Sales, Meet Marketing: 3 Actions to Foster Greater Alignment

Jeff Calderone by

At companies big and small, sales and marketing departments are continually at odds over lead quality, who gets credit for the sale, who owns the relationship – and so on.

It doesn’t have to be this way and in fact it is imperative that the modern B2B organization bring sales and marketing together as a cohesive team.

Hugh Macfarlane, Founder and CEO of align.me studied 1,400 professionals in 84 countries around the world and found that businesses that have the greatest degree of alignment close 38% more proposals than non aligned businesses. They also lose 36% fewer customers to competitors. These are solid companies doing all the right things within their respective organizations and they can bump their top line significantly just by getting sales and marketing to work from the same script.

So what do we do?

First, we have to clear the air and get on the same page. Sales and Marketing need to agree on things like what a marketing qualified lead is and how best to measure it. They also have to understand that they are on the same team and need each other. Sales would like Marketing to deliver more quality leads but they need to realize that they are uniquely qualified to help with this effort. Sales sits directly across the table from prospects everyday and they understand the business they can close, where the pain is and how the company’s offering makes that pain go away. This insight can help Marketing create personas that align with the actual prospects that Sales can close. In addition, Sales understands the buying process and the factors that can derail an opportunity. This sales specific information can be used to create more accurate personas of the company’s best customers and to refine what targeted messages marketing sends and when.

The final thing that Marketing and Sales can do to align is to agree on a shared set of metrics that defines success for each team. They, of course, have different roles to play but shared metrics and rewards will ensure that the two teams remain integrated.

None of the above works without data, so the next step is to pick and use tools that can formalize the process and create the feedback loop which will ensure continued success. At Elevated Third, we have chosen Salesforce as our CRM and we use the Pardot marketing automation platform. Salesforce acquired Pardot when they purchased ExactTarget in 2013. They work very well together currently and their technology roadmap suggests tighter integration and efficiency in the future. Whatever CRM and marketing automation tool you use, here are the three things to consider:

1. Lead Qualification

Marketing automation tools can pull in an enormous amount of data about the lead and their activity. This data can be scored according to a predetermined algorithm and once their activity indicates that they may be ready to transition into an opportunity, the marketing automation tool can move them into the CRM and notify the sales person to take action. All of the lead’s activity and background information is then available to Sales before they make contact increasing their chances to close. Using an objective system to score and grade leads reduces the subjectivity involved and ensures the data is interpreted in context. The algorithm should change and improve over time but only when there is enough data to make objective decisions.

2. Lead Nurturing

Often non-sales-ready leads are ignored or passed through to sales as if they were ready. This of course either leaves them wandering out there, never to be heard from again, or scared away by someone working through a non qualified call list. A better solution is to nurture these cooler leads until their activity shows an intent to move on to the next step in the buying process. For example, based on their original activity, leads can be added to campaigns that automatically email them relevant content within a given time period. If they take additional action, they can be added to another campaign with more relevant content and a slightly more direct ask.

3. Closed Loop Reporting

Asking Sales and Marketing to work together and to fundamentally change the way they operate is a big deal and old habits are ingrained. The new paradigm needs to be reinforced and that is one of the main values of closed loop reporting. With it, both Sales and Marketing can identify the first touch point of a closed deal and therefore tie revenue to marketing activity. This reinforces the partnership and encourages both teams to continuously work to improve the system.

The companies that are able to combine their sales and marketing efforts, work together to qualify and nurture leads, and bravely look at the data and improve will lose fewer opportunities, close more leads and drive more revenue.