We were caught in a perpetual struggle between Sales and Marketing. Sales blamed Marketing for not attracting enough high-quality leads, and Marketing claimed Sales wasn’t nurturing leads enough.
There was a stark disconnect between one end of our pipeline and the other. Marketing never knew what happened to their inbound leads, and Sales would work with leads they knew nothing about. It was inhibiting our business and its growth.
I had to step in and say, “Why can’t you all just get along? In fact, don’t just get along — work together.”
It was like a lightbulb went off in my head. It became clear that direct communication, aligned messaging, and mutual accountability between the two wasn’t just important. It was essential for growth. Something had to change, so I implemented smarketing — closer collaboration between our sales and marketing teams.
We managed to build a steady stream of incoming leads and increase closed deals by following three, basic principles:
- Open, direct communication
- Strictly aligned messages
- Mutual accountability
Now, Marketing and Sales share the same vision and common goals. Hurrah!
It wasn’t easy, but I’d like to share how we achieved Sales and Marketing alignment, so your business can enjoy the outstanding results ours did.
Step One: Define Your Buyer
Our smarketing evolution began with our customers. We needed to understand their experience with our company and where our sales and marketing teams fit into that experience.
However, before we could understand their journey, we needed to understand the buyers themselves.
We interviewed our customers with a mix of customer development and Jobs to be Done (JTBD) questions in order to create detailed buyer personas and define our buyer. The marketing team wrote the customer development questions — a set of basic, introductory questions to build the basic profile of a customer. Meanwhile, the sales team set about finding customers to conduct JTBD interviews with.
A JTBD interview is meant to dig deeper into an existing client’s motivations. This helps us find out what motivates future prospects.
During a JTBD interview, it’s important to avoid hypothetical questions, focus on open-ended questions, and listen as much as possible. Furthermore, each customer’s motivation is different, so interviews shouldn’t stick too closely to a script.
Here are a few of the questions our teams came up with.
Answers to these questions offered the specificity we needed about the journey each customer goes on.
In the end, this gave us a clear picture of customers to target, right down to their age, job roles, responsibilities, channels they consume content with, their pain points, and how they try to overcome them.
Still, a clear buyer persona is only half of the battle. We still needed to define the buyer journey.
Step Two: Define Their Journey
A buyer journey is how a buyer goes from realizing their problem to using the solution. The basic structure of the buyer’s journey will almost always be the same. The customer will move through 4 stages:
However, how these steps look and what they entail will be unique for every business. And it will depend on factors such as industry, business model, product, pricing, and audience. For example, B2C businesses need a shorter consideration phase than B2B businesses, which require more lead nurturing.
Awareness is the point where a customer realizes their problem or need. We concentrated on evergreen, educational content for our blog to address this stage, and we placed a heavy focus on SEO.
The JTBD interviews helped us create our content strategy around questions we found customers were most likely to ask before they bought a product.
To gain more visibility, we decided to go beyond our own website and distribute content via social media, targeted websites, and directories. We placed a particular focus on LinkedIn, posting regularly to both newsfeeds and industry-related groups.
We positioned a member of our sales team as a thought leader and worked some PR magic to negotiate interviews and push articles written on his behalf. We aimed all our articles towards industry-related topics and the problems our product could solve.
Of course, we used metrics to measure our success at the awareness stage. As we concentrated on increasing our reach, we considered metrics such as branded, organic, and referral traffic volume, as well as page views, unique visitors, social reach, and engagement rate.
At this stage, customers look at different companies with the same product and decide who is the better service provider. Ideally, this is the point of the journey where a prospect turns into a lead.
We created virtual product tours, lead-capture landing pages, expert guides, and whitepapers to exhibit our expertise and uniqueness over our competitors. We also had a member of our sales teams host a live, monthly webinar describing the benefits of our product.
Here, prospects spend a lot of time looking at product reviews and feedback. Together, the sales and marketing teams designed a questionnaire and distributed it amongst existing users. The marketing team used these feedback results to create various enablements.
It was also important for us to garner reviews on third-party websites like G2 and Capterra. When sending instructions about how to do the questionnaire, the sales team offered a freebie in return for a review — the cost of an Amazon gift card or a month of free access to a particular feature is nothing in comparison to how much a five-star review is worth.
Over this phase, customers also make direct comparisons with other companies. We placed product comparison pages on our website and whitepapers. By including carefully-planned SEO, they now feature at the top of Google search results.
We considered a broad range of metrics to gauge our success during this consideration stage, including blog subscribers, asset downloads, time spent on site, bounce rate, landing page and website conversion rate, and above everything else, the percentage of highly-qualified leads.
This is the stage where you either close the deal with the customer or not. At this stage, we ran free trials and had Sales run live demos showcasing the product to individual clients.
To further convince leads, the marketing team used highly-personalized materials such as case studies, success stories, and decks to guide them through every aspect of the product at their own pace.
The metrics we took into account at the purchase stage were close rates and cost of acquisition.
The post-purchase stage is easily overlooked. After a client has purchased your product, their journey isn’t over. The best leads go on to become loyal customers and brand advocates, sharing the good word.
Regular communication with our customers helped us understand where problems lie with our software and identify what can be improved. The sales team kept in monthly contact through check-in calls and emails with clients. Meanwhile, Marketing created more feedback loops.
At this point, we considered metrics such as LTV, renewal and churn rate, and the number of referral-based leads, to gauge our success.
Step Three: Implement a CRM
It‘s essential to track every interaction between potential customers and the business, from their very first to their very last. And this information needed to be available to everybody involved in that journey. So we implemented a single CRM system to unite their databases.
We chose a third-party system for this process, rather than having our IT team sweat over pages of code. Gmail was already at the heart of everything we did, so we needed a CRM that natively integrated with it. Thankfully, there are a lot of options available on the market.
With a CRM at the heart of our sales process, our funnel was visualized, and we could produce reports about pipeline health and calculate ROI based on lead source and expenditure.
We tagged leads, so it was clear whether we needed to up-sell or cross-sell, and we knew who needed more attention and marketing enablements.
Other Areas to Collaborate
To take our sales-marketing integration to the next level, we built a culture of shared cooperation in the office. This helped us discuss and open up everybody’s different roles in the stages outlined above.
Our sales and marketing departments met once a week to run through achievements that were met the previous week. We outlined the shared goals that needed to be met in the next one, and we decided how best to achieve them.
Attend Demo Calls
Our marketing team attended demos and presentations conducted by our sales reps because it was important for them to hear what clients were saying first-hand. They paid particular attention to the language clients used, so they could use it in their copy and promotional materials.
Before, we used standard marketing chit-chat, but after our first shared demo calls, it became clear that we needed to alter our tone. When we ran an ad in our client’s own language, we saw CTR increase four-fold.
Implementing Smarketing in Your Org
Before we implemented a joint marketing-sales approach, we had meager incoming leads and barely 15 new registrations per week. After working together to find a buyer persona, defining a comprehensive buyer journey, and outlining everybody’s different roles at each stage, we were seeing 20 registrations… daily.
Bloody hell, the sales and marketing teams even started eating their lunches together. That’s progress!
Your path to Sales and Marketing alignment may not be exactly the same as ours was. But my hope is that our journey will give you a picture of how you can begin to get Sales and Marketing working towards the same goal.
Smarketing lifted us out of the rut. And it can do the same for you. It’s not easy to implement, but it’s worth it when done right.