Marketing
7 MIN READ

4 Actionable Processes to Improve Your Sales and Marketing Alignment

sales and marketing alignment

Introduce these four processes to your sales and marketing teams to achieve ultimate collaboration.

While researching sales and marketing alignment, I found at least ten articles that used analogies to explain how sales and marketing departments should work in synchrony to achieve business growth. Some made sense, while some were lousy attempts to fill the gaps. 

Some creative analogies I came across were:

  • synchronized swimming 
  • two horses pulling a wagon
  • two siblings that don't get along (yup, that's what it said)

So I decided I would not compare sales and marketing functions to random things to get my point through. I would instead stick to the facts!

Did you know that only 8% of companies believe they have a strong alignment between sales and marketing teams?

Sales and marketing, two pivotal functions of an organization, must work hand in hand to ensure success. Facts clearly state that tightly aligned sales and marketing departments lead to higher conversion, higher customer retention rates, faster revenue growth, and positive company culture. 

Organizations today are using innovative techniques such as Smarketing, Account-Based Marketing, Collaborative CRMs to foster sales and marketing alignment. But the goal is simple - sales and marketing teams must join hands to achieve shared business goals. 

This article covers four processes you can establish for your sales and marketing teams to make them more aligned.

What is Sales and Marketing Alignment, and how does it work?

Sales and marketing alignment is a collaboration activity built by an organization to enable smooth communication, handoffs, and functioning between sales and marketing teams. The goal of sales and marketing alignment is to enable the sales and marketing teams to work together on unified goals that contribute to overall organizational goals with minimal friction.

When sales and marketing teams are aligned, businesses achieve high-impact campaign performances, increased sales performance, increased revenue, and better customer experience.

Sales and marketing alignment is an intentional activity performed by an organization. It works by building a strategy for increased alignment between these two functions with aligned goals, roles, systems, and technology.

The strategy outlines actionable steps and procedures to be taken by each team member. These steps and procedures are observed, tracked, and measured to ensure smooth collaboration between the two teams to achieve their unified goals.

4 Actionable Processes to Improve Your Sales and Marketing Alignment

1. Build and Follow a Service Level Agreement (SLA) or Process Handoff Agreements for both teams

I know what you will say here - why do you need SLAs for teams within the company?

And yes, it might sound weird, but trust me, it helps. One of the most common challenges for aligning sales and marketing teams is managing expectations and deliveries.

Here are some examples of conflicts that happen when there are no pre-decided agreements of delivery between sales and marketing:

  • who is accountable for the database?
  • Who is the decision-maker for campaign ideas?
  • Is an MQL valid for sales?
  • Is marketing responsible for SQLs?
  • Who creates sales enablement content?
  • Are sales accountable for sharing customer feedback?

If you face more than one of these issues in your organization, know that you are not alone - this is the story of every fast-paced company. 

For those who don't know what SLAs are:

A service-level agreement is defined as a commitment between a service provider and a client. It establishes detailed aspects of the service such as quality, availability, and responsibilities agreed between the service provider and the service user.

SLAs are used mainly by service providers to define a clear picture of the deliveries they are accountable for, which the client has agreed upon. 

SLAs are similar to process handoff agreements that lay out the terms of the outcomes, responsibilities, and requirements of a process.

In our case, sales and marketing are the service providers and have agreed on delivering specific assets to each other. Establish a process for your sales and marketing teams to build and follow a service level agreement to cater to each other's requirements.

Some examples of SLA agreements can look like:

  • Sales will accept an MQL from marketing only if the lead has engaged on at least four touchpoints with the brand assets (email, eBook, webinar, podcast, etc.)
  • Marketing will be responsible for creating not more than four sales enablement documents per quarter, provided that the sales team assists the marketing team in research, insights, and revisions.

The process will take time and seem tedious, but it will help you achieve your goal of sales and marketing alignment.

2. Involve Your Sales Team in Content Marketing

The sales team is always at the forefront with your customers. They are building conversations with your prospects and customers, giving them direct insights into your customers' pain points. This information is vital to your content marketing strategy.

Marketers live by the thumb rule - content is king. But if your content is not addressing the immediate challenges of your target audience, it is futile.  

Compelling content is built on the foundation of a well-researched content marketing strategy. The focus of every content idea must be the challenges and pain points of your target audience. 

Now let's connect the dots. What do you think is a dependable source of information when it comes to identifying the critical challenges of your customers?

Yes, that's correct. Your sales team has a goldmine of information and data that can help you pinpoint your customer challenges and also understand the reason behind those challenges. This information is priceless to your content marketing strategy.

Now, let's go back to my point. Involving your sales team in the content marketing process will help your organization build great content and align your sales and marketing goals, making your teams collaborate better.

Start with building a process that outlines specific tasks assigned to each team for building content ideas. Also, create effective communication and collaboration channels to enable transparency in this process. Making your sales and marketing team work together for a combined goal will be one of the smartest strategies you have used - trust me!

3. Invite marketing to attend to sales calls

Yes, I know. Your marketing team has enough to do already, and adding another process will not make anyone happy. But hear me out. 

Involving sales teams in content marketing will help evolve your content strategy for the better. However, having your marketing team listen to sales calls will help them understand customer pain points and the needs of your sales team to make better conversations.

Marketing needs direct insights into customer challenges to create messaging that addresses these challenges. Involving them in sales calls will give them direct access to the minute details of the conversation. 

Marketing also supports the sales team with leads information and sales enablement content. Giving them insights into the needs of your sales teams to improve sales calls will help them support the sales teams better. 

The collaborative process of including marketing teams in sales calls will improve the communication between your teams and remove bottlenecks. If this does not foster sales and marketing alignment, then what will?

4. Close the feedback loop between sales and marketing

In most organizations, sales and marketing teams are siloed and function independently. Despite the critical need for constant collaboration and feedback, most teams are so busy doing their own business that there is no time left to end the feedback loop.

The feedback loop is closed when both parties (in our case sales and marketing) share feedback on various items, which is used to improve overall performance. 

Feedback can be about a lead, data, content, customer story, sales enablement documents, MQL, etc. Here are a few examples:

  • Marketing generates an MQL with very high intent, an ideal buyer persona, and shares with sales. Sales follow up and update dashboards to display on the pipeline but provide no feedback or update on the conversation with the lead. This leads to frustration for the marketing team.
  • The sales team communicates information on customer challenges with the marketing team, but this information is not used by marketing to update content and website copy. This oversight causes frustration for the sales team as they feel unacknowledged.

In fact, 43% of sales and marketing people said "lack of accurate/shared data on target accounts and prospects" was the biggest challenge for aligning sales and marketing departments. Such frustrations lead to unnecessary conflicts that affect the performance of the team and the business. 

To avoid such conflicts, establish a process that focuses on closing the feedback loop. Every feedback or communication made by each team must be used as input by the other team. 

Establishing a process and monitoring its application will help your teams become more transparent and collaborative. 

Conclusion

Team building activities, happy hours, brown bag sessions are good ideas to reinstate the importance of sales and marketing alignment. However, if you are looking for a permanent solution to ensure the smooth functioning of these two dynamic departments, you must put processes in place and ensure they are practiced. 

Need help putting these processes in order? Talk to our expert Processologist today.