On May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory, a golden spike was driven into a railroad tie to commemorate the First Transcontinental Railroad across the United States, connecting the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads. At the time, this was an accomplishment that many had thought impossible.
After the American continent was united by railroad, it brought forth increased trade and improved communication.
And yet, as the two railroads were racing to complete the final stretch of transcontinental rail line, they fought bitterly with one another. The two railroads would sabotage the other's construction efforts in an effort to cover more ground than the other.
A similar, counterproductive rivalry still exists in many companies today between the sales and marketing departments. According to a Corporate Executive Board study, 87% of the terms marketing and sales people use to describe the other are negative.
It can get ugly. Sales can think of marketing as irrelevant, "arts and crafts" party planners. While marketing can view sales as simple-minded cowboys, lazy and incompetent.
Sales people will complain about lousy quality leads generated by marketing. Conversely, the marketing people will complain that sales does not follow up on the leads that marketing generates.
Either way you look at it, it hurts revenues.
In a study by the Aberdeen Group, it was found that companies with strong marketing and sales alignment achieved 20% annual revenue growth. And those without strong marketing and sales alignment saw revenues decline by -4%.
So how can you get sales and marketing on the same track? It all comes down to goals. With an agreement on goals, marketing and sales become two sides of the same revenue coin.
Measurable goals can be unfamiliar to some marketing people. There is a generation of marketers who have not been held accountable like this before. Some will adapt. Some may not.
Here are the five most important steps to achieving sales and marketing alignment to increase revenues.
Sales is often more attuned to this. For marketing to do this, some math will be required, working backwards from sales:
But it's not just about the quantity of leads. They need to be quality leads. Marketing and sales need to agree on the characteristics of a quality, sales ready lead. In essence, it will boil down to a combination of “fit” and “interest.”
If there is a fit and interest, sales needs to follow up quickly. If there is a fit but low interest, Marketing needs to nurture the lead - and not send it to sales just yet.
Sadly, only 45% of businesses have established a company-wide definition of a sales-ready lead, according to a study by MarketingSherpa.
A defined buyer persona, or semi-fictional representation of what an ideal customer is can be vitally helpful at this point.
Simply having sales and marketing zero in on defining a quality, sales ready lead, can dramatically improve sales and marketing alignment.
Finally - marketing and sales need to define the different stages of the sales funnel (e.g. website visit, lead, marketing qualified lead, sales qualified lead, opportunity, sale).
Then, Marketing and sales must definitively agree on who owns which part of the sales funnel. Also, make sure both sides acknowledge that the buyer’s journey is becoming increasingly erratic, not linear.
If marketing is throwing leads to sales and doesn’t find out what happens to the leads, you have a broken system and won't have alignment. Similarly, if marketing gets more information about a sales ready lead and does not update sales about this, it is equally problematic.
To solve this you need to implement closed-loop reporting. Fortunately, tools exist to facilitate this real-time data.
Two critical tools are needed to make this happen:
Some of the things that marketing should be looking at via closed loop reporting include customers by marketing source and conversion assists.
Well, not really a marriage license but sort of. 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. The concept may sound simple but it having an SLA can dramatically improve sales and marketing alignment.
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. Doing so signals to both departments that the company is serious about increasing revenues by aligning marketing and sales.
This goes back to marketing and sales bickering and finger pointing ("marketing's leads are terrible quality" and "sales doesn't work our 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. Whenever a dispute starts to arise, have someone in the room say "Let's look at the numbers."
That statement alone can often diffuse the emotional finger pointing that is so prevalent in companies without alignment between marketing and sales.
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.
Getting sales and marketing aligned around increased revenue is not a dream. It is already happening at successful companies that understand that how people buy has changed dramatically which is in turn, changing the roles of sales and marketing and the relationship between the two. Start with these five steps and your firm can be on the way to enjoying increased revenues.
Graphics courtesy of HubSpot