Smarter ways to align marketing with sales

There’s often a misconception in the B2B space that marketing is secondary to sales. In reality, the two need to work hand in hand in order to fire up the lead gen engine. Azadeh Williams takes a look at ways in which sales and marketing can work together better to generate real, tangible results.

Complementary mindset

When you think of marketing as ‘secondary’ to sales, that’s where you start having problems. When you instil a culture of seeing the two as complementary, everyone’s mindset shifts towards being more collaborative. After all, there is a lot of dependency, especially in B2B, that marketing has on sales and vice versa. The whole idea of alignment is understanding what those key dependencies are. Then align roles and responsibilities so everybody has a clear-eyed view of what the future looks like.

 

Common language

One of the first ways to align is by creating a common language. As an example, what a ‘lead’ means for your marketing department (MQL or marketing qualified lead), may be completely different to what it means to the sales team (SQL). A marketing team could say, ‘I’ve generated 27,000 MQLs’, but zero of these have turned into revenue. That’s a terrible disconnection. A common framework or a common language and clear expectations is a starting point for any of this to create alignment.

 

Common KPIs

Another way to align is to look at performance metrics, and evaluate revenue goals and budgeting together. It is critical to formulate targets in this way so you’re sharing a common goal – regardless of how you budget, your account-based marketing plan or even your inbound lead gen strategy. It’s important to find a common ground.

Once those things are clearly defined, you can consider creating a playbook that clearly outlines roles and responsibilities. This is a place to hold one another accountable. Every quarter, you can then review the metrics and playbook, and continue to iterate and evolve, so sales and marketing continue to complement each other and work like a ‘well oiled machine’. 

 

Common mistakes to avoid when trying to get sales and marketing alignment right

One of the biggest mistakes is not getting C-suite buy-in and executive sponsorship. The sales leader and the marketing leader could be thinking thinking, ‘yes, let’s do this, let’s walk arm in arm and go.’ But if you don’t have buy-in across the C suite, it’s not going to take off.

In times of economic uncertainty, the CFO (chief financial officer) or the CRO (chief relationship office) are often the key people in this equation. They’re funding the sales and marketing budget. They’re also looking at the business holistically. If there’s a perception in the organisation that marketing performs one way and sales performance another way, then it’s harder to convince the CFO that you’re anything but siloed. 

 

Driving value in greater alignment

As an agency, we’re often considered a ‘safe, unbiased third party’ that comes in to analyse an organisation’s lead generation and demand generation systems. There’s things to do before engaging with a client to help support their media, marketing strategy and campaign. Take a deeper look at their sales and marketing alignment. Are the MQLs being nurtured through the right marketing activities to become SQLs? Are there key things slowing the sales cycle down that could be sped up? 

The solution could be as simple as instigating a segmented, automated lead nurture EDM campaign that turns those MQLs into SQLs. Or the solution could be optimising a landing page with video to convert better, or providing sales with the right collateral such as customer use cases and cost comparison tables. In many cases, however, it’s more complex, and involves a complete cultural and mindset overhaul that starts at board level and is a serious dissection of the customer journey.

In essence, effective alignment is all about continued communication and collaboration. It’s about bringing all of your sales and marketing talent and resources together, in one place. Then create a playbook. This means sales and marketing can work together, driving demand, closing business, looking at the full customer life cycle, and tackling retention, renewal, cross-sell and upsell – all as one robust ecosystem. 

Azadeh Williams is the founder and managing partner of global B2B media and marketing agency, AZK Media.