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5 Keys to Sales and Marketing Alignment

  |  January 23, 2014   |  Comments

There's often a rivalry between sales and marketing, but it's important to align the two groups to ensure business success -- and marketing automation can help.

Since this is an article for a marketing publication, we can all agree: salespeople are lazy. And if I were writing this for a sales publication, I'd have to say marketers don't produce enough leads.

It's common to have this rivalry between marketing and sales in any organization. But while it's a common issue, it's also one that can be easily solved. Many companies have used marketing automation to bring an end to the feud, and you can, too -- by understanding these five simple keys to better sales-marketing alignment.

1: Single Customer View

When you are looking to align sales and marketing, you first have to start with a clear picture of the customer. This has been the hardest thing for marketers to obtain because they often have many disparate tools that do not share data. A clear picture requires knowing all marketing and sales interactions that an individual has with your company, on every channel. This includes a record of every email received (sales or marketing), every web page visit, every social click, and all information stored in your CRM.

This mutual insight allows your marketing and sales teams to share a common definition of your ideal customer and create campaigns around common goals -- and without mutual insight and common goals, you'll never be able to align your two teams. Marketing automation tools give companies this single customer view by connecting the CRM to all marketing channels via lead tracking technology. This single customer view is critical to success, and is a crucial first step to aligning your sales and marketing efforts.

2: Common Definitions

Once you have a single customer view, it's time to create a common set of definitions to make sure you're communicating effectively. Consider the following terms and what they mean to both marketing and sales:

  • Lead:Define what actions and behaviors a lead must exhibit. Define how leads are put into the CRM, and who is responsible for this.
  • Sales-Qualified Lead (SQL):Define when a lead is an SQL, and what determines this. Know what actions are to be taken when a lead is marked as an SQL.
  • Marketing-Qualified Lead (MQL):Define how an MQL lead is passed to sales, and what the time frame of engagement is with all MQL leads.
  • Contact:Define when a contact is created, and how it is created.
  • Account:Define when an account is created, and what information needs to live on the account record or the contact/lead record.
  • Opportunity: Define the stages of an opportunity. Define where information is to be kept about the record. Is it stored on the opportunity, the account, or the contact?

3: Aligned Goals

Goals must be aligned, and in most organizations, they are not. Measuring sales and marketing off the same metric is the only way to ensure goals are aligned. If you measure sales by opportunities, then you should measure marketing by opportunities as well. I'd suggest measuring success based on two metrics: the number of MQL leads generated, and the number of MQLs that turn into closed/won business. This allows you to track the number of leads that marketing is passing over, as well as the quality of these leads.

4: Notifications

The idea that marketing doesn't do a lot for organizations comes from the lack of visibility into marketing's influence. The easiest way to solve this is to give sales visibility into their leads, and into their prospects' interactions with marketing assets. If you already have the single customer view, sales can see each page a person reads and each email a person opens. But consider taking things a step further. For sales to really understand the impact of these interactions, you'll need to make sure they are notified when a prospect takes an indicative action. This does not mean letting them know every time a person opens an email, but consider setting up an alert for when a prospect downloads a buyer's guide or accesses pricing information. This will also be something to talk about when creating common definitions for MQLs and SQLs.

I'd suggest notifying sales reps in a few different ways.

  1. Email notifications: Email your sales rep with the new lead that has been assigned to them. Most marketing automation tools allow for this as a standard feature.
  2. CRM notifications: Many tools allow users to set up a "hot list" where sales can see a list of their most active prospects in one place. This helps them to focus in on who to call each day, and allows them to see the importance of marketing efforts.
  3. Other notifications: Some actions may not need a dedicated email, but are still worth mentioning. These efforts might be best sent via a daily digest to sales. Many tools also have this daily digest feature, and real-time lead notifications as well. Just determine which actions are important before you choose which methods are appropriate.

5: Support Campaigns

Many salespeople have a lot of things on their plate; a great way to help build the bridge is to give them some support. These campaign ideas are very easy and can greatly increase their opinion of the marketing team and your effectiveness.

  1. Lost Deal Campaign: The lost deal campaign will easily help sales stay updated on deals they lose. The campaign can be automated to send emails from the sales rep to the contact to keep the rapport alive during the interim time between evaluations. To set up this campaign, simply build an automation rule to track all closed/lost deals and add them to a drip nurturing program that will run until the next decision-making cycle. This allows sales to just simply mark the deal closed/lost, then have your team take over from there.
  2. Cold-Lead Drip: Despite having great scores, many leads that are passed over are just not ready to talk to sales. These leads are not bad leads, they just might need more time to educate themselves -- time that sales probably doesn't have. So help them out by providing a campaign they can add leads to that will manage these cold leads automatically. To set this campaign up, you'll need a pre-built nurturing program to add them to. You can use an automation to look for a specific field in your CRM to automate this, or do it manually via an export depending on your tool set.
  3. Competitive Drip: Many leads that marketing passes over to sales may be disqualified because they are using a competing technology at the time of creation. These can still be good leads, but sales tends to let them fall through the cracks in pursuit of non-vended leads. Treat these the same as cold leads, and use an automated campaign to find competitive leads and put them on a customized drip. The campaign can look at a basic field in your CRM and add leads to a drip program. The emails in your drip program can even pull fields from your CRM so you can dynamically mention the name of the tool they are using, and use customized text to state your competitive positioning. This automated personalization can save your reps a significant amount of time, and can further improve the relationship between marketing and sales.
  4. Thought Leadership Drip: Another easy way to help sales is to give them a simple process for handling the leads who ask to be followed up with later on. There will be a large majority of leads who say "no," but keep in mind that they became a lead in the first place because they liked something you did. So give them more of what they are looking for. Have your sales reps offer a thought leadership option: the next time someone says "no," have them say, "great, well how about I just catch up with you from time to time via email? I'm always finding good articles on this topic and I'll be sure to send them your way."

Learning that sales and marketing are members of the same team will help you to see the need to have a single customer view, common definitions, and supporting campaigns. The majority of these techniques require a marketing automation solution, and this is just another reason we are seeing such a large adoption in the space. I hope this has been helpful, and feel free to continue the conversation with me on Twitter at @msweezey.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mathew Sweezey

Mathew is the head of thought leadership for B2B marketing at Pardot, a Salesforce.com Company. A consummate writer, he has been featured in numerous publications such as Marketing Automation Times, DemandGen Report, Marketing Sherpa, ZDNet, and is the author of Marketing Automation for Dummeis (Published by Wiley February 2014). As a speaker Mathew speaks around the world at events such as Conversion Conference, Dreamforce, SugarCon, and to companies including Microsoft, Investec, NetJets, and Restaurants.com, to name a few.

Follow @msweezey

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