How well do you know your customer? In order to effectively market and sell, you must first get into the minds of your prospects and customers. And though most B2B executives intuitively understand they should do the same – especially in light of the fact these prospects and customers engage in a lengthier, more complex buying process – far too few have invested the time, effort and money to do so.
The result – misaligned sales and marketing efforts, an inability to properly use resources to facilitate the decision process, and a detrimental effect on your campaign success.
The Inherent Risk in Customer Avoidance & Ignorance
If sales and marketing does not research, develop, socialize and refine your customers’ buying cycle, your efforts to attract and convert customers is needlessly lengthy, resource intensive, and potentially ineffective. When sales and marketing are aligned and working together in a coordinated effort, they’re more likely to get to revenue.
MarketingProfs research found that organizations with tightly-aligned sales and marketing had 36% higher customer retention rates and achieved 38% higher sales win rates.
Moreover, SiriusDecisions recently reported that 37 percent of inquiries were blended between inbound and outbound sources, reflecting the increasingly complex multi-touch sales environment.
So what is the first step to gaining alignment? Convince sales and marketing that they are more effective when they work together and obtain a clear division of labor and ownership of leads generation, nurturing and conversion. Once you have buy in from both sides, the following best practices will inform the team and contribute to further business alignment:
Best Practices for Sales & Marketing Alignment
- Develop Buyer Personas & Process Maps
Agree on who the target buyer is and develop a deep understanding of what motivates them including their demographics, organizational role, challenges, business objectives, decision making authority, and what will make them successful in their job. Along with this data, define the steps in the buying process such as the cycle SiriusDecisions recommends. Map to each target buyer their objectives, the collateral they’ll need (whitepapers, case studies, webinars, etc.) and potential roadblocks to moving forward in the sales process. From this research, marketing campaigns will be developed to test and further refine the knowledge that’s been assembled.
- Choose the Conversion Points
Agree on the revenue process which is the set of conversion points that start from the top of the funnel to sale. The shared revenue process should focus on 5-7 important conversion points depending on how you track your leads in CRM (e.g., lead, qualified lead, opportunity, etc.). For example, a simple revenue machine may track prospects from a lead (when they initially engage with an organization) – qualified lead and agree on clear definitions of each conversion point and ownership to each conversion. Tracking and reporting needs to provide visibility into the entire process.
- Develop Brand Positioning & Messaging
To avoid sales and marketing tension, develop targeted messaging for each conversion point and for each buyer persona that is consistent with the band but also delivers a clear solution to a particular pain point and deliberate call to action. This messaging should be tested in person in sales calls to see if they resonate. Once that’s done, both marketing and sales should be using the same verbal branding and messaging for online and offline reinforcement and consistency for the customer to avoid confusion.
- Develop Collateral and Content that Aligns with the Sales Process
Marketing should create content not only for demand but to move buyers through the sales process to educate and enable the buyer to make a purchasing decision. This includes content for digital channels (e.g., website, blog, social, etc.) and it should be optimized for search engines.
- Define the Lead Handoff Point & Process
Decide when marketing should hand off a lead to sales based on a definition of the qualified lead which can include both demographic information (i.e. account type, contact type, etc.) and psychographic (i.e. has pain, agrees to a conversation, etc.).
- Establish a Service Level Agreement & Measurement Quotas
Execute service level agreements (SLA’s) between sales and marketing that provides accountability for both – a quota of qualified leads for marketing and a guaranteed lead follow up process for sales which goes hand-in-hand with the lead definition. It’s critical for both to adhere to their responsibilities or risk undermining the entire revenue machine process.
- Meet Regularly to Further Optimize the Revenue Cycle
Schedule a series of meetings to evaluate the data and strategize on what’s working/not working in the demand generation process with an emphasis on cultivating an open discussion for both campaign and follow-up process improvements.
The Bottom Line – Clear Expectations, Constant Iteration & Ongoing Communication
Today’s B2B organizations can’t be effective with siloed sales and marketing organizations. The potential for revenue is too great to ignore and the knowledge that’s gained by both sides only enhances the ability to sell and service customers effectively. Breaking down the silos is the hardest part and there will always be tension, but that tension can be positive if there is a culture of clear expectations and communication. When both teams sit down and agree on basic principles and understand they’re working towards the same goal, they’ll build a scalable and predictable revenue machine.
Additions & Feedback
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