Sales Marketing Alignment

5 Practical Ways to Strengthen Your Sales and Marketing Partnership

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Imagine a world where sales and marketing can actually work together and, in fact, help one another instead of stepping on each others’ toes. A world where roles are clearly defined and prospects enjoy a smooth traversal through the funnel. Never a gap, never a hang-up.

A boy can dream.

Creating a strong partnership between sales and marketing teams has plagued companies since…well, forever. There are a plethora of sticking points that make alignment of any kind a challenge in itself. To muddy the waters even more, organizations are frequently updating their systems and processes, which leads to miscommunication or even worse, no communication at all.

Often times, sales and marketing professionals actually think their jobs are harder because of their counterpart’s “incompetencies.” How many times have you heard sales reps complain about a lack of quality leads? How many marketers have you heard criticizing sales’ aptitude for squandering opportunities they worked so hard to provide? This pessimistic outlook not only makes for awkward company Christmas parties, but it also impacts the buyer journey and, ultimately, the bottom line.

It doesn’t have to be this way. A recent study found that a strong partnership between sales and marketing “results in 208% more value from marketing with 108% less friction.” There are real, practical steps that, when applied, not only keep sales and marketing off each others’ backs but help them work together to achieve their goals and engage with customers in a unified manner.

In this post, I will share five tactics that you can use today to ease the tension between your sales and marketing teams and deliver a joint effort towards driving revenue and winning opportunities.

1. Reward the Team That Wasn’t (Directly) Involved

It’s easy to praise marketing when there’s a success at the top of the funnel. The same goes for sales at the bottom of the funnel. But if each respective team can show their appreciation for their counterpart’s contribution, it reinforces the idea of a communal effort throughout the entire funnel. A little recognition can go a long way, so the next time a deal is closed, make sure the demand generation team gets a shoutout for properly scoring the lead in the first place. And marketers, before you get high and mighty for delivering quality SQL’s, don’t forget that sales works tirelessly to convert those and keep the organization’s engine running.

It sounds almost too simple to be true, but it’s important to remember that we’re human beings working with other human beings. We enjoy feeling valued and recognized for our hard work. Make a point of sharing the fruits of your labor with everyone who played a part, and you’ll be amazed at their willingness to help you be successful again down the road. You can’t move forward as a unified team if you don’t celebrate like one.

2. Keep the Customer at the Core of Your Efforts

As much as we’re talking about helping sales and marketing partner more effectively, that is NOT the end goal. The customer’s satisfaction must be the heartbeat behind whatever actions your teams decide to make. Focusing on what makes your prospect happy can alleviate some of the “us vs. them” tension that arises between sales and marketing. Use the customer’s satisfaction (or lack thereof) as your benchmark, and the partnership between your two teams will improve without having to think too hard about it. Though tempting to focus on quotas and campaign stats, your customers are best served by a joint effort between sales and marketing. When your focus shifts away from personal performance and towards that high-level goal, you’ll be amazed how well your organization will operate.

A joint goal of providing the best content, service, and personalization to pipeline efforts will lead to more collaboration and more open transparency between sales and marketing. Marketing will want to provide sales all the collateral they need because their focus isn’t on simply relaying leads to them, but making sure the lead is taken care of at every stage of their journey. Organizations who can keep customer satisfaction at the forefront of their efforts don’t even have to consider strengthening their sales and marketing partnership; it just happens. 

3. Understand When to Butt in—and When to Buzz Off 

The poor marketer, well-intentioned as she can be, frequently doesn’t know how to act once the lead has been handed off to the sales team. Can she continue to nurture, or will that mess up the flow the sales rep is building? Sales and marketing must reach an understanding—set boundaries on how much will each team engage the prospect, and make sure that each piece of content marketing sends fits into the context that sales has worked hard to create.

This gray area used to be known as “the handoff,” but these days it may be best defined as “mid-funnel” (or MOFU), as there is no longer a definitive moment where marketing walks away from the account and sales picks it up. Because of this, a well-orchestrated cadence of communication must be agreed upon in advance, so marketing knows when outreach will help the sales team, rather than detract from their efforts.

This involves a level of visibility that many companies currently lack. As it stands now, sales teams commonly live in their CRM platform, while marketing operates on their own platforms. Though these systems “talk” to one another, it doesn’t allow either team to easily see what actions the other has taken. As a salesperson, how can you be confident you’re providing your customer valuable and previously unseen information if you don’t know what content the marketing team has already sent them? Without having the ability to see the entirety of information that your prospect has been given, you run the risk of sounding redundant, or worse, impersonal.

4. Clearly Define the Roles of Marketing and Sales and How They Work Together

This goes far beyond simply saying “marketing does X, sales does Y.” Just as a doctor isn’t only a doctor, marketers aren’t just marketers, and salespeople aren’t just that either. To increase productivity (and show your colleagues respect), make sure your sales team is familiar with the different roles and responsibilities of the marketing team. Clearly define for them what demand generation, content marketing, product marketing, customer marketing, and marketing operations are responsible for, and what success looks like for them. Do the same for your marketing team. Make sure they’re up to speed on the ins and outs of the sales team and what responsibilities sales development representatives have, how you define commercial vs. enterprise, and the responsibilities of your account executives and customer success managers. Not only will their team appreciate your attempt to understand their roles and responsibilities, but you’ll save time by knowing exactly who to go to with an issue.

Make sure your cross-departmental processes and protocols include specifics —there should be a documented answer to questions like “who should I go to if I need to track down an ebook we published four years ago?” “When did sales last have a call with this prospect, and what should I send them next?” Set your teams up for success and avoid generalizations whenever possible. This will save time and make your teams more efficient.

5. Operate Under Shared Metrics of Success

If marketing only values lead scores and MQL’s and sales only cares about closed-won opportunities, each team will undoubtedly define success by different standards, accentuating the separation between TOFU and BOFU. To cultivate a healthy partnership that encompasses the full sales funnel, it is critical that both teams align on one to two metrics that definitively stand as measures of success.

Let’s use parenthood as an analogy: each parent has a unique relationship with their child: differing day-to-day responsibilities, styles of communication, etc. These individual roles are important no doubt, but they’re judged as a unit, and only considered “good” parents by a handful of measures: the amount of time they devote to their child, and his/her health and happiness, for example. The exact same logic can be applied to how sales and marketing go about their roles: if the customer’s happiness isn’t the key metric of success for both teams, neither will be as successful as possible, and the overall health of the business will deteriorate. Unifying under a shared vision of what “success” really means assures that each team achieves it.

Conclusion

It may be grandiose to think that sales and marketing will ever have a completely flawless partnership. These two groups will always have different daily responsibilities and character traits that won’t always align in perfect harmony. But by adopting these practices into your organization’s strategy, the improvements in each team’s performance may be drastic. When you stop to think about it, sales and marketing are two sides of the same coin, and with the right attitudes and systems in place, they begin to look and act like a unified revenue machine.