Marketing and sales don’t always work hand in hand. Here, experts
discuss how the two functions should work together toward a common goal.
Aligning sales and marketing teams is a problem as old as the corporate structure, itself. For most companies, marketing’s job is to generate leads, and sales’ job is to turn those leads into clients. In practice, though, marketing and sales need to work in tandem, aligning their roles and goals to ensure that ROI becomes the responsibility of the whole organization, not individual teams, experts say.
Especially in B-to-B companies, sales and marketing alignment shortens the sales cycle and links ROI directly to marketing materials, says Jeremy Boudinet, director of marketing at Chattanooga, Tenn.-based sales software company Ambition. “The more that sales and marketing are on the same page, the easier it will be to close your sales cycles,” he says. “Sales cycles are much shorter when that [marketing] content is ready.”
Here, experts discuss best practices for unifying your sales and marketing teams—and driving bottom-line results.
1. Shout it from the C-suite. The first step in aligning the sales and marketing teams is to make sure the goal comes from on high within the company, says Fergal Glynn, vice president of marketing at New York-based marketing automation firm Docurated. “It takes some executive commitment at the C-level at the company, then an agreement with your marketing and sales leaders that this is something that’s important,” he says. “In a lot of places, there’s huge tension between sales and marketing teams. In sales, they don’t appreciate all the different work that marketing can do, and marketing doesn’t understand all of the different situations that the sales team faces. The very first [step] is an executive agreement.”
Bring in a fresh pair of eyes, such as a sales operations person, who works directly at the intersection of marketing and sales, Boudinet says. This person should work directly with each team to direct where content marketing assets are kept and how they’re organized, keep CRM systems aligned and organized, and help marketing and sales leaders create effective analytics tools, he adds.
2. Create “pushy” content. Content marketing’s role, as it concerns sales, is to push potential customers further down the sales funnel before a salesperson even contacts them. Since customers today research purchases in the early stages of the buying cycle, content marketing takes on the education role once held by sales professionals, Boudinet says. “Marketing teams can create great case studies, testimonials and vertical-based marketing e-mails to help potential customers get further along the sales funnel,” he says.
When creating those assets, think about how content can help answer customers’ questions and concerns along each step in the customer journey. “Some marketers think of content as falling at the inbound level, but content needs to be distributed throughout the funnel,” Boudinet says. “Let sales direct the content you come out with, and then you’ll be able to help at every level of the sales funnel.”
According to Glynn, it’s important for marketing to provide a variety of content for each customer vertical. “Since [your] brand is the composite of everything people know about you, sales people need a way to manage all of those stories and ideas across their organization,” he says. “The last part of the sales cycle … relies every bit as much on a salesperson’s ability to leverage [their] brand—all the solution sheets, the white papers, the knowledge in the engineering and product marketing group, knowledge across field marketers—so that sales reps are armed to tell the really good stories to their prospects and move an opportunity along.”
Docurated's VP of Marketing Fergal Glynn explains how Docurated is
changing the way Sales and Marketing work together at DEMO Traction 2015
3. Rethink lead gen. Lead generation suffers when sales and marketing aren’t aligned, often resulting in a “spray and pray” strategy that wastes everyone’s time, experts say. “There’s a whole process that needs to be in place where prospects come in from marketing, marketing attracts them to the product or service, and then hands them off to sales,” Boudinet says. “Sales is then able to effectively understand the person’s needs and interests and how they can close the deal.”
With marketing and sales working together, there’s a higher focus on the quality of leads, according to Boudinet. At his own company, for example, leads that come from online marketing materials close about 25% of the time, and leads that come in from sales—without the help of marketing—close at a rate of 1.5%.
Glynn agrees: “For many companies, it’s a pure volume game where if you can just stuff more and more leads into that funnel, just by sheer luck you’re going to get some diamonds in the rough,” he says. “But at the executive level of a company, our CEO would always be asking about closing business deals and where they came from. … What a CEO cares about are the qualified opportunities that came out of that marketing investment, and how they play into the goals of the business.”
4. Tie ROI to marketing. With a properly aligned marketing and sales alliance, marketing gets a huge help in one area that’s long been a challenge: reporting ROI. “Marketers’ budgets are increasing every single year, but it’s very difficult for most CMOs to really tell what their contribution to revenue is because most of us marketing leaders are still thinking about the number of leads and not showing what we contributed to revenue,” Glynn says. “When we think about sales and marketing alignment, and how those two need to operate as one, anything that a marketer does should be to increase revenue.” To track ROI, he says, look at KPIs such as “deals influenced” or “deals sourced” to connect specific marketing materials straight to bottom-line results.
Glynn adds: “Marketing really has not been looked at through a lens of revenue generation, and that’s what’s changing. Once your marketing leader accepts that they’re responsible for revenue generation and they look at their programs and campaigns through that, that will be the step forward in us being able to stand up and say, ‘Sales and marketing are aligned.’ ”