In an account based world, landing the biggest, highest-value accounts can only be achieved when all revenue-generating disciplines are closely aligned. Specifically, we’re going to examine the almighty sales and marketing alignment framework.
Let’s get real – silos don’t work. Sure, they’re easy, but they don’t work. Sales and marketing have historically operated in their own way, with their own goals, culture and values.
We all know that buyers are now in control. That means our businesses have to follow suit and move beyond this old-school infrastructure. In truth, disconnected sales and marketing operations only lead to inefficiencies, broken systems and problems at every level.
We’ll dispel the myth that sales and marketing can achieve optimal account-based results when they work independently, and provide tangible steps for working on this pervasive problem.
7 Real Strategies to Fix Your Sales and Marketing Alignment
This topic is written about ad nauseum — and for good reason. It’s easier said than done, and many companies are currently in the process of figuring it out.
While there’s no silver bullet, there are a set of strategies deployed by executive leaders that can help get their sales and marketing teams on the same page.
1. Stop talking about MQLs; start talking about MQAs (Marketing Qualified Accounts)
We’ve developed a plethora of acronyms to measure this delivery: MQL, SAL, SQL, and the like. These metrics put a huge amount of priority on casting a wide enough net to reel in as many individual leads as possible, especially through inbound methods.
However, even the best, most optimized lead hand-offs occur between Marketing and an Account Executive — not a Lead Executive. Sales, at the end of the day, closes an account — not a lead. See the problem?
Consider implementing a new metric to move the conversation to a different level — the Marketing Qualified Account (MQA).
So, what is a Marketing Qualified Account?
Our definition for an MQA is:
“A target account (or discrete buying center) that has reached a sufficient level of engagement to indicate possible sales readiness.”
While MQL relates to one lead, the MQA is for entire accounts that are ready to go to sales. Think about the difference between fishing with a net and fishing with a spear.
2. Foster communication with joint office hours and regular meetings
We’ve heard horror stories about management deciding to physically separate Sales and Marketing because they can’t get along, or the ever-present problem of each department talking about each other behind their backs.
Is this middle school? Even the best SLA can’t help a fundamentally dysfunctional relationship.
Maintaining a continuing conversation is a necessary part of ensuring ongoing alignment, because as the market changes, what buyers need changes.
If the wide receiver on your football team never talked to your running back, you’d be in trouble. While the run game is much different than the pass game, if you want to be a real threat on offense, both need to be working together.
3. Hold Marketing accountable for some level of revenue responsibility
We agree with how Matt Heinz (President of Heinz Marketing) puts it:
As he argues, it’s important for marketers to embrace revenue responsibility. What really matters to the organization is the closed deal.
“To change marketers’ objectives, change their compensation. If the sales team is grinding it out to hit their end of month numbers, but the marketing team is already at the bar celebrating because they hit their re-tweet goal, then something’s misaligned.”
4. Document what each team does within the sales process
“If sales doesn’t understand what marketing does all day, and marketing feels the same about sales, the problem is a severe lack of empathy.”
The symptoms of this are broken processes and a critical lack of trust.
By documenting an overview of the sales process, that is, how buyers buy from you, you can help Sales and Marketing gain an understanding of their distinct roles within the a shared framework, and working towards a common goal.
Document the steps in the sales process so it’s clear to each team what needs to happen and when. You must have an integrated plan and a way to get visibility into if that plan is being followed by your people.
5. Set clear and consistent definitions
At the outset of an Account Based Everything program, developing the right criteria for your target accounts is paramount.
This is an ideal test of the current state of your Sales and Marketing alignment, as it dictates whether your teams are on the same page.
Your ability to map out a list of target accounts depends on how each department defines their Ideal Customer Profile. Get this wrong, and nothing else you do with Account Based Everything really matters.
This definition is the foundation for the whole program. If each team has a different perspective, you’ll miss major opportunities, waste resources (time, headcount) on the wrong accounts, or both.
In addition, both parties should be mindful of firmographic and technographic criteria, as well as intent and engagement information to identify in-market and highly engaged accounts.
6. Use the same data and technology
To foster alignment, implement an account-centric data infrastructure, for example lead-to-account matching, which enables leads (historically owned by Marketing) to roll up to accounts (typically owned by sales teams.)
Without this capability, a company could have thousands of individuals within a database who work at target accounts and customer accounts, but have no way of connecting them to the right company.
Leads could get routed to the wrong owner, could be improperly scored or nurtured, and sales’ overall productivity decreases from time spent cleaning up this data problem. There are many tools and technologies to choose from within the Account Based technology market ecosystem.
In addition to the right L2A capabilities, Sales and Marketing teams should model accurate pipeline metrics. For example, to reach a particular pipeline goal, what % needs to come from Marketing?
Your goal should be for Sales and marketing to come to the table knowing exactly what’s expected of them to hit your organization’s revenue goals.
7. Share account-level insights
The entire account-based strategy depends on doing your homework and learning as much as you possibly can about target accounts (and key buyers at those accounts) so you can maximize your relevance and resonance within each.
Marketing teams have always been adept at gathering competitive intelligence. It’s part of our DNA as a function.
They can further help Sales gain a better understanding of particular accounts and the key buyers at the table by following them on social channels, and by engaging influencers at the right times.
This team is also skilled at paying attention to trigger events that could cause a target account to actively seek a solution.
Ready to reach the promised land?
An account based strategy works best when all revenue-generating disciplines are closely aligned. Sales and Marketing leaders have to help their businesses move beyond the old, stale problems of finger-pointing and the blame game.
If Marketing embraces strategies like ABM without deep alignment with Sales, the result is a set of isolated tactics that render themselves useless.
On the flip side, when Sales attempts Account Based Sales Development without support from Marketing, the result is a rogue set of junior reps generating their own account targeting, and writing their own emails.
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