Sales and marketing misalignment always leads us to the same problems... everybody feels like they're winning until you tell them otherwise, and then it's a round-robin of blame until somebody gets fired.
It's not a good situation.
It's also an avoidable one.
Getting sales and marketing working together isn't just an important step toward achieving sustainable growth, it's mission-critical. This is why with any new growth client, we always align our vectors before breaking ground on anything related to marketing.
Alignment includes sales collateral content, handoff, team structure, scripts, sales process, targeted personas, technology, and accountability standards.
Here are 7 Sales and Marketing Alignment Best Practices that are certain to get your teams working together towards the growth objectives you care about.
1 - Workshop with a 3rd party
Sales and marketing should both have a seat at the table when determining your growth objectives and the avenues to get there. But neither should really be the ultimate decision-maker. A 3rd party will help keep both sides honest and prevent early episodes of scapegoating or power tripping. And I have found that workshopping is a great way to air ideas, understand one another, and create bridges quickly.
I have personally run about 100 alignment workshops over the years, and being removed from the action on either side has given me invaluable perspective and the ability to support and push back on ideas presented by both sides. As a growth architect, I have no loyalties to one or the other--my loyalties are to growth, and my methodology often requires both sides to compromise.
2 - Goal-Setting
Working together to determine top-down objectives and how each party is going to participate in reaching them is a great first step toward productive synergy between sales and marketing.
If the goal is $10,000,000 in additional revenue, we should be able to determine what the formula is to get there... how can we tell whether it's realistic without knowing the mechanics of today?
Your goals need to be realistic, and there need to be clear expectations around what it will take to get there. When both parties are involved in this, they can also share how they intend to contribute to that goal (more on this under "accountability standards"), which leads to an honest discussion around what ultimately needs to change.
One of the most valuable discussions we have in our alignment workshops is our targeted personas and profiles. Who are we all going after, and in which setting can we find them?
Personas are fictional representations of IDEAL humans (please leave the outliers out of this discussion), and contain the following:
- What makes them smile
- What makes them frown
- Where they get information
Profiles are representations of your IDEAL companies:
- Anything else that you find appealing or not
It's amazing how often sales and marketing fail to see eye to eye on this basic concept, either as a whole or in the details.
4 - Growth Methodology
Both sales and marketing are here to contribute to your growth, but what exactly is the methodology for arriving at your objectives?
Marketing methodology can include lead generation (in vs out), growth hacking, advertising, or branding... when these investments are made, it's important to outline the expectation, and how sales is supposed to react to it.
On the sales side, you can include sales process (more on the inbound sales process), deal management, scripts, technology (read about our favorite here), sales handoff and distribution tactics, etc... the idea being that we're about to hold one another accountable, and we should have a plan to ensure our standards are accountable, realistic, and that they avoid complications.
5 - Accountability standards
One of the simplest ways to determine where marketing ends and sales begins is with the MQL and SQL protocols, but there are a lot of different schools of thought on this. Personally, I see MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads) as the base standard for what marketing is capable of producing but to which sales can also contribute.
For example, we might suggest that to be considered an MQL, a lead must have a real name, email address, company name, website URL, phone number, and a targeted persona designation. If marketing produces a lead that has half of those characteristics, that doesn't mean that sales automatically disqualifies them until that threshold is met. If sales puts a little work into researching an inbound lead, they may be able to push it across the MQL standard finish-line.
But this also depends on where the lead is coming from. Inbound leads are those that willingly give you their contact information, which means they're highly engaged and open to sales. Those are worth pushing across the finish line by sales. If they're purchased lists, then the threshold ought to be MUCH higher.
SQLs are seen by many as leads that are ready for sales contact. I personally like to view them as leads that have been qualified via sales. Therefore, the standard of an SQL is up to sales, but just like MQLs, they too can be addressed from the other side.
Another important standard is turnaround time--If you're going to invest in inbound lead generation, sales MUST commit to a quick response time to inbound leads engaged with your content (read more about sales response time here)
6 - Execute an SLA
Once you have articulated and agreed upon these critical alignment concepts, get it in writing, and get all stakeholders and participants to sign off on it. For larger organizations, I suggest having leadership sign the SLA during its creation and have individual team members sign off based on their roles afterward.
7 - Revisit the SLA often
Agreeing to these standards is one thing-adhering to them is another thing entirely. Be sure to revisit the SLA often. Audit both sides. Is sales connecting within 5 minutes or less of hot leads coming to your website? Is marketing producing leads that warrant quick response times? Are both following the methodologies outlined in the SLA?
By bringing sales and marketing together and working toward the same goals, you'll find that you have a better handle on growing your business. You'll spend less time refereeing egos and more time collaborating on synergistic concepts.