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Guest blogger - Richard Hatheway, Director, Product Marketing at Itron
This article will explain what sales and marketing alignment is, explain the benefits of sales and marketing alignment, and provide best practices to help more fully align your sales and marketing departments.
What Is Sales and Marketing Alignment?
Sales and marketing alignment is the process of having the two departments as fully integrated as possible. Alignment helps them to know and understand what they have in common, what the differences are and what they need to provide to the other department to ensure a productive relationship. Indicators of sales and marketing alignment include:
- Having regular, ongoing communications and meetings
- Understanding the roles and responsibilities of the other department
- Knowing and understanding the other department’s goals and objectives
- Providing regular feedback and input to each other
- Defining and agreeing to definitions (such as MQLs, SALs, SQLs)
- Creating and agreeing to SLAs
- Participation/representation in each other’s staff meetings
- Sharing account planning activities
- Sharing participation in customer meetings and visits
Why Do I Need Sales and Marketing Alignment?
Everyone knows that the sales and marketing departments fulfill fundamentally different roles within a business. Sales sells the company’s products and services, while marketing produces the content and materials that enables the sale. Both are customer-facing (sales more directly than marketing) and both are essential to the success of the business.
However, due to the silos that exist within most businesses, sales and marketing departments, instead of being tightly aligned and engaged, are often far apart and do not communicate or interact on a regular basis. This can lead to inefficiencies in both departments, which in turn can translate into lost opportunities and lost revenue.
In reality though, sales and marketing are actually two sides of the same coin. In many companies, both departments roll up to the same senior executive, who has a vested interest in ensuring both departments perform to the best of their abilities. Both departments have responsibility for driving sales. Both have goals to increase the size of the customer base. Both interact with customers. All of which ultimately helps generate revenue for the company. The main difference between the two departments then is in how they accomplish their respective tasks.
Breaking through the silos helps both departments become more productive and efficient, which in turns helps the business. In fact, a recent report by the Aberdeen Group1 indicates that businesses that have adopted sales and marketing alignment best practices see significant increases in attainment of sales quotas (38%) and YoY corporate revenue (13.1%) over those that do not.
That is why your sales and marketing departments need to be in alignment.
Steps to Alignment
While sales and marketing alignment may seem difficult to accomplish, and is often time consuming at first, there really is no secret. It is basically a matter of reaching across the table and establishing communications between the two departments.
Once communication is established, engagement, interaction and understanding will follow.
The following list of best practices (by category) provides simple guidelines to begin the alignment process, or help ensure that any alignment you currently have continues to strengthen and grow. Depending on your situation, these guidelines can be used individually or combined into a larger, more structured process.
- Allow marketing to take part in regularly occurring sales meetings when/where possible. This provides marketing with insight as to what is important to the sales department, how they deal with customers, what they need from marketing, etc.
- Allow sales to take part in regularly occurring marketing meetings when/where possible. This provides sales with insight into the type of information that marketing needs from them, helps break down barriers, corrects/removes any misconceptions, etc.
- Define and develop procedures between the two departments to provide input and feedback.
- Allow marketing to attend in-house customer briefings with the sales team. This provides more insight into how the customer views the company and shows marketing how sales uses the materials that they develop.
- When and where possible, allow marketing to accompany sales on customer calls or visits.
- Define and develop an “ideal” or target customer profile together.
GOALS, OBJECTIVES, METRICS, PROCESSES
- Ensure that marketing understands the sales goals and objectives.
- Clearly determine how the marketing activities will support and align with the sales goals and objectives.
- Define and develop KPIs and metrics in support of goals and objectives.
- Ensure both departments understand and agree with the metrics to be used.
- Determine any common goals and objectives.
- Define and agree upon common definitions used between departments (such as MQL, SAL, SQL).
- Define and agree to the lead handoff process.
- Establish agreed-upon SLAs.
- Define and develop reporting processes.
MARKETING ACTIVITIES AND CAMPAIGN PLANNING
- Ask marketing leadership to allow sales people to get involved (as possible) with marketing activities and campaigns
- Ask sales leadership to allow and/or assign different sales people to get involved (as possible) with marketing activities and campaigns.
- Involve sales from the beginning in the planning process for any marketing activity or campaign.
- Ask sales to attend the regularly occurring meetings about the marketing activity or campaign.
- Build in a feedback loop with sales during the marketing development process.
- Ask sales for their feedback and inputs throughout the development of the marketing activity. This helps ensure that what is being developed is on track and hits the mark, avoids marketing being developed in a vacuum, etc.
- Involve sales in metrics and data review (as possible) during and after the marketing activity or campaign.
- Continue these sales and marketing alignment activities even after the launch.
SALES ACCOUNT PLANNING AND ACTIVITIES
- Ask sales leadership to allow marketing personnel to get involved (as possible) with sales account planning and related activities.
- Ask marketing leadership to allow and/or assign different marketing people to get involved (as possible) with sales account planning and related activities.
Sales and Marketing Alignment Benefits
As sales and marketing alignment increases, numerous benefits will begin to accrue, including:
- Eliminates sales and marketing working in isolation.
- Improved and/or increased communication between departments.
- More accurate reporting by both departments.
- Improved quality of leads.
- Enhanced productivity due to better and/or shared use of technology between departments.
- Marketing materials become more tightly aligned to the needs and requirements of the sales department.
- Enhanced customer experience due to more targeted sales and marketing materials.
Sales + Marketing = More Sales = More Revenue
While sales and marketing alignment may initially be time consuming to implement, in the long run it is truly the secret to increased revenue.
Note 1 – The Aberdeen Group, Research Brief, Sales and Marketing Alignment: A Primer on Successful Collaboration, March 2014