It’d be hard to argue against the thought that a better alignment between sales and marketing means a better bottom line. According to Salesforce’s third annual State of Sales report, 88 percent of high performers said they have sales and marketing teams that share common goals/metrics while only 61 percent of underperformers said they have the same. Further, 82 percent of high-performing organizations have sales and marketing teams that have a standard process for collaboration. Only 57 percent of the underperformers have the same.
Aligning sales and marketing teams is such a common thought there’s even a conference around it. The question is how to actually align the teams. We’ve caught up with some experts, experienced marketers and sales professionals who shared some tips how to get it done.
Understanding When Marketing Campaigns Have Reached Leads
Sales reps should have the full context into how leads have interacted with their brand and what touchpoints they’ve already had so they can offer potential buyers a personalized experience, said Lynne Zaledonis, senior vice president of product marketing for Sales Cloud at Salesforce.
Additionally, sales reps should understand the details of the offers and campaigns with which leads have interacted. “In order for sales teams to do that, marketing teams needs to enable sales staff with the right information,” she said.
Having a Central Place to Understand Customers
Marketing and sales teams will benefit with a unified or central place to see where customers are in the buying process. “By having one coexisting space,” Zaledonis said, “marketing teams can better understand how leads and prospects are reacting to content and sales communications. This transparency will streamline communication across both teams, and allow sales members to get better qualified leads and spend more time focusing on the customer journey.”
In Small Shops, Take Advantage of Tool Sharing
What about the firms that have literally one sales and one marketing person? Colton De Vos, marketing specialist at Resolute Technology Solutions, lives this reality. Resolute Technology Solutions has one marketing person (De Vos) and one sales person who work closely together to generate leads, qualify them, get them to the prospect stage and eventually, in the ideal scenario, work together. "We do this by collaborating on shared documents and tools," De Vos said. "I’ll add background info on our prospects including contact details, size and industry, and what their pain points seem to be. Sales will follow up with each prospect marking whether or not it was a good lead and where they found value in our service for further marketing materials optimization."
They also collaborate on content creation in order to create informative and valuable material that does not give away too much detail so that it leads to a sales conversation. The duo also has a live chat plugin on their website which is managed by marketing to provide high-level information to visitors. When they indicate they are interested in pursuing a service, the visitor is connected with sales, which has access to a transcript of the conversation. "We regularly meet to make sure we are using the same language and that our messaging, prospect profiling and tools are aligned for success," De Vos said. Offers on the website that marketing pushes out such as eBooks, free consults and checklists tie directly into the team's CRM for sales.
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Recognizing the Importance of Everything, Even Renewals
The more information shared between marketing and sales, the better. There are some sales teams that may think renewals aren’t important. But that data can help make them better salespeople and help them understand why a product they sold fails to become a hit thereafter, according to Byron Banks, vice president of product marketing at SAP. “If we’re not getting renewals, that means people aren't happy with that product, and it's a leading indicator of sales. As a salesperson you start to understand how much value there is in knowing how the product is being used.”
Banks said his team accomplishes this in a once-a-week meeting featuring sales, marketing and other important departments. In the past, there’d be a marketing meeting, a sales meeting, and once a quarter there’d be a business review where the tone would be typical: sales blames marketing and marketing blames sales. “Whereas now we have a meeting every Friday, and marketing’s there, sales is there, the renewal people are there, and everybody has their say about what’s going on,” Banks said. “It’s fantastic. It’s not a sales forecast call, although that’s what we call it. It’s really a business forecast.”
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Produce Qualitative Reports That Resonate
Marketing and sales work better together when going beyond anecdotal tales and showing hard numbers, said Tony Kavadas, executive vice president of global alliances and international sales at Mediafly. Marketing teams may be out there creating content that they hear from the field, content they think the field needs. It could be content marketing, videos, PDFs, presentations. But feedback from sales on the content comes back as anecdotal. Marketing doesn’t know what resonates. Sales doesn’t share good analysis on how marketing’s content really performs. “There’s nothing really quantitative,” Kavadas said.
Instead, marketing and sales teams need to be able to pull reports and determine which content performs best. Why is this slide only getting 10 seconds per view? Who views what piece of content? This actionable data can help improve marketing content and ultimately sharpen sales teams. “Before there were silos,” Kavadas said. “Marketing would create content and sales would throw up a PowerPoint. But once they hand it over there would be a disconnect.”
Conduct Mini Interviews
Stacy Caprio, founder of Accelerated Growth Marketing, said one of the most effective ways for marketing to collaborate with sales is to have mini interviews with individual members of the sales team. This will help marketers learn the language customers are speaking, what their pain points are, and their favorite parts of the product or service. “Once marketing has that information,” Caprio said, “they can incorporate that into their language and marketing materials and ads as they target new customers.”
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Collaborating at Hosted Events
Mark Bealin, managing partner at SearchLab Chicago, said his company’s marketing and sales teams "share the load" at events and are better off through their collaboration. Members of the marketing team are adept at providing the content for events. This typically involves speaking and presenting to groups in their office in Chicago or at seminars nearby. "The events demonstrate our capabilities and the depth and breadth of our expertise," Bealin said. "The content from the event is easy to repurpose into marketing material we can use later on."
Meanwhile, the sales team benefits from coordinating the attendees. "They invite highly satisfied clients as well as prospective clients to hear the presentation," Bealin said. "The happy clients become ambassadors for our agency and help the sales team convince the prospective clients about the benefits of the services we provide."
The experience of hosting (vs. attending) events has been especially helpful, Bealin said. "We've found that having potential clients in our office interacting with our team is the best way to facilitate sales," he added. We invite partners in similarly, but typically non-competitive industries for panel discussions. The partners become potential referral sources for the sales team and provide a more well-rounded discussion for attendees. "The result is a fun experience that builds continuity between our sales and marketing divisions," Bealin said.
Take it to the Road
Emily Larkin, marketing coordinator for Obility, helps her team create events that allows sales and marketing to "succeed together." The team this year began hosting Lunch & Learns for leads. They recruit for the events with targeted marketing for the given region and calls to current prospects. From there, they plan out communications, and, depending on where the person is in the funnel, they'll determine how they want to customize their experience. The Lunch & Learn will typically be on an intermediate-level topic of their services/offerings. "Marketing will amp up registrants beforehand to increase the attendance rate, and the sales team goes to the event to talk one on one," Larkin said. "From there, we'll do nurture streams and offerings unique to the person's experience."
They also put on an annual conference called "Marketing Loves Sales," with the very mission to align the goals of these two departments; it's for B2B companies specifically. "It allows a space for important presentations and discussions on such collaboration," Larkin said, "and we aim to have a fair representation of both marketing and sales in attendance."
A Blog of Anecdotes and Success Stories
To communicate effectively and have the same guideline, sales and marketing departments must develop a shared culture and speak the same language, according to Sophie Miles, CEO of CalculatorBuddy.com. "A blog," she said, "is a powerful tool that can facilitate it and make it easier to gather and share valuable information. The sales staff can use these sources to access templates, case studies, success references and technical/commercial articles, which, well done, will help them in the different stages of the sales process to ensure that the prospects advance until closing."
Sharing success cases will be useful to increase motivation, sense of belonging and disclosing the values of the company. Miles suggested archiving categories of your company's blog and structuring content by type of problem, industrial sector or type of solution. The marketing department can easily access these success stories and share them in the early stages of the sales process to create interest and close an interview for sellers. The sellers, in the most advanced stages of the commercial process closest to the closing of the sale, can share these success stories to justify the sale and decrease the perception of risk, showing how other similar customers have already walked the road and have found success.