4 Ways to Align your Sales and Marketing Teams

Does your organization suffer from a tenuous relationship between your sales and marketing teams?

You are not alone. The relationship between these two teams can easily become strained when they must depend on one another to meet their goals.

A recent study by the Corporate Executive Board perfectly illustrates this issue, finding that 87% of the terms that marketing and sales professionals use for one another are negative.

But why are these two teams in constant turmoil when they are dependent upon one another for their mutual success?

Companies that are not addressing this issue saw a 4% decrease in annual revenue, while those that found a way to overcome the rift saw a 20% annual revenue growth, according to the Aberdeen Group.

So don’t you want to be one of those companies seeing 20% annual growth? Well, aligning these two teams isn’t as hard as you would think!

Here are four ways to strengthen the relationship between sales and marketing teams to produce your company’s best results yet:

1. Speak the same language

There is an abundance of over-used corporate jargon, with sales and marketing as some of the biggest offenders.

Making sure that your team is on the same page with the terminology it uses sounds like a relatively simple task, but it might prove to be a bit more intricate than you would think.

There are a lot of terms that occur within the buyer’s journey that need to be defined: from when someone first visits your website until they become a customer.

Some key terms for the top of the funnel commonly used and can be confused are:

  • Contact: commonly defined as a person who exists within the funnel but their exact stage in the sales process is unknown
  • Prospect: commonly defined as a website visitor who has either signed up to receive blog updates or company newsletters/emails.
  • Lead: this is a person who has submitted a registration form in return for an offer of an asset such as a white paper, case study, data sheet, etc.

The middle of the funnel can provide even more confusion for sales and marketing when it comes to terminology, especially since most companies have marketing and sales sharing the responsibility of this stage. Being on the same page for these two key terms is crucial:

  • Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL): commonly defined as a prospect who has become a lead by filling out marketing offers that indicate a high-level of interest in the company’s products or services. These should be defined and agreed upon by marketing and sales teams.
  • Sales Qualified Leads (SQL): commonly defined as a marketing qualified lead that is deemed by the sales team to be ready for contact after thorough research and investigation. Again, the sales and marketing team need to work together to identify which triggers should be put in place to identify the transition between MQL and SQL.

Lastly, the bottom of the funnel, usually held by the sales team, has a term that should also be defined:

  • Opportunity: commonly defined as a sales qualified lead that a sales representative has communicated with and believes has a legitimate chance at becoming a customer.

Please note that these are commonly held definitions of these terms and not definitions that every company must use. If your teams already have terminology that works for them, that’s great! There is no reason to further complicate things and change terminology that is working – just make sure that everyone is using those terms the same way.

2. Have clearly defined goals and expectations

In a recent study, 55% of sales teams said that they wanted better quality leads from marketing, while 34% of marketing teams were interested in better lead follow up. So how are these two goals attained? As with most other parts of a business, clearly defining these goals and expectations play a huge part in ensuring successful partnerships. Sales and marketing should create a service level agreement that enables the two teams to have specific expectations for quality of leads, the number of leads and follow-up timing.

One of the number one reasons that sales and marketing can get onto each other’s bad side is because of a ‘feeling’ of under-deliverability. Ensuring that expectations are in writing and quantifiable helps teams to avoid subjective evaluations of one another’s performance.

When it comes to service level agreements, the terms should be quantifiable and realistic. Some expectations that should be put in place on the marketing side are:

  • The amount of marketing qualified leads the marketing team must provide for the sales team to reach their revenue goal.
  • The quality of leads that are delivered to sales – are these leads ‘sales-ready’?
  • With that said, what exactly qualifies as a sales qualified lead? This should be spelled out in the service level agreement.

Some expectations that should be in the sales service level agreement include:

  • The sales team should commit to a specific number of marketing qualified lead follow-ups they perform once the hand-off comes from marketing.
  • The sales team should commit to a specified time frame that they are obligated to contact leads in once sent from marketing.

These should be tracked on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis to ensure that goals on both sides are met. This can be achieved through closed loop reporting.

3. Closed loop reporting

One common mistake that companies make is that once a sales qualified lead gets contacted and nurtured by sales, other teams lose all visibility into what happened to the lead.

There is so much valuable information that comes from the bottom of the funnel that is not communicated once a lead either falls out of the sales process or a sale has been made. If it didn’t work out, then why? If a sale was made – great, what helped you make the sale?

It seems like this would be a no-brainer, but it can be difficult if you do not have closed loop reporting structures in place. Closed loop reporting allows for companies to keep track of leads from the beginning of the sales process to the end.

Closed loop reporting can help marketing teams a great deal by:

  • Providing a person’s most up-to-date contact information for future nurturing campaigns.
  • Sharing how specific leads end up becoming a sale – were there particular marketing pieces that helped nudge them in the right direction? Reporting these experiences helps to inform future campaigns and, in turn, makes for more conversions over time.
  • Sharing why certain leads did not close and fell out of the sales process – were they not educated enough to make a sale? Were they not ready to make purchasing decisions yet?

There are also a couple of ways that closed loop reporting can help the sales team to perform their job more effectively by:

  • Giving them insight into what their current leads are engaging in on their site. If marketing is aware of a specific lead that a sales representative is working on, they can send them up-to-date information on actions that they are taking in terms of different marketing materials they are viewing.
  • Keeping marketing informed on what kind of content produces more informed and educated leads. Better educated leads usually make for easier sales.

Closed loop reporting allows for increased visibility into the sales process for everyone involved, and creates enhanced ability to show the full story of lead interaction.

4. Rely on data for decision-making

Marketing and sales teams should operate and make decisions based on shared data and reporting.

To set your teams up for success, both teams must have reporting that is visible to BOTH teams, which includes:

  • Daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly updates as to how the two teams are performing with regards to their service level agreements and goals.
  • Measurement of key performance indicators, such as website visitors, leads, customers, campaign performance, lead conversion, etc.
  • Reporting of leads passed on to the sales team from marketing, and the interactions that occurred.

These are just a few examples of what you can be measuring and can continue even further depending on what is important to you and your business. Mapping out data that is important to both groups will allow both teams insight into each other’s pain points, current obstacles and areas for improvement. Being able to have visibility and insight into possible challenges on a day-to-day basis contributes to fewer surprises down the road.

When sales and marketing teams are able to have open, frequent conversation, measurable goals and reasonable expectations of one another, it is much easier to have a positive relationship. Once both teams are able to get on the same page, they will be able to build a relationship of collaboration, as opposed to finger pointing and resentment.

What about you? Do you have experience with sales and marketing relationships that have gone sour? Or maybe experience with turning a sales and marketing relationship around?

Originally posted on Channel Chatter, submitted by Lauren Phelps

Lauren is an experienced marketer with an extensive knowledge of various industries and marketing capacities. She is currently working as a Customer Experience Analyst, giving her the ability to assist channel partners in solving their marketing challenges through channel marketing automation solutions.

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