Sometimes two things that should have a natural affinity seem so far apart that all the technology and willpower in the world can’t pull them together. If you’re in sales, you may feel this way about your marketing team’s awareness of what you actually need from them. If you’re in marketing, you may feel this way about what sales actually does with the results you produce.
It’s a classic conundrum, and in many organizations sales and marketing might as well be speaking separate languages. Here at Act-On, our team has actually achieved marketing and sales alignment. Much of that is due to technology–we eat our own dog food, as the saying goes, and the Act-On Software marketing automation platform serves us well. The rest of it has to do with people and process.
As Senior Director of Sales, I interact with my marketing department every day. I have weekly one-on-ones with several members of the marketing team and emphasize making the time as productive and meaningful as possible. Sales has sales quotas; marketing has lead quotas. We rely on each other to exceed these goals. We do in fact work as one team with very open lines of communication. (Might I point out that our sales and marketing team has never missed our number? Alignment is a big factor in our success.)
I know that in many other companies there’s a crippling gulf between marketing and sales. From a sales point of view, here’s a short list of five key points for marketing to keep in mind as you both work to close that gap.
Five Factors for Better Sales and Marketing Alignment
- Utilize sales and marketing metrics.
Do you know how many leads sales will need to reach their quota? Do you know how many leads are needed each month and quarter to feed the sales organization with enough conversations to fill the pipeline and exceed quota? To truly understand what’s required, marketing needs to understand the numbers from the bottom up. How many leads agree to a conversation/demo? How many conversations convert to opportunities? How many opportunities convert to sales? As your sales team’s quota increases, the lead goal has to increase with it. Regular meetings with your sales leadership will help you stay connected to the numbers needed to reach the revenue goals.
- Work together with sales to identify sales-qualified leads.
Marketing wants sales to be responsive to all leads. Sales needs to know which of the leads to call first. Sales has a constant internal battle to reduce time spent on bad leads, be responsive to good leads, and manage our time to make sure that we’re connecting with the right people at the right time. Together, marketing and sales can manage this challenge with the right plan, marketing automation software, and ongoing communication.
- Learn to embrace sales-oriented messaging.
Marketing wants email messages to be branded and perfectly constructed. Sales reps believe that shorter messages, shorn of marketing luster, will often get a better response. Your strategy should include both. Regular marketing-generated email messages should be part of a greater lead nurturing campaign built to communicate brand quality and thought leadership. Sales-generated messages usually have a call to action in the first sentence, and are focused on getting the recipient to do something. Marketing can get more involved by providing email templates in whatever CRM sales uses, and collaborate with the sales team on well-written (but short and sweet) messages.
- Know what inside information prospects tell sales.
Get your sales reps to invite you for a ride-a-long. If you and your marketing team join live sales calls from time to time, you’ll better understand the challenges your target market is trying to address. Your sales team has valuable customer information; they’re in touch with the current needs of your prospects and customers. They can also provide valuable real-world feedback on marketing campaign quality. Schedule a standing meeting with your sales team to cover these issues, and watch how much you accomplish together.
- Maintain a sense of urgency.
Sales can’t afford to have campaign timelines slip. The quantity and quality of leads is important, but the timing of when those leads get in the hands of the sales team is crucial. Marketing should have a calendar that they share with sales, preferably a quarterly campaign schedule, that includes lead estimate forecasts.
Pay attention to these five factors, and you’re practically guaranteed to improve sales and marketing alignment. The key is to use technology and process to establish stronger communication between the teams—your results can be incredible.