10 Best Practices to Improve Sales & Marketing Alignment | Aircall Blog

10 Best Practices to Improve Sales & Marketing Alignment

Sales marketing alignment is an important best practice for increasing revenue efficiently and effectively.
by
Nicholas Price

Sales and marketing alignment was generally uncommon in the early days of business. Generally, the two departments worked independently of each other — communication on individual opportunities was rare.

In the spirit of competitiveness, businesses now have to take a deeper dive into internal problems that could be stifling sales. One of the issues that’s come to light is sales and marketing alignment. Good intentions aside, both departments haven’t historically spoken the same language or shared what each of them needs from the other to achieve their goals. It’s a common problem in sales organizations, and it’s one that puts businesses at a disadvantage, often without realizing it.

When sales and marketing departments work with each other rather than independently, they become a mighty force.

Why Sales & Marketing Alignment is Important

The business world is in a constant state of evolution. Technology continues to make great strides. These are just a couple of things that have changed buyer behavior significantly over the last ten years.

Buyers are highly mobile and socially connected. Technology puts them in control. With a wealth of information at their fingertips, buyers have nearly unlimited access to products and services. They also have unlimited access to reviews and social banter detailing direct experiences of others about the companies they like doing business with. Buyers have enough access to information and if there’s any disparity between marketing campaigns and the actual customer experience, it brands the company as being disingenuous. A poor customer impression translates to a breakdown in trust and reduced brand loyalty.

The most successful model for sales operations is a fairly new one—sales and marketing alignment. Both departments need to understand more about how the other department works. Together, they need to learn more about what customers truly want and use that information to develop common goals and strategies.

Sales & Marketing Alignment Stats

The following statistics demonstrate the value of sales and marketing alignment:

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  • The Aberdeen Group reports a 55% greater increase in customer satisfaction rates for companies that align sales and marketing objectives.
  • Companies have generated up to 208% more revenue after aligning sales and marketing, according to Wheelhouse Advisors.
  • Wheelhouse Advisors also reports that B2B companies that align sales and marketing had 24% faster growth in revenue and 27% faster growth over three years.
  • Aligning your sales and marketing functions could lead to 36% higher customer retention rates and 38% more sales conversions, according to MarketingProfs.

Chris Connell, Marketo APAC senior marketing director states that marketing has focused greatly on top of funnel activities in the past. Connell makes a point of saying that it wasn’t a good strategy because it was hard to tie their activities directly to results.

Sales and marketing alignment means redirecting the marketing focus to the middle and bottom of the sales funnel—the space where salespeople play and follow leads throughout the entire customer lifecycle. Connell says their research predicts 89% of CMOs will be responsible for customer experience by the end of 2020.

Reasons Sales & Marketing Alignment Can Fail

So much has changed in sales and marketing that it’s been difficult for companies to keep up with it. It’s nearly impossible for companies to compete and survive without digital marketing. Search engines and social networks provide new opportunities for companies to use automation to market their products and services. Marketers are much more customer-facing than in past years. In spite of automated marketing, companies will always need great salespeople. Regardless of vast changes, both teams have to work together toward a common goal.

When considering what you can do to improve sales and marketing alignment, it helps to take stock of the things that can stand in the way of the vital relationship between the two teams.

Here are some things that have the potential to interfere in the relationship between sales and marketing professionals:

  • Failure to see the value in sales enablement — an emerging concept in B2B marketing that ensures salespeople have all the necessary tools to convert leads to sales.
  • An unwillingness to value a seamless customer experience.
  • The inability to adapt and adjust to changing times—getting stuck in the past.
  • The lack of desire to break down the walls of siloed processes.
  • An unwillingness of the marketing department to accept feedback from sales.
  • An unwillingness of the sales department to build on marketing efforts.
  • Marketing departments create content that’s not relevant or interesting to customers.

To overcome these obstacles, sales and marketing teams need to learn what the other needs and rely on best practices for sales and marketing alignment.

What Sales Needs from Marketing

Sales enablement is the latest buzz term in sales organizations. Hubspot defines the term this way, “Sales enablement is the iterative process of providing your business’s sales team with the resources they need to close more deals. These resources may include content, tools, knowledge, and information to effectively sell your product or service to customers.”

Salespeople need communication from marketing departments so they’re empowering each other and working toward improving the customer experience at every touchpoint along the customer journey.

Ad content, blog contents, and SEO marketing strategies are some of the major tools that digital marketers use to generate leads and close sales. To ensure success, salespeople need greater familiarity with content strategies so they can have more meaningful conversations with prospects and customers.

Marketers can more easily bridge the gap with salespeople by participating in the sales onboarding and training processes. By collaborating from the start of the relationship between sales and marketing, it lends transparency to the company’s approach to delivering a better customer experience. Scope and clarity on the overall customer journey empower sales and marketing teams to work productively and efficiently. 

According to Marketo, “Industry leaders in sales and marketing have started to regard sales enablement as the new standard of doing business.”

In basic terms, sales departments can best do their part to enhance the customer experience when they remain strongly in the loop of marketing activities.

What Marketing Needs from Sales

Customer success is the end goal for marketing and sales departments. The reality is that both departments have strategic roles within the customer journey. So, what does marketing need from sales?

Salespeople are on the front lines with customers every day. They’re getting a first-hand account of the terms that are resonating with customers. Salespeople get a lot of information from customers about what motivates them. Use this information to ask questions to better understand how prospects follow through with purchases.

Marketing departments have the first touchpoint in the customer journey. Salespeople take the next leg of the process, and that’s often where the customer relationship begins to break down. Marketo also cites a Hubspot study that shows that 79% of leads generated by marketing departments never convert because salespeople fail to nurture customer relationships.

The essence of sales enablement is sales and marketing alignment. It only makes sense to integrate other departments as necessary to improve the overall effectiveness of sales promotions. Overall, sales enablement streamlines the process for sales teams and customers. 

How to Improve the Sales and Marketing Relationship

Up until recently, sales and marketing departments had virtually no relationship. In the interest of improving the sales and marketing relationship, you have to first consider that relationship building takes time and effort on both parties.

Communication and collaboration are the keys to overcoming the barriers that inhibit sales conversions. Sales and marketing departments need to be aware of each other’s barriers and pain points.

Something as simple as not using the same industry terms can hang them up. Also, the complexity of the sales process means that both departments have needed to develop and fine-tune various roles within their departments. 

Sales Alignment 

Sales teams are most productive when they assign sales roles to various parts of the sales funnel. Call center teams become proficient at using digital tools to review, contact, and qualify leads before handing them off to account executives or closers. Regardless of their roles, salespeople have greater insight into customers when they understand the marketing process and goals.

Marketing Alignment

Marketing teams can be divided by a series of internal roles within the marketing discipline. You’ll find digital marketers, researchers, and content writers working under marketing managers. The role of marketing departments is to market products and services to generate leads for sales departments. Their responsibilities demand that they understand their target market through identifying specific buyer personas, or customer profiles.

In particular, B2B customer behavior has evolved greatly in recent years. B2B customers aren’t as receptive to outbound sales calls and emails as they once were. It’s the marketers’ job to identify the things that motivate customers to buy. Marketing should also use this to adjust not only their marketing strategies, but also to enhance sales approach.

Sales and Marketing Alignment Best Practices

The following 10 sales and marketing best practices will get you on the right track to sales and marketing alignment.

1) Define common terms and acronyms.

Formal definitions of terms like qualified leads, key performance indicators (KPI), bounce rate, A/B testing, click-through rate (CTR), ideal customer profile (ICP), marketing qualified lead (MQL), etc. help to keep marketers and salespeople on the same page.

2) Use cross-functional teams.

Get rid of the silo walls that divide salespeople and marketers. Harvard Business Review states that B2B sales involve an average of 6.8 stakeholders in any one deal, as of 2017.

3) Marketing departments should use feedback from sales to identify personas.

By using marketing research you will be able to develop detailed personas and market segments. Salespeople are meeting customers online or in-person and their input is crucial to develop accurate customer profiles.

4) Use the same digital tools.

Cloud-based phone systems and software VoIP integrations make it possible for sales and marketing teams to use the same dashboards and tools, making it easier to collaborate and share insights.

5) Schedule regular cross-functional meetings.

Regular meetings enhance the flow of communication between teams. They offer opportunities to discuss barriers, monitor progress, give voice to both teams, and celebrate successes.

6) Use digital tools to calculate ROI.

Digital tools provide the most accurate data to connect marketing efforts with conversions. This is particularly true for B2B sales because of the increasing complexity of sales cycles.

7) Aim to shorten sales cycles.

Both departments need to work together to identify strategies to shorten sales cycles. The way the B2B sales process is highly complex and it requires a shift in strategy.

8) Define the marketing and sales goals and strategies together.

It’s the right path to getting buy-in from both departments toward the end goal of enhancing the customer experience.

9) Consider the sales funnel in relation to the revenue cycle.

Both processes are important to the overall marketing and sales processes and synergy needs to exist.

10) Makes sales and marketing alignment part of your company’s culture.

Customer success requires sales and marketing alignment. By making alignment part of your culture, both teams will naturally see the value in the other.

Working With Aircall

With all this information in mind, Aircall provides the most effective platform for sales and marketing alignment. Aircall’s dashboard provides the tools to sync marketing and sales efforts.

Marketo recommends clarifying the three keys to customer success:

  • Lead scoring – A strategy for ranking leads according to the stage in the sales funnel. Aircall’s analytics help you to score leads based on the level of customer interest in your products and services. Lead scoring strengthens your revenue cycle.
  • Lead generation metrics – Marketing qualified leads (MQL) are prospects that are likely to buy. A sales accepted lead (SAL) is one that salespeople commit to act on. A sales qualified lead (SQL) is a prospect that’s on the cusp of buying. The right metrics on a common dashboard bring sales and marketing teams together with a common purpose.
  • Service level agreements (SLA) – SLAs are common between businesses and customers. They’re also useful for detailing marketing goals and sales processes to support them. Call metrics from Aircall’s dashboard give sales and marketing teams concrete, objective data to work with. Hubspot reports that 65% of marketers that use SLAs have a higher ROI from inbound marketing strategies.

Aircall’s App Marketplace gives you listings of software integrations to streamline your sales, service, and support teams.

In summary, sales and marketing teams are both crucial elements of customer success, and they’re better together. Aircall brings both teams together with a modern phone system. The right sales and marketing tools to support the joining of your sales funnel and revenue cycle.

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