Throughout my career, I’ve witnessed numerous sales and marketing teams that simply don’t communicate. Today, as a CEO, one of my top priorities is to ensure that my marketing and sales teams are always aligned. Together, they have a much greater impact on company growth, driving better lead quality and closing more deals.
But as I said, most B2B companies lack this synergy, and it’s all because their marketing and sales teams have a very different outlook on “success”. Sales are all about, well, sales, whereas marketing is, you guessed it, about marketing.
Beyond generating leads, marketers are constantly driven by the need to improve the company’s positioning, making sure that the brand voice is consistent and aligned across the entire organization.
Sales is also a lot more relationship-driven than marketing. Salespeople share that 1:1 contact with a potential customer, whereas marketers deliver their message to a broader group of fictional personas. Sure, social media has made it easier for marketers to communicate on a more personal level, however, their target audiences are too big to contact individually.
As result of these differences, sales and marketing function as two separate entities. They lack communication and they almost never collaborate. So, the question that I’m going to address is, how do you get the two to start speaking and working together?
It all starts with a basic cycle: setting common goals, achieving the goals, and analyzing success or failure.
Setting Common Goals
Alignment between sales and marketing starts with shared goals and metrics. At the moment, it’s likely that your marketers and salespeople are working towards a different “ideal buyer”.
For marketers, a marketing-qualified-lead (MQL) could be anyone who has shown interest in your company by filling out a web form. For sales, a sales-qualified-lead (SQL) is a prospective customer who perfectly fits the solution that your company is offering and is ready for the next stage of the sales cycle. There’s clearly a huge gap between what marketers define as a quality lead and what salespeople define as a quality lead.
Poorly-qualified SQL’s represent a significant setback for your sales team, and why wouldn’t they? With only so many hours in their week, salespeople shouldn’t be wasting their time reaching out or building relationships with prospects that aren’t fit for your company.
One way to quickly solve this problem is by establishing a clear-cut and thorough definition of what an ideal customer is – their company size, industry, job title, budget, etc. Naturally, your sales team will be leading the way in this discussion since they’re at the forefront of your prospects, striving to convert them into customers.
That said, marketing should be just as involved in this process. They have a lot of valuable data at the earlier stages of the buyer journey, which they can use to pinpoint the criteria of an ideal lead. For example, they can examine the different activities that qualified leads have taken before eventually converting into customers.
Achieving the Goals
Establishing common goals and definitions set the foundation for a fruitful relationship between marketing and sales. The next step in this ongoing cycle is to turn those goals into actionable items.
A great place to start is with collaborative meetings. In a perfect world, executives from sales and marketing should be able to sit in the same room, where they can share as much knowledge and insights to benefit the other party. But in case your teams are scattered across different regions, hosting a virtual meeting with a representative from each department is also a good solution.
Ideally, marketers should gather as much information from sales to deeply understand the needs and pain points of prospective clients at every stage of the buyer’s journey.
At Oktopost, we make sure that our sales and marketing leaders meet regularly to discuss questions that have been frequently-asked by prospects. Using these insights, marketing is not only able to craft content that’s hyper-relevant to our target audiences, but can also provide sales with valuable content to close more deals.
Collaborative meetings like these should be held monthly, if not weekly. They should also serve as an opportunity for both teams to brainstorm creative content ideas and topics. After the meeting, sales can even “test” some of these ideas on real prospects by asking them, “Is this something that would benefit you?”.
Besides the content itself, your micro-messaging should also be aligned across sales and marketing. Nothing could be more damaging to your brand than having employees refer to the same feature, solution or capability using different terminology. That’s why these meetings are extremely important for developing seamless messaging across every channel.
A synergic relationship between sales and marketing also involves accessibility; meaning that all marketing collateral should be easily accessible to every sales member. For example, at Oktopost we have created a centralized “Content Hub”, which categorizes all of our content according to topics, funnel stage, buyer persona, and keywords. This ensures that sales reps can readily find the right piece of content for the right prospect.
Analyzing Success & Failure
When it comes to sales and marketing alignment, there’s always room for improvement. Simply defining common goals and addressing them through tailored content isn’t always enough. Like everything else, you need to back your success and failure with hard data and insights.
This way, both teams can understand the factors that have contributed to lost and won opportunities. Specifically, it will help them answer questions like:
- What do all of the won or lost deals have in common?
- What content drove them to convert – or which topics and formats did prospects best respond to?
- What types of content do you need to write to reach similar buyers?
- How often was content sent to them – through which channels and at what stages of the sales cycle?
Again, the only way to answer these questions is if marketing and sales work together. The nature of sales is to gain first-hand knowledge from customers – understanding which content they found most helpful, what type of information tipped the scales, or what additional information they would’ve liked to receive.
Marketing, on the other hand, is able to collect quantifiable data that visualize what sort of information, content formats or language style resonated with leads.
When analyzing your success or failure, try focusing on a specific timeframe or cohort – for example, a cohort with the most won opportunities or quarter with the least won opportunities.
Let’s say you analyze the closed-lost opportunities for leads generated in Q3. In this case, you want to understand where sales and marketing weren’t aligned. Was the messaging wrong? Did prospects not respond well to the content? Were they unqualified to begin with – and if so, why were they unqualified?
Come Full Circle
As the old saying goes: the whole is greater than the sum of their parts. And the same applies to sales and marketing; the power of the two can dramatically improve the company’s bottom-line, helping to generate more SQL’s and drive them quicker down the funnel.
A foolproof way to get sales and marketing to work together is by following the ongoing cycle: establishing common goals and definitions, collaborating on content creation, and finally, analyzing and learning from closed and won opportunities to maximize future growth.