Business and organizational experts often talk and write about how sales and marketing alignment is necessary for efficient growth, yet sales and marketing efforts are often not coordinated. Common complaints: sales doesn’t like the leads from marketing; marketing doesn’t like the way sales ignores their leads. The people on the teams are different, too. They have different personalities, different perspectives and timeframes.
But align they must because the two teams have essentially the same goal — driving more revenue — and by working together, sales and marketing can achieve more. Here are some tips to improve the alignment.
1. Start at the top
Even if sales and marketing falls under the leadership of one executive, at the next level down the two functions diverge and one individual has primary responsibility for each department. These leaders should meet regularly to discuss goals and how they can work together to meet them, setting the example and demonstrating their commitment for their organizations.
2. Understand roles and responsibilities
Each team should understand the others’ roles and responsibilities. Where the division of labor is established — who does what — isn’t as important as everyone knowing who does what. What is sales responsible for? What falls under marketing? This way, there is always accountability.
3. Agree upon the definition of a lead
The perfect reason for sales and marketing teams to work together is to brainstorm, establish, and agree upon what constitutes a sales-ready lead. The definition will typically include some or all of the following data: contact information for a prospect who expresses interest in your products or services, demonstrated need that your product or service can meet, the prospect’s level of purchasing authority, an appropriate budget and buying timeline. Sales-ready leads get passed on; the others stay with marketing for nurturing.
Lead definitions will increase efficiency and productivity of both teams, but they aren’t always perfect. Sometimes a lead that seems sales-ready needs to be passed back to the marketing team. That’s okay. It happens. There will be other times when marketing will be nurturing a long shot and suddenly they e-mail you and try to place an order.
4. Use the same system
Whether you use sales automation/CRM software, a simple spreadsheet or just e-mail back and forth, both sales and marketing people should have access to and use the same lead tracking system to keep track of all the activities associated with a prospect through the sales cycle.
5. Sales: Give feedback
Sales people, you are the front line. You are the ones staring the customer in the face and know the most about them. Give some of your insight to the marketing team. What types of customers are the easiest to sell to? Do some verticals respond better than others? Are prospects using specific terms and language that should be in marketing materials? What lead types are best? Did you check all the appropriate boxes in the lead tracking system? Your intelligence can help marketing craft stronger messages and more effective programs.
6. Marketing: Step up on specific sales opportunities
A salesperson might be working an important deal and the prospect asks for information you don’t have, such as how your product could work in a specific production environment. That’s a custom request that could be supported by marketing. You’ll probably be able to re-purpose an existing piece of content and add a few custom touches for the prospect, making it look polished. You also can step up and help craft responses to RFQs, using your writing and layout skills.
7. Coordinate efforts around campaigns
New products and upgrades often launch with marketing campaigns in support. If marketing is planning a campaign, sales must know about it: when it launches, who is being targeted, what offers are included. The sales team should know what’s coming from marketing.