The Basic of Marketing and Sales Alignment

Joshua Robitaille on Team Building

Marketers create awareness, sales reps close deals.

That’s pretty much how organizations have been thinking of the two functions for decades. Such distinct separation of responsibilities and expectations is not always healthy as it puts up walls between the two departments, adversely affecting your bottom line.

Sales and marketing misalignment is a common problem among small and large companies alike. Today we will go over a few strategies to address it.  

Why Marketing and Sales Should Be Aligned

Deeper Understanding of Customers

Marketing and sales often have a very different view of a customer. Marketers tend to focus on a target audience as a whole, producing content and delivering ads that would appeal to the highest number of people within this group.

Sales teams, on the other hand, possess a treasure trove of knowledge on individual buyers, decision making processes, competitors, and clients’ challenges.

Higher Quality of Leads

This in-depth understanding of clients and their needs allows sales to assist their colleagues in marketing in targeting and segmentation. With personalization playing an increasingly important role in having your message stand out, precision in segmentation can drastically improve the quality of leads that marketing generates.

Improved Conversion Rates

According to a study, organizations that closely align their marketing and sales activities, increase the probability of closing a marketing-generated lead by 67%.

Furthermore, B2B companies with aligned operations achieve their three-year revenue growth 27% faster than those with poor alliance.

Stronger Value Proposition

It’s not only sales that can feed marketing actionable information on clients. Marketing, too, can play an essential role in helping sales reps understand industry trends and messaging leverage opportunities. Marketing’s macro view of the pipeline and access to numerous data points across clients’ online and offline journeys give them a unique ability to help sales boost their value proposition and outreach strategies.

Lower Cost of Customer Acquisition

Improved campaign targeting, faster data transmission, and stronger focus on shared objectives result in customer acquisition cost reductions. Efficiencies in marketing and sales collaboration can allow you to:

  • achieve sales goals with smaller teams
  • spend less on advertising
  • increase the number of qualified and converted leads
  • lower tech costs
  • eliminate administrative redundancies

Areas Where Marketing and Sales Must Be Aligned

Technology

An average enterprise uses around 91 marketing cloud services. For sales and CRM, specifically, that number is 43, while for marketing – 91. It comes as no surprise that many organizations find their data siloed within individual departments. Yet, it’s the mobility of data that gives it true value.

Therefore, step one in your alignment process should be establishing strong communication and data flow channels by either unifying software applications used within your organization or establishing bridges between difference pieces of tech via scalable integration methods.

Objectives

A sales team’s success is measured by the amount of revenue it delivers and the number of deals it closes. A marketing team’s success is primarily measured by the number of leads it generates. Such discrepancy in objectives results in poor alignment between the two teams. You end up with marketing trying to deliver the highest number of leads possible at the lowest cost and sales complaining about the quality of these leads.

Now, it is probably not going to work out well for your organization if you remove the commission incentive from the sales team. However, you can move the needle by rethinking marketing’s KPIs. Additionally, encourage your sales reps to work with marketing in such areas as social and content by educating them on the lead generation and brand awareness possibilities of various channels.

Strategy and Campaigns

The following scenario is far from unique. Marketing launches a special promotion offering discounts to existing accounts if they extend their contract by another year. Sales gets furious, because not only does the campaign interfere with their ongoing negotiations, but it directly impacts their commission.

Actions you can take to avoid this include:

  • briefing your sales team on a yearly marketing strategy,
  • developing joint sales and marketing targets and strategies to achieve them,
  • educating your marketing team on the sales process
  • giving your sales team sufficient notice of upcoming marketing campaigns to allow sales representatives to adjust their pitch
  • gathering feedback from both teams on what types of campaigns would resonate best with your target audience

Content Marketing and Social

A study done by Accenture found that 94% of B2B buyers do independent online research at some point during the buying process. In fact, up to 80% of the buying process is done before a prospect has any direct communication with a company.

Taking control over what a potential customer finds when he/she researches products to match specific needs and how they perceive your product is what so many marketers focus on. SEO, content marketing, influencers, social media, email campaigns, and digital ads are all utilized to take a user on a guided journey that will eventually lead to a sale.

Unfortunately, sales teams are rarely involved in the process. Yet, their network reach via such platforms as LinkedIn and their database of contacts make them invaluable in placing the right message at the right time.

Marketing should provide active support to its sales team in creating and distributing content. Amplify your message by educating your sales team how different pieces of content can be used for different various types of engagement and what social media channels can be used to promote this content. Make sure that your content and social media marketing efforts are coordinated and synchronized.

Target Audience

Does it come as a surprise that organizations have multiple ideas on what a target audience for their products is? It shouldn’t. Only 24% have a unified view of target segments and accounts. This lack of accurate shared data on target accounts is ranked as the number one challenge to sales and marketing alignment.

Jointly developing buyer personas will not only improve the quality of marketing leads, but decrease the cost and increase the speed of customer acquisition. However, this should not be limited to a one-time sit-down between marketing and sales. As customer journey evolves and stakeholders within buyers’ organizations change, so should your buyer personas.

Marketing and Sales Funnels

Last but not least is the alignment of marketing and sales funnels. Due to the longer sales cycle in the B2B industry, by the time a lead converts, marketing often times loses track of it. Lack of transparency and accountability from both sides contributes to inefficient marketing and sales funnels.

From mapping out a funnel, to devising engagement strategies, to developing strategies to qualify leads, to estimating the duration of each stage in a funnel, to setting KPIs, it must be a joint exercise.

In an ideal world, marketing and sales would work seamlessly together, coordinating strategies and delivering on common objectives. The reality often fails to deliver. However, that doesn’t mean that pushing your internal boundaries to come as close to perfect alignment as possible is not worth it. Even the smallest shifts can yield impressive business results.