Marketing and sales alignment – a best practice guide for business leaders
It’s all well and good to stress the importance of marketing-sales alignment in 2019, but does anybody really know how to do it properly? Peter Strohkorb gives a step-by-step guide to consolidating the face of your brand.
Let me make this point: much of your sales results and business success will depend on how well your marketing and sales teams work together.
So, I have summarised for you the key points to achieving this outcome.
1. Why align sales and marketing?
It’s no secret that poor marketing and sales alignment has a significant negative impact on sales revenue – it stifles sales results, creates poor experiences for your customers and causes your high performers to leave your organisation.
Businesses all over the world are unnecessarily putting up with this problem when the benefits of effective marketing and sales collaboration are widely recognised – 18% shorter sales cycles and a 26% higher win rates, according to Altify’s 2017 ‘Business Performance Benchmark Report’.
It is obvious that your marketing team can benefit from direct feedback by the sales force in terms of what campaigns, collateral and leads work, and what doesn’t. Equally, your sales team can benefit greatly from marketing providing them with the best possible support.
However, you don’t want the two teams to operate in isolation from the market. Including your customers in your sales and marketing alignment is a critical component to your sales revenue growth and business success. You want them to include your customers’ perspectives as well.
Also importantly, your marketing and sales teams will need to collaborate across all levels of seniority, i.e. not just at the executive level.
2. Align your mindsets
Many of the business structures that worked over the last century are no longer effective. In the 21st Century, marketing and sales can no longer afford to exist in separate organisational silos. Instead, they need to morph into one cohesive team, work in unison, help and support each other more effectively. You can only achieve this outcome if both parties are on the same page and are communicating constructively and continuously.
To do this requires a team approach. It simply is not something that either sales or marketing people can decide by themselves. This outcome requires a strategic and – dare I say – cultural imperative that can only come from the top through good leadership and a clearly articulated vision. If you get it right, you will move through three stages before you reach the nirvana of what I call ‘smarketing‘.
The stakeholders on both sides need to share a common mindset to realise the mutual benefits of good collaboration.
3. Align your reward and recognition programs
As management guru Peter Drucker famously said, “what gets measured gets improved”. You need to align your reward and recognition program and create a shared and measurable goal for your marketing and sales teams to be aligned and to collaborate more effectively.
What should that goal be?
Many organisations have experimented with making sales leads the shared goal, but to me, this is too narrow and too short-term focused. Besides, it can lead to undesirable behaviour when lead quantity ends up taking priority over lead quality. It’s a fine line; getting a unified definition of what constitutes a good sales lead can be challenging.
Others have elected to drive marketing and sales collaboration through a shared revenue goal. This has often brought initial success, particularly in the context of account-based marketing (ABM) but is still pretty rare to see longer-term sales growth from this arrangement.
Luckily, the stars have recently aligned to give organisations the best of both worlds – namely, to combine your organisation’s customer centricity initiative with your sales and marketing alignment program.
If your organisation has chosen to compete more effectively by lifting its customer experience (CX), then what better way to create that common goal and mindset than by focusing both teams on delivering your customers a great buying experience? After all, marketing and sales are at the same time your highest revenue generating and most customer-facing parts of your organisation. Granted, they may use different channels to reach the customer, but their messaging and language must be consistent and offer customer value.
4. Align your marketing and sales processes
I often say that marketing exists to create an environment where sales can occur. If that is indeed the case, then it will be necessary for both parties to agree on who does what so that we avoid double-handling or things falling between the cracks.
Your CRM, sales automation and marketing automation systems are only enablers of your sales and marketing processes. It is your people who make them successful. Therefore, it becomes critical that the processes that you want your sales and marketing teams to be judged and measured on are defined, agreed and documented by both teams.
Psychologically speaking, it is important that they are not imposed on either party from above. It should be consensual – so as to avoid lip service and passive resistance further down the track.
5. Foster joint collateral and lead creation
If marketing exists to create an environment where sales can occur, then it becomes important for the collateral and the content to be shareable by both marketing people and sales reps.
While it is marketing’s role to lift brand awareness and brand image in order to attract buyers, it is equally important for individual sales reps to promote their personal brand and subject matter expertise. Conversely, it is important that sales reps are kept informed on what messaging and content marketing is publishing or sending out to prospects and customers.
As modern sales techniques such as social selling, ABM and challenger-style selling become more important, the content that marketing creates must be quickly accessible and easily shareable by sales reps.
What we want to avoid is a situation where marketing creates content that salespeople simply do not use, or salespeople creating unauthorised marketing content. By working together on content creation and by having an agreed sign-off and publishing process, you can significantly lift the quality and utility of your content.
Peter Strohkorb is the CEO of Peter Strohkorb Consulting International
Image credit:Chester Alvarez