How Alignment Between Sales & Marketing Can Lead to GrowthBy: Michael McEuen | November 29, 2022
“Information is just bits of data. Knowledge is putting them together. Wisdom is transcending them.”- Ram Dass
When I first started off in marketing, I was pretty closed off to sales leaders, worried about how they perceived marketing, and nervous that I would have to explain myself or the team’s results. Truth be told, I was operating with a sense of fear.
When I shed this approach and started spending more time with the AE and SDR team leads, the results of our marketing programs improved significantly: conversion rates improved, communication opened up, and the energy was electric. Involving Sales early often improved results, not necessarily from better Marketing output, but as a result of more gusto from reps to work the leads. So, here’s some advice learned from the cheap seats on how to improve the alignment between Sales and Marketing teams:
INVITE SALES INTO THE PLANNING PROCESS
One of the greatest cardinal sins of a Marketing Leader is not inviting Sales to be a part of the planning process at an early enough stage. Instead of seeking input and guidance, our plans are often finalized and in execution before we involve our colleagues across the aisle. Sales are often asked to “get onboard” with Marketing’s plan without understanding the inputs of why it was formed. This leads to an adversarial, closed-off, and at times hostile working environment.
Flip this on its head and invite Sales into the process in its infancy. Continually seek your Sales team’s feedback using the following steps.
1. Meet with the AE or SDR team leaders to run through a retrospective.
- Conducted by the Head of Marketing or Demand Generation.
- Preface that this is a blameless process in which both teams are working to hit the sales quota.
- Present Sales with all of the raw data you have access to, including Marketing-sourced SQLs, opportunities, and pipeline performance. Delineate by channel and major campaigns.
- Together, take an honest look at what has worked in the past, what could be improved, and what has flat-out been missed.
2. Walk Sales through the Marketing team’s proposed budget and goals for the upcoming quarter.
- Explain the mechanics of how these goals and budgets were derived.
- Explain how these targets relate to Sales’ goals. For example: the number of opportunities sourced by Marketing can help hit an AE or SDR’s quota.
3. Walk Sales through Marketing’s budget allocation layouts and bets (before finalizing anything).
- Explain the bets you are making and the level of confidence you have in each bet.
- Ask Sales for their honest take on your budget allocations.
4. Ask Sales for their “wave a magic wand” wish list from Marketing.
- Be receptive; don’t shoot anything down out of the gate.
- Encourage even the wildest ideas.
5. Present and discuss tradeoffs.
Sales, rightly so, will want Marketing to run all the plays – but budget and bandwidth are always limited. So, explain the major tradeoffs to consider with each request.
For example: “Yes, we can attend that big expensive event, but we’ll have to pull back spend on X, Y, Z.”
Use this conversation as a forcing function for prioritization
6. Share the finalized quarterly strategy and major campaigns.
- Again, be open to feedback and ready and willing to share data.
- Asking for Sales’ input should not be performative. Integrate their feedback into Marketing’s goals or budgets or explain why you opted to do something different. There are occasions when I’m passionate about something and will override a veto from Sales – but it’s rare. Instead, I’ll float major campaigns and events for their feedback and only invest in areas they are excited about.
FIRE UP THE TROOPS ON THE FRONT LINES
Now that you’ve won over the support of the AE/SDR team leaders, it’s time to energize the full Sales team. Ask for a slot of time to join their weekly meetings with the goal of presenting transparency, communicating major initiatives, and getting the team fired up!
The Head of Marketing or Demand Generation should attend sales meetings and reveal upcoming campaigns, including the “why” behind each campaign or event. Follow up by providing supportive materials such as event packs, messaging help, and the best contact or lead views.
With Sales fully fired up, you will hopefully start to see an amplification of Marketing’s efforts. Your campaigns may perform exactly the same, but the energy Sales puts into (and the outputs that come from) the same batch of leads grows, leading to more opportunities.
Where before you might have heard sales reps grumbling, “Marketing only generated two good leads,” now on those same leads you’re likely to receive a ping on Slack from a rep saying, “Hey those two leads were great! Let’s get more of those!”
Communication leads to alignment which leads to growth.
ENCOURAGE OPEN FEEDBACK TO IMPROVE LEAD QUALITY
You are not going to get the truth about how your Marketing-sourced leads are progressing without real feedback from the front lines. It takes more than sitting in your ivory tower and refreshing Salesforce/HubSpot to understand the nuanced movements that are taking place.
Open up channels in Slack where the SDR and AE teams can send raw lead/contact links for bad-fit leads. Preface that MQL quality can vary by channel and campaign. That’s why receiving feedback into what is working is vital to help them hit their quota. Review each contact personally and explore options when you start seeing bad trends to improve quality.
Here are some tactics that can help improve the quality of leads:
- Tighten the criteria for moving a lead/contact over to Sales (SAL qualification). Move poor-fit companies and people into an automated email nurture campaign.
- Be thorough when scrubbing and enriching lists from events such as tradeshows and webinars. Only assign leads that align with your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP).
- Add more qualifying fields to your website forms (after discussing with SDR leadership that the tradeoff can be a drop in the total volume of submissions).
Reveal improvements to process in your section of each weekly SDR meeting.
SHARE HOW THINGS ARE GOING
Because you are forming your Marketing strategy alongside Sales (meaning you are taking calculated bets together), you can be open and honest about the results. In the marketing section of the weekly Sales meetings, restate your shared hypotheses, analyze campaign performance, ask for input from reps, and work together to define next steps (to kill, optimize, or invest deeper in the program).
Show data using simple graphs and make sure to tell a crisp story. Leave time for Q&A and ensure the teams are aligned.
Involving your Sales team early de-risks your bets, increases collaboration and improves results on the same Marketing spend — all while making hard conversations easier. If you want to drive better performance and improve your relationship with Sales, it’s time to open up.
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