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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistFri, Dec 8, 2017 12 min read

2018 Planning Tips: Steps To Ensuring Sales And Marketing Alignment

Next Year Is The Year Marketing And Sales Come Together As One Team

sales and marketing alignmentNothing is more annoying and frustrating than the age-old debate among sales and marketing folks. Marketing thinks sales doesn’t follow up on the leads they generate, and sales doesn’t think marketing generates any high-quality leads.

For years, this was just an accepted state of the union. Over my career, I’d like to think I did my part to break down the barriers by spending time with sales, visiting prospects with them, giving them an opportunity to share their experiences and using that feedback to create more sales-friendly marketing campaigns.

But today there’s still too much misalignment. Next year must be the year you break down the walls and perfectly align sales and marketing to produce revenue growth and business results for your company.

Here are some ideas for your 2018 planning that will ensure you get your sales and marketing efforts aligned and orchestrated in the upcoming year.

Start An Account-Based Marketing (ABM) Program

This is one of the only tactics in both sales and marketing that requires both teams to work together on program development and program execution. Marketing needs to get insights from the sales team to create disruptive messaging. Sales needs messaging and content assets from marketing to execute an ABM program. Both need to share feedback on the execution of the program if the program is going to improve over time.

For the first time in the history of marketing and sales, there’s a programmatic tactic that demands these two teams work together to execute it. Take advantage of it. In fact, a lot of ABM experts advise you to not to move forward with ABM if you don’t have sales and marketing alignment.

As Ernesto Castillo writes on the Marketo blog, “Alignment between sales and marketing is beneficial for any organization, but if you want to get the most out of ABM (and what marketer doesn’t?), it’s crucial. Conversion rates improve when sales and marketing share ownership of lead nurturing and incubation. Companies with tightly aligned sales and marketing teams experience 36% higher customer retention rates and 38% higher sales win rates. When sales and marketing teams are aligned, leads are 67% more likely to become clients.

LeanData reports that sales teams at businesses utilizing ABM are 20% more likely to trust the attribution numbers reported by marketing and also 20% more likely to understand marketing’s goals. ABM marketers said sales follows up on their leads 25% more, saying that it occurs 40% of the time compared to just 30% at companies not utilizing ABM strategies. Sales teams in companies not using ABM are 10% more likely to rate the quality of marketing-generated leads negatively.

The data is in: If you want to improve the performance of your revenue generation effort, align sales and marketing with an account-based marketing initiative.

Work Out An SLA Between Sales And Marketing

align sales and marketingThis one might be a little more complicated. In all my years, I’ve only heard about an SLA (service-level agreement) between sales and marketing at one company  HubSpot. It’s clearly something that only the most progressive companies are currently doing.

But that doesn’t mean its not right for your company, and it is effective in keeping both teams focused on their goals.

These agreements always start with questions and gaining a common ground around what the agreement needs to do. Here are some questions to consider, according to the InsightSquared blog:

  • What is a high-quality MQL?
  • How many MQLs should marketing provide to sales?
  • When does the handoff occur between marketing and sales?
  • How quickly should the sales team call every new MQL?

Both sales and marketing have to agree to the answers to form a foundation for the SLA to be created. If you can’t agree to the answers, you might have even bigger issues to deal with before you start looking at SLAs.

HubSpot, the self-proclaimed king of SLAs between sales and marketing, published a great article that goes into incredible detail on how to do the calculations and how to add value to each lead. The elegance of their model is that it is revenue based, not lead numbers based. This takes quality into consideration. For example, a lead that converts on a high-value offer (that almost always turns into a new customer) is worth more than a lead that converts on a top-of-the-funnel offer (that almost never turns into a new customer). Now marketing is focused on offers producing leads that convert, instead of just leads.

Set Shared Revenue Goals As Bonus Incentives For Both Teams

You should notice that we’re giving you easier and easier options when it comes to alignment strategies. ABM programs and SLAs are challenging, but giving both teams a revenue goal and making this their incentive compensation plan is definitely on the easier side of the options.

Simply remove all of their other goals, incentives and bonus programs. Make it all focused on one single number — revenue. Your sales teams are already focused on driving revenue, and now that your marketing team is too, you might find some different, interesting and highly productive behaviors forming.

If leads don’t matter anymore because sales doesn’t close them, then that conversation has to change and change quickly. Why don’t they close? What’s wrong with them? What are the salespeople doing to close them? Let’s look at how we can help them close more leads and close them more frequently. These are all great questions for marketing to be asking.

Co-Locate The Two Teams In One Central Location

This also is pretty easy, as youre simply put the two teams together. Make them listen to each other’s challenges, make them share conference rooms and break rooms, and if your teams are virtual, start planning training and other in-office sessions at the same time. Before you know it, you might see each other’s perspectives changing and the more progressive team members actively working differently.

Have Them Report To The Chief Revenue Officer

sales and marketing alignmentThis might seem extreme, but it is one of the fastest ways to an end. You don’t need a VP of marketing and a VP of sales. You need one chief revenue officer who has all the power to set up lead gen and demand gen programs for the top of the funnel and then work with the sales team to manage those leads down, into and out of the bottom of the funnel as new customers. Since the click-to-close experience is one single flow, one person can easily create the touch points and details of that experience.

This doesn’t mean you won’t need help, skills and experience on the marketing and sales sides, but it does mean that the buck stops with one person. This one person has only one goal — revenue. While this might seem extreme, it is effective.

The big kicker here is that your prospects could care less about what’s going on behind the scenes at your company. They don’t care if marketing scored them a 70 or a 90 in the lead scoring model, and they don’t care if sales had to follow up on 10 unqualified leads before they showed up. What they do care about is that it has been a few days since they filled out a form and they haven’t heard from you. They do care if the salesperson assigned to them has an attitude. They do care if they’re getting sold to and not helped.

This is the fastest way to take every single marketing dollar you’ve invested and flush that right down the toilet. If sales doesn’t take extra special care of every single lead they’re presented with regardless of source, you have a much bigger problem on your hands than how many people are coming to your website.

You have to aggressively work to close that gap. The people your prospects meet in the sales process should be just as nice as the voices and messages on your website. They should tell the same stories, use the same vocabulary and be just as focused on helping as the pages on your website. Once you bring that online, you’ll find a higher conversion rate on leads from marketing to sales, and that means more new customers and more revenue at the bottom of the funnel. 

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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.