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When having a choice of giving a boost to your business or letting it stagnate, you should be looking for ways to help sales and marketing work like one mechanism.
However, it is not that easy to convince the two departments to sit together and work out a plan for cooperation.
Marketing would blame sales for ignoring the leads generated with marketing activities, while sales would accuse marketing of not delivering better quality leads. However, lead quality is not the only apple of discord between the two. Lack of clarity in the activities of the sales and marketing teams undermines alignment, claims Kevin Indig, a VP of Marketing in G2.
The biggest problem I see leading to conflict between Sales and Marketing (and other teams as well) is clarity. Sales doesn’t know what Marketing is working on and vice versa. Or Marketing doesn’t understand how Sales approaches leads.
What helps remedy this issue is data to feed assumptions (what’s not going well and why) and dissecting each step of the process. identify where exactly the expectations are misaligned: volume (top of the funnel), nurturing, lead hand-off between marketing and sales, sales closing the deal, etc. Once you can attach a number to each stage, the drop-offs become clear and solvable.
In this article, we will explore how you can put an end to silos in your organization to make more money with closed deals.
Before exploring the nitty-gritty of sales and marketing alignment, let’s start with defining what sales and marketing alignment is and why it matters more than ever in 2020 and beyond.
What is sales and marketing alignment?
Sounds pretty abstract, right?
In practice, sales and marketing alignment means working as one team, calling each other “we” not “them”, and designing a strategy for converting more leads into clients. Sales and marketing should be on the same page when it comes to understanding organizational goals as it helps create better-targeted content, claims Ron Stefanski, a Founder of OneHourProfessor.
As an example, if you had an organization that’s interested in creating courses to explain the best practices for human resources with the hopes of selling them to other organizations, you wouldn’t want to have the sales team create content focused on helping salespeople do their jobs better.
The reason is that the content would bring in the wrong audience who would never want to purchase the human resource courses. In order to be successful as an organization, the sales and marketing team need full alignment and understanding of organizational goals.
It seems like marketing is responsible for more funnel stages than it was before, right?
However, marketing should not be left alone for the majority of the lead generation and nurturing processes. Both sales and marketing can work together on each funnel stage to close more deals, including identifying friction points in the sales funnel, claims Sujan Patel, a Co-Founder at Right Inbox.
It’s important to identify friction points in the sales funnel. Ask the marketing and sales teams to describe the sales funnel. Then see how the two teams’ descriptions match up. If there are discrepancies, discuss why.
Make a point of establishing a canonical (i.e. correct and final) version. Ensure that each team understands their role in the funnel and which stages they are responsible for within it.
Sales and marketing alignment in practice
I remember transitioning from an organization where sales and marketing played two separate games to a moment when we held a bi-weekly call to catch up on shared objectives for the quarter. We felt like one team.
By discussing real-life customer stories and creating a strategy together, our marketing team managed to use the materials we created in a better way. The marketing content was used in sales calls and had a real impact on our customers’ buying decisions.
In one instance, by discussing real cases of customer stories, we could better understand how they buy our software, which helped us create a new page copy that could speak a customer’s voice.
Many such examples show how close cooperation between the two departments can contribute to making a real impact on conversion.
Let’s see the areas where aligning sales and marketing can have a tremendous impact on your company growth.
Lead generation as a joint effort
There are several reasons for the short life of marketing leads.
A marketing department often targets the wrong type of leads that don’t fit with the product their company sells.
Selling ice to Eskimos doesn’t work, right?
Marketing specialists can also make these mistakes when creating lead generation content:
- A wrong understanding of a customer profile
- A poor understanding of customer’s jobs to be done
- Not identifying correctly customer pains and challenges
So instead of reaching the wrong audience and wasting effort on nurturing leads with email automation, this is the time to have a more extended conversation with a sales department that knows customers the best.
To start generating better quality leads, your marketing department should sit together and work on the Strategyzer Canva to understand their target customer better.
A bit of brainstorming will help define the audience that has a good fit for your business and create better marketing communication.
A sales team should be able to communicate to a marketing team what their lead qualification criteria are, what it takes for a lead to become a sales opportunity, and define together when marketing should pass leads to sales.
Making these aspects clear will help streamline marketing and sales automation for a maximum impact.
Creating sales enablement content
The majority of content created by a marketing department goes unused – a whacking 80%. One can seriously think about marketing efficiency in an organization and whether it makes sense to keep marketers’ roles in place.
Instead of writing articles or recording videos, no one wants to watch, marketing, and sales should talk more on what content would help sales close more deals.
Coming from a software development industry, our sales and marketing teams have identified case studies as highly converting content. For a B2B sector, where trust plays the most crucial role, case studies can easily convert visitors into sales calls without exposing them to 10 top of the funnel articles beforehand.
Take a look at how a software development company, Netguru, brought their case studies to the main page as this content tends to be highly converting for the tech industry.
Having worked with several content teams, I have seen some curating content based on topic ideas from Google search or just a gut feeling. They later realized their content topics were a wrong choice as they did not resonate with their customers. This fact usually resulted in a high bounce rate of blog content.
Instead of speculating on what customers would love to read, they should have a casual conversation with sales to find out about clients’ frequently asked questions and tailor content topics to answer these questions.
“We typically interview sales as well as customer support staff when we begin working with clients,” Birkett says. “These insights, combined with the voice of customer research, help us produce content that hits on the biggest pain points of users. If we can align this to a keyword or a distribution channel, then it’s typically going to be very high converting content.”
Analyzing customer insights
Sharing customer insights can help tailor better marketing communications. After all, where better to get information on your sales than from those who made the purchases.
“Customer insights are all about looking at your customers’ buying behavior and their experience with your brand as well as their wants, needs, and beliefs in order to paint a picture of how customers perceive your brand, product, or service,” says Milosz Krasinski MD at Chillifruit.com. He continues, “This is done creating a multi-view of your customers through strategic analysis of qualitative and quantitative data. There are a number of great tools you can use to help you with this, including:
- Google Trends
- YouTube Analytics
- Social Mention
In order to successfully analyze customer insights, you’ll need to come up with a customer insight strategy – a plan for gathering and analyzing data in order to turn it into valuable insights which will then form an action plan. Think of this as a series of decisions leading to action points. The main parts of your customer insight strategy will be:
The why – What are your main business objectives and priorities over the next 6 and 12 months?
The when – Working out your timeframe for gathering data, analyzing data, communicating findings to stakeholders, and mapping out key actions.
The limitations – What are the main limitations of the project (for example, budget, time, etc).”
Let’s explore how sales can share their customer insights with marketing.
1) Record and share sales calls
Sales can share recorded conversations with their customers or even invite marketing to attend those calls.
2) Share access to CRM with notes
Marketing and sales teams usually use different tools to store leads. By getting access to the sales CRM, marketing can read call notes that sales reps make after each call. If they are using tools such as live chat or chatbots, it’s easy to access collected information by going through the conversation history.
3) Hold ad hoc meetings
Get the two teams to meet together to discuss the challenges and pains their customers face. While a marketing team can help organize a framework for such a workshop, sales can contribute to insights. Both can start a discussion and write down key findings.
Social listening for sales and marketing
Your marketing and sales teams can use social listening to reach leads that are currently considering buying products.
First things first – let’s define what social listening means in the context of cooperation between the two teams.
Social listening is the process of crawling the web for mentions about your company or product. Social listening can also be used to reach users who ask questions related to the challenges your product helps solve. As a result, with the right nurturing, these leads can become clients.
As 80% of all B2B leads are using social media, social listening can become a powerful tool for both marketing and sales to generate and convert hot leads that are talking about your product.
Here are some steps to help your sales and marketing teams use social listening:
1) Identify keywords and sales-related conversations
Your marketing team can think of the keywords your customer persona can type about your product. Buyer intent is essential – clients that use the keywords closely related to sales convert better than those asking about more generic terms.
Both teams can also brainstorm some keywords related to the challenges or pains of your potential customers and make a plan of how to interact with users who use keywords in their social media posts. Your marketing team can work on nurturing these leads before passing them to sales.
“Tools like Text Optimizer can help both of the teams to brainstorm keywords. The tool uses semantic analysis to help you optimize your content for search intent, i.e. match your landing pages to better serve whatever it is you want a site user to do on that page,” says Ann Smarty, Founder of ViralContentBee.
2) Keep an eye on the competition
People ask about alternatives to your competitors’ products. Social listening tools can help you identify who is in the process of considering a purchase. By getting your sales to respond to these inquiries quickly can help generate a sales qualified lead right away.
3) Generate more customer insights
By analyzing questions with social listening tools, both sales and marketing teams can learn more about what customers are searching for and what they don’t like about your competitors.
Communication strategies and tools
Once sales and marketing teams have agreed to cooperate, they can prepare a plan for regular meetings and catch-ups to monitor progress, talk about challenges, and share ideas.
Your team can create their communication framework. However, you can always suggest using proven practices of bi-weekly and quarterly meetings or online calls. In both cases, you facilitate this process by offering your teams the right communication tools. Let’s explore those!
During these calls, the teams share their recent achievements and progress with their tasks. Sales can talk more about their A/B tests with outbound and new clients they acquired.
Marketing can share some information about the new testimonials they received from their current clients and pending content campaigns.
Both can talk about how they can help each other better and resolve sales and marketing challenges together.
What tools can you use for bi-weekly sales and marketing calls?
These meetings are more strategic than catch-ups, where teams talk about more operational aspects.
During quarterly meetings, you wrap up your success for the last quarter and reap the fruit of sales and marketing alignment.
The teams can share information about lead generation activities and how they helped generate more sales qualified leads, opportunities, and closed deals.
Sales can deliver a bit more context about the quality of leads, and you can work out a plan on things to improve.
Both teams can also plan for new campaigns they can perform together. For example, organizing a meetup for potential leads or webinar promotion.
What tools can you use for quarterly catch-ups?
- Tools for retrospectives: Funretro
- Reporting tools: Databox, Searchmetrics
“Quarterly meetings are an opportunity for your teams to collaborate and define measurable goals for the upcoming quarter; going back to these on the next meeting and reviewing results promotes accountability and staying aligned towards mutual objectives,” says Jimmy Rodriguez, COO at 3dcart.
Apart from regular, pre-planned meetings, you can agree to meet for ad hoc workshops if you notice a need to discuss some topics in depth.
When starting with the idea of alignment between the teams, you can consider organizing workshops to discuss the definition of a perfect lead, customer avatar, or the process of passing leads from marketing to sales.
What tools can you use for workshops?
- Sign a service-level agreement (SLA) and follow it
Get marketing and sales to agree on the framework of cooperation and reporting on achieving the goals they set together, called SLA.
- Arrange bi-weekly and quarterly calls
Keep both parties accountable for regular calls. Schedule bi-weekly calls in your sales and marketing calendars. Let sales and marketing define their challenges together and understand the way to overcome them.
- Arrange ad hoc workshops
Go for an ad hoc workshop to let marketing and sales resolve challenges connected with B2B lead generation, product positioning, lead nurturing, etc. Leave space for education, debate, and discussion.
- Set up common goals together
Encourage your teams to avoid using phrases such as “we will ask sales/marketing” and “they, them, their”. Work as one team and make sure silos no longer define how marketing is related to sales.
- Use the right tools
Support your team with the tools they both want to use. Facilitate their work with team collaboration, communication, or drafting tools.
Close cooperation between sales and marketing can have a real impact on your business bottom line. By implementing the plan and letting sales and marketing agree on their common goals, you set up a solid base for their alignment.
Sales and marketing can work together to generate better leads and convert more MQLs intro SQLs, share customer insights, create and use better content together, and support each other on their way to achieving common goals.