We are living in the age of the customer. The modern buyer has nearly unlimited access to customer reviews and product information. It does not matter if you are in sales or marketing, a customer-centric mindset is essential.
To develop an organizational culture that puts the customer at the heart of everything you do both sales and marketing must align with the customers’ needs and pain points. Therefore, sales and marketing must join forces and understand each other better to optimize every step of the buyer’s journey and make it 100% customer-focused. As Jill Rowley, chief evangelist and an expert in #socialselling, puts it:
“The new reality is that marketing needs to know more about sales, sales needs to know more about marketing, and we all need to know more about our customer.”
Two (not too) different worlds
In most companies, sales and marketing are on different pages. They are working towards different goals. Marketing projects are often more long-term while salespeople have to meet their monthly quota. Naturally, this leads them to have different expectations of each other: The sales team is pointing fingers at the marketing team for not bringing in enough qualified leads. The marketing team usually complains about a lack of strategic thinking on the sales side. Ultimately, the customer gets an inconsistent value proposition throughout the funnel.
Despite the considerable changes in the relationship between sales and marketing over the last handful of years – and, trust me, there have been substantial improvements – the need to align these two critical functions should always be top-of-mind for companies of all sizes. It is one of the biggest opportunities to improve your business performance. One thing is clear:
There can never be too much synergy between these teams.
But how do you create this synergy?
Closing the gap between sales & marketing
Simply making sure these two teams interact regularly can be a great first step towards alignment. Communication is essential. A weekly sales & marketing meeting will allow people to get a better understanding of the other team’s day-to-day business. What challenges is marketing facing? How can the marketing team make salespeople's life easier?
Each team can benefit from the other team’s learnings. For example, sales gets a lot of customer feedback that would be very helpful for product management and marketing. By developing a way to efficiently collect customer feedback from sales to marketing, both teams can come together to refine their strategies and become more customer focused
In the end, each team member should develop a full funnel view.
The marketing team must understand that generating revenue, not just leads, is the end goal.
One effective way of mastering this transition is by giving marketing targets that align with sales and, by extension, with the goals of the company.
Sales teams have long been responsible for clear, targeted quotas: qualified meetings booked, pipeline generated, and deals closed. The system works.
But marketing, historically, hasn’t been held to the same set of expectations. For example, a decade ago, it was all about the brand. Marketing built the voice, tone, and outward “appearance” of the company (they still do, of course), and were bound by fuzzy metrics such as overall departmental spend.
That’s all changed over the years . With the rise of analytical lead generation, marketing is getting measured in a myriad of new ways, and answering to more effective quotas. For example, there are a lot of marketing leaders now being measured on key metrics such as qualified opportunities generated, or qualified pipeline created per month. This is a substantial departure from outdated marketing quotas such as leads generated per month, which is a vanity metric like eyeballs, or visitors.
If you know a marketing leader that doesn’t yet have a quota, this is the best place to start; it keeps marketing and sales on the same page and is the best leading indicator of revenue growth. By measuring pipeline, companies will always have a sense of whether revenue will grow (or not), and marketing will be better aligned with sales. Remember, sales cares about qualified opps and building pipeline, and they’re used to being measured as such.
Another opportunity for alignment is to create a written sales and marketing SLA (service-level agreement). In this agreement, you need to clearly outline each lifecycle stage of the funnel. Define and document a set of criteria and measurements for MQLs, SQLs, etc. and use this as the foundation of your SLA. Take it from there and discuss together how you want to drive your leads through the funnel. Create a set of rules to align your operations and goals for each team to be measured against.
Many studies have proven the benefits of SLAs. Teams using SLAs are 34% more likely to experience greater year-over-year ROI. They are 21% more likely to get greater budget allocations. Also, organizations are 31% more likely to be hiring additional salespeople to meet demand and 4 times as likely to say that their marketing is effective.
If you want to take alignment one step further, take a bolder approach: Maybe it’s time to let go of all the ineffectiveness. Maybe it’s even time to remove the walls between your departments. You can abolish the marketing and sales buckets altogether and create a unified ‘revenue team’. Bringing both disciplines under one banner can be a powerful move – not only are these two critical functions working in unison towards the same goal, they’re actually part of the same team. That is alignment.
Author Bio: Aaron Ross is Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Predictable Revenue, Bestselling Author of the book Predictable Revenue and was one of the first 150 employees at Salesforce where he built the outbound methodology that is practiced around the world in sales teams today.
Editor: Moritz Pinkenburg, Marketing Specialist at Badger Maps.