Category: Marketing and Sales Alignment

Marketing

How 8 Brands Mastered Marketing and Sales Alignment

I’ve written about the importance of sales and marketing alignment before, but the point can’t be understated: businesses undeniably have better success when they align sales and marketing teams.

Plus, having strong alignment between sales and marketing is mutually beneficial for both teams — in fact, sales and marketing alignment can help your company become 67% better at closing deals, and can help generate 209% more revenue from marketing.

If you’re anything like me, however, it’s likely helpful to learn through example. Which is why we’ve reached out to eight brands to learn how they mastered marketing and sales alignment.

I’d encourage you to use the following examples as inspiration for your own process as you work to better align your teams, but remember — marketing and sales alignment will be unique to each individual company.

For that reason, you’ll find the most benefit from this post if you pick-and-choose from these strategies which aspects feel most authentic to your own company culture and business goals.

Let’s dive in!

1. Crossbeam rolled out company-wide OKRs.

Robert Moore, Co-Founder and CEO at Crossbeam, told me: “At Crossbeam, we’ve rolled out company-wide OKRs that change each quarter and can be measured using sales, marketing, and product data from HubSpot.”

He adds, “Everyone at Crossbeam has access to dashboards that update in real-time with our progress toward these key results, and our progress also auto-posts to Slack each morning to keep people in the loop and drive discussions around progress. This keeps the company on the same page and aligned on what matters most.”

Key Takeaway: Ultimately, for strong marketing and sales alignment, it’s critical both teams share key metrics and can iterate on their alignment based on which metrics are exceeding expectations, and which ones are falling short.

2. Rybbon created a Marketing to Sales circle.

Jignesh Shah, CEO of Rybbon, says his company shifted its mindset to create better alignment between sales and marketing: “At Rybbon, instead of a marketing to sales funnel, we believe in a marketing to sales circle. Marketing campaigns are launched and supported by coordinated sales follow-up. Sales and marketing meet weekly to discuss the results of these campaigns and ultimately evaluate their effectiveness. Sales’ feedback to marketing then helps to guide decisions on what campaigns to do next.”

“The circle process keeps sales and marketing teams aligned and results-driven.”

Key Takeaway: To create your own circle process, consider how you might bake weekly or monthly sales and marketing collaborations into your company culture. Ultimately, both teams should feel comfortable working with one another on a regular basis for true, sustainable company alignment.

3. SmartBugMedia aligned its content calendar with its revenue targets.

Hannah Shain, Director of Marketing at SmartBugMedia, told me her team has directly tied its marketing goals with revenue targets to ensure both teams stay aligned and on-track: “Our campaigns and content calendar are directly aligned to revenue targets, resulting in an average of 17.4% increase month-over-month in inbound-qualified sales leads that convert to qualified pipeline at an average rate of 47.73%.”

She continues, “Additionally, our sales team is seeing instant benefits in their HubSpot Sequences. The marketing content being produced is directly on target with their outreach, landing them meetings on the first touch.”

Key Takeaway: To truly motivate and inspire both teams to work together, consider how you might create intersection in key business metrics. For instance, perhaps you tie revenue back to your marketing goals, to ensure marketers stay on-track to serve the same bottom-line goals that matter most to sales, as well.

4. Outreach encourages both teams to avoid blame at all costs.

If your marketing and sales teams are misaligned or don’t communicate well, it might be easy for each team to assign blame when things don’t go as planned.

As Mark Kosoglow, VP of Sales at Outreach, says: “You need to decide not to have a blame-game mindset or culture. When pipeline is viewed as a shared challenge, then it becomes easier to talk about what needs to be done to improve the situation.”

“Sales and marketing is a complex relationship, and assigning blame narrows your ability to create needle-moving solutions.”

Key Takeaway: Create a culture in which your sales and marketing teams feel authentically connected and aligned when it comes to your company’s bottom-line. The more leadership can encourage collaboration over competition, the better.

5. Nextiva focuses on high-quality data analysis to align marketing and sales.

Ultimately, data analysis is critical for understanding the current level of alignment between sales and marketing goals, and iterating to ensure future alignment success.

Nextiva is fully aware of the importance of data for marketing and sales alignment. As Gaetano DiNardi, Director of Growth Marketing at Nextiva, told me: “At Nextiva, we have a joke: ‘Hey marketing, can we just get one more lead?’ Our lead flow is 100% inbound, but with that arrangement comes a unique set of challenges. Sales can often argue that lead volumes are too low. So we’ll go and fix that by ranking highly in Google for important terms like Business VoIP.”

He adds, “Alternatively, when lead volumes are unquestionably above forecast, then sales will say that the lead sizes are not large enough. So we’ll dig into the data and show them how poor their close rates have been on our largest lead sizes. Eventually, there will be an aha moment among both groups on where the biggest problem exists — but that only happens when you can bring the right data to the conversation.”

“Great alignment between marketing and sales comes down to high-quality data analysis and effective communication with an action plan, and accountability on both sides, in order to solve complex problems.” 

Key Takeaway: Bring data into every conversation you have between sales and marketing. To avoid blame, you can use this data to demonstrate where each team might be falling short of helping support the other team’s goals. 

6. BluLeadz’s sales and marketing teams share an ecosystem to improve the customer experience. 

To truly align your marketing and sales teams, you’ll want to consider what tools and platforms each team uses. Is there an opportunity to align your tools to enable each team member to visualize how their individual actions are helping or hurting the other team’s goals — and, ultimately, what the experience looks like for the customer? 

As Dave Stout, an Inbound Specialist at BluLeadz, explains: “Our ability to maintain alignment between marketing and sales comes down to three elements: Process, communication, and shared ecosystems.”

“We collaboratively create processes that we share and refine together. For example, marketing will help us create sales content, and our sales team refines those content assets over time and shares the results. This ongoing communication about what’s working and what is not working is vital.
We maintain an open communication channel by meeting every week to address friction points, establish action items, and hold each other accountable.”

Stout adds, “The most important tactic we use to stay aligned is sharing an ecosystem. Both of our teams use HubSpot, and we share access to each team’s portal and reporting dashboards. This allows us to have impactful conversations about the quality of leads coming from different channels, enabling us to accurately forecast sales and identify touchpoints we can add throughout the buying process to improve the customer experience.”

Key Takeaway: Choose an ecosystem that offers advanced tools for both sales reps and marketers. The more your teams can align on tools and processes, the easier it will be for your entire company to reach tighter alignment. 

7. SuperOffice asked its sales reps to become more active on social media.

In this case study blog post, Steven MacDonald writes about SuperOffice’s experience aligning its own sales and marketing teams.

In 2016, the company chose to bring in Jan Willem Alphenaar, a social selling expert, to instruct the sales team on how to use social media for sales. The sales team shifted their perspective and recognized social media as a tool for capturing B2B sales — not just leads.

As MacDonald writes, “Sales and marketing became much more aligned and now hold frequent meetings to discuss content, campaigns, digital activities and goals – such as what to post online and how often, how to target prospects and build relationships and how to engage with potential customers.”

The results? An increase in business leads by 168%, an increase in social media visits to SuperOffice’s website by 61%, and a business revenue increase of 10% within the first 12 months — with plenty more room to grow.

Key Takeaway: Consider in which aspects of marketing — including social media, blogging, event planning, email, and video — you might ask your sales team to get involved. In this case, the sales team recognized their own power to reach new audiences and convert leads into customers through social media. Your sales reps might have unique opportunities to reach new networks — tap into that.

8. American Express created a content hub with both marketing and sales playing a role.

American Express had a lofty goal: to position itself as a leader in the corporate travel industry.

To make that happen, the company partnered with the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and conducted extensive research on the experience of global business travelers.

American Express then established a pilot social selling team, comprised of employees across multiple departments and locations, including sales and marketing.

This team created content based on the research from GBTA — and, while marketing took the lead on creating and distributing that content, the sales team provided customer insight and played a critical role in ensuring the content was customer-centric.

American Express’ corporate travel content hub was undeniably successful — with a reach of more than 100 million publications, over 1,500 page visits, and an increase of 100% engagement rate on LinkedIn.

Key Takeaway: While marketers are critical for conducting customer research and understanding the needs of your audiences and prospects, it’s important for marketers to remember that sales reps are the ones who speak most directly to prospects and customers on a daily basis. Consider how your marketing team might collaborate with sales to leverage that unique customer insight for upcoming campaigns or content launches.

Now that we’ve covered some amazing brands mastering sales and marketing alignment, feel free to take a look at Tried-and-True Tips for Sales and Marketing Alignment for a more individualized, step-by-step guide to better alignment.

Marketing

The 4 Key Signs Your Marketing and Sales Teams…

I like to think of marketing and sales as the leads in a buddy cop movie. 

Sales is the grizzled veteran on the force who keeps reiterating that they’re “too old for this” whenever some zany misadventure gets started. And marketing is the hot-headed rookie with a chip on their shoulder looking to prove to everyone that they have what it takes to become the department’s first-ever bow-legged sergeant or something.

There’s a lot of potential for a pretty compelling story if the two of them get along, but let’s imagine a movie where they don’t.

In this film, the two have no chemistry nor mutual respect. They let most criminals get away due to lack of communication, and they don’t riff any back-and-forth wisecracks throughout the movie.

And worst of all, they don’t end the movie on a freeze-frame of them jumping in the air, locking into a perfect high-five before the credits roll.

No one would want to see that kind of dysfunction on film — just like no one wants to see that same kind of misalignment between sales and marketing in business. That’s why it’s crucial to stay on top of it when it comes to your company.

Here we’ll cover the key signs of marketing and sales misalignment and see some of the best ways to help remedy it.

1. Your marketing department only cares about MQLs.

According to Troy Arias, Marketing Operations Manager at Daxko, marketing departments often prioritize the wrong KPIs for optimal sales and marketing alignment. He says, “If your marketing team is solely focused on an MQL metric, it’s a huge barrier to alignment between departments.”

MQLs (or marketing qualified leads) are often hailed as a gold standard for measuring marketing teams’ performance, but that mentality isn’t fair to sales departments. A sales team isn’t judged by its ability to receive leads — it’s judged by its ability to convert those leads into customers.

A sales team’s success is measured by closed bookings, above all else — and there’s a sizable gap between those two KPIs in the context of most sales pipelines. Once an MQL is passed off, it has to transition to an SQL, be deemed an opportunity, and receive a proposal before closing.

Image Source: HubSpot

That makes for a massive discrepancy in departmental goals — one that burdens sales more than marketing. If your marketing department only cares about generating MQLs and not closed bookings, it won’t be held accountable for producing mediocre leads.

In this case, it can help to have your marketing department set a revenue goal, based on closed bookings, to ensure that your marketers keep your sales team in mind when gauging leads and go the extra mile to stay on the same page.

2. You don’t have consistent interdepartmental syncs to address results and planned campaigns.

Communication is key when trying to align your sales and marketing efforts. If you want your teams to be on the same page, you can’t keep them siloed. They have to meaningfully interact with each other consistently.

Your sales team needs to be able to discuss the results it’s seeing from the leads marketing is passing along. And both have to understand each other’s respective plans and strategies when it comes to messaging. Additionally, if you’re planning specific campaigns, both departments need to know what to expect from each other.

Ultimately, you need to maintain a mutual understanding between departments. If you don’t, you might create a rift that can lead to wayward smarketing efforts and tension between your sales and marketing teams.

3. Your marketers never ask, “What can I do to make the sales process easier for you?”

Sometimes a little thoughtfulness and legitimate interest can help smooth out some discord and misalignment between sales and marketing departments. One way to get there is for your teams to actively hash out ways to improve or expedite your company’s sales process and pipeline.

Marketers are in control of the first few stages of any smarketing efforts, so the onus is often on them to initiate discussions on how to improve the process. If your marketing team takes a second to better understand how your sales team is handling the MQLs it passes along, it might be able to adjust its efforts to help make the sales process a bit smoother.

From there, your teams can start an active and constructive dialogue on what they want or expect from each other. At the very least, it shows that your marketing team wants to hear your sales team out and keep both departments working as a cohesive unit.

4. Your sales department creates and uses its own sales content exclusively.

Marketing teams are often tasked with creating content to support sales efforts — including case studies, presentation decks, and one-pagers. That kind of collateral, known as sales content, is different from marketing content.

Where marketing content is more general and attention-grabbing, sales content is more pointed and brand-specific. That said, the term “sales” in “sales content” is a bit misleading — marketing departments often have a significant role in creating that kind of collateral. And if your marketing team has no place in that process, your departments probably aren’t on the same page.

Marketers are generally better-equipped to create content — that’s a big part of what they do — so if your sales department is monopolizing that role, it might mean there’s some tension or a lack of communication between teams.

Three Ways to Fix Poor Alignment

1. Encourage teams to listen to each other.

If you want your sales and marketing efforts to align, your teams need to listen to one another and — corny as this sounds — actually hear each other. Both departments need to have a comprehensive understanding of your sales process.

If they don’t, neither can make the kind of thoughtful, actionable recommendations needed to improve each department’s role in it. Sales and marketing both need to consider the other’s perspective — to listen and learn until they can thoroughly explain both sides of your sales process in full.

Doing so can at least partially remedy any of the points listed above. If your teams are willing and able to legitimately hear each other out, they can develop the empathy, knowledge, collaboration skills, and strategic vision necessary to bring the departments together.

2. Push for consistency in expectations, data, and technology.

One of the bigger parts of successfully aligning marketing and sales is promoting and sustaining consistency. You need to ensure that your teams are operating with an understanding of the same ultimate goals, from a baseline of the same information.

That point begs the question, “How do you keep things that cohesive?” Well, you can start by keeping lines of constant contact open — supplemented by frequent meetings and briefings between departments.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to have routine syncs between sales and marketing to keep both teams on the same page in terms of overall goals and day-to-day operations.

It’s also important that both sales and marketing have access to the same data as a reference point for their mutual and individual efforts. It helps a marketing department to see how its work is impacting sales and vice versa.

That kind of visibility can come from mutually accessible technology — like a CRM that covers both sales and marketing.

3. Consider your sales team’s input in content marketing.

There’s a solid chance that your content marketing efforts are more bloated than they need to be. You might be holding onto and promoting content that doesn’t actually help your sales reps.

You want to produce content that enriches your customers’ professional lives. Provide them with insight that educates and intrigues them, and that often takes an intimate understanding of your prospects’ interests and wants — salespeople can provide you with that information.

It’s their job to understand what makes your prospects and customers tick, so if you want your marketing department to produce solid content that your sales team can ultimately take advantage of, it’s important to involve some salespeople in your content creation process.

In doing so, you’re letting your salespeople steer your subject matter in the right direction, providing them with leads that they know have a personal interest in your offering, fostering interdepartmental collaboration, and giving both departments a stake in the other’s operations.

Marketing and Sales Alignment is a Must for Businesses

You might be wondering, “Is marketing and sales alignment really that important? Does my company actually need to go through the effort to make sure those departments are in sync?”

The answer is “Absolutely! Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes! Yes, again!”

Marketing and sales alignment is every bit as important as this article makes it out to be. It hurts your business across the board if you don’t have a grasp on it, and it doesn’t just hit one of your departments.

It undermines the effectiveness of both your marketing and sales efforts as a whole. A study from Forrester found that 43% of CEOs believed that misalignment had cost them sales.

If you want to get the most out of either of your teams, you have to make sure they’re on the same page and in constant contact. There are certain tips and tricks you can employ to get there — all of which are underlaid by one fundamental strategy: creating an environment that encourages openness and collaboration.

You need to have your sales and marketing departments constantly interacting with and learning from each other. If you can facilitate that kind of environment in your office, you’ll put yourself in the best position possible to have a consistent, fluid interchange of ideas and strategies between departments to get as much as possible from both teams.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in June 2014 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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