“Aligning sales and marketing is an absolute must because they should work hand in hand,” says Nate Masterson of Maple Holistics. “If they don’t, then there’s a lot of revenue being left on the table. Each team has insights that are integral to the success of the other.”
Sales and marketing alignment is about leveraging those insights to drive business results.
Actually creating that alignment, however, is challenging. So, we teamed up with Databox to ask sales and marketing professionals about how they’ve done it successfully.
We also asked them to rank, on a scale of 1-10, the factors most important for ensuring alignment.
According to the results, ‘having established buyer personas’ ranked #1 in terms of importance, followed by defined lifecycle stages, and frequent meetings between marketing and sales.
Here are the options our respondents had to choose from:
- Defining/agreeing upon the target buyer(s)/persona(s)
- Frequent meetings between sales and marketing managers and individuals to ensure communication
- The definition of the lead lifecycle stages in converting a prospect into a happy customer (i.e., leads, marketing qualified leads, opportunities, etc.)
- Documented sales playbooks that salespeople follow
- Sales service-level agreements that commit to a certain amount of activity and revenue
- One leader that is responsible for sales and marketing results or a leadership team that is in lockstep
- Marketing service-level agreements that define the quantity and quality of leads marketing must generate
- A single set of metrics/goals and dashboards for tracking progress
- Content that supports the sales process
- Sales and marketing technology and operations support for integration and usage of tech
So, how do these sales and marketing professionals actually make those things happen? We asked. Here’s what we learned.
1. Define Buyer Personas
Interviewing customers is one of the first things Weidert Group does when taking on a new client.
“Most B2B companies believe they have a firm grasp on who their prospects are and what makes them tick. But truth be told, most of our clients experience a few “aha!” moments as our team shares insights we’ve generated after interviewing their employees and customers. What we learn from these interviews forms a large part of the “meat” of a buyer persona.” shared Tammy Borden, content manager at Weidert.
“At Resolute, we’ve been working to tie our marketing and sales initiatives closer together and have seen some very promising results including gaining more focused opportunities that are a fit for our business, a busier deals pipeline, and shorter sales cycles,” says Colton De Vos.
“We’ve managed to achieve this by clarifying who the exact target prospect looks like and customizing our CRM (customer relationship management) tool to easily identify if new leads are a fit or not.”
“Marketing works to develop the list of companies that fit the target demographic. Sales then reaches out to see if there is any interest from the prospect and what service or area they are specifically interested in. Marketing develops a custom pitch based on that feedback so sales can keep the conversation going.”
2. Ensure Frequent Dialog Between Sales & Marketing
“At CIENCE, we routinely have two crossover meetings per week where the Revenue Teams (Sales, Marketing, SDR) share updates, techniques, and processes,” says Eric Quanstrom. “We’ve found it to be invaluable to discuss campaigns and get everyone on the same page.”
“Prior to the meetings, we had a more siloed approach which led to departments executing campaigns without the context or framework for each of the other parts. Simple example—Marketing talking about current positioning work that then is adopted in SDR outreach and Sales stages (as part of the sales cycle).”
“The impact has been a well-oiled machine. We’ve enjoyed our highest months of traffic, leads, and deals won the last three months in a row.”
Small Footprint adopted the Agile Scrum framework for its sales and marketing teams, says Peter Mikeal.
“We have daily standup meetings (10 min or less) outlining the deals in the pipeline that should close within 30 days. We discuss what BOTH sales and marketing are doing to close these opportunities and then set actionable items after each meeting.”
“Besides fostering great communication and collaboration, this enables us to understand what is needed to drive results while allowing our key stakeholders (our executive team) great visibility into our daily activity.”
“We also use a scrum board (our CRM) to move these accounts and tasks forward, which we can measure at the end. We also hold quarterly planning sessions and retrospectives at the end of our sprints.”
3. Consider Merging Your Sales & Marketing Teams
Some organizations have gone beyond having frequent conversations—they’ve actually merged their sales and marketing teams.
“We merged both teams and now do most of our meetings together,” says Oriol Bel from Inboundcycle. “[W]e share KPIs and dashboards and our decisions are aligned.”
Samantha Avneri from Regpack shares a similar story:
“If I were to give advice to other teams, I would say to just make one larger ‘sales and marketing team’ and act like you are working together, not separately.”
“This includes weekly team meetings, heads of departments meeting for status updates, brainstorm sessions, etc. and combining statistics to show progress. We both create our own monthly reports. However, we both use each other’s information to build our own out.”
“For example, I rely on demo and lead number statistics that Sales focuses on that ties in with our marketing spend and results. I think when you shift the perspective from ‘these are two teams working independently’ to ‘two parts of one whole working towards the same goal,’ it will foster camaraderie, productivity, and success!”
Joseph Sloan says that two things helped improve sales and marketing alignment at Advice Media:
1. “We started to send our marketing team to trade shows with sales reps. Not only did they become closer, but it was a crash course for the marketing team to see first hand how a sale is made and what marketing material would assist in closing the sale. This lead to the creation of our case study funnel, which allows us to make 3 new case studies, with print material and videos, each quarter.”
2. “When we held our first company marketing meeting that was lead by the marketing team to better define our brand and where we want to be positioned in the market. This was a 2-day event with the marketing department and the sales team.”
Even a temporary merging of the teams—like at tradeshows—can make a big difference in how they communicate with each other.
4. Establish Lead Lifecycle and Qualification Standards
“Last quarter, our sales leadership team realized we had a problem,” says Fundera’s Tommy McNulty. “Our sales development representatives were spending the same amount of time on all inbound opportunities, without any segmentation for quality.”
“There was no way for us to tell the difference between a true prospective customer and someone who wasn’t yet in the market for financing before assigning them to a representative.”
“Marketing was doing a great job of sending us plenty of opportunities but we needed a segmentation system to ensure representatives were devoting enough time to customers ready to learn about the financial solutions we offer.”
“Sales leadership went to our head of operations with this problem and with the marketing team, we devised a filtering system that would rate and assign opportunities to ensure representatives were maximizing the value of their time, prospective customers were getting the help they needed, and those who weren’t ready for financing were directed to other resources.”
McNulty continues, “We implemented the first iteration of a segmentation system last month and we’ve already seen excellent results. By working together with marketing, we were able to align our objectives and create a system that improved results for everyone.”
Claim Your Space also emphasizes lead scoring, says Tony Chopp.
“The topic of lead quality is always critical. Our most effective strategies for aligning sales and marketing teams have revolved around scoring leads systematically, during their initial point of contact.”
“We’re using call tracking systems like CallRail and CallTrackingMetrics to handle this scoring, and partnering with our client’s call centers to implement the processes.”
“The work has resulted in meaningful shifts in their marketing budget allocation, with more funds [being] distributed to marketing channels that are delivering appointments, not just leads.”
“The business leaders are happy because they have a clearer roadmap for marketing. The sales teams are happier because they’re getting a steadily increasing quantity and quality of leads. Our marketing team is happy because we’re able to see analytically which channels, campaigns, keywords, etc. are actually driving results.”
Omi Diaz-Cooper of Diaz & Cooper Advertising had a similar experience with a client:
“We found that we had to help train the sales staff as much in the automation tech as in the mindset of the process—many salespeople fall back on old ‘cold calling’ habits, but once they saw the power of calling on leads that were warm and that they knew something meaningful about, the conversations became more about solving for the customer vs. just meeting a quota.”
“This made them more passionate about what they were doing. Within 6 months, we had increased leads by over 15% and helped them grow annual revenue by 8%.”
5. Define What Makes a Qualified Lead
“When our client, Vital WorkLife, first came to us, their sales and marketing teams were in a state where each had no idea what the other was doing,” says Media Junction’s Beverley Barnes.
“Sales was looking for better leads and marketing was insisting they were sending a ton of leads. The teams were not even in agreement of definitions for SQL & MQL.”
“We worked with both teams to do extensive interview[s] and joint meetings to come up with aligned MQLs & SQLs. The process also helped uncover information that their sales team had been gathering on a regular basis that marketing knew nothing about because it was not being [stored] in a commonplace.”
“We worked to create easy-to-use forms for sales to capture this data and feed directly back into the CRM so that both teams could access and utilize the data. We also used joint meetings to help the teams open up communications and dialog with each other.”
“We established templates that both teams could use for consistency, ease of use, and the ability to control branding. All of this has led to a dramatic increase in the number of MQLs converting to SQLs and closed deals.”
BabelQuest uses “a clear ‘advance / nurture / disqualify’ approach at the connect stage,” says Thomas Brown. “This helped us to continually improve the quality of the marketing content to generate the right type of leads.”
“Clear reporting was introduced to make sure every lead was picked up and that connection attempts were made. Now, nobody gets left behind because sales are too busy.”
6. Create Shared Metrics and Goals
“One of the issues that we have identified when marketing and sales teams are not aligned is that each team measures success using different metrics,” says Nextiny’s Gabriel Marguglio.
“Frequently, marketing teams focus on a lot of vanity metrics, and even when they are doing inbound marketing and they are measuring visits and leads, they often only focus on quantity and not so much on quality.”
“Concurrently, sales teams focus mostly on closing customers, so they care primarily about opportunities that are ready to engage with sales. If poor quality leads or leads that still need nurturing are sent to them, they don’t give them much attention or dedicate much time to them since they feel that they are a waste of time.”
“Some of these issues can be resolved by measuring the same things and implementing a combined reporting approach that shows the hand-off process for a lead from the marketing side to the sale side.”
“By showing the marketing and the sales process in one report, we identify both opportunities and bottlenecks,” says Marguglio. “This, in turn, begins conversations that help people to see what they can do to get more qualified leads in the pipeline and how to nurture them.”
7. Make Marketing Content & Sales Messaging Consistent
“Nowadays, most marketing strategies are based on content creation: blog posts, social media, videos, infographics, webinars, podcasts, etc.,” says Jonathan Aufray from Growth Hackers. “However, content marketing doesn’t always convert into sales.”
“To align marketing and sales, we create educational content focusing on conversion, lead generation, and sales. How? We create our content first and then we [have] it review[ed] by our sales team to add enticing call-to-action[s] as well as adding a bit of ‘pushy’ content.”
Lovrecich Media uses content to create funnels, says Christian Lovrecich. Funnels are “basically a series of pages, usually 3 to 5 pages long, [designed] to keep the lead in place and not distracted by anything else.”
“So when they land on the first page of the funnel after clicking an intriguing ad, basically what we’re doing is we’re offering a piece of content on information that they are [interested] in, in exchange for their information which basically at first is only going to be their name and an email address.”
“What’s happening here is once we get that email address we’ll be building a database for our client’s company right from the get-go, for them to retarget and nurture that lead. Once we get that info and then move on to the second page, [that’s] where there’s going to be content about your services designed to answer all of their questions and tell them what it is that you have to offer.”
“Once they consume that piece of content then they’ll be taken to the next page where we’re going to ask [them] a series of pre-qualifying questions. . . . [N]ow we can open up our calendar to only accept the good ones, no reason for their sales team to waste their time with bad leads or unqualified leads for that matter.”
Dan Radu from Macromator also points out the value of delivering content early in the lifecycle:
“Marketing has a huge opportunity to influence the buying cycle because most decisions are made before a first touch is made with sales.”
But it’s not a one-way transaction. There’s a feedback loop that helps improve both marketing and sales practices.
“Both parties agree [on the targeted] buying persona. Sales then follows up to better understand the need and propose the right solution for [the prospect]. Based on how the sales conversations go, we are then going back to marketing to create even more content that speaks to what our sales team needs.”
However, it is not just about creating content for prospects. Creating content for the sales team to use can also have a significant impact.
Pirkka Prami from Prami Growth Agency shared, “We had a clear marketing SLA with our client which defined the amount and quality of the leads to be generated for them. After leads started coming in, we realized that our client was just passively waiting for those leads to turn into revenue. We quickly set-up a sales workshop where the sales process, playbook with cadences and call scripts were developed together. All leads are now contacted and meetings are booked with 25-30% conversion rate.”
LeadFuze, a provider of sales prospecting software, recently completed an exercise to align their sales messaging with their marketing content. Per Justin McGill, “At the end of the day, we are trying to add revenue. Sometimes that gets lost in the weeds of ‘what is a marketing qualified lead vs a sales qualified lead?’ So having marketing focus on activities and content that will drive qualified buyers is the only thing that matters. For us, this meant having content that positions the product as the solution to problems our buyers have. It also means a better onboarding experience, with sales messaging that matches everything we’re talking about in our marketing material.”
“Based on a recent realignment between our sales and marketing this past August, we have had a 101% increase in trial to paid ratio, and a 66% increase in revenue when compared against our previous month.”
8. Implement Sales and Marketing Technology Well
SmartBug Media’s Drew Cohen tells us how properly configuring a CRM helped one client align sales and marketing:
“A huge part of their business was bulk orders—to businesses, organizations, management teams, speakers, consultants and more. Our client had a salesperson who was in charge of the bulk ordering process, and they were doing an excellent job continuing to grow that component of the business.”
“However, they operated in a silo and marketing was unaware of their activity, and the bulk sales leader was not aware of marketing campaigns or tools that were available to help them perform at a higher level.”
“[W]e first replaced the bulk ordering landing page with a Hubspot landing page that was optimized for mobile and SEO. We added fresh copy targeted at our client’s persona and replaced the custom form with a Hubspot form.”
“We also created a pipeline in the CRM specifically for bulk sales orders,” says Cohen, “and we added various stages that matched the sales cycle for this division of the business. The most important component of this phase of our approach was what was occurring on the back-end inside Hubspot.”
“We set up a workflow that was based on the submission of that ‘Bulk Buyer Form,’ and upon submission, there were [three] key factors of the workflow:
1. Send an internal lead notification to the bulk sales leader with prospect name and details of their inquiry.”
2. “Create a deal in the CRM to allow tracking of the prospect, associated company, deal revenue, etc.”
3. “Three days after the prospect filled out the form, if their deal was still in the initial stage of the pipeline, an internal email notification would be sent to the bulk sales leader reminding them to follow up with the lead and/or update the deal stage and associated information. As part of this notification, we also created a task inside Hubspot.”
Cohen continues: “With this approach, the marketing team now knew exactly what bulk buyer prospects were in the system and if they were followed up with or not. With the marketing team now having an understanding of who is in the pipeline, we were also able to assist in the launch of several lead nurturing campaigns that sent personalized messaging based on their inquiry and deal stage.”
“On the sales side, they had a clear visual aid (Hubspot’s Deals) to understand exactly what prospects were in the system, and where they were in the sales cycle. Using the Hubspot CRM, they were able to leave notes on contact records and within each deal record.”
“By having an understanding of where potential deals live in the sales process, more tactical and strategic conversations are now taking place on a regular basis between the sales and marketing teams.”
Dallas Antwerp uses HubSpot as well, says Jasper Wouters.
“We used HubSpot for our own Smarketing. (We prefer the term, Marketales, though. ;)). We build internal workflows. So when a lead is qualified and visited our website minimum 10 times, our sales [department] gets a funny internal email.”
Whether you include humor in the process or not—and why wouldn’t you?—your sales and marketing tech can help create alignment at your company.
Likewise, Revenue River recently helped a client implement a sales CRM and process that resulted in a 270% increase in sales and a 517% increase in sales rep productivity.
9. Create a Culture of Alignment
If your sales and marketing departments aren’t currently aligned, it could take a big shift to make them so. But it’s worth the time and the effort, as indicated by the increase in sales from the stories above.
Edward Emmett took on the role of VP Business Development at JetRuby and found a lot of redundancies that prevented the sales and marketing team from working together effectively, “Marketing initiatives were very siloed and didn’t seem to have a consolidated strategy. After an initial assessment, it was clear we need to Identify our core audience (e.g. segments, personas, etc) through internal surveys. The next step was to work with sales and marketing to develop schedule for content creation and distribution. I then ran workshops to document and optimize all our sales and marketing processes. Once this was completed, we were in a better position to procure a CRM and implement our processes accordingly. In doing this, we were able to immediately recognize efficiencies, eliminate unnecessary (costly) systems, and execute with more transparency and agility. The best part, though — we turned the culture into a more collaborative environment. We still have a long way to go, but we’re firing on all cylinders now. Our inbound leads have more than doubled (200 %+) over the past 60 days. And, we’re cut costs dramatically.”
Is your organization out of alignment? Not sure where to start?
Use the ideas and steps above, starting with shared buyer personas, take one step at a time. Build alignment piece by piece, and you’ll see progress, just like JetRuby.
But, whatever you do, do something.
“Relying on your products to sell themselves is guaranteed to stall your company’s growth, sooner rather than later. With a strategic, smartly-targeted marketing and sales plan, you can build on early momentum, connecting with new, high-quality prospects and turning them into customers. But you have to deliberately improve your sales and marketing processes just as you improve your product over time” said Chris Strom of ClearPivot.
Ready to Learn More?
For more information on best practices of great sales leaders, check out the Costello resources below. If you’d like to see Costello in action, request a personalized demo of our real-time sales playbook software.