It seems you can’t go long in the business world these days without hearing about the need for better sales and marketing alignment—and rightfully so. The direct correlation between best-practice sales and marketing alignment and increased revenue is staggering. According to Aberdeen research, the best-in-class company performers achieved 31% average year-over-year growth in annual company revenue, versus 18% for industry average performers. The same study showed a 6.7% decrease in revenue among those falling behind in aligning sales and marketing.
While it’s not a process (or an evolution) that can be changed overnight, if you are finding your company falling behind in the area of sales and marketing alignment, simply making the decision to begin the process and/or gaining executive buy-in is a good starting point.
In this article we’ll outline the challenges, offer 8 tips to enhance sales and marketing alignment, share 7 steps to building a successful sales and marketing strategy, and provide resources if and when additional help is needed.
If we break it down to the basic definition, marketing is everything we do to reach, tell a story, and persuade prospects. The sales process is everything we do to educate, inform, close the sale, and get a signed agreement. Both are necessary to the success of a business. We can’t do without either process. And if we work to strategically combine both efforts the data shows that you’ll experience business growth. However, if the efforts are unbalanced or departments don’t communicate regularly and effectively, it can seriously hinder that growth.
When considering marketing vs. sales, the important thing for any business is to ensure that we are considering both aspects in your overall sales and marketing strategy. In some businesses, marketing and sales are managed by the same department or even the same people because they need to be closely related and alignment is more intuitive. In other companies, sales and marketing are managed separately, and teams may not be in the same office or even in the same market.
Sales and marketing work in tandem to attract customers and move business forward. Aligning the two disciplines is an integral part of creating a strong and consistent customer experience. At Imaginasium, we utilize a customer experience ecosystem to help connect the pieces and take the big picture into consideration. We believe marketing only works when it’s part of that bigger picture.
When there’s alignment between who you are, what you say, and what customers experience, you’ll be headed in the right direction.
Regardless of your situation, the teams must communicate often and work together to align goals. Sales needs to incorporate the same messaging or story as marketing in order to be effective and maximize the chances of successfully making a sale.
Let’s get started with 8 tried-and-true tips to help you with internal alignment of sales and marketing.
1. Meet Regularly
In order to align sales and marketing successfully, it is very important to get significant facetime. Collaborate on an agenda and discuss challenges, share processes, resources, and best practices from the start. Use this time to get to know each other and share how marketing is playing an expanding role in the sales process and vice versa.
If you have a large number of salespeople, hold a regularly scheduled meeting (virtual or, better yet, face-to-face) to set these expectations and field any questions. Consider rotating the meeting facilitator between sales and marketing roles, another way of reinforcing the expectation of ongoing collaboration and shared responsibilities.
2. Lead with Listening
It’s important to understand one another’s role and align on key objectives. Start by listening intently to one another and taking notes. Sales should share what they are faced with when it comes to specific sales situations and customer needs throughout the buying cycle.
Marketing should share their knowledge of marketing strategy, experiences, and tools that they have access to that will help move the buyer along. Both parties should share where they’ve seen success or failure.
3. Facilitate Training if Needed
Spend time together and shadow one another for a period of time. Ask a lot of questions and keep notes. Marketing should sit in on a few sales calls and sales should take part in marketing planning meetings to share their perspective and ideas. Review and discuss previous sales and marketing plans and initiatives and discuss what programs and messages were successful and what fell flat. Identify areas where specific training is needed (such as CRM, Buying Process, Marketing Resources, Media Processes, etc.) and put an action plan together.
Make cross-training part of your onboarding process so that an appreciation can be gained for each distinct role before lack of communication or culture separation begins.
4. Share Resources
Salespeople work hard to develop and nurture customer relationships and marketers work hard to create resources that sales will find beneficial throughout the buying cycle. All that hard work goes to waste if your marketing team doesn’t understand sales situations and/or your sales team can’t find or don’t see value in marketing materials made available to them.
Once there is a general level of trust across departments it’s logical for sales and marketing to share resources. Materials may include sales plans, marketing plans, brochures, collateral, company overviews, presentations, templates, contracts, personas, content and campaign calendars, etc. It’s best to keep all your sales and marketing resources in one shared place (such as Google Docs or Google Sheets) where both departments can easily access them.
5. Gain Consensus on Goals
Discuss overall company goals that have been communicated and make sure sales and marketing are on the same page. It’s important to agree on goals, strategy and department for individual responsibilities. Set up a strategy session to prioritize needs and business goals and agree on a timeline to hit milestones. If you are prioritizing customers, you should also discuss how you’ll approach this and how communications and support may differ by customer. Remember to clearly outline responsibilities so that it’s understood what initiatives are sales-driven or marketing-driven.
6. Create a Team Email Group
Initiate an email group that gets sent to both sales and marketing employees. Leadership should use this flow of communication so that the same information is being shared at the same time across departments.
If communication that impacts both teams is done in silos it creates separation. For example, if marketing relays what they’ve already heard and/or sales forwards information from the top-down it becomes fragmented, and it’s frustrating if either team feels like they aren’t included in key communications.
7. Share Calendars
Take advantage of calendar sharing capabilities. It’s helpful to see what commitments are in place, when travel or key internal/external meetings are scheduled to determine when it’s best to get in touch or plan ongoing calls.
This is also a helpful tool for building schedules for completion of sales materials, key presentations, training, etc., and you can add milestones or due dates to the calendars. In addition, simply allowing the other department access to your calendar supports a collaborative relationship and shared responsibilities.
8. Have Fun and Get to Know One Another
Finally, some of the most important advice is to try to get to know each other as people. Organize lunches, outings, attend events or conferences together, celebrate successes, share key learnings and just have fun.
Developing personal relationships helps build trust among team members and ensures that people feel comfortable leaning on each other for support. It will help eliminate the divide between the two departments.
7 Steps to an Effective Sales and Marketing Strategy
Once we are seeing a shift toward better alignment between sales and marketing, the next step is collaborating on putting an effective sales and marketing strategy together. With all the various communications tools and ever-changing technology that is available, it can seem like a daunting task.
To reduce some of the pressure you’re feeling, we’ve compiled a list of 7 steps to help get you started.
9. Establish a Budget
Make sure you’ve allocated enough resources (people and money) to accomplish your company’s marketing goals for the year. The size of your marketing budget will depend on a number of factors, including how quickly you want to see results. If you have big expectations and a small budget, you’ll be disappointed by your lack of results, and your team will be frustrated by their inability to meet your goals.
According to The CMO Survey, most companies spend roughly 11 percent of their overall revenue on marketing. But be sure to monitor allocations and make adjustments based upon results to ensure it’s money well spent
10. Review Target Audience and Personas
Who have been your most successful customers, and why? Define your ideal customer and revisit personas if you have them.
“A persona is a semi-fictional representation of your real and potential customers, based on market research and data. A persona uncovers your customers’ goals, motivations, behaviors, values, and pain points.”
Fully understanding your personas helps you plan a marketing strategy that solves your real customers’ challenges and leads them through the sales funnel appropriately
11. Document the Buyer’s Journey
Once your personas are updated, document the journey each persona will take toward becoming a customer. Your contacts take small steps along the way to becoming a buyer. Plot out interaction points your personas will have with your content or your company. This is your buyer’s journey—and each persona has their own.
At each point along the way, identify the persona’s main questions, motivations, and potential objections. Then identify the kinds of content and marketing support and reinforcement you’ll need to meet them at each point along the buyer’s journey. Determine what calls to action (CTAs) to include in order to lead them to the next step.
12. Identify Your Points of Differentiation
Make sure both sales and marketing are in agreement on what makes your company different from your competitors. Talk to some of your top customers or send them a quick email survey to find out why they chose to work with you. Find out what would make them do business with competitors.
Your content and marketing communications should always be developed with your unique point of difference front and center.
13. Review your Sales Strategy
Does your company have a documented sales process? If so, share it with the marketing team if they haven’t seen it already. Let them provide input and fine tune it together. Evaluate your internal sales tools (traditional and digital) and CRM (customer relationship management) system and make sure it is set up to support your process.
14. Draft a Formalized Marketing Strategy
Take the objectives and goals you’ve identified and put them to paper. Develop an outline for your marketing strategy and consider a phased approach if necessary. Determine ROI metrics.
Make sure you have clearly defined metrics for measuring performance. Set up regular check-in meetings to review progress, identify and address issues, and align activities across teams. Don’t be afraid to test new tools. Make any revisions as needed based upon what the data tells you. Save all ROI reporting in your shared folders so that both sales and marketing can access them.
15. Review Your Progress and Adjust Accordingly
With a properly aligned sales and marketing team, one area that will see improvement, an ongoing challenge for many companies, is reporting ROI. Review what progress has been made in the areas of inquiries, meetings secured, contracts signed, customer growth, and ultimately revenue generation. If you can measure the performance of specific sales and marketing tactics, do so, and adjust budgets to support initiatives where you see results.
We would love to hear any additional tips and steps you have found successful to add to our list so please leave those in the comments below.
Put Your Sales And Marketing Alignment Plan Into Action
While it may seem like an overwhelming task, it will be well worth the investment of time and resources to better align your sales and marketing teams. Goals will be clear. Redundancies will be minimized. There will be less tension and finger pointing. Revenues will be increased. And odds are, it will also help create a more fun, engaging and collaborative culture.
We implore you to get started today, and if you need help along the way, reach out to us.
Imaginasium is a marketing and communications firm that works with companies to clarify their message, build a culture that believes and supports the company’s vision, and create marketing that drives customers to action. We do that by creating understanding of who you are and what you stand for inside your own walls.
Then, guided by our unique Customer Experience Ecosystem framework, we help align that story with internal actions and external communications, to help our clients build a complete and consistent customer experience—the kind that drives business growth and profitability, and generates loyalty with your customers.
We would love the opportunity to help align your sales and marketing teams.