We’ve been busy putting together a selection of some of the most practical sales and marketing alignment best practices for your business – from conversations with our customers, and with ourselves – to help you grow your business more efficiently without needing to spend another penny.
Nurture a happy family of sales and marketing people in your business
If you think of your organisation as one big, happy, yet completely dysfunctional unit, then sales and marketing are the two relations who find themselves in a continuous headlock.
Born to the same family but always bickering and picking on one another, they are the ultimate corporate siblings.
Locking horns more often than not, they can be quick to point the finger at one another. They will highlight each other’s flaws and often try to place the blame on each other.
As a sales or marketing manager, it can be a frustrating position to be in. Trying to keep the peace and retrospectively repair relationships can become tiresome, especially when you know your time is better spent on more productive tasks.
So, if you end up feeling like you’re dealing with bickering children, why not take a leaf from the book of parenting and enforce some rules to help them to get along? Because what happens when these two frenemies get along?
Aside from the obvious peace and quiet, and a noticeably more harmonious working environment, sales and marketing alignment can also lead to a huge impact on growth (these numbers are from an infographic by Wheelhouse advisors:
- 208% increase in revenue.
- 38% increase in deal closure.
- 36% in customer retention.
Here are our ten sales and marketing alignment best practices to help improve collaboration and cultivate a healthy relationship between your sales and marketing teams.
Step 1: Know who your buyer is
Overall, sales and marketing are trying to achieve the same thing – to drive and build revenue.
But it’s hard to be aligned on building revenue if everyone has a different idea of who the buyer is.
Thankfully there are a bunch of tried-and-tested methods for gaining alignment around the buyer and how they buy.
Define your buyer personas
In our list of sales and marketing alignment best practices, this had to come first – you’ve got to know who you’re selling to.
The more deeply you can understand your buyer the better. Outlining a handful of buyer personas will enable people throughout your business – regardless of role or department – to get a feel for who you’re marketing to, who you’re selling to, and who you’re building for.
Buyer personas should ideally have the following key elements:
- Basic demographics – age, geographic location.
- The size and type of organisation they work at.
- Their role in the organisation.
- The buyer’s objectives.
- Their priorities.
- The biggest challenges of the buyer and their organisation.
When defining a buyer persona, another handy exercise to try is going through a day in the life of the buyer –what do they do all day? Who do they interact with? What do they look forward to, and what do they detest? This process can really help you build empathy with the buyer.
Critically, you’ll also want to map out how the buyer makes purchasing decisions…
Map out the buying process
It’s good to understand who the buyer is, but it’s great if you can understand how they buy too.
If you haven’t already, you’ll want to map out a step-by-step flow of how each of your key buyer personas decide to make a purchase.
When mapping the buyer process out, try to include the following key elements:
- The objectives of the buyer.
- What activities the buyer engages in.
- What information the buyer may consume.
- Which modes of communication the buyer will use to access information.
- The timescale over which the process plays out.
Step 2: Clearly define your roles and responsibilities
In some organisations, sales and marketing have lost their way. It can be common for marketing to think of themselves as the creative side of the business whose only concern is brand awareness.
Regardless of the size of a company, roles often become blurred, making it hard to determine responsibilities and who’s under-performing or knocking it out the park.
As a result, it’s not uncommon for salespeople to be dismissive of marketing and label them as “fluffy”. Sales people can be expressive about the fact that they don’t believe marketing should have a say when it comes to sales strategy.
In the above scenario, everyone is wrong. Driving revenue involves sales and marketing working together hand in hand. Alignment across these two functions will ensure a cohesive approach to the growth of the business.
Sales and marketing need to work together
Increasing brand awareness, adding leads to the funnel, and closing revenue-generating deals is the combined responsibility of both teams. Sometimes this is overlooked in the grand scheme of things. Everyone is actually on the same side.
As the leaders of these functions, you need to ensure that your team members know their combined role is to educate and engage the buyer in order to create legitimate interest which, in turn, will convert to a qualified lead.
Sustainable growth has to be a two-pronged approach with collaboration across both teams. Remind your teams that they are working towards a mutual goal and encourage them to work together to achieve it.
Step 3: Slow your roll
Once your team members are aware of their combined goal and their individual roles, it’s time to get them to “slow their roll”. This doesn’t mean slowing down your output, but it does mean you need to instil best practices to ensure each team is considering the other before firing ahead with new campaigns and initiatives.
There’s nothing worse than being looped into an initiative at the last minute when you know that you could have made a valuable contribution earlier in the process.
Disengagement often stems from poor communication and if your employees feel out of the loop, then they are less likely to feel invested in new concepts.
Ensure everyone is one the same page by encouraging collaboration at ideation stage. Introduce talk-through sessions to pad out ideas before they become a reality to encourage participation from both departments and help provide buy-in at the early stages.
Step 4: Be present
This one is incredibly simple, but it’s often ignored: attend each other’s weekly meetings.
This doesn’t have to be overkill – too many people in one room is excessive and will kill productivity. Each week nominate someone from the sales team to attend the marketing weekly and vice versa.
Having a voice in the room will help to keep lines of communication open. Your attendee will be able to contribute when needed, and carry information back to your team to keep everyone aware of any new updates.
Attending these meetings also provides the opportunity for teams to share ideas, ask for new collateral, and provide feedback on how well content is being received.
Step 5: Lead by example
As the leaders of these teams, you should lead by example. Your teams will be looking to you for guidance and if you openly criticise the other function in front of your team members, they will follow suit and feel comfortable do the same.
Instead, make your praise of the other team loud and clear. Give credit where it’s due. Be seen to be openly collaborating and inviting other team leaders to contribute to conversation.
Hold your own monthly meetings to ensure strategic alignment and communicate the takeaways back to your teams. If your employees see you acting in a certain way, the cooperation effect will trickle down.
Step 6: Inform and prepare
You can have campaigns, content, and sales collateral coming out of your ears. But if your sales team don’t know about it, it’s worthless. Send team-wide emails to inform sales of upcoming campaigns and encourage them to communicate to their customers.
Marketing can take an advisory role when it comes to sharing content with prospects. Should it be shared via email or social? If it’s a corporate event, let the sales team know when the invites will be sent out so they can mention it to their clients when they next speak.
Sales also play a role when it comes to keeping marketing in the loop. Make sure your sales team are giving marketing the information they need to effectively create the right campaign.
What kind of customers are they targeting? Are they trying to attract or retain a client? How far down the funnel are they? Working together to gather this information will help your teams create a much more comprehensive campaign that will help to meet your needs.
Step 7: Amplify
We assume that sales people are blessed with the gift of the gab, and for most of them, this is true.
But when it comes to amplifying marketing content, they can sometimes struggle.
Encourage your marketing team to help their sales siblings open conversations using social media. Provide the sales team with social posts that they can push out across their personal platforms. Hold coaching sessions to help them to learn how to engage with prospects online and provide them with copy to share via email.
Step 8: Feedback and reporting
One of the most over-looked sales and marketing alignment best practices is the topic of feedback.
Direct, specific, and constructive feedback is essential for any high-performing team, but it’s often overlooked when it comes to sales and marketing collaboration.
Post-event or campaign wrap-ups are important for maintaining momentum and ensuring that both teams are continuing to have touch points with their client base.
Marketing can create feedback templates for each campaign type and send them out to gather feedback.
For an event, for example, you likely want to get answers to at least the following questions:
- Who came?
- Why they attend?
- Did sales meet with them?
- Is this the first event they’ve been to?
- How did they hear about the event?
This will help to structure further events and provide sales with input into future events and conversations. If people are invested in the marketing activites, they are more likely to get behind them and help make them successful.
Step 9: Sales enablement
Sales enablement is a hot term used increasingly frequently, but rarely implemented effectively.
The purpose of sales enablement is to provide information, content, and resources to help salespeople sell. It sounds simple but it can be very difficult and time-consuming to implement successfully.
As a first step, ensure marketing and sales are using the same system to store files and information. We’ve all probably got access to Slack, Dropbox, or similar services for sharing information. But is everyone using these services in the same way?
If you’re sales organisation is more advanced, you may want to look at dedicated sales enablement software such as ShowPad that are specifically designed to enable marketing teams to share assets with sales easily.
Encourage sales to use a shared portal as their first port of call for marketing assets and ensure marketing are continually updating it with the latest versions of marketing materials.
When sales know that all the relevant information can be found in once place, they will be more inclined to use the information available to them and will be able to report back on how well prospects are responding to it.
Step 10: Be empathetic
One of the biggest misconceptions between sales and marketing can be the assumption that the other is doing something for their own benefit.
Encourage your team members to view a situation from their colleague’s perspective and take an empathetic view. If everyone feels decisions are being made with good intent it will dramatically improve how they take initiative and encourage them to feed back in a productive rather than negative manner.
Take these sales and marketing alignment best practices – and get growing today!
Hopefully these ten steps for aligning marketing and sales have been helpful to get you collaborating more. There’s nothing holding you back – so don’t build it into a big, insurmountable task.
See what you can do to improve alignment today – it might start with just a cup of coffee (or tea) and a casual chat.
Further resources to back-up your sales and marketing alignment best practices
- How to knock down the barrier between marketing and sales
- How to prioritise sales leads with marketing and analytics data
- Why live chat could be your secret weapon to close more sales deals
Thanks to Niamh Linehan for collaborating with us on this post. Thanks to Adrien Coquet for providing icons used in the artwork in this post.