We intuitively understand that sales and marketing teams should work together to generate more effective and sustainable growth. It's culturally a difficult thing to do and yet a smarketing mindset is achievable when awareness and focus from sales and marketing teams is present.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 Smarketing? That is Sales and Marketing Alignment
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 key benefits of sales and marketing working together (Source HubSpot)
- Businesses with good sales and marketing alignment achieve a 27% faster three-year profit growth.
- Companies with good sales and marketing alignment practices generate 208% more revenue from marketing efforts.
- Companies with good sales and marketing alignment experience 36% higher customer retention rates.
- Companies with good sales and marketing alignment experience 38% higher sales win rates.
- 65% of businesses with a documented sales and marketing SLA see higher return on investment from their inbound marketing initiatives.
Generating Smarketing content across the buyer's journey
The only way to generate and convert leads is to move your buyer's through the buyer's journey with content.
During the Awareness stage buyer's identify their challenge or an opportunity they want to pursue. They also decide whether or not the goal or challenge should be a priority. In order to fully understand the awareness stage for your buyer, sales and marketing should workshop the answers to these questions:
- How do buyer's describe their goals or challenges?
- How do buyer's educate themselves on these goals or challenges?
- What are the consequences of inaction by the buyer?
- Are there common misconceptions buyer's have about addressing the goal or challenge?
- How do buyer's decide whether the goal or challenge should be prioritized?
During the Consideration stage buyer's have clearly identified and given a name to their problem or opportunity. They are committed to researching and understanding all of the available methods to solving their situation. For this stage of the buyer's journey sales and marketing should workshop the answers to these questions:
- Where is the buyer in their budget setting process?
- How urgent is the buyer requiring the solution?
- When does the solution need to be implemented by?
- How can you make it easy for the buyer?
During the Decision stage buyer's have defined their solution strategy and method. They are actively researching supporting documentation and other data/benchmarks and endorsements to make an informed decision. During this stage sales and marketing should workshop the answers to these questions:
- What type of evidence is the buyer looking for?
- How can the buyer experience our solution before purchase?
- How can we reduce the buyer's risk?
- Can we ask a customer to advocate?
Smarketing requires content collaboration
How can marketing teams leverage the expertise of sales?
- Create FAQ-related blogs
- Interview videos for social media
- Run webinars/live content ft. Sales reps
- Identifying purchasing behaviour and intentions based on sales feedback
- Improving 1:1 messaging used in sequences
- Driving customer centricity.
How can sales teams empower their prospects better with marketing?
- Provide customer case studies
- Product related Ebooks
- Events - like Grow with HubSpot
- Utilise your marketing team on calls/demos
- Position themselves as thought leaders with Marketings support (Content and social media)
- Customer delight through marketing NPS surveys and events
3 ways to implement Smarketing
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.
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.
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 updated 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 a 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
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 a key factor for successful Smarketing implementation. The two functions getting along is a priority. This will promote an open atmosphere and at an emotional level it helps everyone travel through the inevitable bumps in the 'smarketing' road. However, in the end, the cold hard facts are the glue for successful sales and marketing alignment along with your CRM and sales and marketing software.