Sales and Marketing alignment is not new, but it has acquired a dot-com-era moniker: Sales and Marketing 2.0. One should look past such hyperbole, but marketing and sales departments should not ignore some of the newest best-practices for creating a strong, collaborative revenue engine.
The following seven steps will help organizations fuel that engine; these recommendations, based on simple yet powerful best-practices, will help align sales and marketing teams much more effectively.
1. Bring together personas and buyer profiles
Content marketing is an ascendant trend in marketing right now, and it has spawned the need to map content to lead-generation campaigns; that mapping needs to be based on personas associated with target markets, as well as on segmentation and buyer behavior.
Similarly, Sales 2.0 (and the complex sale) is a dominant trend in sales, and it requires creating buyer profiles. One "small" problem, however, is that Marketing and Sales don't merge the personas and profiles together; as a result, campaigns produce lower-quality leads and inefficient sales processes.
Get with your sales team right now and share your personas. Map out buyer profiles from the sales team, and commit to bringing Sales a new set of personas that addresses lead generation and nurturing at different stages of the customer lifecycle.
Almost immediately, you'll achieve greater success in your nurturing programs, creating a no-lead-left-behind mindset that ensures both Marketing and Sales play a role in the nurturing process.
2. Work together to eliminate Sales and Marketing waste
Wasted budget—and, worse, wasted time—results from a lack of focus that's based on a sound strategy backed by customer intelligence. How often does Sales push cold-calling blitzes or demand increased presence at tradeshows? What about Marketing's desire to drive campaigns for the sake of generating response?
When your sales and marketing teams bring personas and buyer profiles together, look at the numbers. Instead of looking at the results from previous marketing campaigns, focus on the profile of the pipeline today... such as customer-acquisition trends over the previous several quarters. Use that combination of customer and sales intelligence to refocus on what works, and then work together. Use lead scoring to align your two teams, and then check the plan against results.
3. Sales intelligence drives sales enablement
Sales enablement is one of the key foundations of Sales and Marketing alignment, but it is also quite broad—covering sales tools, competitive analysis, content marketing, sales support, nurturing campaigns, and so on. Of course, sales enablement is a linchpin of shortened sales cycles and increased customer acquisition.
What is often overlooked is the role that Marketing plays in contributing to sales intelligence as part of the sales-enablement process. Passing along sales intelligence is an overlooked benefit of effective lead nurturing and lead scoring. Capturing customer interaction history, particularly via the right progressive profiling questions, creates a hotbed of sales-intelligence information that is tied to the customer buying cycle.
Here's a simple checklist of items that Marketing can feed to Sales as sales intelligence:
- What was the initial point of engagement for the prospect, and why?
- What is the prospect's history of activity, and how does it compare with her customer lifecycle stage?
- What activity is the prospect engaging in via social media channels?
- What's her website behavior?
- What intelligence is being gleaned about the prospect via progressive profiling?
If Marketing's lifeblood is customer intelligence and Marketing and Sales work together within a closed-loop sales and marketing environment, why wouldn't customer and sales intelligence come together? The principle of customer intelligence, insight to interaction, applies to both Sales and Marketing and helps to establish a collaborative revenue engine.
4. Map the content for Sales
Another approach that could be very effective, yet simple to implement, is working with Sales to map the content to the sales process.
Your content and offers do not simply apply to lead generation. They're an even more critical component in lead nurturing, particularly at stages that are reliant on Sales follow-up. At that stage in the customer buying cycle, your segmentation and profiling information provides far more insight into the type of content and offers needed to move a prospect to the next stage.
Use sales intelligence to offer recommendations to Sales for mapping the content as prospects progress through the funnel into deeper levels of one-on-one sales engagement.
5. Automate lead-to-revenue management
Sales and Marketing alignment as a collaborative revenue engine is based on strategy, organization, and, of course, technology. Automating lead-to-revenue management focuses Sales and Marketing on the most important goal for both departments: revenue.
Many organizations today think of their integrated marketing automation, customer relationship management (CRM), and sales force automation systems as a closed-loop Sales-and-Marketing system that automates lead-to-revenue management. In fact, in most cases, what has been created is woefully limited and inefficient.
Let's stick with lead-to-revenue management before we move on to the critical difference associated with a closed-loop system. Automating lead-to-revenue management is not merely teeing-up lead generation and nurturing campaigns; it really is a single view into the customer buying cycle for each prospect.
Two critical success factors are needed to have an effective lead-to-revenue management system that enables Marketing and Sales to function like a single team—a collaborative revenue engine.
One success factor is the integration of customer and sales intelligence. As prospects move from the top of the funnel through the customer buying cycle, the transformation of customer intelligence into sales intelligence increases the efficiency of Sales. (See item No. 1.) Bringing together personas and buying profiles creates the basis for more effective intelligence for Marketing and Sales. Creating a unified, single view of the customer accelerates efficiencies in lead-to-revenue management.
The second critical success factor is marrying that intelligence to the process of mapping the content throughout the customer buying cycle. After all, content is a key enabler for many prospects to move from stage to stage, and it ensures far more effective sales engagement.
6. Closed-loop Sales and Marketing
What's the difference between lead-to-revenue management and closed-loop sales and marketing environments? Closed-loop sales and marketing environments are defined by the level of customer intelligence that exists to drive the sales and marketing organization.
Many organizations have integrated marketing automation with CRM and sales force automation systems over the last several years. Indeed, that has been an impetus behind Sales and Marketing 2.0, and those integrations helped automate lead-to-revenue management.
But what about far-more sophisticated uses of data involving customer service history, purchase history, and social media interactions? At that level of data integration, Marketing and Sales have a full view of customer interaction history, and both departments are far more able to apply analytics to determine the most effective sales and marketing campaigns while measuring results.
7. Gauge effectiveness of the collaborative-revenue engine
Every organization measures in some form, and, ultimately, only one single measurement exists: revenue goals. But I'm advocating a collaborative revenue engine that drives efficiencies for competitive advantage. That requires collaboration between Marketing and Sales to agree on the necessary metrics at each stage of the customer buying cycle. Moreover, those metrics should account for not only responses and conversions against lead sources and sales stages but also improvements in time-to-conversion.
To create a road map toward fueling a collaborative revenue engine, you should take current processes and fine-tune them. For automating lead-to-revenue management and implementing a true closed-loop sales and marketing system, you may need additional resources to help you meet your goals.
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By following the seven steps outlined in this article, you can create an action plan for the entire Marketing and Sales organization. More important, you can help both departments to begin thinking and behaving as a single, high-performance team—reaching Sales and Marketing alignment for competitive advantage
(Image courtesy of Bigstock: Misaligned manhole cover )