We intuitively understand that sales and marketing teams should work together to generate more effective growth.However, our experiences tell us that this is not the norm. And when there is such compelling evidence around the positive outcomes that stem from having sales and marketing aligned, it is hard to believe that there is not more effort applied to these critical functions of demand creation.

What is Sales and Marketing Alignment? Smarketing

The key features of sales and marketing alignment are great communication and mutual accountabilities. HubSpot has even invented a term, Smarketing, to illustrate the benefit of sales and marketing alignment - that sales and marketing are two sides of the same coin and with successful alignment you can transform to one team, with one plan and one accelerated growth outcome.

The starting point is to perhaps acknowledge the fact that 87% of the terms Sales and Marketing use to describe each other are negative.  Even in the best run businesses we have a way to go before we realise the Smarketing opportunity.

Why is this the case? The first and major reason is because both functions have different KPIs and goals. The second reason is the absence of collaboration, with many sales and marketing departments functioning as silos, jostling for internal power. Unfortunately the customer is lost in this struggle.

However, all is not lost. Smarketing is a customer centric approach to marketing and sales that brings the two functions into alignment through open collaboration and shared, known and measured revenue KPI’s. If a business can harness the strength of these two ‘demand generating’ levers, it will stand a much better chance for growth.

5 ways Smarketing drives business growth (Source HubSpot)

  1. Businesses with good sales and marketing alignment achieve a 27% faster three-year profit growth.
  2. Companies with good sales and marketing alignment practices generate 208% more revenue from marketing efforts.
  3. Companies with good sales and marketing alignment experience 36% higher customer retention rates.
  4. Companies with good sales and marketing alignment experience 38% higher sales win rates.
  5. 65% of businesses with a documented sales and marketing SLA see higher return on investment from their inbound marketing initiatives.

3 strategies to achieve sales and marketing alignment

1. Promote collaboration between sales and marketing

The first stage is to promote safe and open communication between sales and marketing. Getting sales team members to talk openly about the quality of leads helps marketing staff understand which types of leads are most likely to become customers. And similarly, marketing staff should be encouraged ‘ride shotgun’ on sales calls, helping to close leads. Simple actions like this build empathy for each other’s role. This notion of empathy should extend to the wider business functions build a feeling of mutuality.

Useful tip:
Employ weekly Smarketing WIPs to build affinity between the two groups. These meetings should cover tracking campaign progress and updates, wins and losses, new news like product launches and updates and a motivating example of Smarketing in action from the previous week.

2. Mutual accountability and joint ownership of the result

  • Having a data informed culture eliminates subjectivity and a lot of wasted emotion. Supporting claims with data based on agreed accountabilities keeps everyone honest because as the saying goes ‘what gets measured gets done’. So, what could sales and marketing be accountable for?

Let's look at marketing's potential accountabilities

Traffic: Visits to your website or visits to particular pages.

Conversions: The number of inquiries made or the quantum of content consumed are good measures of how well your website converts visits to actual interest.

Leads: The volume and quality of leads that are generated for sales to close. Growth metrics would see both quantity and quality measures increasing over time.

Let's look at sale's potential accountabilities

Closing leads at each deal stage: This starts with the percentage of the leads which are actively worked on by sales where the lead is managed across the sales enablement deal stages. Each deal stage is a conversion point and can be measured over time so obviously we would want to see the conversion rates increasing – especially in the deals won stage! This data can inform not only the totality of performance but indicate lead quality, or highlight areas of the sales process that require remediation.

Useful tip:
Biases can affect all of our judgements, which is why having agreed accountabilities is essential for successful sales and marketing alignment. Sales and marketing leadership need to be especially aligned on the metrics and promote evidence-based discussion among team members.

3. Develop a Smarketing SLA (service level agreement)

Accountabilities require documentation to have influence over action and behaviours. Having an internal SLA is a great way to bring sales and marketing together. Transparently tracking performance across quantity and quality of leads keeps Marketing on track and Sales will be keen to achieve their commitments for actioning and closing the leads.

Sometimes when documenting agreements, the language can become complicated. You’ll want to avoid this. Keep it simple and focused on the overall financial metrics of the business. Establish a dashboard or easily updatable wall graphic so everyone can see the performance every day from the comfort of their workstation. It’s worthwhile thinking about tension between quality and quantity and aligned to key metrics of your business.

Key components of an sales and marketing SLA

1. Summary or overview
2. Goals for both functions
3. Requirements of both functions
4. Functional owners & contacts
5. Repercussions should goals not be met
6. Conditions of cancellation

Useful tip:

Give your SLA a test run with a small sample of staff and adjust for any hiccups before launching to the wider group. And don’t forget to involve the wider business functions because customer centricity and demand creation is a whole of business responsibility in the end.

Finally, transparent, highly visible data is the key factor for successful Smarketing implementation. The two functions getting along is great and at an emotional level it helps. However, the cold hard facts are the glue for successful sales and marketing alignment and your CRM and sales and marketing software is key to making this happen.

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