Sales and Marketing alignment is both critical to achieve and difficult to measure.
If asked about the state of your Sales and Marketing alignment, you'd likely say it's better than ever. But our perceptions rarely tell the full story. In fact, alignment within most organizations is actually failing, according to a recent LeadMD and Drift study.
This article will walk you through more findings and outline how you can apply them in your own company to make a real impact on alignment—and organizational success.
1. Align around buyers and innovation
The best companies are completely—almost fanatically—buyer-centric. So it's not a surprise that the companies with excellent Sales and Marketing alignment were found to be highly aligned around their buyers.
Launching a stronger go-to-market motion requires a deep understanding of your buyers. You'll need to refresh your ideal customer profiles (ICPs) and all the go-to-market segments that come out of them.
Sales and Marketing also need to collaborate on defining ICPs early on. Typically, sales teams offer their feedback too late in the game, when Marketing has already invested significant time and resources. That leads to frustration and resentment, not to mention an inaccurate end result.
Work together early on and encourage Marketing to share its early-stage ICPs with Sales to get feedback before moving forward.
Next, set expectations around innovation in Sales and Marketing. The term "innovation" means different things to different people, so align both departments around its definition and purpose in your company. Let both teams know what it takes to succeed in innovating and how you plan to approach the process.
As you prepare to innovate, refresh your customer information if it hasn't been updated recently. That can easily be a six-month process that shouldn't be rushed.
2. Unify Sales and Marketing further
Now that you've updated your ICPs and go-to-market motions/segments, you should have a strong foundation for collaboration. But you still need 100% buy-in from both Sales and Marketing. Since you invited sales to participate from the get-go, you should be close, but there are usually tweaks to be made and more information to be shared before your foundation can be solidified.
Once you achieve that agreement between Sales and Marketing, both departments can work together to revamp the buyer journey accordingly. The groups will have their own actions to take, but they should jointly agree on the ultimate goals.
Sales should provide insight into what content is needed at each stage and whether customers require education, information, a custom sales offer, or another tactic so that they move on to the next stage. Then Marketing should communicate whether those content needs are possible and give realistic time frames for completing them.
Throughout the process, both teams must understand and agree on the definition of all terminology being used. It's easy to assume everyone uses the same words in the same way, but we've found that's often not true, even with senior-level practitioners. Most folks don't want to raise their hand and ask for clarification, but real unity requires mutual, agreed-upon definitions of the vocabulary you're using.
Be clear about what you mean, and ask others to do the same.
3. Define an informed measurement approach (hint: no vanity metrics)
Now that you've tackled the first two steps, how do you measure your progress and success?
Many teams look to metrics such as MQLs to judge their effectiveness, but those metrics are a poor optic when used on their own. We call such metrics "vanity metrics" because they make marketers feel good about themselves but don't indicate anything about the value they're providing.
Instead, so that you can adjust and improve, couple leading metrics with lagging ones—including pipeline creation, revenue generation, and lifetime customer value—to provide real insight into how Sales and Marketing are performing.
A great actionable example is the measurement of "relationship depth." Heatmapping your alignment within an organization is critical to measuring not only the strength of the customer relationship but also the quality of your prospecting calls.
From there, move to meeting acceptance (Sales-accepted lead) and meeting quality (don't worry about the actual number of set meetings). These are great optics and best determined first by the rep accepting the meeting, and then via the call recording—if you're using a Gong or Chorus.ai and your sales management team can handle the volume.
Combining these leading indicators with cold, hard, revenue-based results will in turn inform how you optimize those early metrics and your top-of-funnel focus. Rarely is it the method itself that needs to change—it's usually the target accounts (a huge area of focus during the COVID pandemic), the buyer personas and messaging, and, of course, the sales plays we facilitate.
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Once you complete those foundational steps, there are other alignment boosters to take out for a spin. For example, when businesses reopen and we're not all working virtually, consider putting your sales and marketing teams physically close to one another. Invite both teams to daily scrums, and encourage them to jointly handle customer interviews.
Tactics like those aren't difficult to implement and can absolutely help drive Sales and Marketing alignment. But start with the three major steps I've outlined in this article. And as you see alignment growing and yielding tangible results, you can move on to more advanced tactics.
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