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The Importance of Sales and Marketing Alignment

Better Together

I don’t know who first dipped a chicken wing into blue cheese dressing, but I love that person.  I think we can all agree (vegans aside) that chicken wings are amazing.  Blue cheese dressing?  Also amazing.  But a funny thing happens when you combine the two…they get more amazing!  When you find two things that just belong together, it’s magic.

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It’s taken the business world some time to realize it, and perhaps there was some kicking and screaming along the way, but sales and marketing were meant to be together.  Like Romeo and Juliet, these two star-crossed teams have often had to reconcile with the fact that past generations have not wanted them to intermingle.    

But here’s the truth:  when your sales and marketing teams are on the same page (“alignment” is a trendy new term) and sharing the same data, your strategies, insights, and customer experience will improve.

The Problem with Silos

When I was a freshman in high school, we did an experiment in science class one day.  We then had two days to write up a report, with our partner, on our findings.  Instead of meeting together, my partner and I decided that each of us would write up half of the report and then bring it back to class.  We had no communication after this because this was (Gen Z close your ears) before cell phones.  

When we returned to school, let’s just say that the report we produced made it evident there was no communication between the two of us.  We were each working towards what we believed was a common goal, but in reality our lack of communication made that impossible.  We were generously gifted a ‘C’.

While this example sounds like the work of two ill-prepared teenagers, it very much mimics the inner workings of many businesses today.  Oftentimes, sales and marketing teams “operate in silos”, which is a fancy way of saying they’re each doing their own thing while sort of, maybe, hopefully working towards a common goal or objective.  

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This lack of communication between the two can often result in one team pursuing a certain goal while the other is chasing down something totally different.  When a marketing team hands off a lead to the sales team, it isn’t always a lack of competency that is to blame if the lead wasn’t really ready, but often a lack of communication.  In this example, it could be a misunderstanding regarding lead scoring thresholds.  When teams don’t talk to each other, simple mistakes are made.

Sales and Marketing Alignment:  Fixing the Problem

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Marketing and sales alignment is a great thing, but it needs to be properly implemented and adopted to be effective in the long term.  Here’s how to do it:

Start with the Basics:  Roles and Responsibilities

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Don’t be afraid to start from a very basic level.  Who cares if Todd with an M.B.A. thinks that having a meeting about roles and responsibilities is stupid.  Have it anyway!  Confusion regarding proper roles and assignments is often a huge roadblock for alignment.  

It’s important to realize that you will have people in a company with past experience in other working environments.  Person A may have come from a company where sales handled a certain step in the customer journey, whereas person B came from a company where it was marketing who handled that particular step.  That's why it’s important to establish which team is responsible for generating leads, which team is responsible for following up on those leads, and how the two teams will work together to close deals.

Have Regular Meetings/Communication

Regular communication and meetings are crucial in aligning sales and marketing strategies.  These meetings can be used to discuss progress, challenges, and any issues that need to be addressed.  In addition, it’s a good idea to create a shared document or project management tool where both teams can share updates and information. This helps to keep everyone in the loop and ensures that there are no miscommunications.

Set and Communicate Common/Shared Goals

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In the example above, my science partner and I assumed we were working toward a common goal.  Don’t ever assume.  Always know.  (side note:  at RevPartners, one of the things we stress is over communication.  Spoiler alert:  it’s waaaay better than under communication!)

Setting and clearly communicating shared goals ensures sales and marketing are working towards the same end result and helps to eliminate any competition or conflict between the two teams.  If a company is new to the concept of alignment, they can start out with a simple common goal such as increasing leads or conversion rates.  For companies that have more experience with their sales and marketing teams operating outside of silos, complex common goals such as improving customer retention rates can be instituted.

To assist in this process, it’s crucial that the same metrics are being used to measure success.  For example, if one team is measuring success based on the number of leads generated, while the other team is measuring success based on the number of deals closed, it can lead to misalignment and confusion.  

Tools and Tech

In order to support your sales and marketing efforts, it’s important to have the right tools and technology in place.  This could include marketing automation software, shared email accounts, and a CRM system.  

Not all CRMs are created equal, so it’s important to research which one is the right fit for your company (spoiler:  it’s HubSpot).  CRMs are essential because they allow sales and marketing to track leads, customer interactions, and sales opportunities, and provide a centralized location for all customer data.

It's also important to make sure that both teams are trained on how to use all the tools and tech effectively. This could mean providing training sessions or workshops, or even just making sure that there are resources available for team members to refer to when they have questions.  

Encourage the Process

When a company says it wants alignment between sales and marketing, that’s one thing.  But when a company actively encourages and facilitates adoption of the processes necessary to make alignment happen, that's quite another.

One method of encouraging collaboration and teamwork between the two teams is by setting up cross-functional projects and encouraging the sharing of ideas and best practices.  If you make alignment easy, it’s more likely to happen.

Partnering with the Experts

Like chicken wings and blue cheese dressing, sales and marketing just go better together.  But redesigning your company's structure can be difficult.  Figuring out when marketing should hand off to sales, when and how to collaborate, and what the best tools and tech for your team are all decisions that need to be made.   For the best results, partner with a team of RevOps experts who specialize in breaking down silos.

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