In today’s inbound world, sales and marketing alignment is more important than ever.
With would-be customers doing so much product research online, aligning these natural allies is crucial to capturing attention and guiding the right leads through your funnel.
Ideally, this is a team effort: Sales and marketing should support one another all through the buyer journey. Alas, conflict between the two sides remains fairly common.
The reason why may come down to a simple difference in worldview.
B2B sales cycles are getting longer, but sales teams still see things on a much shorter timeframe than their marketing compatriots. In sales, larger teams with greater automation power can find more prospects, contact them, and move more deals toward completion.
In marketing, teams use their creative power to tap an existing need. They develop ways to help leads uncover their pain points, crystallize buying criteria, and recognize the superiority of certain offerings. Marketing is an ongoing process, and campaigns may run for years.
These two perspectives aren’t doomed to clash for all time. Unfortunately, the data necessary to reconcile them wasn’t available in the past. Only today’s digital tools make it possible to recognize and act on points of contention that were formerly hidden in day to day processes.
To move away from the status quo, management needs to define the common ground where sales and marketing can work together. Left to their own devices, each team’s pressing priorities will keep them from taking bold steps toward true partnership.
So, what are the common issues that cause conflict, blocking marketing and sales alignment?
1. Poor Lead Handoff
Sales teams have limited time to devote to each lead – integrating qualification into every marketing campaign optimizes how that time is used. Marketing should know the qualification scheme used by their sales colleagues and give leads opportunities to volunteer key information.
The BANT qualification scheme is an effective approach sales and marketing can agree on. To deploy it in marketing, your team can ask important questions to better qualify prospects who will potentially enter your sales pipeline.
Ideally, you’ll have a customer relationship management (CRM) suite that gives you full visibility into the buyer journey. You can engineer specific milestones that automatically alert sales about a promising lead – or you can use a more flexible lead scoring system to achieve these ends.
In the market for a stellar CRM aligned with inbound marketing and sales principles? We recommend the HubSpot CRM. It’s free and gives you the best of all things inbound.
2. Poor Conflict Resolution
Conflicts between sales and marketing are bound to arise. The first question is, why?
Unclear expectations set the stage for all kinds of conflicts, especially where teams are involved. The best way to handle that kind of problem is to stop it before it starts.
How can you do it?
- Open clear channels of communication between marketing and sales – and use them!
- Establish measurable expectations for how marketing supports sales and vice versa.
- Create feedback mechanisms so each team can comment about their collaboration.
Exactly how these steps look varies from company to company. No matter how they are implemented, though, they’re essential to sales and marketing alignment. These fundamentals give both teams the grounding they need to provide real value to the other.
Once that happens, collaboration will build natural momentum – and that leads to lasting results!
3. Poor CRM Database Management
Marketing teams often strive to design their CRM database in such a way that they can capture data directly from web analytics software. As prospects wander your site and convert into leads, their interactions yield new data that automatically populates your CRM.
For members of the sales team, things are more complicated.
Yes, there are some CRMs that are great at capturing multiple data streams, including phone and social media conversations. For the most part, though, you have to fill in the blanks manually. If you don’t put in the details, your colleagues over in marketing won’t have them.
You know what that means ... aggravation, crossed wires, and all kinds of trouble.
Yes, there’s such a thing as too much data entry, but it’s worth developing the habit of updating your CRM after each contact. If you wait, you’re bound to forget important details that won’t end up in your database. Everything you do after that will be just that little bit less informed.
When NASA sends a mission into space, a fractional difference in how a probe is launched can lead it light years off track. The same thing is true of your CRM. Always keep it updated!
4. No Service Level Agreement (SLA)
If you want a concrete way to specify expectations, your service level agreement (SLA) is the way to go.
An SLA specifies the type and quantity of deliverables you’ll provide to another organization. That can mean an external client or an internal team.
Writing an SLA may be the perfect way to identify the shared goals that sales and marketing alignment facilitates. This type of SLA works by specifying marketing goals, such as number of leads, and the sales activities necessary to support them: For example, engaging MQLs.
An SLA is sensible since, in the long run, marketing and sales need to fire on all cylinders to make the most of every lead. Marketing educates leads, but most people won’t make a buy without input from a sales expert. An SLA ensures each team understands their role at any given time.
An SLA usually includes:
- Summary of Agreement: What have you agreed to deliver and how will you measure it?
- Goals: Outline the goals of both teams, ensuring they support and reinforce each other.
- Needs: What does each department need from the other one to hit their respective goals?
- Points of Contact: Who’s in charge of really making certain each party’s needs are met?
Sales and marketing alignment doesn't just happen. You need to lead your teams to help them clearly communicate so everyone is on the same page. When they work well together, your company is ready to fuel business growth on a consistent basis.