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5 ways to keep sales and marketing aligned

Even a small amount of misalignment between sales and marketing causes major problems for tech and data companies. Misalignment means bad vibes. It means missing new deals. And, that means you won’t get a decent return on your business development investments.

 

What do we mean by misalignment?  Well, because most people turn to Google or reach out for advice via social media, to solve a problem or explore an opportunity, it’s unlikely, at this stage at least, that they’ll be specifically searching for the solution your business offers. Which means that a good deal of education is required to help shape a need into thinking that takes them towards your products or services.  As well as education, your sales and marketing teams need to share the burden of providing encouragement, energy, and the odd bit of coaxing to help convert initial interest into an actual sale. This takes careful thought and planning. And it means sales and marketing efforts, and content, need to be aligned.

Get it wrong and you risk confusing customers or trying to sell to them too soon. Get it right and the flow between your sales and marketing efforts will make it easy for your customers to understand why and how they should buy from you.

All of this needs to happen in a way that works for your clients. This means that your marketing and sales approaches need to work in harmony. Offering advice ideas, support and content at the right time and in the right place. When this process works effectively it makes it easier for people to buy from you.  When things are out of kilter the process becomes clunky and inefficient.  A sure sign that marketing and sales are misaligned.

Here are five questions to consider if you want to get things aligned:

1. Do sales and marketing agree on the people you want to reach?

Sometimes teams have different ideas about the kinds of people the business is selling to. This can make marketing and prospecting unfocused and ineffective. Creating a buyer persona for each key market segment can help you understand more about what sectors and job roles your clients work in, how they think and feel, what they need, and how you can help. You should put a lot of detail into your personas.  What do they do?  Where do they work?  What do they read and watch?  Who do they respect?  Once built your personas can act as a form of guidance that both teams can use as a basis for engaging with prospective clients.

2. Does your organisation have a well-understood customer acquisition path?

Every business will have a limited number of effective patterns for acquiring new clients. For example, a data science company may share a key update on new data regulations in a blog promoted on Twitter; driving potential clients to their website for a more detailed report, in exchange for their email address; once captured, their email address can be used to market an event; at the event the client will hear the firm’s CTO talk knowledgeably about the domain, and carefully position some steps people may take; the client may then consider these options as a solution. This is an example of a simple acquisition path. I suggest analysing your typical acquisition patterns in order to understand what a typical buyer’s journey looks like. Then, focus sales and marketing efforts on the two or three that bring you the best clients.

3. Do marketing and sales teams have shared goals and metrics?

Yes, they both want to build revenues and your client list. But does each department have different sets of goals and ways of measuring progress to these goals? If your sales team is entirely focused on revenue and your marketing team on website visits it will be difficult to build collaborative plans. Start with the step above and for each persona map out their acquisition path. Sales and marketing should each have metrics that align to these critical paths. Ideally, most of them should be shared. This is particularly important if any aspect of your sales and marketing teams’ variable pay or bonuses is connected to achieving metrics. We suggest creating an SLA between sales and marketing teams. At it’s simplest this should be the number of qualified leads the marketing team will generate for the sales team each month, how many of these sales will convert, and how quickly sales will respond to them.

4. Are you getting the best out of your CRM?

Salespeople love and loathe CRM systems. Sometimes they act as a useful prompt to close a sale, but most of the time they’re seen as just another painful process. Marketing people generally have a better view of CRMs as they provide useful data and insights. But, your CRM should play an important part in their mutual success. With accurate data and a bit of effort, a CRM can do more than track deals. It can automate elements of the sales process, help you refine your strategy by analysing what works, identify potential new clients or products. This means that salespeople need to keep data up to date, which they will do if they understand the benefits. Start by agreeing on ways both sides can better use the CRM and identify some CRM driven actions that will deliver quick results. The CRM could be the source of data for analysing SLA performance, it could provide useful insights, like when a prospect revisits the site, or opens a pricing document, it could help qualify which leads deserve more effort.

5. Have you identified a quick win and celebrated success?

Changing behaviour doesn’t happen overnight so make sure you make some noise when things start to happen. And, give credit to everyone involved. This starts with identifying something that both teams want and that can be relatively easily achieved with some joint focus. Yes, it won’t happen overnight and no it won’t be easy. But finding and achieving a meaningful goal will make it clear the value that each element of your sales and marketing strategy brings.

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