Alignment between Sales and Marketing has been a challenge for organisations through the ages. Now, fundamental changes in your buyer’s behaviour are increasingly creating misalignment between these two functional areas. Misalignment breeds inefficiency. Propose to close rates fall, the quality of leads fall – cost of acquisition increases.
The buyer – your target customer – is fundamentally changing the way they buy. They are researching the problems they have differently, they are operating independently, forming opinions of their needs and the solutions they require before dealing with a selling organisation directly. Their buying journey has effectively changed, and Sales are steadily losing influence over the customer buying process.
Research from the Corporate Executive Board suggests B2B buyers have completed over 60% of their purchasing journey before they contact a supplier. With buyers grazing contentedly on a rich diet of information unearthed by Google searches, Blogs, RSS feeds and LinkedIn posts, its Marketing’s job to step into close that gap.
This shift in traditional roles and responsibilities asks marketers to behave more like a sales person than ever before. It becomes vital that marketing sees itself as intimately and directly involved in revenue generation – in the process of persuading a buyer to choose your product or service over another.
This is an uncomfortable place for many marketers to be. Here are 5 steps to achieving alignment between marketing and sales – supercharging your revenue generation engine -extracted from our own engagements with clients.
1. Know your maths
It is crucial that sales and marketing work together to understand the volume and velocity of the revenue funnel. That is to understand the whole cycle from first engagement to the point of sale:
- The number of visitors required to generate;
- The right number of unqualified leads to generate;
- The right number of qualified leads to generate;
- The right number of meetings to generate;
- The right number of proposals to generate;
- The right number of new clients to hit your revenue goals.
By working out the conversion rates between stages and the time it takes for a buyer to move through the funnel, firms can understand the volume of sales and marketing activity that is required to reach their revenue goals. This knowledge alone aligns the sales and marketing teams around a common understanding of their goals.
2. Measure, analyse, improve, repeat
For many, measurement of the funnel is quite a difficult task. Whilst many firms know their propose to close rate (bottom of the funnel) and some may well know the number of website visitors (top of funnel) and perhaps some email open rates, few know their full funnel maths. Marketing automation’s rise in popularity is partially explained by the clarity that the ability to measure your sales and marketing tactics brings.
But measurement is just the start. Having the data doesn’t necessarily drive change in the sales and marketing function. Introducing a systematic process of measuring, analysing and improving drives the organisation forward, based on empirical information. This must be bolstered by formal, structured communications on a regular basis, perhaps through a monthly meeting with both sales and marketing to review the data and the results achieved to determine actions moving forward.
3. Establish Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
Use your funnel metrics to build service level agreements between Sales and Marketing. Define the number and the quality of leads required per time period that must go from Marketing to Sales. Use lead scoring to determine when a lead is truly qualified. Sales and Marketing must work together to analyse the data. Use both demographic (size, job role etc) and behavioural data (article download vs request for price list or request for a demo). Are too many poorly qualified leads being scored as qualified? Or perhaps the bar has been set too high? Adjust the criteria until the balance is correct.
Define how quickly and how often sales will follow up a sales qualified lead. Build a mutual understanding through these metrics of the degree of work and commitment required by the combined team.
4. Technology integration
Crucially, ensure your “funnel management” tools – your CRM and your marketing automation platform are speaking to one another and are tightly integrated. This is the nuts and bolts of succesfully improving your conversion ratios. By illuminating salient information to your sales reps, they will be feeding on a richer diet of prospects and driving better results.
Simplicity is important. Sewing together a patchwork of tools such as an email tool, social media measurement tool, SEO/keyword tool, website CMS, SEM platform to your CRM system is asking for trouble!
5. Recycle premature leads
One of the most powerful and practical tactics of successful lead nurturing is to build a formal recycling tactic into your go to market plan. If a lead is not ready to buy, there must be a formal handing over of this contact by sales to marketing to continue to nurture them to a point they are ready to re engage. Spend time with your sales and marketing team defining the point a buyer has “leaked” from your funnel and what to do with those people. What recycling tactics will be employed to ensure we stay in touch with the prospect?
Alignment is a worthy goal
Research of over 1600 B2B firms from Marketing Profs and align.me has shown firms that have a well-aligned Sales and Marketing:
- Grow 5.4% faster
- Close 38% more deals
- Retain 36% more clients
The impact on an organisation’s cost of acquisition is profound.
Chris Fell is the Managing Director of g2m Solutions, and an accredited align.me Funnel Coach. To read more of his insights, go to the g2M Solutions blog.