Jon Miller

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Marketing & Sales Alignment

Alignment between Marketing and Sales is potentially the largest opportunity for improving business performance today. When marketing and sales teams unite around a single revenue cycle, they dramatically improve marketing ROI, sales productivity, and, most importantly, top-line growth. 

“No matter how the CRM industry evolves, getting the sales and marketing teams to synergize is organizational goal number one. Every success grows from their collaboration and free exchange of ideas, because you can't serve the customer right when your best people are working blind.” - Marshall Lager (@Lager), Managing Principal, Third Idea Consulting

Although aligning the two sounds easy enough, both teams have different goals and different expectations of each other. If Marketing and Sales join together with the same revenue-generating goals in mind, they will be well on their way to success in today’s ever-changing, fast-paced business world.

The Problem: Sales is from Mars, Marketing is from Venus

The Sales and Marketing departments are two very unique entities. If Sales is from Mars, Marketing is from Venus, and this causes friction in two basic ways:

  • Different goals
  • Misunderstood roles

This disunity too often leads to disappointments for both sides, and poor success for the company as a whole.

Different Goals

Marketing’s projects are often long-term – common marketing goals include setting a foundation with strong branding, and generating qualified leads. Marketers are looking at metrics. Their campaigns tend to focus on increasing brand recognition, and scoring and nurturing leads for the long haul.

Salespeople, on the other hand, move at a fast pace – they tend to have monthly or quarterly quotas to meet. Salespeople are looking for opportunities to help solve a problem for a prospect, or be the personal touch that someone is looking for. They want to know what the marketing team can do for them now, so that they can make the sale today.

Misunderstood Roles

Oftentimes, sales and marketing departments view their respective roles in the revenue generation process quite differently, and those differences will run deep. Sales worries about meeting quarterly goals, Marketing says it is the only one thinking strategically. Sales wonders why it has to generate its own leads, Marketing complains that Sales ignores everything Marketing generates.

Marketers think generating leads is a numbers game. Sales says it’s not – that generating leads requires understanding and solving business problems. Marketing activities are difficult to measure, and therefore perceived as less important than easily measurable sales outcomes. Marketing generates lots of activity, but Sales doesn’t always see connections between those activities and revenue. Sales thinks Marketing is lightweight and easy, Marketing wonders why Sales cannot make its numbers.

The Solution: They’re Still Orbiting the Same Sun

Traditional sales and marketing teams have different goals and unclear expectations about one another. That’s why successful organizations are breaking down the barriers to align Sales and Marketing.

Here are some ways to break down those barriers:

  • Replace the sales funnel with a revenue cycle
  • Ask Sales and Marketing to collaborate in defining a lead-generation strategy
  • Implement a team of Sales Development Representatives to get the most out of everyone’s efforts

When Sales and Marketing realize they’re on the same team, and begin to work together toward common goals, everyone wins.

“At our company, Sales looks at the web-analytics data and gives suggestions for optimizing pricing data, while Marketing has Salesforce access to calculate eventual results of their actions. Both teams talk often to bounce around ideas, find revenue bottlenecks, and fix them at different stages of the customer lifecycle. This requires the CEO’s focus to keep the two functions tightly integrated. But once you set the culture, it happens by itself.” - Paras Chopra (@paraschopra), CEO, Wingify

Replace the Sales Funnel with a Revenue Cycle

The traditional sales funnel modelled a process whereby a large audience was sorted down to leads, then prospects, and finally clients. This strategy, however, is failing for two reasons:

  1. Today’s consumers tend to educate themselves before they shop, using online sources to conduct their own studies of products.
  2. This simplistic strategy keeps Marketing in one silo and Sales in another, in a market where they need each other to deliver the personalized attention that prospects expect.

Marketo’s Revenue Cycle is an evolution of the traditional sales funnel:

new buying funnel

At the top of the funnel (TOFU), your audience is aware of your brand. Through marketing, they eventually start to see themselves as friends of your brand – they have a relationship with you, and feel that they can trust you.

The middle of the funnel (MOFU) is where the traditional sales funnel begins – with a bunch of names in your system. Not every name in this stage in your friend – someone who is “engaged” has had a meaningful interaction with your company, but a “target” is a qualified potential buyer. When your lead scoring process indicates that it’s time to contact someone, he moves further along in the cycle. After talking to an SDR, that prospect is either moved along as a sales lead, or is recycled to the “target” stage for further nurturing.

Similarly, a sales rep decides which leads move forward as “opportunities” at the bottom of the funnel (BOFU), and which leads get recycled back for more nurturing by the team. The sales rep is also in charge (hopefully) of turning the opportunities into very happy customers.

“One way to build trust between Marketing and Sales is to make them accountable for the same company goal – revenue. In our book, Fire Your Sales Team Today, we refer to this blended team as The Revenue Department. Now, Marketing HAS to deliver quality leads, and Sales HAS to follow up on all leads. These two teams work together to understand the challenges associated with turning leads into new customers, and both teams work toward driving more top-of-funnel leads, close more deals, and shorten the sales cycle – all because they want to meet monthly revenue goals.” - Mike Lieberman (@square2), Co-founder and Chief Marketing Scientist, Square 2 Marketing

Because Sales has the option to recycle prospects that aren’t ready to move forward, Marketing has to provide good leads and Sales has to follow through. Everyone works together toward the same goal.

Define the Strategy Together

Audiences have been laughing at “Who’s on First?” since the 1930s, but the frustration portrayed by decades of actors is well-known by sales reps and marketers, who frequently seem to use the same words to say different things. Realigning both teams toward the same revenue goal is a good first step, but the strategy for getting there needs to be defined together.

Sales and Marketing need to come to the table – together – to clarify three keys:

  1. Lead scoring
  2. Lead generation metrics - MQL, SAL, SQL
  3. Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

Breaking down these common communication barriers will pave the way for both teams to work together as one team.

Lead Scoring

Lead scoring is a methodology for ranking leads in order to determine their sales-readiness. Leads are scored based on the interest they show in your business, their current position in the buying cycle, and their fit in regards to your business. It helps companies know whether prospects need to be fast-tracked to Sales or developed with lead-nurturing. 

Lead scoring is essential to strengthening your revenue cycle, but it is only effective if Sales and Marketing come together to define the scorecard.

Lead Generation Metrics

A Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is a prospect that the marketing team has worked with, and feels is a good potential buyer. A Sales Accepted Lead (SAL) is a lead that the Sales team acknowledges and is committed to act upon, and a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) is a prospect that, finally, the Sales team believes is almost ready to buy.

The problem is that, traditionally, Marketing defined the qualities of an MQL, and Sales decided what made someone an SAL or SQL. This partially explains why Sales sometimes feels that Marketing hands off unqualified leads – Marketing doesn’t always know what Sales is looking for!

When both teams come together to outline what, specifically, qualifies a lead as an MQL, SAL or SQL, both teams are poised for greater efficiency.

Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

Service Level Agreements need to be outlined for each phase of the revenue cycle. When an MQL is handed off to the sales team, what happens? How long does the sales team have to make contact? What happens if they don’t? If Sales recycles the lead, how long does Marketing have to respond, and what is their next step?

As these systems become automated, everyone performs at a higher level. Getting these systems in place also provides some documentation, so Marketing can demonstrate how someone became an MQL, and Sales has a record of their contact with that person.

Sales Development Representatives

Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) are on a third team, separate from Marketing and Sales, and they have one exclusive focus: to review, contact, and qualify marketing-generated leads and deliver them to Sales Account Execs.

SDRs can enhance revenue in seven ways:

  1. More consistent and better follow-up on leads = better conversion of leads into opportunities
  2. Fast lead response times = better conversion rates
  3. Less time wasted by salespeople on unqualified leads
  4. Prospects receive more “human touch”, which enhances lead nurturing
  5. SDRs can enter the info on leads that salespeople don’t, and get better data to Marketing
  6. The additional stage between Marketing and Sales improves cycle analytics
  7. Talent development for Sales – today’s SDRs might be tomorrow’s best salespeople

SDRs can take the time to help each lead, offer them value, make a positive impression, create future demand, and become a trusted adviser.

Move Forward in Unison

When Marketing and Sales can move beyond their differences and align to work in tandem, they have the ability to increase the revenue cycle while cutting the cost of doing business at the same time. Most companies spend 30-40% of their revenue on Sales and Marketing. If these two sides of the same coin coordinate activities and better align themselves, they can optimize what their company spends on them.

A growing, viable company needs Marketing to generate, nurture, and score leads, and to develop prospect relationships, just as much as it needs Sales to cultivate customer rapport, close deals, and even up-sell and cross-sell. When activities between Sales and Marketing are synchronized, everybody wins.

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