Like oil and water, Sales and Marketing teams don’t always “mix” the way they’re supposed to, and at worst, will view each other with suspicion or blame. This is a sad and ironic truth, given that everything these two teams do should support a singular goal of growing revenue.
The benefits of sales and marketing alignment are compelling. Together, these teams have the potential to reduce the sales cycle, meet the needs of high value customers across their buyer’s journey, and directly link ROI to marketing initiatives.
Underscoring the importance of a blended marketing and sales skill set, Forrester Research says the most successful sales people will become hybrid marketers1. By 2020, the need for B2B salespeople will change to demand a more “consultative seller”.
How can Sales and Marketing work more effectively together?
Based on our experience addressing these opportunities for clients, and our first-hand experience with marketing and sales collaboration at Symmetrics Group, here are 6 strategies for achieving sales and marketing alignment.
1. Start with an attitude adjustment – Get curious, not furious
While “furious” may be nowhere near the sentiment your sales and marketing teams feel toward each other, a conscious shift in mindset can get both teams to see and respect the strengths that their counterparts bring. Marketing should respect the listening, probing, and ‘voice of the customer’ sellers bring, while sales can value the creativity and discipline that good marketers offer and what it takes to drive qualified leads from a broad universe.
I’ve appreciated the mantra “Get Curious, Not Furious”, as it quickly creates an attitude adjustment before interactions toward “what can I learn?” and “how can we work together?”
2. Foster a regular cadence of communications/interactions between teams
We regularly talk about a management cadence or rhythm in sales. Why do we so often ignore marketing in that rhythm? Being intentional with regular touch points leads to more collaboration, more ideation, and less surprises.
Marketing should have representation in sales team meetings (even if it means listening only), and Marketing and Sales managers should plan standing monthly meetings. These leaders should identify common metrics that they can review and collectively use to manage the business.
For sales teams and leaders focused on new logo acquisition, this level of integration and cooperation is critical. Marketing should collaborate, not conflict, with Sales to ensure a unified strategy to target the right customers.
3. Establish an integrated view of customers and sales/marketing activities
Sales and marketing should seek a comprehensive and common view of the customer and sales/marketing activities. This means using classic observation and listening skills (e.g., having marketing do ride-alongs with sales or listen in on sales calls), as well as using enabling technologies.
The right enabling technologies, such as well-integrated marketing automation and CRM solutions can be a unifying force between marketing and sales. While we know this is easier said than done for a larger, complex organization, the ultimate goals are to: 1) enable a single contact record for prospects and customers exposing all marketing and sales engagements, 2) capture all marketing initiatives and campaigns and customer engagements in one place, and 3) create a closed-loop revenue attribution system that allows marketers to optimize programs based on performance.
4. Leverage Account Based Marketing (ABM) and Sales Development resources
This common customer view we describe in strategy #3 above applies at the account level too. Account Based Marketing strategies can be one of the most efficient ways to align sales and marketing in that they focus both teams on the highest value target accounts, the contacts within them, and how best to engage with those contacts.
A Sales Development team can help proactively research accounts, and create buyer-centric messaging, and execute one-to-one outreach to nurture and qualify the right people in the right accounts. If you don’t already have a Sales Development team, SDRs can report up through your Sales or Marketing organization and can serve as connective tissue between teams.
SDRs can be aligned to Account Executives and participate in account planning and QBRs to ensure alignment of goals and activity against top target accounts.
5. Align marketing/sales process to your buyer’s journey
At the risk of sounding trite, let the customer’s buying process be the aligning force between sales and marketing processes. This is something we regularly advocate in client work. By doing this, both teams turn their lens onto the buyer (rather than at each other) and together investigate customer challenges, motivations, product/solution needs, and how best to address them.
With a buyer-centric sales process, lines between marketing and sales in the sales funnel begin to blur. Teams drive more clarity around the buyer personas involved at each stage in the sales process (decision makers and key influencers). What naturally follows is the definition of the content, supporting collateral and tools, and stage-specific selling skills needed from top to bottom.
6. Make content marketing a collaborative process between sales and marketing
According to CEB, B2B buyers don’t contact potential vendors until 57% of the purchase process is complete2. This is one of many factors that have fueled the growth of content marketing. Marketers should vet blog topics, content offers, and customer stories with Sales to align with and support the buyer’s journey and selling objectives.
Consider a central content calendar (or wish list of topics/themes) that the sales team contributes to, and identify content opportunities to not only drive inbound leads, but support other stages of the sales process as well.
To quote Andrew Carnegie, "Teamwork is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”
This is definitely true with sellers and marketers. We hope the above strategies help your sales and marketing teams spend less time scrutinizing each other and more time with proactive scrutiny of market opportunities.