The buying process has changed dramatically in recent years, and with customers playing a much more active and autonomous role in identifying solutions to their needs, researching options and eventually nearing a purchase decision, the sales team are often not involved until the customer is quite far down the sales funnel.
However, with marketing teams complaining that sales teams don’t manage to close deals, and sales teams complaining that marketing teams send them poor quality leads, relationships and revenues are suffering.
In this article, we look at the importance of marketing and sales alignment to business growth and performance, and look at some examples of how to start aligning the two areas.
Misalignment between sales and marketing teams is unfortunately a common occurrence across companies, where the two roles have traditionally been separated. However, the figures tell a story that should encourage any company to at least rethink how these two areas interact: according to an article on HubSpot, misalignment between marketing and sales technologies and processes costs B2B companies 10% of revenue or more per year, while companies with good ‘smarketing’ practices generated 208% more revenue from their marketing efforts.
So how can companies go about bringing these teams together to maximise the strengths of each? The below items are not necessarily linear, but rather elements that should be considered as part of any efforts to align the two areas:
- Get to know each other and have open lines of communication
The alignment of marketing and sales functions is like any relationship: without regular and effective communication between the two teams, it’s only natural that they don’t understand each other well, and are perhaps unaware of how the other operates.
If your teams have traditionally been separate, start with organising workshops to explore how each operate, then set up regular meetings to review topics like lead generation, encourage constructive feedback between the two areas, and actively come up with strategies to capture and convert high-quality leads.
- Create a single customer journey
Getting to know each other is already one very positive step, but it’s having a unified view of the entire customer journey that will really help to get the two teams on the same page. With customers increasingly expecting a seamless customer experience and given the fact that customer journeys are rarely linear, it no longer makes sense to have segregated marketing and sales efforts. Instead, companies should be aiming for one single brand customer experience.
From the very first time a customer interacts with your brand, right through to brand loyalty stage, the entire process should tie together as one experience, and the only way to do that is to align marketing and sales.
The two teams should work together to identify content needs and create the appropriate content for every stage in the journey. This way, the move through different stages of the journey should be transparent to customers. Their relationship with your brand should feel smooth and effortless, with no perceptible change in experience when suddenly dealing with the sales reps at the end of the funnel.
With a common view of the customer journey, teams can more easily track leads/prospects/customers across the entire funnel, and better identify and remedy any gaps or weaknesses.
- Align terminology and processes
To make sure everyone is on the same page, create a collective set of definitions that will help clear up any communication issues between the groups and reduce misunderstandings.
Something that can also help is to create a kind of Service Level Agreement (SLA) that includes information such as the roles of each team, how leads are qualified etc.
- Align goals
“One way to build trust between marketing and sales is to make them accountable for the same company goal—revenue.” Mike Lieberman, Co-founder and CEO, Square 2 Marketing
Uniting your sales and marketing teams under common goals – revenue and others – is one sure way to make sure that they appreciate each other’s efforts, understand the possible synergies between their work, and collaborate to identify and address any weaknesses across the whole sales and marketing funnel.
For example, if your sales team is struggling to sell a specific product or service, marketing teams can create a strategy to promote it to leads they have identified – according to criteria agreed with the sales team – as high quality. With this support, the sales team can then focus on those high-quality leads to close deals.
With mutual accountability, teams will hopefully find novel ways to find solutions together, and move away from a situation where poor performance could be blamed on a separate team.
In conclusion, the customer journey is more complex than ever, with multiple touchpoints across a range of channels. From the customer’s perspective, they expect to develop a relationship with a unified brand, and have little interest in how your organisation is structured. They just want things to work, for their interactions to be smooth, and for you, as a company, to understand who and where they are at every stage of the journey.
If sales and marketing teams continue to operate in silos, with no or minimal alignment, companies miss out on the opportunity to benefit from a shared view, with shared efforts and common goals.
Instead, companies need to truly place the buyer at the centre of their universe and build and nurture well-aligned teams that can serve and delight customers at every stage of the buyer journey.
For more about marketing and sales strategy, take a look at our marketing and sales strategy guide.