Align Your Sales And Marketing Teams In 3 Steps

March 21, 2016 6:12:36 AM | By Matt Benati

Last week we discussed how aligning your sales and marketing teams will increase your business’s productivity and revenue.

Now let’s take a deeper dive and examine the three steps to alignment more closely: Planning, Execution, and Course Correction.

Step 1 – Alignment Planning

This is by far the most important step. Sales and marketing teams must take the time to agree on definitions and processes, or alignment efforts will simply fall flat.

Agree on definitions – Terms like contacts, leads, opportunities, pipeline and sales stages are frequently thrown around in both departments — but is everyone talking about the same thing? Review how marketing currently defines a lead and compare to your sales team’s definition. See the disparity? From there, assist both departments in coming to an agreement on how to define each term so that future steps are more effective.

Agree on the goal of working accounts versus leads – Help your teams realize that shifting from generic marketing messages (to fill a funnel with an abundance of potentially unqualified leads) to highly targeted and personalized outreach (revealing high-quality leads) is working smarter instead of harder. The move from lead-based marketing to account-based marketing is cahllenging, but attainable.

Agree on account-based metrics that align and provide accountability – Because B2B companies that utilize account-based marketing tend to have longer sales cycles, traditional metrics won’t give you a complete picture. You’ll need to measure things like the completeness of account data, effectiveness of your ABM marketing based on prospects’ awareness of and engagement with your business, and how your marketing programs impact and influence sales outcomes. These last metrics, impact and influence of sales outcomes, are the key to overall success.

Agree on incentives that drive productivity, accountability, and alignment – This will be specific to your teams, but in general, incentives should align with the metrics you identified above. With longer sales cycles, the marketing team’s role will be harder to pinpoint in a sale that occurs a year after the first account lead comes in. This is where using ABM metrics throughout the process will illuminate marketing’s impact on the bottom dollar and allow for fair incentivizing.

Agree on the process for handing off qualified leads and support this with an SLA – According to Hubspot, companies with active Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are 34% more likely to experience greater year-over-year ROI than companies that don’t. Defined SLAs tie together all of the points above and clearly define what leads are, the process for handing off and managing leads, and metrics or KPIs that will be used to monitor progress throughout the sales cycle.

Step 2 – Alignment Execution

While you may hit a few bumps in the road initially, if you’ve done a thorough job during the planning phase, executing your plan for alignment will be easier with consistency and commitment from everyone involved.

Collaborate to create sales and marketing playbooks – The more comprehensive, the better. When creating your playbook, imagine speaking to a brand new sales associate. Strive for the playbooks to provide them with as much information as possible about your target client, your sales methodology, and even specific instructions for communicating your business’s value proposition and handling objections. At each point in the playbook, identify what tools marketing provides (collateral, demos, webinars, etc), to support the sales process.

Deliver against playbooks – After identifying best practices, use them. Reverting to old ways will not propel your business forward.

Measure productivity and maintain a metrics dashboard – Utilize or consider investing in technology that will allow key players on your sales and marketing team to review progress in real-time.

Quick-hit weekly meetings to review dashboard, knock down barriers, and provide continuous feedback between sales and marketing teams – Consistency is critical when implementing a new alignment plan. Aligning sales and marketing for a shift to account-based marketing is a detailed undertaking – it’s not a “set it and forget it” type of plan. Weekly monitoring of progress and giving departments a platform for communicating and providing candid feedback reveals what’s working and what’s not.

When opportunities for improvement arise, onto Step 3!

Step 3 – Alignment Course Corrections

It’s highly unlikely you’re going to nail your planning and execution the first time around, and that’s okay. With a comprehensive plan, committed teams, and continually monitoring progress, course corrections are easily implemented.

Review playbook and metrics against results to determine what works and what doesn’t – This is easier when done on a regular basis versus at the end of the quarter or year.

Find root causes of problems – Troubleshoot from the positive perspective of brainstorming for solutions, instead of pointing fingers and driving teams apart.

Identify and agree on solutions – If you have a comprehensive plan, playbooks, and a SLA in place, existing processes can be easily modified or

new processes added. Loosely defined or sloppy documentation only increases frustration when trying to identify and solve problems.

Modify processes and people according to agreed-upon solutions – With departmental and management buy-in, this should be simple. If your key players have been involved in the alignment process from inception, changes will not come as a shock, and your staff should take the modifications in stride with a positive attitude.

When you’re ready to align your sales and marketing teams for increased productivity and profitability, a solid plan, execution, and course correction strategy can make or break your great expectations.

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