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Drive Marketing and Sales Alignment in 4 Steps

The concept that sales and marketing teams are separate entities, where marketing generates leads then passes the responsibility to sales is long gone. If your organization is still thinking that way, you’re likely leaving a lot of opportunity on the proverbial table and risk being eclipsed by the competition.

Today’s buying landscape in consumer and B2B is unrecognizable from what it was even just a few years ago. Not only do customers expect more, but commoditization and hyper-competition in products and services have created crowded markets making it a challenge to differentiate between various solutions. This has put the lens of the microscope squarely on the experience marketing and sales teams are able to deliver. In fact, according to TOPO’s recent predictions report, experience has become the top key differentiator in this crowded buying environment.

Organizations must be prepared to deliver a personalized, targeted and seamless experience at every stage of the customer journey –– starting with the very first encounter. To do that, marketing and sales have to come together as one team, aligning on clearly defined goals, strategies, processes, total addressable market, and success metrics.

Silos are killing growth 

All too often, marketing and sales are given a set of goals, then go off independently to develop their plans for achieving them. But we’ve seen this scenario play out time and time again where marketing delivers marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to sales, sales deems them unqualified for one reason or another then both teams end up pointing fingers at one another for low conversion rates. 

This can be solved by marketing and sales aligning during the planning phase, determining a set of shared goals, and agreeing on what they define as an MQL and SQL and what handoff should look like. This will help avoid execution misfires, wasted efforts and failure to achieve goals. In fact, B2B organizations that have cracked the code on marketing and sales alignment, achieve 24% faster revenue growth over three years compared to their less-aligned counterparts, according to a study by SiriusDecisions. 

If your goal is to increase opportunity creation, capture expansion revenue, accelerate pipeline velocity, improve customer retention rates, and boost deal size, you have to work towards building a more symbiotic relationship between marketing and sales.

It takes work, but here are four tips for closing the marketing and sales gap in your organization: 

1. Set common strategic goals 

True marketing and sales alignment are not merely about checking in with each other from time to time. It’s a holistic endeavor that requires a detailed road map for how both teams will work together and leverage one another across various business functions to achieve a common goal. 

Keep in mind, alignment is not just a marketing and sales endeavor. You should strive for alignment across the entire business, bringing key stakeholders from every department in during business objective and goal-planning sessions. With the big vision and business objectives set, marketing and sales must work together on building a strategy to achieve those goals. This includes working together to define the total addressable market, target accounts, how to best reach them, success metrics, and as noted above, what each deems an MQL and SQL, and what a successful handoff looks like. Some teams have created service level agreements (SLA) to hold one another accountable and make sure everyone is on the same wavelength. 

2.  Have the right metrics in place 

Shared goals are essential to creating symbiotic teams, but they’ll also need to operate from the same set of success metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs). If marketing is only concerned with lead generation, they may not deliver the most qualified opportunities to sales, which leads to a stagnant pipeline and low success rate. If sales does have success in closing the deal on an under-qualified lead, the result is often high customer turnover. But when everyone is operating from a shared list of highly qualified target accounts and shared metrics, they’ll work together to understand what the buyer journey looks like and how to support one another in building relationships with the decision makers and influencers who drive the buying decision.  Rather than MQLs and SQLs as a KPI, consider focusing on engagement metrics. This will help benchmark and demonstrate progress towards shared goals, motivate the two functions to coordinate resources and communicate in a more meaningful way. 

3. Operate from one source of truth

Often, one of the biggest obstacles in marketing and sales working together as one team is the technology each uses to execute on their strategy. There’s reluctance on both sides to migrate over to a new platform, and in many cases, a lack of integration capabilities leads to lost data or missed opportunities because data wasn’t shared quick enough. Find a customer relationship management (CRM) tool that meets the needs of both teams or that supports interoperability between the two functions. Clean and readily accessible data is imperative for driving alignment. Marketing and sales should be able to gain a 360-degree view of customers, use rich data sets to guide decisions and prioritize next steps, and share real-time insights with one another to strike while the iron is hot.

4. Execute tactics in lock-step with real-time feedback 

Collaboration needs to happen at the ground level, down to the tactical execution. Marketing and sales teams have interactions with customers at different points of the customer journey, which naturally opens the door for miscommunication and duplication of efforts. Creating a memorable experience, however, requires consistency in delivering a personalized experience from the first touchpoint through to the person becoming a customer.

Marketing and sales teams need to be in constant contact. Beyond being able to share data in real-time or chat via the CRM, they should also have a meeting cadence weekly if not daily. Consistent and scheduled communication enables teams to track progress towards goals and regularly assess what’s working and what’s not to make necessary pivots. 

Implementing organizational change is never easy. It takes time and can involve shifting old mindsets. You’ll likely need to get buy-in from both teams as well as the leadership. But, the bottom line is, your organization can’t afford to operate in silos –– otherwise you risk becoming irrelevant to customers and future customers.  

To learn more about how your marketing and sales team can achieve true alignment and work more efficiently as one team, check out MST Solutions on AppExchange today.

Ken Costello is the Chief Operating Officer of MST Solutions where he strategically guides the company’s customer acquisition, engagement, and retention strategies.

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