No matter how you break it down, when sales and marketing are aligned everybody wins. Various studies have found that organizations that successfully align these two departments grew their revenues by 32 percent, increased customer retention rates by 38 percent, and achieved 27 percent faster profit growth over a three year period. And if you’re one of the many businesses now looking to incorporate an account-based marketing strategy into your arsenal, you’ll need this synergy even more.
And yet, many organizations continue to fall short. Nearly half of all CEO respondents to one survey cited subpar alignment and collaboration as their top marketing challenge in the coming year. The benefits are clear, but successfully aligning these two departments remains a challenge.
Here’s what you can do as a field marketer to start aligning your team with sales to help everyone hit their targets.
Open up the two way street
The foundation of a strong relationship between sales and marketing is the same as it is for many other kinds of relationships: communication. When there’s not enough of it, productivity and effectiveness decline. In one Salesforce survey, 86 percent of all employees polled named breakdowns in communication and collaboration as the cause behind a majority of their workplace failures. This isn’t feel-good mumbo jumbo. It’s a real business concern—and it’s important to get right.
That’s why the first step in your alignment journey should be to establish infrastructure that can ensure the seamless flow of communication between your two teams. To achieve this end, experts recommend setting aside specific time for both teams to come together regularly. Whether they’re weekly, monthly, or quarterly, these meetings can serve as both an important first step and a forum to have regular check-ins going forward. As a field marketer at Marketo, Graham Gallivan notes:
“Here at Marketo, field team members are mapped directly to regional and industry-focused teams and meet with them at a regular cadence, typically weekly. The purpose is twofold:
- To partner with them in an effort to brainstorm the best marketing tactics to implement to help them close more deals
- To keep them posted on upcoming events that they’re participating in”
That’s a great example of how a leading marketing organization enables seamless communication between field marketing and sales. In addition to swapping intel, you can use this time to arrive at a shared definition of success for your two departments and create a set of metrics to make sure you’re on the right track.
Define (and share) your success metrics
As you start taking steps to close the rift between marketing and sales, you’ll not only see improved team morale, you’ll likely experience an immediate boost to your pipeline, too.
Just like you came to an agreement around a shared definition of success, you should also establish a unified definition of a qualified lead with your sales team.
First, ask your sales colleagues exactly what they would like to see in a lead (the more specific, the better!), and let your marketing team work on the process for lead scoring from there. If your team can’t reach an agreement organically, this piece from Pardot provides a step-by-step process you can follow to achieve alignment, at least at a very high level.
Once your marketing and sales teams agree on what a qualified lead looks like, a marketing automation tool can help set up automatic lead scoring and grading.
With proper lead scoring in place, your sales team can rest assured that the leads they’re getting from marketing have already passed a round of vetting based on their own pre-set criteria and, are therefore, much more solid bets to pursue.
Smash through the sales and marketing silos
To facilitate collaboration, have both sales and marketing staff spend some time learning the ins and outs of each other’s day-to-day. Everyone will approach this new partnership from their own silo-ed experiences which could harm collective decision-making going forward. If sales and marketing are really going to work together, they need to understand each other’s principle roles within the company.
Christine Farrier, director of field and channel marketing over at Demandbase, developed a “Week in the Life Program” to promote better understanding between teams. In the program, field marketers are paired with sales personnel for one week to sit in on their meetings and absorb as much information as they can about each other’s duties.
“This program has proved invaluable in supporting the development of marketing materials, ensuring our messages are timely and relevant and last but certainly not least, increasing my empathy for my sales colleagues,” Farrier said.
To take it even a step further, Jason Jue, CMO at Triblio recommends hiring candidates with sales backgrounds for open marketing positions.
“The best sales reps know how to qualify accounts, which helps in determining the best target accounts. They know how to communicate the value proposition which leads to the best messaging,” Jue said. “They develop plans knowing what sales can actually execute. And, they hit their numbers which means they are achievement oriented.”
Meanwhile, over 20 percent of the marketing team at Snowflake comes from sales, according to their CMO Denise Persson—and many of them are top sales performers.
No matter how you choose to go about it, the more sales and marketing teams understand about each other’s roles, the better business decisions you’ll make together as a unit.
Keep the feedback comin’
As a field marketer, you’re sitting on a veritable goldmine of audience data that your colleagues in sales could use to help them connect better with prospects. You know what kind of messaging resonates with buyers by territory and what kinds of business concerns are currently top of mind.
At the same time, your counterparts in sales will be making discoveries of their own as they come into regular contact with buyers and assess what tactics are working and which ones aren’t. Work with sales reps who may have built relationships with former buyers at prospects’ organizations that also happen to reside in your target territories.
Use the valuable insight you get from insiders at your target accounts to shape a laser-focused marketing and sales strategy tailored directly to your buyer’s needs. It’ll be difficult for your prospect to ignore your messaging, not only because it will actually be relevant to their needs, but also because they will be experiencing it from all sides: sellers will be reaching out with the agreed-upon messaging that’s also being echoed at an event your prospect is attending that you and your sales team designed just for them.
In order for this strategy to be effective, both field marketing and sales teams need to stay on their toes. The data is always changing, so committing to sharing findings as soon as you get them will go a long way in improving the overall effectiveness of both sales and marketing operations.
Marketo’s Gallivan has found that giving reps real-time information on how key players on their accounts are engaging with campaigns is vital. Sales teams will find it extremely helpful when you deliver data on how their prospects have been interacting with a particular program.
And if you’re feeling overwhelmed by or confused by what the data tells you, don’t worry. It may not be actionable out of the gate, but any and all insights are useful for your sales team. As Domo’s Christelle Flahaux noted: “Don’t be afraid of data… What you’ll start to figure out is that you’ll ask better questions.”
Those questions are critical to achieving an effective feedback loop—but remember: there’s no perfect format to keep the feedback loop going.
Maybe your team has a Slack channel where you can share realtime feedback and updates. Maybe you decide to exchange regular reports via email. Or maybe your team prefers to just pick up the phone when things change.
Whatever medium you choose, the sooner you can start to establish a habit of exchanging regular feedback, the stronger your outcomes will be.
Getting sales and field marketing teams to work together has been shown to be great for business, yet many organizations continue to have their teams operate in silos. To create the necessary synergy between your teams, improve communication with regular meetings and a defined set of metrics to measure their performance. Create new workplace initiatives in which sales and marketing staff can shadow each other, share data openly between your teams in real-time, and leverage inside insight to bolster both marketing and selling activities.