The key to unlocking a stronger opportunity pipeline and an increase in qualified leads is a unified, cohesive marketing and sales team.
Alignment between sales and marketing is how you’ll build a system rooted in strategy, data and targeted initiatives to better reach prospective clients.
Only 46 percent of business owners describe their marketing and sales teams as “highly aligned,” meaning it’s time to get back to the drawing board for the other 54 percent. To develop an environment where your employees can collaboratively thrive, it’s important to understand the key functions of their roles, shared goals and potential barriers to your plan.
The grey area between marketing and sales
As we continue the transition into an era of both virtual and in-person selling environments, the roles and responsibilities of marketing and sales will continue to blur. In order to be successful, leaders should consider each entity as one unified team, operating underneath the umbrella of client acquisition and revenue.
To help bridge this gap, ask the following important, simple questions of your team:
- How can marketing help sales close deals?
- How can sales help marketing improve the quality of their leads?
There’s an opportunity in each of these scenarios to leverage specialized areas of expertise to enhance another practice. While the answers may vary from organization to organization, the core concept remains true: marketing and sales need each other to succeed.
Define each team’s expertise
To help your organization operate collaboratively, it’s important to define the strengths of each team subset. While you maintain the “one team” mentality, avoid generalizations that hold sellers accountable for marketing outcomes, or vice versa. Every member of your team has a specific skill set that contributes to a common goal.
By nature, sellers are:
- Tuned in: These people know your target audience better than anyone else. They’ve had conversations – both good and bad – that have given them a strong database of knowledge about the behaviors, needs and interests of your clients.
- Scoring experts: Your sales team knows what a good lead looks like. They understand the flags to watch for that signal, “this client is ready for our solution.”
- Product experts: Sellers know how to perfectly match your offering to a client’s needs. Their strong understanding of these elements is what will complete the sale and build the relationship.
In contrast, your marketing team is comprised of:
- Big thinkers: Marketers drive innovation and new ideas. Their perspective makes them “out of the box” planners who push beyond traditional tactics.
- Creators: A marketing team can be made of designers, animators, writers, brand builders and digital experts; when the rubber hits the road, they can create remarkable collateral to drive your mission.
- Data-driven people: Marketers rely on metrics to understand the reach, engagement and efficacy of their work, which can enhance campaigns and processes.
Recognize, celebrate and utilize these team’s differences. Each of them have the tools that, when put together, will elevate your approach. At our collective team’s core, however, we do find common ground: strategy.
All marketers and sellers are successful because of their keen sense of strategy, whether it’s in how they plan for a client presentation or position a digital ad spend. Rely on this link to bring the teams together while leveraging their differences in your actual execution.
How to identify and overcome marketing–sales misalignment
Change begets angst, which sometimes begets barriers. If sales and marketing teams aren’t exactly clicking, then it’s critical to identify the barriers causing this and remove them. There are six key roadblocks that might be getting in the way, so below is an outline of those common barriers and suggestions on how to remove them.
Roadblock 1: lack of accurate data for target accounts
Is there a central, accessible hub for your data, or are marketers and sellers operating out of different systems?
- The fix: Ensure all teams are ‘singing from the same songbook’ when it comes to data and analytics. This will help with accountability and if it requires an investment in technology or applications, you might even be able to reduce costs and overhead.
Roadblock 2: communication
Communication is key for so many aspects of our lives – especially in the workplace – and silos benefit no one.
- The fix: Schedule regular meetings between all team members and utilize a robust employee platform that can help promote collaboration. These can be virtual and hopefully face-to-face when that becomes the norm again. Having brainstorm sessions amongst teams can also help facilitate the important collaboration and partnership required for alignment.
Roadblock 3: using different metrics
Qualifying team or company goals and success metrics differently depending on one’s role or team doesn’t really help anyone in the long run. Again, it brings you back to the silos. The success of the company depends on the shared work and results of both teams, so the metrics need to reflect that.
- The fix: Ensure the metrics and shared goals mirror the efforts of both teams. Identify those that are perhaps most key and direct that reflect what both teams are accomplishing. For example, tracking how many marketing leads ultimately become sales is an important metric for both teams. Likewise, tracking the leads that don’t end as sales and understanding why or where a blip in the process might exist is another key metric for both teams – and an organization as a whole.
Roadblock 4: flawed processes
Flawed processes are probably some of the most common barriers. If one team relies on more antiquated ways while another embraces technology that simplifies and eases practices, it is bound to create roadblocks.
- The fix: With adequate communication and teamwork, you can identify and fix these flaws. Sometimes it might mean adding to the process – other times, it might necessitate the removal of certain practices. The sooner you can identify them, the sooner you can improve them and make the combined efforts of everyone that much easier and more cohesive – and ideally, more successful for all parties.
Roadblock 5: no accountability
If team members are not held accountable for the goals and results expected of them, there will undoubtedly be begrudged team members. Again, recognize that you are all working toward the common goal of growth, sales and success.
- The fix: Going back to metrics and goals, ensuring that both teams have accountability for sales results, established brand metrics and any other overarching goals is critical. Benchmarking on a weekly or monthly basis may be required. Make sure both teams are in communication regularly and are up to date on company performance, goals, and opportunities for improvement.
Roadblock 6: reporting challenges
Another important accountability requirement to address is the reporting of results, data and the company story as a whole. As you align the metrics and processes, you have to make sure what is presented to leadership or other stakeholders is holistic.
- The fix: The magic of open communication and working toward common goals can help ensure reports showcase the whole story, the wins, the losses and the areas for opportunity.
In short, it’s time for marketing and sales to work together. For those who are honing in on alignment and collaboration, don’t forget these critical takeaways:
Leaders should focus on building one team, with unified goals and metrics to work toward.
Fractured marketing and sales units often begin to compete with one another when there’s no system in place to promote unity between colleagues.
Marketers and sellers have distinct skill sets that can complement each other’s initiatives, without overtaking them. Use their unique expertise to build a holistic approach founded on strategy both in lead scoring and client acquisition.
Seek to remove barriers to success, even if it means substantial changes to your process or approach. Create feedback loops that invite discussion on where your team can improve their collaboration and support of one another.
Start by getting the right people in the room. As you increase opportunities for collaboration, your team will naturally begin to develop new ways of working together.
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