How to improve Sales and Marketing alignment?

Roy Lee explains how Marketing Operations can improve Sales and Marketing Alignment

Marketing Operations are the equivalent of data analysts for a football club. The star players (the sales team) don’t see the point of them. But when the manager realises the data can make the team better, they start to rely on it to pick the team. Then the players want to work with the analysts to become better players and get picked for the team.

So, it is a challenge for Marketing Operations to improve sales and marketing alignment, because it is hard to engage the sales team and get them to change the way they work to fit in with marketing. But if Marketing Operations can convince someone senior in the business that they can improve revenue and profit, there is a good chance sales will start to pay attention.

  • Sales and marketing alignment can lead to a 32% increase in year-over-year revenue growth. (Aberdeen Group)
  • Sales and marketing alignment can lead to 38% higher sales win rates (MarketingProfs).

These are the type of stats that marketing operations can use to get the attention of senior sales leaders, who in turn, will encourage sales to start talking to marketing.

It is worth the effort for marketing to persist in setting up good communication between the departments.

  • Sales and marketing alignment can lead to 208% growth in marketing revenue (Wheelhouse Advisors).

With good alignment marketing can track leads from creation to sale; get accurate close rates; and develop an attribution model that reflects influenced pipeline. In short, marketing can clearly see what activities are really driving value for the business.

With persistence marketing operations can become the equivalent of the Leicester City data analysts that helped their club win the Premiership in 2016 with 10% of the budget of their rivals.

Step one: Regular Communication

As Martrain’s Roy Lee says, make sure the sales and marketing teams are talking. Set up a working group between sales and marketing that meets regularly. How regularly depends on whether you are in the middle of an alignment project, or just doing maintenance to make sure sales and marketing stay aligned. If you are doing an alignment project, it is worth meeting once a week. These projects are always more complicated and take longer than expected. Without regular meetings it is very easy for the project to stall and the teams to get distracted. A weekly meeting means progress is sustained.

Once the alignment project is completed it is still worth meeting quarterly, as often business processes and strategies are changed and the systems must reflect these changes.

Step two: Define common terms and business processes

To achieve sales and marketing alignment both teams need to agree on the definition of common terms. It sounds simple but we find it is actually rare across organizations. According to CSO Insights, only 44% of companies have formally agreed on the definition of a qualified lead between sales and marketing. So, agree on the definition of basic terms like:

Also agree on the SLA’s (Service Level Agreements) of:

  • the quality of the leads marketing pass to sales
  • when sales will follow up those leads.

Step three: Align the sales and marketing systems

Sales and marketing systems are often implemented and upgraded at different times. They are also managed by different departments which restructure and change working processes independently. It is therefore very difficult to get them synced in the first place, never mind keep them synced.

For instance, sales teams may restructure their regions, or change how the salespeople are compensated. Marketing must keep up with these changes and the systems must be aligned to reflect the current business process.

The problem could be a subtle as data in the CRM and marketing automation not aligning so records are not being passed between the two systems.

Aligning Salesforce and Oracle Eloqua

A recent client example we worked on was due to the Salesforce App in Eloqua being upgraded. This forced our client to review the legacy alignment, to make sure the data was structured consistently in both Salesforce and Eloqua. It also created the opportunity to do some data cleansing and get rid of the inevitable incorrect values which clogged both systems. By aligning the two systems effectively we created a revenue cycle with a two-way flow of real-time information between both systems. This meant that both sales and marketing had all the relevant up-to-date engagement information for each lead to inform the next interaction.

It also meant that “closed lost” leads were not just abandoned by sales but passed back to marketing for more nurturing. HubSpot point out that 79% of marketing leads never convert due to a failure to nurture. So, enabling leads to pass back to marketing from sales makes a huge long-term difference to sales win rates.

Marketing Operations Persistence

It may be daunting for Marketing Operations to start communicating with sales, but it is worth persisting. Sales constantly need to hit their targets so marketing operations need to think of the short-term benefits alignment will bring. It is a good idea to do some pipeline and revenue projections and show the sales leaders the potential increase in revenue and profit.

Like getting the star players to listen to the data analysts, it may seem like an uphill task for marketing operations to get sales to cooperate. But Leicester City were 5000-1 outsiders to win the Premiership in 2016, so the odds don’t have to be in your favour to make great things happen.