2017 is nearly upon us, especially for those of us who still haven’t finished our Christmas shopping! But we’re not here to talk about me; we’re here to talk about trends in the world of sales and marketing. In our new blog mini-series we’ll be discussing important trends affecting sales and marketing in 2017, and how we can prepare to succeed in the New Year.
Today we’ll be talking about the importance of sales and marketing alignment for the upcoming year. Aligning these two departments is an ongoing problem for many organizations, when these two departments are misaligned it can cause a significant loss in productivity, resources and revenue.
When sales and marketing are constantly blaming one another for the lack of leads and sales, it can create a hostile environment where it becomes impossible for either department to succeed.
Lets start by defining what we mean when we talk about sales and marketing alignment. To us it means ensuring that both sales and marketing are working together towards the same goal, and building on each other’s efforts. When they bridge the information gap, each department can support the other with actionable insights for stronger campaign management, lead generation, and better content (Common Places, 2015).
Why are sales and marketing misaligned?
If you feel like there is tension between your sales and marketing department, you’re not alone: “90% of companies say that their sales and marketing teams are not aligned. Of those, nearly 40% say that disconnect prevents them from effectively closing deals” (Marketing Profs, 2015). And if you think your sales and marketing teams are working just fine unaligned, think again. Misalignment can have a serious impact on marketing ROI; it slows growth, reduces conversion rates, and limits lead generation (Marketing Profs, 2015).
In theory it’s marketing’s job to generate leads, and sales’ job to turn those leads into clients. In practice, marketing and sales need to work in tandem. They need to align their roles and goals to ensure that ROI and lead generation become the responsibility of the organization, not individual departments.
“Lead generation suffers when sales and marketing aren’t aligned, often resulting in a ‘spray and pray’ strategy that wastes everyone’s time, experts say. There’s a whole process that needs to be in place where prospects come in from marketing, marketing attracts them to the product or service. Sales is then able to effectively understand the person’s needs and interests and how they can close the deal. With marketing and sales working together, there’s a higher focus on the quality of leads.” (AMA, 2015)
(Stats Source: Marketing Profs, 2015)
We’re going to analyze three ways to create stronger sales and marketing alignment in the upcoming year by focusing on:
- Improving inter-departmental communication
- Defining a common strategy
- Promoting data sharing
Improving Inter-Departmental Communication
Communication is the base of any good relationship; Sales and Marketing Alignment begins and ends with communication. No matter how many quick fixes you try, if your marketing and sales teams don’t speak the same language or exchange information, they’re going to be misaligned. Instead of thinking of sales and marketing as two different departments, we must begin to think of them as a united team where information flows freely.
No surprises here, but the best way to create more open lines of communication is through regular meetings and events that bring the two departments together (Heinz Marketing, 2016). Creating a more consistent and open conversation while developing awareness into the others’ operations, by having marketing participate in sales meetings and presentations. Additionally, sales should participate in marketing meetings at least once a month, to share ideas and provide feedback on their content (Hubspot, 2016).
By opening the lines of communication across the two departments, your teams will be able to build a greater appreciation for customer pain points, and improve their understanding of one another’s role (Business 2 Community, 2016). The heart of true sales and marketing alignment is greatly dependent on an open flow of information between the two departments!
Defining a Common Strategy
Sales and marketing need to coordinate at every step along the sales funnel, creating common objectives, shared goals, and strategies for success.
When the two departments have differing ideas about whom they should be targeting they struggle to reach either audience; they need to coordinate and agree upon the best prospects and customers (Heinz Marketing, 2016). When they work together and reach a mutual understanding of who makes up their buying committees, they can then drive dedicated efforts, and convert their customers faster.
A lot of problems surrounding sales and marketing misalignment occur because they do not agree on the characteristics of qualification for each lead stage. The teams need to come together and establish definitions that everyone can agree upon. They need to decide on the defining characteristics of: a lead, a qualified lead, a sales-qualified and a sales-accepted lead. When they establish and agree upon the terminology and requirements that move a lead through the funnel they can eliminate the problem of bad leads (Business 2 Community, 2016).
Sales and marketing alignment also helps to tie ROI back to marketing. Measuring ROI is a major challenge for many marketers, however, when the two departments share a common strategy and goals, tracking ROI becomes easier. KPIs such as “deals influenced” or “deals sourced” can be connected from specific marketing materials to bottom-line results (AMA, 2015).
Promoting Data Sharing
One of the biggest challenges marketing faces is gaining access to real-time data and insights from prospect and customer interactions. Without information about what buyers are looking for at various stages in their decision journey, content created by marketing relies on misinformed assumptions, which is why up to 70% of all B2B content goes completely unused. We’ve covered this problem in depth in our white paper: managing the content avalanche, click the banner below to download your FREE copy!
Data sharing makes conversations easier, rather than basing discussions on feelings or hunches, each department must take a look at their data and base their ideas on facts and stats (Hubspot, 2016).
Sales needs a platform that will identify and track the demographics and characteristics that their top customers share, that way they can base their future activities and content choices on hard data rather than instincts. This data also needs to be available to marketing to ensure that when they’re creating collateral, they can customize and tailor their presentations to each step in the customer journey.
Closed Loop Marketing (CLM) is a term that has been coined for this kind of data sharing. CLM is a system where the data and insights from sales activities are automatically recorded and shared with marketing. In order for teams to successfully reap the benefits of CLM, they must be committed to broader sales and marketing alignment. By far the best tool for closing the loop and connecting both departments in a seamless way is sales enablement (Hubspot, 2016).
Sales enablement archives all digital content usage data. It records sales calls in real-time and instantly feeds that information back to marketing. Sharing this data can be extremely helpful as it provides users with insights that the other department might not have access to. These platforms also provide sales with the ability to enhance the buyer decision journey, from pre-call planning to post-call follow-up. They help sales to close deals faster by supplying them with the right content at the right time.
The benefits of sales and marketing alignment are clear!
We know that sales and marketing alignment is difficult to achieve, but it’s one of the best opportunities for improving business results!
Aside from finally creating peace between your sales and marketing teams, proper alignment has a positive impact on business success. According to a study by the Aberdeen Group, organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing achieved a 20% annual revenue growth (Hubspot). Additional research found that B2B organizations with tightly aligned operations achieved 24% faster growth over a three-year period (Heinz Marketing, 2016).
Sales and marketing alignment isn’t going to happen overnight, but taking small steps toward alignment will help to transition both departments toward working together as united team. Take the first step today and book a demo with one of our sales specialists to find out how sales enablement can drive sales and marketing alignment.