It’s no secret that widespread dissatisfaction and distrust exists between sales and marketing teams in many organizations. In fact, sales and marketing folks spend a good deal of time and energy sniping at each other for perceived failings:
- “Sales drops the ball on the great leads we’re generating.”
- “Marketing keeps sending us too many leads that aren’t what we’re looking for.”
While some may see this friction as inevitable, it’s time to climb out of the trenches and discuss a solution to the problem. “The pace of business today, with the crush of competition and the intensity of everything happening in a much more real-time, compressed fashion, has made the need for that conversation much more immediate,” says Marketo CEO Phil Fernandez.
Fernandez, who comes from a marketing background, has been examining the situation with a counterpart from the sales world, Barry Trailer, Co-Founder, CSO Insights. We interviewed them to learn their tips for initiating a conversation between sales and marketing that gets the two teams working toward shared goals. Here are seven strategies to consider:
Strategy #1. Get commitment from the top
The first step is for the heads of the two departments to sit down and commit to improving communication between the two teams. This doesn’t have to be a formal meeting with a strict agenda, says Fernandez. “The VP of Sales and VP of Marketing should go get a beer together.”
A casual conversation should begin a dialogue about the relationships between their departments and the issues each side would like to see addressed. They also can start brainstorming new strategies.
This commitment from the top will encourage other team members to continue the conversation. “This is not something to delegate or pawn off,” Trailer says. “For the process to have legitimacy, you have to have executive participation.”
Strategy #2. Model the marketing/sales funnel
Sales and marketing work on opposite ends of the sales cycle and are often so focused on their own activities that they don’t really understand what goes on at the other end of the process. Fill in the picture by getting key members of both teams to develop an end-to-end model of the marketing/sales funnel.
The discussion should outline typical prospect characteristics as they move toward a buying decisions, as well as the techniques that marketing and sales use to engage prospects at different points in the cycle.
Questions to answer include:
o How does marketing identify opportunities for lead generation?
o When do customers typically begin a buying process?
o What methodology is used to design marketing campaigns?
o How is marketing qualifying leads?
o When is a lead passed from marketing to sales?
o How do salespeople engage with leads?
o What marketing collateral (white papers, case studies, demos) do sales use at different stages of the buying cycle?
o What techniques do salespeople use to get prospects across final hurdles to close?
Strategy #3. Develop a common vocabulary
Sales and marketing often don’t speak the same language. While sales force automation software has started to name different stages of a sales cycle, those monikers aren’t always extended back through the lead generation pipeline.
The sales and marketing teams need to develop shared language that they will use throughout the sales funnel, particularly at the point when leads are turned over from marketing to the sales staff. Consider a common vocabulary for the different stages of the sales process and the different qualification levels of a prospect.
Most important is to define a sales-ready lead. It may mean one thing to marketers and another to salespeople. A meeting between the two teams to discuss their own criteria for a sales-ready lead will help create a common definition.
Strategy #4. Look for operational disconnects
Because sales and marketing can get so focused on their own work, it’s not uncommon for their activities to work against one another or for them to be pursuing unaligned goals.
For example, a Sales VP might be offering special bonuses to his or her sales team to close a certain kind of deal because they’re behind their goal in that area. At the same time, the marketing team might be cutting back efforts for that product line because they reached their budget limit.
To avoid such a scenario, the sales and marketing executives should develop a way to get input from each other when developing budgeting ideas and setting priorities for an upcoming time period -- perhaps meeting monthly or quarterly.
Strategy #5. Test key metrics to track
To start the marketing and sales teams working toward the same goals, the departments should agree on two important metrics to track during an upcoming campaign, which will help show the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations.
Fernandez and Trainer suggest brainstorming a lead volume metric and a lead quality metric, such as the marketing group committing to develop a certain amount of leads within a predefined qualification level and the sales group agreeing to conduct a certain number of interactions with each of those leads. Then, executing against those two metrics can be managed as a continuous project between the two teams.
“If you try to solve the whole thing, it’s just hopeless. But if you can solve a hard number issue and develop some shared metrics, that’s part of the dialogue that starts the process,” says Fernandez.
Strategy #6. Create a closed-loop reporting process
One of the most important ways to keep the dialogue running between sales and marketing is having a way for marketing to follow up with the sales staff to see how well the leads are performing.
Closing the loop on leads delivered to sales can mean anything from weekly calls from the marketing team to a sales manager to get a report on that week’s lead performance, to adding data to the sales force automation system that can give marketers insights into recent activities.
- Data on closed deals can help marketers develop reports for the sales staff that highlight how lead generation and nurturing campaigns contributed to those deals. For example, they can show how they had X number of interactions with a prospect along the lead generation/nurturing cycle before they became a customer.
- Don’t overlook the importance of analyzing deals that fell through. The sales team will have important information on why that prospect wasn’t willing to buy. By comparing this information with the type of marketing they did or did not experience, marketers can learn improvements for future campaigns.
What’s more, qualified prospects who didn’t buy immediately can be placed back into the lead nurturing pipeline.
Strategy #7. Share accountability between the teams
There’s a discrepancy in the way sales’ and marketing’s performance is measured.
- With marketing, the process itself is very measurable: the group performed X number of activities to generate Y number of leads. But there is little accountability for the results of those leads, i.e., closed sales.
- For sales, almost all the measurability and accountability is focused on the results of their activities: sales closed X number of deals. But there are few details reported on the process used to achieve those results.
Trying to bring those standards of measurability and accountability into closer alignment is a challenge. Some organizations have discussed tweaking the compensation of their lead generation teams to tie some pay to the revenue production from their activities, but Fernandez and Trainer say this debate will continue to play out for several years.
Short of overturning a company’s compensation structure, however, consider this interim step to make sure performance expectations are coordinated:
- Have the Marketing VP and Sales VP sign a service level agreement, such as the contracts that govern performance standards in the IT world.
The formal agreement can define what each team is expected to deliver and how they will interact with each other, including:
o Number of campaigns anticipated
o Goals for number and quality of leads generated
o Commitments for sales interactions
o Timeframes for feedback and reporting between groups
“Anything you can do to foster that coordination, you should formalize and document it in some way,” says Trainer. Useful links related to this article
Past Sherpa article: Sales & Finance vs Marketing: 227 B-to-B Lead Generation Marketers on Office Politics
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