11 tips to improve sales and marketing alignment

11 tips to improve sales and marketing alignment

Sales are essential to company and revenue growth in every business. Sales teams that do not have a marketing team supporting them have a significantly harder time closing deals than those that do. Ideally, the two teams should work in tandem, which is why sales and marketing alignment is so important.

Unfortunately, in many companies, sales and marketing teams work in silos and do not collaborate enough. This has negative impacts on a company’s ability to convert new customers and grow over the long term.

Many companies struggle with identifying how to connect sales and marketing. Luckily, with a few simple tips, you can align the two teams and close more deals more effectively. Here, we provide 11 tips for improving sales and marketing alignment.

1. Implement a customer relationship management solution

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is now a necessity for nearly every business. CRM solutions make every team in a company more efficient and organized by automating manual processes, facilitating better data storage, and improving collaboration.

However, CRM software can also be the catalyst that aligns your sales and marketing teams. When a company implements a CRM, all teams work with the same data from the same system. When sales enters new data, marketing can view and work with it, and vice versa.

Automated notifications can be sent to each team by the other to ensure tasks get completed on time. Project management capabilities improve collaboration between sales and marketing by bringing accountability to each team’s processes. So, having a CRM solution in place is essential for sales and marketing alignment.

2. Integrate marketing automation with your CRM

Once you have CRM software in place, you should implement a marketing automation solution to automate marketing activities. This allows marketing to better support sales in various ways, including:

  • Automating the lead qualification process
  • Implementing a lead scoring mechanism
  • Sending automated task notifications
  • Tracking lead behaviors to provide sales with more insight into their interests and buying preferences
  • Running automated multichannel marketing campaigns to generate more leads for sales
  • And much more

It is important to integrate your marketing automation solution with your CRM software so that data from both systems lives in the same database. This lets sales and marketing view and work with the same data, which improves sales and marketing alignment.

Many companies these days are opting for all-in-one CRM systems because they include a built-in marketing automation solution. This means businesses don’t have to purchase two separate solutions and integrate them because the two systems are integrated out of the box.

3. Collaborate on messaging to improve sales and marketing alignment

When your marketing team is creating corporate or product messaging, they should include sales in the process. They should request input from sales and incorporate that into the overall messaging documents they create.

Once those messaging documents are complete, marketing should share them with sales to gain consensus on the accuracy of these core messages. If sales disagrees with a certain point or message, the two teams should discuss it until they gain a consensus. In this way, both teams are aligned around the same messaging and will be more likely to proactively leverage it because each team invested time and energy in creating it.

4. Implement lead scoring

Lead scoring is one of the major benefits that marketing automation solutions provide. It allows marketers to accurately gauge when leads are qualified and ready to be passed over to sales for outreach.

Lead scoring ranks prospective customers’ sales-readiness by using a point system that indicates the value that person (or sales target) represents to the organization.

You award points to leads for actions they take, like opening or clicking emails, visiting your website, etc. You also award points for demographic data such as their job title. Plus, you determine how many points each action or demographic attribute is worth.

Scores accumulate over time. You set a scoring threshold at which a lead is considered to be a “marketing qualified” (i.e., hot) lead. When they cross the threshold, they are passed over to sales for immediate follow up. This helps sales prioritize their outreach to the most sales-ready leads.

According to a lead scoring survey by DemandGen Report, 41% of respondents saw improved lead conversion rates when using lead scoring. This is because lead scoring forces marketing and sales to work together more closely, improving sales and marketing alignment and empowering both teams to achieve better results. Learn more about lead scoring.

5. Map out the buyer’s journey

Every company should have their buyer journey mapped out so that it’s easy for both sales and marketing to know where each lead is in the sales cycle. The exercise of mapping out the journey should be a collaborative effort undertaken by sales and marketing.

Collaborating on this effort will ensure that both teams agree on the definition of each stage of the journey (see number 6 below). This will eliminate any confusion around where each lead is and how sales should communicate with them.

6. Define lead lifecycle stages

Lifecycle stages are points along the buyer’s journey that leads pass through on their way to becoming customers. Sales and marketing should collaborate on defining these so that both teams are on the same page. These stages should be incorporated into your lead scoring model.

Anonymous leads are tracked in your marketing automation system until they identify themselves by completing a web form or providing you with their contact information in another way.

Then, as they engage with your marketing tactics and earn points, they advance through the buyer’s journey from one stage to the next, and your marketing automation solution tracks all of this.

Here is an example of a simple list of lead lifecycle stages that a company could use:

  • Anonymous lead: A lead who has been browsing your website but has not yet provided you with any contact information
  • Known lead: A lead who has provided their contact information
  • Marketing qualified lead (MQL): A lead who has passed your scoring threshold and is ready to be passed to sales for outreach
  • Sales qualified lead (SQL): An MQL that sales has communicated with and has validated their intent to purchase
  • Customer: An SQL that sales has converted into a customer

7. Leverage automated notifications

With integrated CRM and marketing automation solutions, marketing can set up automated notifications when specified actions take place. For example, when a lead crosses the MQL threshold, an automated notification can be sent to sales alerting them that there is a sales-ready lead they need to reach out to.

Marketing can set up notifications for virtually any action they want to notify sales about. Another example would be an automated notification sent to sales when a lead downloads a high-value piece of content. The possibilities are endless, which is why leveraging automated notifications is a great marketing and sales alignment strategy.

8. Collaborate on inbound content

Your content marketing team produces inbound content to support sales as they communicate with leads at each stage of the buyer’s journey. But most do not include sales in the content creation process.

To improve sales and marketing alignment, have marketing and sales collaborate on a few high-level content pieces. This will bring the two teams together and help your sales team think more in terms of pitching benefits than features.

9. Implement sales service level agreements

Service level agreements (SLAs) are essentially contracts that specify the correct process for completing a certain task and place expectations around the results of that process. For example, marketing can leverage SLAs to ensure that sales follows up with leads in a timely fashion by specifying that sales must reach out to an MQL within X number of hours after being notified.

Marketers can use SLAs for various purposes. Incorporating SLAs into your sales process helps keep sales accountable and significantly improves sales and marketing alignment.

10. Hold monthly meetings with both teams

Sales and marketing should huddle up at least once per month to ensure that everything they collaborate on is working properly. Some common questions that should be asked at these meetings to ensure tight sales and marketing alignment include:

  • Is marketing qualifying leads at the right time, too early, or too late?
  • Is marketing producing content that is effectively engaging prospects? If not, what else is needed?
  • Are all salespeople completing assigned tasks and meeting their SLAs?
  • Is the lead scoring mechanism still accurate? In other words, are you awarding leads the correct score for each action they take?
  • Are leads piling up at any stage of the lead lifecycle? If so, how can you fix that bottleneck?
  • What else does sales need from marketing that they don’t currently have?

Meeting once per month keeps both teams on the same page. Once a company fully grasps the importance of sales and marketing alignment, it will see the need for monthly meetings and implement them.

11. Measure the results of sales and marketing collaboration

Every important decision a business makes should be based on hard data, and continually fine-tuning your efforts to align marketing and sales is no exception.

Your CRM and marketing automation solutions should provide robust CRM reporting and metrics. You can leverage reporting capabilities to keep tabs on who is not meeting their SLAs, whether your lead qualification mechanism is moving leads through the pipeline at the right velocity, and much more.

As you implement the tips above, make it a priority to measure as many of your efforts as possible to ensure that you can continually improve sales and marketing alignment.

Conclusion

Companies that focus on marketing and sales alignment for improved effectiveness are the companies that will outperform their competition. Sales and marketing alignment in 2019 is more important than ever.

With so much competition saturating nearly every industry, the businesses that follow the tips above will come out on top. Those that don’t make sales and marketing alignment a priority will fade into the background.

Do you have additional tips that help you keep your sales and marketing teams aligned? Share them with us in the comments section below!

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Gabriel Swain

Gabriel has nearly a decade of content and digital marketing experience in the software and technology space. He also has over 13 years of professional writing experience—both in the nonprofit and corporate spaces. His goal is to help small and growing businesses maintain insight into emerging trends and best practices, provide a stellar customer experience, and remain highly competitive in their respective industries.

2 Comments

brand consultant singapore

about 10 months ago

Thanks for a very interesting article. Sales and marketing can do wonders when they work out the best plan of action. Great blog!

Reply

Gabriel Swain

about 10 months ago

Thanks so much for your comment. I totally agree; sales and marketing alignment is often overlooked but it's so important for a business to operate as a united, functioning organism. You're spot on with your comment. Please keep reading and sharing your feedback. We love to hear your opinions and value them so much!

Reply

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