The Forward Observer > Marketing For The Front Line of Sales

B2B Smarketing: The 5 Steps To Make Sales and Marketing Work Together

Written by Douglas Burdett | Apr 1, 2014 7:01:00 PM

Are you tired of the childish bickering and finger pointing between Sales and Marketing? Here's how to use inbound marketing to make peace between the two and boost revenues.



In the popular book, “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” the Author John Gray explains that men and women have fundamentally different psychological differences exemplified by the book’s title: that men and women are from distinct planets.

In many B2B companies, similar divisions can exist between Sales and Marketing. For instance, sales people will complain about poor quality leads generated by marketing. Conversely, the marketing people will complain about Sales’ weak follow up, if at all, of the leads.

Sales sometimes thinks of Marketing as irrelevant party planners. While Marketing can view Sales as lazy and incompetent.

Either way you look at it, it is not good for the bottom line.

Here’s why: In a 2010 study by the Aberdeen Group, companies with strong sales and marketing alignment achieved 20% annual revenue growth.

So how can you get Sales and Marketing on the same sheet of music? It all comes down to goals. Once you have an agreement on goals, the marketing pipeline and sales quota become two ends of the same stick.

Here are the five steps to achieving "Smarketing," where Sales and Marketing lay down arms, join forces and achieve greater revenue growth (and become co-recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize For Sales and Marketing Alignment):

1. Talk About Money

Sales and marketing need to talk about revenue, specifically. For marketing to do this, some math will be required, working backwards from sales:

  1. What is your company or division's revenue goal?
  2. What is your average deal size (current revenue/current customers)?
  3. How many customers do you need? (revenue goal/average deal size)?
  4. What is your lead to conversion rate (current customers/current leads)?
  5. Calculate the number of leads needed (customers needed/average lead to customer)

With these questions answered, marketing is already much closer to having a goal that is tied to sales. But wait, there’s more.

Marketing and Sales need to agree on the characteristics of a sales ready lead. It will boil down to a combination of “fit” and “interest.”

If there is a fit but low interest, Marketing needs to nurture the lead. If there is a fit and interest, Sales needs to follow up quickly.

Unfortunately, only 45% of businesses have established a company-wide definition of a sales-ready lead, according to a study by MarketingSherpa.

This is also a crucial time to form a clearer understanding of and agreement on your ideal customer or buyer persona.

Once sales and marketing have zeroed in on defining a sales ready lead, the hand off can improve dramatically.

Then, Marketing needs to define the different stages of the funnel (website visit, lead, marketing qualified lead, sales qualified lead, opportunity, sale).

Finally, Marketing and Sales must agree, definitively, on who owns which part of the sales funnel. Also, make sure both sides understand that the buyer’s journey is not linear, but increasingly erratic.


2. Close The Loop

Closed-loop reporting, that is. If Marketing is throwing leads to Sales and doesn’t find out what happens to the leads, stop the madness. The system is broken.

Two critical tools are needed to make this happen:

By reporting in a closed loop, marketing is able to send more information to sales (such as additional lead intelligence), and sales is able to provide feedback and sales activity reports to marketing.

Some of the things that marketing should be looking at via closed loop reporting include customers by marketing source and conversion assists.

3. Get An SLA

Sort of like a marriage license, Sales and Marketing need to have a signed service level agreement (SLA). An SLA is a written definition of what marketing and sales agree to do for each other.

For instance, marketing would agree to provide a specific number of quality leads within a given time in order for sales to reach their quota. Conversely, sales will agree to a certain speed and depth of lead follow up that makes business sense.

4. Talk to Each Other

Marketing and sales need to have weekly meetings. At these meetings marketing should update sales on campaign activity and plans and product updates. If marketing and sales sit together at work, it boosts communication dramatically. Give it a try, you’ll be surprised how much it helps.

5. More Data, Less Drama

This goes back to Marketing and Sales bickering and finger pointing ("marketing's leads suck" and "sales isn't following up on the leads").

Instead, use data that is frequent, public and transparent. Marketing needs to have an always-on dashboard with website traffic and leads. It needs to be reviewed every day.

Additionally, the leads should be tracked by source and by campaign. The number of marketing qualified leads should be tracked on the dashboard, too. Similarly, with closed loop reporting, all the sales activity should be visible and analyzed.

Your turn: What challenges do you have getting sales and marketing aligned?

Matix and funnel graphics courtesy of HubSpot