How to Foster Sales and Marketing Alignment – Part 1

Following best practices deepens sales and marketing alignment, boost collaboration, shortens sales cycles, and lowers market-entry costs.

A challenge lurking for many B2B companies is alignment between two important teams that should be working seamlessly together. Which teams? You may know before we even tell you—sales and marketing.  Every B2B company knows that sales and marketing alignment is crucial, but the challenge is making it happen.

Although sales and marketing share a common goal – bringing in more revenue for the business – they don’t always see eye-to-eye. If left unchecked, disconnects between these teams can be disruptive and prevent organizations from unlocking new growth.

But bringing sales and marketing into alignment can yield positive results, from increased revenue to better lead generation, from improved customer experience to better understanding of target audiences.

Clearly, bringing these teams closer together yields better results for everyone—but how?  Following proven best practices can boost sales and marketing alignment and unlock next-level success for your organization.

1. Work Together to Meet the Market

To forge stronger ties between marketing and sales, you can build a culture of teamwork and respect—starting from the top. Your chief marketing officer (CMO) and chief sales officer (CSO) working closely together sets a positive example for teams to follow.

Where should you focus? Collaborating in these six areas can deepen sales and marketing alignment:

  • Go-to-market (GTM) planning. Marketing teams own GTM strategy—but this activity should not be done in a vacuum. Sales teams have valuable insights to offer based on conversations with buyers about pain points and needs.
  • Messaging. Marketers typically craft messaging, but salespeople know what concepts are meaningful to customers. Bringing sales teams into messaging sessions and reviews is critical.
  • Sales Enablement. Marketing needs to know what sparks prospects’ interest to create marketing materials that have an impact. Engaging sales teams on material creation and after deployment creates a valuable feedback loop.
  • Lead Generation. Sales and marketing both own pieces of the lead generation puzzle. Clarity on who is responsible for what and when leads become sales-ready is critical.
  • Vertical Marketing. Sales teams have valuable insight on what resonates with prospects in targeted verticals. Marketing can use this intelligence to customize outreach that speaks to the specific priorities, pains and opportunities in each sector.
  • Digital Marketing. Marketing is responsible for digital strategy, but sales input and participation are critical. The most forward-thinking organizations give sales a seat at the table during strategy formulation and enlist sales support in amplifying digital messages.

2. Provide High-Quality Training

Another smart way to get sales and marketing to collaborate is to provide shared training. These joint sessions can range from informal “lunch and learns” to multi-day courses. Covering trends, terminology, processes, tools, and success stories can help sales and marketing understand each others’ worlds. Also, adding sales and marketing training into onboarding can help new hires get up to speed quickly and foster alignment from their first days on the job.

Having marketers take sales training courses can help them understand how to position offerings with prospects and handle objectives. It’s also immensely valuable for marketers to participate in product demos to see tools in action and discover new ideas to promote features and benefits.

3. Create Service Level Agreements

Sales and marketing need to have a shared set of objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs).

Creating service level agreements (SLAs) ensures your teams follow the same playbook.

What should you cover in your sales-marketing SLAs? Outline both teams’ goals, along with what they need, how they support each other and what happens if objectives aren’t achieved. Also, define shared communication channels, tools, definitions, processes and metrics.

4. Develop Customer Personas Jointly

Marketers typically create target audience personas based on research and data. Without sales input, these personas may not be a true reflection of potential customers.

Collaborating on personas is one of the best ways for your sales and marketing teams to use their unique vantage points to shape shared deliverables. Marketers can add industry and trend perspective, while sales teams offer real-world insight from prospect interaction.

5. Clarify Lead Value

Some marketing organizations hand Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) off to sales without any context. And sometimes, lead handoffs occur too early, when prospects are still in exploratory stages and not yet ready for sales contact. When that happens, sales teams don’t know whether a lead has simply downloaded content or expressed an authentic need. Miscommunications—and missed opportunities—can follow.

To remedy this problem, sales and marketing can collaboratively clarify lead quality and define a structured lead generation process. That way, sales can discern high-potential needs that need prompt follow up from earlier stage leads.

For example, categorizing leads by the actions they take online can clarify next steps:

  • Awareness: Potential prospects who encounter your company online fit into this category. You may be able to gauge awareness based on total social media follows or digital advertising impressions. Strive to share content that grabs their attention and motivates them to visit your website.
  • Interest: This category includes website visitors that provide emails in exchange for a piece of gated content. Chances are, they’re conducting research and not actively seeking new solutions. Keeping in touch through nurture emails is the best course of action.
  • Consideration: Prospects in this category spend more time exploring your site or download several pieces of content. These behaviors suggest they’re looking at solutions at a deeper level and would benefit from personalized follow-up.
  • Decision: These visitors have indicated an active interest or need in your offerings through demo or contact requests. Sales should reach out promptly.

Smart Solutions for Sales and Marketing Alignment

The B2B sales cycle has traditionally been lengthy—and it’s becoming more complex in today’s digital world. That means you can’t expect to thrive with siloed sales and marketing teams.

Putting the five practices we’ve outlined here to work can put you on the path to stronger sales and marketing alignment.

Once you have these foundations mastered, check out part two of this series where we follow up with with five more smart solutions for sales and marketing alignment.

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