New Coke. Google Phone. Edsel. The annals of business are littered with examples of product flops introduced by otherwise very savvy enterprises but whose resounding failures might arguably be attributed to the chasm between the organization’s sales team and its marketers.
Sure, there was also a disconnect between the companies and their customers, but that just goes to the heart of the problem.
Now, more than ever, your customers and their interactions with your brand are tightly integrated. And so too, your marketing and sales teams must be better aligned than they’ve ever been. Studies show that companies with aligned sales and marketing team increase their revenues by an average of 47 percent compared to those who do not bring these two organizations together.
Consider these steps you can take to close the gap between the yin and yang of your revenue-generating machine:
1. Agree on the goals: Often, one of the weakest links in getting sales aligned to marketing (and vice versa) is agreeing on the goals. Yes, the objective is to drive revenues, but how you get there, which needles, so to speak, are key to getting that done should be one of the first topics for discussion between the sales and marketing organizations.
Is the goal to get more leads (we’ll talk about leads in a moment)? Do you want more subscribers to your blog or newsletter, more names in the email database? Are you trying to cross-sell or upsell to existing customers? Is there a Facebook page where you’re trying to increase engagement?
You will never achieve alignment between sales and marketing if you cannot agree from the outset what the goals are, what targets you need to hit to meet those goals, how long you have to hit those targets, and who is responsible for achieving each of the actions that will get you to those goals.
2. Agree on the starting point: The more specifically sales and marketing can agree on the staring point—whether that’s leads currently in the sales funnel, the number of downloads for a whitepaper or ebook, or even sales to date, the sooner the two will come together in alignment. Reaching agreement on the starting point makes the evaluations you make later that much easier to clearly assess.
3. Implement integrated tools: Sales and marketing will never come together over their progress (let alone a celebratory dinner at the end of the quarter) if the tools the two teams are using are themselves out of alignment.
Marketing’s ability to see what sales sees regarding a customer’s sales history are critical to its success. Likewise, unless sales knows what marketing knows about the Web pages they’ve visited, marketing collateral they’ve downloaded, topics they have shared with friends, family, or colleagues via social media or other means, they cannot understand the customer fully.
The solution—and really, the hub that aligns sales and marketing—is an all-in-one inbound marketing application that connects your marketing initiatives (and all its metrics and analytics) with your customer relationship management (CRM) application (and its customer histories).
Combined, these applications give both teams a 360-degree view of customers and prospects from the moment they engage with your brand and then throughout their lifecycle.
4. Measurement and analysis: Once sales and marketing agree on the appropriate metrics, the two must come together to review those metrics, determine what they mean in terms of the established goals, and decide on next steps.
A proper inbound marketing application connected to a CRM application gives sales and marketing the numbers they need to move the needles in the right direction.
If, for example, one of the goals was to increase subscribers to a blog or newsletter by 10 percent, how did that fare during the latest accounting period? You might want to see how that increase in subscribers affected social sharing and in turn, how that impacted revenues.
Or, you might want to compare the difference between the sales close rate on prospects who downloaded a whitepaper or ebook to those who did not; or, compare the average sale for people who share your brand with others in their social network. These same tools—inbound marketing applications and CRM applications—are the ones you’ll use to find your best customers, those who spend the most and those who evangelize your brand the most—if your systems and teams are properly aligned.
5. Agree on what a qualified lead is: One of the most common complaints salespeople have about marketers is the quality of the leads they’re given.
And, to be fair, in many instances, the complaints are justified. Just because someone visited your website and looked at a page or two doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready to buy or even ready to be contacted by the sales team.
When sales and marketing work together to find the optimal time to pass along leads, the result is certain to improve the bottom line while reducing friction between the two business units.
The information to do this will come only when the metrics and analytics from the inbound marketing application and CRM tool are connected. Then, you see which leads resulted in sales and when, which actions preceded the sale, and what actions followed the sale and might prompt additional marketing or sales contacts.
6. Put a SLA in place: A service level agreement (SLA) is one of the most effective tools any organization can have to help meets its objectives. While historically, SLAs began as the contract binding an enterprise to its customers and set the level of expectations for both, these agreements also go a long way toward improving the alignment between internal organizations, such as sales and marketing.
Using your definition of what a qualified (or “workable”) lead is and comparing that to the actions sales takes and its success, you will be able to monitor the effectiveness of the sales level agreement as you have defined it.
7. Open the lines of communication—and keep them open: All the technology in the world will not align sales and marketing if the two teams don’t come together to talk and realize they are literally opposite sides of the coin—the revenue coin.
Each enterprise will have to work out for themselves how best to affect this interaction, but the stakes are too high, the consequences too severe, to let anything stand in the way.
Depending on your enterprise, you might try weekly or monthly meetings, you might create a LinkedIn group or an internal wiki to share ideas, successes, and challenges between sales and marketing. You might host a webinar or an offsite to familiarize each team with what happens in the other’s turf. Show sales what your inbound marketing dashboard looks like and how it works while they explain how they use the CRM to close deals.
Align Your Teams
Aligning sales and marketing should come naturally, but all too often it does not.
Whether it’s competition, jealousy, misunderstanding, or something else really is irrelevant. It was Benjamin Franklin who famously said, “If we do not hang together, we shall surely all hang separately.”
The same is true when it comes to your revenue-generating team. Get them in alignment and the Benjamins--those $100 bills every enterprise is chasing—will follow.