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Trending Questions
 

What is sales and marketing alignment?

Something interesting happens at organizations where effective marketing and sales alignment occurs—they win. According to a report by Aberdeen Research, companies that are best-in-class at aligning marketing and sales experienced an average of 20% growth in annual revenue, compared to a 4% decline in laggard organizations.

It just makes sense—both teams share the same goal of driving sales and increasing revenue. When sales and marketing work together, they can improve sales productivity, increase marketing ROI, and deliver a better customer experience (CX). The two groups can share technologies and processes that allow them to monitor and optimize every stage of every sale, from first touch to closed deal.

Sales and marketing challenges

Sales and marketing organizations have historically not got along and there has always been finger pointing from both sides. But today there is more research and discussion about the importance of aligning these two organizations in order to make both teams more efficient, improve lead quality and conversion rates, while gaining more profitable, higher-value customers at the same time.

In general, organizations see these obstacles standing in the way of sales and marketing alignment:

  1. The CEO does not insist on unified reporting on the company's sales pipeline.
  2. Salespeople complain that the sales leads that marketing generates are useless.
  3. Marketing team members believe they know what's best for the sales force.
  4. Salespeople try to reduce complexity; marketing people tend to move in the opposite direction.
  5. Sales and marketing can't agree on the barriers they face.
  6. Both sales and marketing lose track of how customers buy.
  7. The value proposition lacks clarity.
  8. Sales and marketing don't speak the same language.
  9. There is an inability within the company to agree on the best tactics and winning strategies.
  10. Sales and marketing managers tend to forget their mission.

Components of sales and marketing alignment

At its best, the relationship between sales and marketing is like a fresh romance. Sales still tells marketing it appreciates all the hard work and revenue contribution. Marketing thanks sales for bringing home the big checks. Each department is in sync with the other and even knows a little about what its counterpart is thinking. They finish each other’s sentences. Other departments look on with envy and nausea.

At its worst, dishes break against the wall.

Chances are that your organization’s marketing and sales relationship is somewhere in the middle. So, to help your organization move towards compatibility and collaboration, we recommend a process-driven, metrics-oriented approach.

Here are two keys to marketing and sales alignment that will help each team build the trust they need to attract and win revenue for their company—and live together in harmony.

1

Define a sales-ready lead

The handoff between sales and marketing is a key part of the relationship—and is often an area of frustration for both sides. For this reason, it’s crucial for sales and marketing to work together to define the process for the handoff.

The sales team is on the front line, working to convert prospects to customers on a daily basis. So they usually have the best insight into what factors and qualities contribute to making a lead more or less likely to buy. Work with your sales organization to define when a lead is ready to talk to sales.

In a perfect world, every marketing-qualified lead (MQL) sent to sales would convert into a customer, eliminating the need to distinguish between MQLs and sales-qualified leads (SQL)—but information is asymmetrical. Using data in concert with information gathered from the sales team can help you bridge this gap by clearly defining what makes a lead "sales-ready".

Closed-loop reporting reveals which marketing activities and criteria are associated with higher conversion or close rates, and this information should be used to determine which leads make the cut.

2

Qualify leads using best practices

Helping sales generate more pipeline and revenue is perhaps the greatest impact that marketing can have on an organization. A considerable component of this is insuring that the leads delivered to sales are at the appropriate stage in their buying process—which should not be confused with your organization's sales process.

Qualifying leads through a combination of automated processes, such as lead scoring, and manual validation qualification allows a demand marketing organization to deliver greater volumes of high-quality leads efficiently.

There are plenty of examples of lead qualification templates that can work well for qualifying leads. Lead qualification teams can prioritize based on two main parameters. First is the lead score; we qualify leads that score as highly relevant and highly engaged (based on a proprietary formula) to insure we are providing sales with the highest quality, fully verified leads.

The second parameter is based on the value of the most recent asset that the contact/lead engaged with. High-value assets, such as buyer guides, ROI calculators, or attendance at an event, will take priority over lower-value assets, such as infographics and early-stage technical briefs.

How technology makes the sales and marketing collaboration easier

Organizations that have done the hard work to agree on definitions must collaborate to set shared goals for their sales and marketing teams. To make this process easier and transparent, they need a shared set of metrics to define the sales/marketing pipeline—and they must agree on a single view of the truth. This shared sales and marketing dashboard can be a Holy Grail because it enables organizations to understand the velocity and shape of the sales pipeline and make real-time adjustments if they see opportunities or issues.

Marketing automation software and CRM systems can make dashboards easier and faster to build. Moreover, when sales and marketing teams align with technology, the gains in demand generation and sales enablement can be remarkable. Aberdeen’s report tells us that: "84% of the best-in-class organizations empower marketing with access to CRM". The report also identifies marketing automation capabilities, such as lead generation, lead scoring, and lead nurturing, as important drivers of marketing and sales alignment in top-performing organizations.