Sales and Marketing Alignment: Is Everyone Rowing Together?

  |  August 13, 2014   |  Comments

Sales and marketing teams need to be in alignment, like an efficient rowing team, in order to maximize revenue, streamline efficiency, and impress prospects.

While nearly all aspects of marketing automation work great for both B2B and B2C marketing teams, sales and marketing alignment is typically reserved for our B2B marketing friends. So, if you’re a B2C marketer and you don’t have a sales team or sales cycle process, you can take an August vacation and I’ll see you back here in September!

Whenever I think of the concept of sales and marketing alignment, I immediately begin visualizing a large, eight-person rowing team – it is masterful to watch! Under the guidance of the coxswain, each of the eight rowers moves in perfect symmetry, pulling their oars at precisely the same time, in the same manner, in order to maximize the team’s forward movement. If one person is out of alignment, the entire boat can get out of whack and the path to the finish line will be a bit choppy.

Sales and marketing alignment is exactly the same thing! Envision an eight-person sales and marketing team, four in sales and four in marketing, sitting on the same boat moving from start to finish. Every individual team member, and every process, must work in complete harmony in order to ensure that every inquiry is moving through the sales funnel with maximum efficiency. I’ve highlighted a few tips for optimizing your sales and marketing efficiency below:

Define Your Marketing and Sales Stages.

Every company and its sales methods are unique, so take the time to summarize key marketing steps and sales processes. Then, establish your own labels for these steps. Some of you may need only four steps, while others may need eight. This is something you will need to determine on your own, based on your organization’s business goals.

For example, a typical stage list could be: Awareness, Education, Validation, Handoff, Discovery, Demonstration, and Justification. In this example, marketing would be the primary owner of the first three stages, while sales would be the primary owner of the last three. Handoff is the critical step, where marketing passes a lead to sales, and the sales rep must accept or reject it. This particular stage is the heart of the alignment between the two teams.

Define Service-Level Agreements (SLAs) for Follow-Up and Handing.

No matter your organization type, your goals should always be for all lead criteria to be met, for a sales rep to confirm the criteria with the prospect in a timely manner, and for the lead to move to the appropriate sales stage in your CRM system. It is critical for all parties to be on board and have agreed upon timeframes to complete the handoff. Whatever you do, do not let prospects linger at the handoff point! This is a critical area where you can demonstrate your company values as a responsive and helpful organization. If sales happens to reject a lead, it needs to be recycled and placed into a nurture program so it does not go completely inactive.

Get Sales and Marketing Management on Board.

I rarely see the whole process work well without buy-in from sales and marketing executives. These individuals should understand the definitions of all the stages, have agreed upon definitions of when a prospect is ready for handoff, and have committed their organization to respond in a specified period of time. They should also receive frequent reports – either daily or weekly – about the metrics around each stage and see exceptions where reps have not qualified leads within the agreed upon service level agreement. They should also proactively reach out to reps to understand why there is a delay and ensure that it won’t happen again. And, they provide both positive and constructive feedback on both specific situations and on the process and definitions as a whole.

Build the Database at Every Stage in the Process.

Every stage in the sales and marketing funnel presents an opportunity to ask prospects for a bit more information about themselves and their company. Consider using progressive profiling and sales scripts to ensure that the right information is gathered at the right time. Then, make sure you are storing this information in appropriate fields in your digital marketing platform so they can be incorporated into data-driven nurture activities. Don’t let sales capture important information in free-form comments when it would be better served as an entry in a field in your digital database.

Yes, sales and marketing alignment does take work, and it is a process that is constantly evolving and being re-evaluated. However, with practice and dedication, it becomes an efficient rowing machine that maximizes revenue, streamlines efficiency between the sales and marketing organizations, and impresses the prospects with your responsiveness.

Image via Shutterstock.

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Ellen Valentine

Ellen Valentine has more than 20 years of experience as vice president of marketing/CMO for a number of technology companies. She has deep expertise in launching new products, evaluating product and market positions, designing go-to-market strategy, and managing all digital marketing initiatives. She believes that great people and effective technology are foundations for success, but great execution is the ultimate differentiator.

In her role at Silverpop, an IBM company, she's focused on coaching and mentoring Silverpop clients to adapt and thrive in marketing's changing role. She's also a sought-out speaker at industry conferences and events.

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