The orthodox view on the subject of sales and marketing is that they are two separate processes, each with its own set of rules, methods, and goals. This is reflected in the way most modern businesses are organised.
On one hand, you have a marketing department whose goal is to promote products and raise brand awareness. On the other hand, you have a sales department which is tasked with closing deals and generating revenue.
There is nothing wrong with this approach per se. It was a product of a time when neoliberal principles were being applied to pretty much everything, including the way businesses were organised internally. However, with the advent of fast-paced, web-mediated commerce in recent decades, it became increasingly difficult to maintain this separation between marketing and sales.
In order to meet the challenges of a rapidly-evolving marketplace, businesses can no longer afford to let each department do their own thing, and hope it all comes together in the end somehow. There is now a need for greater integration between different departments, and attempts are being made to combine sales and marketing into a single unit.
We are not there just yet, but the latest trend towards smarketing (sales & marketing) is a clear indication that this is the direction where things are going. In the remainder of this text, we are going to explore the why and how of marketing-sales alignment, and hopefully convince you that this is a strategy worth pursuing.
The Purpose of Aligning Sales and Marketing
The main idea behind aligning sales and marketing is that this will help you create a more consistent revenue stream. HubSpot provides a number of stats to back up this claim:
- Sales and marketing misalignment cost B2B companies 10% of revenue each year.
- Companies that align their sales with marketing generate 208% more marketing-based revenue
- Sales and marketing alignment leads to a 36% higher customer retention and 38% higher sales close rate.
These numbers clearly prove that sales-marketing alignment is worth looking into, but what is the principle its effectiveness?
To put it in simple terms, aligning marketing and sales produces good results because they were always just aspects of the same underlying process. The task of marketing is to create a steady stream of qualified leads, and the task of sales is to convert these leads into clients and customers. Any gap between the two is artificial, which you can clearly see in cases where the two are not aligned.
Marketing departments that operate independently of sales will tend to draw in leads that are difficult or impossible to convert, whereas sales teams operating without marketing knowledge won’t be able to provide any useful feedback for creating more effective marketing strategies. If they worked as a unit instead, they would minimise their weaknesses and amplify their strengths, creating a more streamlined conversion pipeline, generating more revenue in the process.
So how does one go about integrating the two? Which practical steps does a company have to take to align their sales and marketing strategies?
Methods for Aligning Sales and Marketing
The first thing you can do to align your sales and marketing departments is to make sure they have access to the same kind of data. By having access to relevant marketing information, sales departments can learn what kind of narrative works best for each customer segment.
Similarly, marketing departments with access to feedback from sales can create more relevant content for their prospects. To streamline data-sharing between sales and marketing, you should use the appropriate software. Cloud-based data storage will make it easy to share various kinds of data, including documents, statistics, conference logs, etc. A CRM system is also necessary for synchronising customer information between departments, as well as for implementing concrete strategies.
Another important prerequisite of marketing-sales alignment is the adoption of a vocabulary both departments understand. Creating a standardised set of terms will eliminate roadblock that arises due to misunderstandings. In addition to clarifying the meaning of terms such as ‘prospect’, ‘lead’, and others, this shared vocabulary should also include definitions of concepts such as the ideal client profile (ICP).
This is simply a smarketing-specific term for the buyer persona. Once both departments are on the same page regarding who their ICP is, they will have an easier time working together towards their shared sales-marketing goals.
Service Level Agreements
Sales-marketing alignment can be enhanced by creating service level agreements (SLAs) between the departments. A SLA is simply a document that specifies the responsibilities and objectives the departments have to fulfill each month. It should include information such as criteria for when a lead should be transferred from marketing to sales, a conversion time-frame, what constitutes a good sales-ready lead, etc.
The role of an SLA is to clear up confusion and highlight the roles of each department throughout the lead generation and conversion processes. SLA will help both teams adopt best practices during their workflow.
Creating opportunities for both teams to interact in person will allow them to develop deeper relationships and understand each other’s perspectives better. This doesn’t necessarily mean the departments should mix their professional and private lives, although it won’t hurt if this ends up being the result. Team morale will also rise when members of each department feel comfortable around each.
It’s essential for sales and marketing departments to realise they are not competing with each other, but that they are working towards the same goals – more conversions and higher revenues.
Both sales and marketing rely on content to accomplish their specific tasks within the conversion funnel. And creating content as a cohesive unit will help both with lead generation and sales.
One of the effects of this kind of approach to content creation is improved consistency across all channels, which is crucial for maintaining a strong brand identity. Customers will sense that there is a unified voice behind every interaction throughout the conversion process, and they will feel more confident about conducting business with such an organisation.
Aligning sales and marketing strategies is crucial for developing a team that is ready to face the challenges of the modern marketplace. Forward-thinking businesses are increasingly adopting this approach, and they are already experiencing increased revenues, higher team morale, and less overhead resulting from misaligned goals.
Creating sales-marketing alignment is not without its challenges, but it can be achieved by having an understanding of how it works. And we hope that our guide has given you a few pointers in the right direction.