Creating the Right Chemistry - Sales and Marketing Alignment
Working in the commercial world most of us probably have very set definitions of the roles that sales and marketing people do and what they are responsible for.
Marketing informs and attracts leads and prospects to the company, whilst the sales team work directly with prospects to reinforce the value of the company's solution, converting prospects into customers.
Seems quite simple, however these deeply interconnected groups sometimes don’t always get along. Tensions can often exist around lead generation and follow up, list prices and revenue growth, budget and overall strategy. However, when there is harmony and alignment across the group then sales cycles become shorter, conversion rates improve, cost of sales become lower and there is a greater optimisation of the marketing budget.
So how do you improve the chemistry across your commercial teams? Many of the tensions which can arise between sales and marketing are caused by ill defined roles, terminology and processes.
A simple audit of your sales and marketing team can help you understand where there may be areas of misalignment, challenges with available resource or in the performance of commercial activities. Consider using a third party (either internal or external) to undertake the audit, it needs to be fair to be useful, and not simply an excuse for a moaning session. By their nature sales people can be more outspoken and vocal compared to their marketing counterparts - in order for an audit to work all stakeholders need to be heard.
A qualitative radar chart is a simply way to help identify key areas of misalignment.
In smaller companies there might not be an in-house marketing resource, and the sales person or business development person will often find themselves in a hybrid role, trying to do basic marketing tasks whilst working directly on developing new prospects. As small companies then evolve a marketing person may be hired as suitable budget becomes available. However, this new resource will often be seen as some sort of sales support role, so the role of the marketing person can become somewhat confused.
In larger companies, where there are even more associates the waters may become even muddier. Throw into the mix the Product Manager role, one which in some companies is the same role as the Marketing Manager, and in others is a role focused on purely the creation and life cycle of a product. Then there may be Strategic Account Managers (SAMs) that may want to focus heavily on account based marketing activities. It can all become a little muddled, so ensuring people’s roles and responsibilities are well defined is the first step in overcoming any misalignment.
Set clear activities and goals for each group and very importantly define handover points.
Is your team speaking the same language?
Once people have clear and defined roles the next step is to ensure that everyone is speaking the same language. For example, the term “lead” can mean different things to different people depending on how qualified the lead is and where it fits in your funnel. Have you defined the different segments your target market may break down into and who your target customer personas are? Are you all comparing apples to apples when reviewing sales figures and forecasts?
Working together sales and marketing should develop a set of definitions that will be adopted by both groups to ensure everyone is speaking the same language.
Define the process
Introducing a clear and defined process will not only streamline the way in which the team interacts but it will also introduce the alignment and trackability of KPIs.
Consider how you currently handle leads, how do you capture them, nurture them and pass them from marketing to sales. Do you have a lead scoring system in place?
There are many different marketing automation and CRM platforms available, these tools will make your whole commercial process more data driven, and enable a cohesive sales and marketing funnel approach.
Depending on the size of your organisation and the budget you have available you will want to introduce a sales and marketing process that is right for your business, it is however worth considering scalability before you put a new process in place. Consider where your business is heading, your growth figures and what your strategy is. Putting the right system in place can save you time and money in the long term.
Having the correct platforms and systems in place is only one part of the story. You will also need to determine the process flow and hand off from marketing to sales.
Working together you should develop a lead scoring process and the gates that a lead should pass through in order to move from a raw lead to a marketing qualified lead, and then to a sales qualified lead. At each stage in the process an SLA (service level agreement) should be agreed to by both sales and marketing - this holds everyone accountable for what they have agreed to deliver and over what time scale. For example, if marketing pass a lead to sales then the sales people should agree to a time frame in which to contact that lead. If the lead isn’t contacted within a reasonable length of time then the lead may become cold and the possibility of a sales conversion greatly diminished.
Define KPIs and review
A defined process will allow for the introduction of KPIs that can be measured and tracked. There will obviously be some KPIs that will be unique to each group, marketing will probably be measured on number and quality of leads passed to sales, and sales should be measured on the follow up of those leads, however it is good for the wider group to share some common KPIs, goals that the whole team can work together to achieve.
Ensure you have an easy to use dashboard that everyone can have access to, so the whole team is on the same page and using the same definitions. Tracking KPIs will encourage a more logical and analytical approach to business and discourage an emotional knee-jerk way of working.
Both sales and marketing groups will typically have actions and requests they will need to make of one another, activities such as obtaining voice of customer, building projections, or preparing a local promotion.
Both parties need to be clear in their communication about the time needed and the resource involved to efficiently get things done.
If you are a marketeer that is launching a new product, campaign or a new initiative it’s important that it’s communicated to sales in a timely fashion. Vice versa if you are a sales person with an ask on the marketing group it’s important that you understand what steps (and the cost) that is involved to hit your requirements.
It’s very easy for sales people to think that they bring in all the money and marketing spend it, or for marketing to think that they have to spoon feed sales with absolutely everything, so make sure your teams are communicating with one another.
Set up a combined sales and marketing council that meet on a regular cadence. The council should review marketing campaigns, conversion rates and sales figures. Discuss lead quantity, quality, resource levels, budgets, what’s working and areas of improvement. On a regular basis you should review your commercial processes and tweak as needed to ensure maximum efficiency.
In larger companies, you may want to consider running shadowing days where a sales individual can spend a day with a marketing person and vice versa. This will allow different members of your commercial team to gain insights into each others roles, typical day to day activities and challenges they may face.
If you have an internal newsletter, blog or social intranet site then think about running “a day in the life of” pieces about different team members.
Develop a shared sales and marketing communication plan. Determine how updates and information should be shared across the wider group, what communication platform should be adopted for use and the frequency of updates.
Finally, celebrate success. It’s something we all forget about, but celebrating wins, growth and hitting targets is key to building a positive team spirit.
Polymorphic Marketing offers bespoke training and coaching to marketing teams, we can help you put processes in place to streamline your marketing activities, improving lead conversion rates and the effectiveness of your marketing spend.