It's no secret that for a long time (too long!) marketing and sales departments have evolved on separate yet parallel tracks, with, of course, points of contact—and no shortage of tension.
Conflicting interests, mutual misunderstandings, jealousy or the need for recognition: the marketing-sales union is constantly on the rocks without a sure path to reconciliation. However, the divorce between these two departments is far from official, and it is better if everyone puts down their arms and stops going round in circles. Because after all, when aligned, they are indispensable to the company and can prove to be a powerful force that really gets results.
This is especially true today, when many organisations are putting traditional prospecting methods on the back burner in favour of inbound marketing. In short, the alignment of sales and marketing is a key factor for success.
The alliance of sales and marketing: a strategic approach that cannot be ignored
Some significant figures:
- Today, only 30% of all businesses have a clear sales and marketing alignment plan
- 87% of the terms that sales and marketing use to describe each other are negative
- Companies whose marketing and sales teams collaborate closely have annual revenue growth of around 20% on average (Aberdeen Group study)
So, why hasn’t this historic rivalry gone by the wayside, given today's fast-moving, digital world, where B2B buyers are increasingly demanding, volatile and fickle?
Are your sales people confused about the purpose of the marketing department? Do they think marketing’s job is to redesign your company's website? Does your marketing team criticise sales for not being involved enough with the leads they receive?
That's fair enough, but it's no longer relevant to your performance and growth. Nowadays, salespeople don't just sell and marketing doesn't just create advertising campaigns or organise trade shows.
Sales must position itself as an expert and advisor to respond to the problems of prospects and clients, and accompany them in their purchasing decisions.
Marketing must play a supporting role to generate new contacts and follow up with leads in the buying cycle.
An alignment strategy allows the two departments to work hand in hand to meet the expectations and needs of prospects throughout the sales process. By now, it’s a prerequisite for achieving business goals and increasing sales.
Sales, marketing and communications...what are their missions?
Sales and marketing alignment is a concrete response to the digitalisation of the workplace. But it is also an organisational change that should be part of a larger corporate strategy, where data, paths-to-purchase and customer experience are combined to serve a relevant sale and prospecting plan.
If the alignment of the sales & marketing teams allows the power of data to be used for better sales forecasting, thereby gaining visibility at the different key stages, it is essential that sales and marketing teams share responsibilities in a clear and transparent manner.
The sales department is dedicated to sales, the customer experience and project follow-up. It uses the leads generated through its alignment with marketing to qualify prospects, meet customers and personalise the commercial relationship. It can also provide support for post-sales follow-up when necessary.
Marketing is actively involved in generating sales. Aligned with communication, its role is to promote the company's brand image and identity, work on the user experience, and also compile and analyse data, while refining its target market/consumer. Marketers have a clear objective: to get the right message to the right person, at the right time and on the right device, in order to generate leads and move them along the conversion tunnel.
The alignment between sales and marketing is downstream of the customer journey. Today, the quality of the teams, processes and tools are what truly make the difference in optimising the act of selling.
And the communications department?
Communications teams deal with branding, creating concepts and formalising values in order to support the company or brand’s positioning. Communications can also act as a spokesperson, overseeing public relations and press relations, while ensuring content and messages have a good editorial line.
Of course, fostering internal communication is essential. The sales and marketing teams must talk to each other and actively collaborate. Sales people need to be informed of current marketing campaigns and efforts in order to use them to their advantage, but also to inform marketers of problems, obstacles or recurring complaints coming from customers.
Feedback rom both sides allows lead quality to be optimised and marketing actions to be adjusted, such as the creation of more relevant content with added value.
The essential tools to implement in the sales and marketing alignment process
SLAs to align collaboration
SLAs (Service Level Agreements) are designed to formalise the commitments of each department to the other, detailing the objectives to be achieved at a marketing level and the actions to be taken by the sales team to support the work of marketing.
Indeed, all collaboration should be symbolically or contractually validated in some way: a handshake, the signing of a contract, a verbal pledge, etc. The agreement between your company’s sales people and marketers will ensure that each commits to providing the other with something concrete, quantified and quantifiable.
An SLA is much more than a simple document; it is the backbone of a good working relationship between the teams that collaborate on the entire purchase cycle of a prospect.
On the sales side, commitments can focus on
- The processing time for leads provided by marketing
- Providing sales data to the marketing teamThe contribution of the sales team to the company's editorial proposals
- Updating information on CRM contact sheets
And so on.
On the marketing side, commitments such as
- The provision of leads, both in terms of quality and quantity
- Sharing marketing activities with sales (those in progress, but also those to come)
- Creating notifications as soon as the marketers are aware of a new lead to pass on to the sales team
And so on.
Shared terminology for each type of lead
It is also important to set shared goals for the sales and marketing teams so that they speak the same language, particularly with regard to leads. This is a key point for successful alignment between them. Whether it's MQL, SQL, PQL or CQL, you need to make sure that all concepts are understood by everyone:
MQL (marketing-qualified lead): thanks to the development of Inbound Marketing, more and more prospects are the ones to initiate contact with brands, rather than vice versa. They can be identified after having left their contact details following the download of a white paper or registration for an event.
SQL (sales-qualified lead): this is an MQL that has been qualified to deepen the relationship and learn more about the prospect’s motivations, needs and research conducted in order to offer them the most suitable service or product.
PQL (product-qualified lead): specific to the services and SaaS industry, this is a prospect who has downloaded or tried a product, without actually making a purchase. It can be a demo product or the basic version of a freemium solution.
CQL (conversation-qualified lead): the development of online messaging tools allows customers to communicate directly with you via Facebook, WhatsApp or Twitter. CQLs are prospects who have engaged in a conversation with a representative of your team or with a chatbot or messaging service on these platforms.
On the other hand, to reinforce team cohesion, do not hesitate to organise regular exchanges between the two departments via meetings or discussion groups to ensure that the alignment of the teams is operational and the relations friendly.
You can also set up a lead scoring system. This technique consists of giving a mark or score to your prospects in order to measure their propensity to make a purchase. It can be measured with a simple three-level scale (red, orange, green, or cold, lukewarm and hot leads) or via the use of a dedicated tool (usually automated) which integrates numerous criteria to determine a quality score or a percentage from a complex calculation grid.
To do so, you need quality information to determine the lead’s level of engagement and maturity in relation to your offer. There are different scores that make it possible to assign points to qualify your prospects based on variables, and process them in an automated way.
CRM to align and analyse your actions
There are many effective tools that can facilitate the synergy between sales and marketing, including CRM and marketing automation. In order to be efficient and save time, the use of popular synchronised solutions is a great way to encourage the sharing of information. Each team has access to the other's data in real time, which considerably facilitates the implementation of cross-department actions. Exploiting different processes is essential if you want to streamline and improve collaboration between marketing and sales teams.
As is clear by now, the alignment of your sales and marketing teams must be a priority in order to see real results in efficiency and productivity. Those results are sure to be amplified if you equip yourself with powerful tools to organise your processes, but also to automate, store, share and analyse data.