It's no big secret in the business world that sales and marketing don't always play nice with each other. Usually, this doesn't come from a place of malice. Both teams are working hard to fulfill their roles in the organization. They may even be rooting for each other to succeed. But when barriers to communication and collaboration have been established for a long time, sales and marketing alignment is non-existent. This scenario can be difficult to overcome.
However, the results of sales and marketing alignment are well worth any effort expended. Sales and marketing integration supercharges the efforts that both departments put into generating and nurturing leads. Ultimately, it offers a competitive advantage to the organization as a whole. The teams that work together really do win together.
An Example of How Sales and Marketing Alignment Can Pay Off
How can sales and marketing integration drive results in the real world? Let's use the following scenario as just one example:
Imagine that the sales and marketing teams of Company X are in a meeting. During the meeting, the sales director discloses an obstacle that has prevented several reps from closing sales. Many leads want to hear from actual customers about their experience with Company X, instead of salespeople or online content.
In another organization, the sales team would just have to navigate that challenge on their own. But Company X enjoys sales and marketing alignment. Therefore, their marketing team can come up with a solution: an ambassador program that features enthusiastic customers who are willing to talk to prospects about the benefits of working with Company X.
As you can tell from the foregoing example, sales and marketing alignment isn't just a corporate buzzword that gets thrown around a lot. When implemented properly, it leads to better outcomes in the real world.
With that being said, the question now becomes: How can a business get the alignment process started? Here are five key steps to keep in mind:
1. Become Aware of the Problem
As the old saying goes: "The first step in solving a problem is recognizing there is one." Sales and marketing leadership must internalize the fact that siloed teams result in less-than-optimal results. There must be an acknowledgment that each team, and the organization as a whole, will benefit from an integrated approach to the sales and marketing funnel.
Even if your company has always done things a certain way, that doesn't necessarily mean things have always been done the best way. Strategies that heavily rely on "winging it," accidentally stumbling across workable solutions, or simply "going with the flow" without a clear plan in place are not sustainable in the long run. Do these strategies describe your company's approach to sales and marketing? Then it's time to acknowledge that change is needed.
2. Accept the Need To Shift
Acknowledging a problem is one thing. Actually doing something about it is something else entirely. Sales and marketing leadership must accept the responsibility to take charge of the integration process. There should be consistent advocacy for alignment, both from management and from team members.
One of the biggest pivots your business may need to make involves communication between the two departments. There should be a constant, free flow of information between the sales and marketing teams. For example: does the marketing team consult sales during the development of a new campaign? Does sales understand the unique selling proposition (USP) that marketing emphasizes for new leads?
It may take some time to implement the shift toward integration fully. Strategic thinking, planning, process development and mapping, iteration and action will be required to achieve the ultimate goal of alignment. If leadership forges the path, the teams will follow.
3. Meet Buyers Where They Are on Their Buying Journey
One of the main reasons for pursuing sales and marketing alignment is to facilitate each buyer's journey toward a purchase decision. It's no surprise that different buyers take different paths as they contemplate an offer. Some make decisions based on pricing, others on product quality, still others on support infrastructure. Some leads may want to "de-risk" their decisions based on direct interaction with current customers. Others may be convinced by reviewing simple case studies or product overviews.
The point is, sales and marketing alignment should be designed to accommodate the unique needs of the individual buyer. Both teams should feel empowered to adjust their messaging and approach to address the prospect's concerns.
4. Support Lead Movement Through the Sales Funnel
Sales and marketing integration should be focused on effectively moving a lead from one stage of the sales funnel to the next. There's no place for possessiveness or "territorial disputes" between the two departments. Teams that are in alignment with each other will understand what constitutes a marketing-qualified lead vs. a sales-qualified lead, and when and how the hand-off should take place.
Leadership has to clearly define what guidelines each team should follow, without taking away the flexibility required to handle one-off cases. The more intentional a company's sales and marketing strategies are, the more rewarding the results will be for customers, teams, and the entire organization.
5. Measure Results, Iterate, and Evolve
As your teams come into alignment, you should be able to measure the difference in performance compared to your previous approach. Sales and marketing key performance indicators (KPIs) are the "scorecard" that measures the success of your efforts. Regularly reviewing this scorecard can help you identify areas in which alignment is progressing well, along with areas that need continued attention.
The combination of quantitative and qualitative data (e.g., hard metrics and anecdotal evidence) can help both teams see their role from a new perspective. Perhaps most importantly, seeing what they can achieve through alignment will motivate team members to stay on that path and reap even more success.
In summary, sales and marketing alignment can be a powerful driver for business growth. It offers your company an edge over the competition and may contribute to innovative solutions for challenges that arise. If you implement the five steps discussed above and promote a culture of interdepartmental collaboration, you're all but guaranteed to see improved sales performance as a result.
A healthy relationship between sales and marketing is vital to an organization’s success. Dive deep into this effective strategy in a new book called Sales & Marketing Alignment. If you'd like more insights on how you can improve your sales leadership, contact us. Or sign up for our newsletter for more valuable resources.