Sales and Marketing Alignment


Sales and Marketing Alignment

Are your sales and marketing departments separate entities within your company? Do they each exist in their own little bubble, only occasionally meeting in order for marketing to hand over leads or sales to ask for marketing materials?

If the answer to these questions is “yes”, then it’s time to rethink your sales and marketing alignment strategy.

What is Sales and Marketing Alignment?

For decades, businesses have treated sales and marketing as their own separate departments.

Sure, the two work in unison towards a common goal – increasing revenue – but each was its own independent entity.

Sometimes, this worked, but more often than not it led to two teams who should have been working synergistically operating independently.

Sales and marketing alignment (sometimes referred to as “Smarketing”) solves this problem by taking each department out of their silo and creating a new paradigm where they work together to generate leads, nurture them into sales, and create revenue.

What are the benefits of doing this?

For starters, marketing and sales alignment helps both departments operate more efficiently.

But that’s just the big picture. Sales and marketing alignment can also help you:

  • Increase revenue
  • Ensure that marketing materials are being used properly and effectively
  • Shorten your sales cycle
  • Increase conversion rates
  • Help forecast more accurate sales figures

That sounds great, right? Well here are some numbers from an Aberdeen Group study to put it into context.

According to their research, aligning your sales and marketing efforts can lead to: 

  • An increase of 36% in customer retention rates
  • A 38% higher win rate
  • A 32% increase in revenue

Sound like something your company could use? Let’s talk about how to start aligning your teams.  

How to Create Sales and Marketing Alignment

If you’re concerned that figuring out how to align sales and marketing is going to be challenging or require massive change, rest easy. Follow these steps to help get your teams on the same page and ensure your marketing and sales departments are working toward the same goal.

1 Focus on the Journey

The customer journey is one of those things that sales and marketing talk about a lot. Understanding how customers navigate the purchasing process is key to finding and nurturing your leads and turning them into customers. 

Unfortunately, in a siloed sales and marketing situation, the steps of the customer journey can be very different. Fixing this is one of the first steps to making sure both departments are on the same page.

By creating one single unified customer journey, you eliminate mixed messaging and guarantee that everyone’s on the same page and working together toward the same goal.

Consistency in your methodology is one of the key objectives of sales and marketing alignment. Start at the beginning by re-examining every step of your customer journey and build out from there.

While we’re on this bullet, it’s important to note that in order to truly understand the customer journey, Customer Success also needs to be pulled into the fold. They spend more time with the customer understanding their business, challenges, etc., than any other team. And they are a critical source of information to understand your customer lifecycle. Bringing all three teams together (sales, marketing, and customer success) is the emerging trend to elevate traditional Sales Enablement programs to more evolved (and more effective) Revenue Enablement programs.

SEE ALSO: Why Revenue Enablement is the Next Big Thing

If aligning three teams (or even just the two teams) sounds like an impossible task, it’s time to consider software solutions that can help make this a natural practice for your team. Consider Sales Enablement or Revenue Enablement platforms (depending on what you’re ready for) that will offer valuable insights into how you not only acquire customers, but how they navigate your sales funnel. Understanding the journey from the customer’s perspective can not only help you refine your funnel, but also point out potential areas where the funnel can be improved.

2 Define Your Perfect Customer

Once you’ve settled on a customer’s journey that makes sense to both departments, it’s time to go deeper and start to think about the customer as an individual.

Creating a customer avatar or persona is an invaluable tool during this process – because it helps both teams define their target audience. Knowing who the target audience is means it’s that much easier to create marketing and sales materials that are consistent and speak directly to your potential customers.

What you’re likely to find when undertaking this step of the process is that sales and marketing often have very different ideas of who the perfect customer is.

Sales tends to simplify here – rarely going beyond “it’s a person with money and a problem our product can solve!”

Marketing often digs deeper given that they have concerns beyond solely closing a deal and making a sale. And in this instance, deeper is better.

Creating a detailed picture of your perfect customer will help both departments in the long run. The more you know about your ideal client, the better as this will allow you to spend more time focusing on the person you’ve predetermined to be most likely to buy.

Consider everything when creating this avatar – including getting input from sales about the roadblocks customers routinely put in their way. If you can see the problems ahead of time, it’s easier to figure out solutions to circumnavigate them.

At the end of this process, you should have a very detailed breakdown of what your ideal customer looks like. Make sure everyone in both sales and marketing has this document available to them and use it regularly when formulating marketing materials, sales decks, or any other customer-facing information.

Shotgunning your way through the customer avatar stage is a recipe for failure – focus in with laser-like precision and you’ll be surprised at how many more leads and sales you can cultivate. 

If you’re not sure how to get started creating this “model customer,” look into sales AI solutions that can scan through all your historical buyer/seller data (emails, calendar invites, CRM records, sales cycle trends, etc.) and intelligently build your “standard model.” Sales AI solutions can then reference this model to compare opportunities against, make deal projections, suggest specific content, and even recommend sales plays.

3 Let Marketing Lead the Way

When sales and marketing are in misalignment, one of the biggest problems is that they’re often working in opposite directions.

For example, your sales team might be cold calling and emailing prospects out of the blue, while your marketing teams is creating targeted content aimed at a market segment your sales team is ignoring.

In this example, both teams are working, but they’re not working efficiently.

One of the key steps in bringing your sales and marketing teams into alignment is to get them to coordinate their efforts – and you can do this by letting marketing lead the way forward.

In a perfect system, the marketing team’s efforts bring in quality leads through content, advertising, offers, and various other means. These leads should then be passed on to the sales team with a detailed breakdown of where the lead was acquired, what their pain points are, and so on.

With marketing taking the lead, you eliminate a lot of the need for practices like cold calling (which research shows most people hate…) and instead find more qualified leads who’ve already passed through the top stages of the funnel.

By the time marketing hands these leads off to sales, the customer should already be well-informed about the features and benefits of your product, how it can help them solve their pain points, and more.

This frees the sales team to do what it does best – close the deal and sell the service or product.

Everyone involved is more efficient, time is spent on quality leads rather than blind prospecting, and conversions happen more smoothly.

Implementing a process like this is vitally important when it comes to getting your teams aligned. It’s not hard to do, it just requires a shift in thinking and approach. 

But in order to truly empower marketing to produce and deliver the most effective message and positioning, it’s important to funnel buyer engagement data to them from the sales process. Advances in marketing AI has made it possible to arm your marketing teams with data that shows at a granular level how sellers are using marketing materials, as well as, how buyers are engaging with it. But in addition to usage data, it can also show how specific pieces were effective in moving a deal to a specific mile market in your sales cycle. This level of insight enables marketers to make data-driven decisions about content strategy and where to invest production dollars.

SEE ALSO: Sales Content Effectiveness 

4 Define Your Key Performance Indicators and Track Them

You can’t tell how successful your sales and marketing efforts are if you’re not tracking Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) – so this is the time to figure out what metrics you want to track and what a successful KPI looks like for your company.

The one hurdle here is that marketing and sales are generally graded on some very different metrics.

For example, sales people are judged by whether or not they hit their quotas, how many meetings they schedule, new accounts opened, and so on.

Marketing, meanwhile, is often judged on how well landing pages convert, leads generated, and brand issues.

The key is getting both teams together and figuring out where the overlap lies and how you can best measure it.

The good news is that sales and marketing platforms now offer highly detailed analytics tools that allow for incredible amounts of customization. This makes customizing your KPI tracking simpler and more efficient.

Remember – a trip begun without a roadmap often leads to nowhere. Don’t start your sales and marketing alignment efforts without deciding what success looks like and what metrics you’ll use to measure them.

5 Make Sure Your Marketing is On-Brand

One of the big issues with sales and marketing misalignment is that it often leads to confusing or misleading branding.

How many times has marketing described a product one way, only to discover that sales is presenting it with totally different terminology?

Marketing creates a lot of different materials with the goal of helping sales team members stay informed, but too often those assets never wind up in the hands of the people they were intended for.

So, the first step is to make sure sales actually gets marketing assets – but then you must ensure that sales actually uses those tools and doesn’t freelance their way through every customer interaction.

Consistent messaging is vitally important. Mismatched messaging can give potential customers a bad impression of your company, cause lost sales, and waste marketing assets that are created but never used.

To fully align your sales and marketing teams, it’s imperative that both teams understand the message you’re sending.

Confusing customers is a recipe for disaster, but one that’s easily addressed. Utilizing a sales enablement platform can ensure that all marketing materials are centrally located, easily searched, and available to both marketing and sales.

Even better, some sales enablement platforms can tell you how often these marketing assets are used, how effective they are, and help you determine how to best repurpose them for future use.

At any rate, branding is here to stay – and if your sales and marketing department aren’t on the same page in this regard, your branding efforts are being wasted and you’re losing business because of it.

6 Utilize Content Marketing at Every Stage of the Process

Companies spend more and more money each year on content marketing, but most sales team members don’t know that content is available to help them make sales or which content is best suited to their needs. This is a huge issue in sales and marketing misalignment.

We’ve already talked about how over 60% of content marketing materials are never actually used, which is a waste of time and resources in and of itself, but we haven’t talked about how many lost sales and leads this costs a company.

Content marketing can aid your sales team at every stage of the funnel – from how-to guides, to product sheets, to answers to frequently asked questions, to playbooks to help sales pros get over common customer sticking points. A good content marketing program is invaluable – but only if your sales team actually uses the content.

Companies with sales and marketing alignment understand this and marketing ensures sales not only has all the materials they need to make deals, they also ensure sales know how to access these materials and when to use them.

It’s possible to streamline this process by utilizing a sales and marketing platform that not only stores all this material where everyone can find it, but also uses complex AI and prescriptive analytics to help your team choose the right piece of content at every stage of the customer journey.

7 Focus on Lifetime Customer Value

There’s often a tendency to focus on new customers – new leads, new business, new opportunities.

And yet, acquiring new customers costs up to seven times more than it costs to just retain the customers you have.

A sales and marketing team in alignment understands that while new customers are always a goal, there’s revenue to be made in serving the people who are already your customers as well.

Figuring out the lifetime value of your average customer only drives this point home further.

If you’re not acquiring new customers and immediately working to convert them into brand evangelists through your marketing and sales efforts, you’re leaving a potentially huge revenue stream untapped.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there’s a lot of upside to getting your sales and marketing teams on the same page. Too often, these two teams work in independent silos with only minimal crossover – but that’s not how it should be ideally.

Sales and marketing are both key components of the engine that drives a business. Making sure they’re working together toward the common goal of increasing brand awareness and revenue should be an objective of every company looking to grow and increase the bottom line.

Hopefully you now realize that not only is sales and marketing alignment vital to the continued success of your company, but that it’s not particularly hard to implement and see results.

Implementing the seven steps mentioned above will not only help you get the ball rolling, but if done correctly will also ensure your teams are communicating, working in tandem, and reaching ever greater heights.

Accent Technologies is the first and only SaaS company to bring together Sales AI and Content Management in a trueRevenue Enablement Platform. We provide both sales and marketing with better visibility into the performance of their teams. This drives revenue through intelligent recommendations for complex sales scenarios and provides the data for rich analytics that power better coaching, forecasting, and long-term customer support. Learn more about our solutions or request a live demo to see it in action. 

By Accent Technologies

4th August 2020