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4 Things to Fix Sales and Marketing Alignment

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4 Things to Fix Sales and Marketing Alignment

Marketers are realizing the disconnect between sales and marketing departments and want to help solve the problem. Why? Because they care about the customer experience. They also care about driving revenue for the company. Lastly, they don’t want the opportunities that they deliver to the sales team to go unrealized.

If you’re a marketer reading this and want to take steps to close the divide between the two departments, this is the article for you.

The Marketer’s Mindset
 

Marketers focus (or should) on customers and personas. They dial in user experience of the website. They know that it’s critical that brand value propositions and benefit themes are messaged consistently from home page to landing page. They know that serving the right information at the right time is critical to attracting visitors and converting visitors to leads.

Marketers have also realized that they can generate a large quantity of leads by offering helpful information in exchange for a visitor’s contact information. These leads are typically much higher in the funnel, or earlier in the purchasing process, than ever before. A “lead” might have registered for a webinar with tips and tricks on how to perform a function of their job better. However, that clearly doesn’t indicate an intent to purchase or even an interest in what your company does.

These very early stage leads require nurturing. They need time to understand what benefits your company can provide. They demand helpful information. Forming a relationship with very early stage contacts takes time. This longer sales cycle is not something sales organizations are excited to accept or adapt to.

Early stage leads also create complexities in whether sales or marketing owns the communication.I almost wrote that last phrase as “who owns the sale,” but at this point you’re really just forming a relationship and supporting.

You’re building trust. You should not be selling.

Why Sales (Seemingly) Falls Flat
 

Sales reps are often measured on monthly quotas. They live with a sense of urgency to hit established sales goals. This sense of urgency sometimes leads to some unfortunate, unproductive selling behaviors.

Imagine you’re a sales rep. It’s three weeks into the month and you’re falling short of your monthly goal. What do you do? 

You likely hit the phones. You manually identify new prospects and cold call them with an aggressive sales pitch. You talk too much and don’t listen enough. While you know you should be helpful, you also are on a deadline. 

You push your agenda rather than support the experience of the prospect.

You also might reach out to some of the early stage leads that marketing is sending over to your CRM. Sure, they might have just registered for that webinar, but maybe you can close them quickly. Because marketing is focused on driving as many leads as possible, these leads may not be qualified for a sales communication.

You call and call. You email and email. You overwhelm and scare off what could have (eventually) been a solid lead. You denigrate the company’s reputation and diminish chances of selling to that customer.

So – now that we’ve addressed the drivers of this conflict, what can marketers do to start resolving it?

Start Selling Better – But Make the Process Easier
 

Telling salespeople to change behavior is usually unproductive. They’ve honed in their rhythms and processes over years of experience. Suggesting that salespeople approach sales in a more consultative way (that may result in a longer sales process) probably won’t go over well. 

But, getting buy-in on new processes from salespeople is much easier when they realize they won’t have to do as much work and they’ll get better results.

So, what steps should you take?

1. Automate Early Stage Communication
 

Start by setting up automated email nurturing sequences to your content offers. These helpful emails can be set up in your marketing automation tool to look as though they are being sent by individual sales person. The emails should be written as if they are directed to an individual, from an individual.

The result is that early stage leads receive a series of helpful emails, moving them closer to a point of sale, and the sales team hasn’t had to lift a finger.

2. Create Highly Useful Templates for Sales Follow-ups
 

Another tactic is to ask sales team members what follow-up emails they send after having initial conversations with prospects. You’ll likely find that the responses will vary, both in how the company is positioned and how well the messages are crafted.

Make follow-up easier for salespeople by writing templated responses in the CRM that they can use to call or email follow-ups. You’ll likely improve the quality of communication and align sales efforts to the marketing experience.

3. Listen and Support Sales with Assets
 

Your role as a marketer should be more than just supplying sales with leads. You should also support sales efforts by creating useful assets that can be used in the sales process.

Ask your sales team what questions they’re getting from prospects. Do they have documents that back up their responses? What additional collateral might be useful in the sales process?

This dialogue will uncover new content creation opportunities that not only help on the sales side, but could illuminate additional marketing messaging needs too.

4. Create a Sales and Marketing SLA
 

This is a big one. We highly recommend creating a sales and marketing Service Level Agreement (SLA). This document will help both teams come to agreement on expectations from both parties.

The Marketing-Sales SLA defines: 

  • Who you’re selling to – Are you buyer personas clearly defined?
  • Lead qualification definitions – When is a lead considered marketing qualified? When are they sales qualified?
  • Marketing and sales goals – How many leads should marketing be delivering to sales? What should the close rate of those leads be?
  • How leads move from marketing to sales – At what point does the lead move to the sales team? How should that handoff occur?
  • Sales processes – How many touch points should be included in the sales process? 
  • Ongoing collaboration – How frequently will sales and marketing meet to review effectiveness of the marketing and sales engine and any changes needed?
     

This agreement is critical to ongoing collaboration between both teams. We think this might be best received once some of the prior activities have occurred and sales sees the benefit of increased efficiencies and asset support. Once the olive branch has extended, true alignment and agreement can happen.

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