Sales and marketing alignment brings about fabulous benefits, but execution of alignment is a whole different side of the strategy. How, after what may be many years of butting heads, miscommunication, and negative attitudes, can a company push past the past and build a bridge between the two teams? While it will take work from everyone, it is possible to turn the separation into a single, revenue increasing machine.
Here are seven actions to align marketing and sales for big customer experience wins:
1. Establish cross-team buy-in. Before marketing and sales alignment is anything more than a beautiful dream, management needs to get both teams to agree to work towards a cohesive union. This begins at the top. Once you've hammered out an opening for discussion, there needs to be a plan in place to get everyone involved. Perhaps a team building meeting, or individual surveys to see where each team thinks the weak areas are.
Keep in mind this is not a one-time thing, as both teams will need encouragement and reminders to break old habits and to establish trust. Only by consistently crafting buy-in, encouraging unification, and promoting common goals can these barriers start breaking down.
2. Seat teams together, physically. Debbie Farese at HubSpot highlights in this article how the close physical proximity of desks can lead to deeper understanding and communication between teams as they see, hear and interact with each other on a daily basis.
3. Work toward uniform goals. In some organizations, it's scary to see how the goals of the sales team differ from those of the marketing team. Lack of a common focus creates issues with effectiveness and waters down customer service, revenue efforts, and new account expansion. It's critical for marketing and sales to be on the same page in regards to what needs to be accomplished. Is the focus customer retention? Lead nurturing? New customer sales? Conduct specific goal setting meetings where all team members offer input. During this time, short and long-term goals can be set.
4. Agree on the targeted buyer. Sales may think that marketing isn't in touch with what their leads want while marketing is irritated that sales doesn't use the proper marketing materials or follow up on marketing-originated leads.
These differing opinions and standards are obstacles to the overall plan to create better leads, and close a higher number of sales. Reduce the risk of this by pinpointing your targeted buyer. Answer questions like "what are my buyer's pain points?" and "what is my buyer looking to accomplish?" Sales and marketing then need to recognize their buyer, the types of information that gains their attention and trust, and how to "talk" to them, regardless of whether the conversation is marketing or sales driven.
5. Define what a lead really means. A huge obstacle in marketing and sales alignment is deciding when a lead is really a lead. If there is miscommunication, marketing ends up annoyed that sales didn't properly follow up on the leads they sent over from inbound efforts, while sales is frustrated because they don't feel the lead was properly qualified, and their time was wasted. The biggest loser is the customer, not receiving the attention and respect that they deserve.
One white paper download may not make a lead, but three white papers and one webinar attendance might be a hot one. Marketing and sales need to establish when sales needs to take over with the lead and attempt to convert to a customer. There also should be a set process for nurturing the leads and prospects who do not immediately become customers. By agreeing on the definition of a lead, trust in the overall endeavor is built.
6. Make communication a priority. The previous point included that sales and marketing need to talk to each other, and, perhaps more importantly, listen to each other. What an out-of-the-box concept! Seriously, sometimes relationships improve by simple communication that goes beyond short, impersonal email. Initiatives will move forward faster and each team will understand the challenges of the other better if both put effort into building a strong communication channel.
Encourage and reward two-way communication between sales and marketing, and lead by example. Meetings that include participants from both teams, and regular updates help everyone feel in the loop. Or go wild and get everybody together for lunch or dinner once in a while!
7. Craft initiatives together. Humans in general dislike being told what to do. Sales and marketing professionals are no different. When marketing bounces in with a "directive" for sales, or sales "dictates" a new campaign roll out to marketing, mutual cooperation evaporates.
Close the gap and avoid these disruptive scenarios by involving both teams in key objectives during the planning stage. If each individual team member feels his or her points were taken into consideration and they had a hand in developing the initiatives, everyone will be more invested in its success, and more inclined to work together to achieve it.
Marketing and sales alignment isn't easy and, even when reached, needs consistent maintenance and effort. It's not so much a project that has a beginning and an end, but a philosophy, a way of conducting business. The main benefit is for the customer, with a stronger connection and a more engaging, valuable experience.
Do you have a story, advice, or a personal experience with the path to marketing and sales alignment, and it's effect on the customer experience? We want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or tweet us @modusengagement.