of others through a shared set of goals.

Are Both Marketing and Sales Teams Focused on the Same "Who?"

It isn't uncommon where some prospects and customers would say that they had received a different brand experience when they were pivoted from marketing to sales. If both teams aren't aligned on the same markets, accounts, and even to personas, prospects and customers will receive a disjointed brand experience, leading to a potential decrease in conversion rates.  An ICP defined by both marketing and sales will determine which markets, accounts, and particular personas to target and generate demand and qualified leads at the top of the funnel. Then, Sales will be able to take engaged leads and pursue them down the funnel.

As account segmentation refreshes are executed annually, have your marketing team meet with your sales team to understand account prioritization. Account prioritization makes clear which accounts have the potential to generate the most revenue, enabling marketing and sales to target the same prioritized accounts.

This is an excellent opportunity for your marketing team to target the highest potential accounts with Account Based Marketing (ABM). Successful account-based marketing often relies on multiple campaigns for a specific account or to a few accounts. When executed well, your ABM efforts work in harmony to address the needs of the many decision-makers you aim to persuade. It's crucial you orchestrate your various tactics so that you're communicating effectively, and so that one effort doesn't undermine another.

Understanding the journey of your buyers by persona, from aware, evaluate, and purchase stages of your product or solution will also help align and assign responsibilities across the two teams. Researching and building your buyers' journey will also highlight your teams' marketing and sales enablement content gaps. Understanding content gaps will also help teams prioritize content to create.

Is a Lack of Alignment Around Processes the Reason for a Leaky Funnel?

67% of B2B marketers say there's a 10%+ increase in sales opportunities through lead nurturing, with 15% seeing opportunities increase by 30% or more, further highlighting the need for tight marketing and sales alignment.

When it comes to aligning on processes, there are two key things to define on and document in a Service Level Agreement (SLA): expectations and KPIs between the two teams and conversion definitions.

When defining expectations alongside leading and lagging KPIs, start with working from the end goal to establish how much pipeline from marketing should be generated. How much pipeline is expected from marketing? Is this sourced (first touch), closed (last touch), or influenced? Then understand funnel benchmarks. In recent years, research firms stopped publishing conversion benchmarks (lead to SQL) and have encouraged organizations to focus on continuous improvement instead. Every organization is different. Most importantly, define what a lead means to the teams. Be clear on the ICP and BANT criteria that define a lead and understand why leads progress or fail and continually refine your process.

Process alignment between Marketing and Sales leads to more qualified opportunities and increased win rates. Speak the same language by aligning and agreeing on the same metrics and expectations for managing up, down, and across the organization.

When it comes to conversion definitions, don't be afraid to get into the nitty-gritty and ask the following questions:

  • MQLs - What are the indications that tell Marketing that a lead is more likely to become a customer than other leads?
  • SALs - How does the Sales team determine whether a lead from Marketing meets the agreed-upon SLA?
  • SQLs - How does the Sales team know when a prospect has a need for and budget to purchase a product or service?

Be sure to document all of this and have every member of both teams agree. Both the Marketing and sales departments should view an SLA as a commitment to support each other. When you have alignment on the customers and leads that you're pursuing, it is critical to have a clear view of the different segments you may be serving and the various processes the lead follows. This document should provide concrete, numerical goals, and requirements.

Being Held Accountable for the Alignment

Accountability alignment between Marketing and Sales leads to clear communication and an increase in conversion rates throughout the funnel. Your marketing team should align on accountability with your sales team with clear roles and responsibilities as well as dashboards and other tools from your existing tech stack (including your CRM, martech platform, and others).

Effectively clarifying roles and responsibilities between Marketing and cross-functional groups is imperative for efficiency and productivity. Building out a RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed) chart in your SLA will also help drive accountability. Be sure to list all GTM activities that stretch across the funnel.

Dashboards that align marketing and sales goals are crucial to telling the alignment story—just make sure they're actually telling a story. Work with your data gurus from each team to build out visible dashboards that can inform actions that are measured against assigned KPIs.

An Alignment Initiative Is Not a One-And-Done Initiative

Marketing and sales alignment can't be solved with a wave of a wand. The success of alignment is a constant discussion and discipline around the four pillars of big bets, the customer, the process, and accountability. Teams should use a variety of methods to stay connected and work together to increase funnel conversions, retention, and win rates.

Get started on driving marketing and sales alignment by downloading the marketing and sales alignment checklist to review how your organization is aligned around the four key pillars.


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