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Sales and Marketing Alignment: Is it Really Possible?

Written by Flawless Inbound on Sep 25, 2016 10:08:00 AM

In Reliable Revenue Growth, B2B Marketing Technology

Congratulations, you’re now in your third or fourth year in the business (or maybe you have been in business for the last 10 years) but your marketing is fully disrupted, your revenues are going down and your expenses are going higher. The real question is: how can you make your numbers in 2016 and beyond?

So, let’s take a look in the closet first. How about your marketing and your sales team? Do they speak the same language? Are they on the same page? Are they collaborating together? Or is it the usual conversation with your Director of Sales telling you, “The marketing team is not pulling their weight, and they are bringing us unqualified leads.”

Then, your Director of Marketing is telling you, “The sales organization is not including us in their meetings, we do not know what their highest priority is and we are bringing them leads but they are not closing any of them.”

Related: Picking the Right Marketing Automation Software for Your Organization: Part 2 and Picking the Right Marketing Automation Software: Part 1

If you are facing any of these challenges, or something similar, here is what I would recommend:

First, both teams need to agree on the definition of a lead/qualified lead/lost opportunity. Here is a basic sample you can tune according to your own funnel. Make sure both teams (sales and marketing) agree and understand these terms.

  • Subscriber: Think of subscribers as those folks who know about you and have opted in to hear from you periodically. In many cases your subscriber base is the segment of your contacts database that has only signed up for your blog or newsletter and nothing else. You should nurture a long-term relationship with subscribers and offer them content that will increase the chances that they will move forward in the customer lifecycle.
  • Lead: Leads have shown more interest in what you offer than subscribers have. Typically a lead has filled out a form with more than just an email address, often for some sort of content-based offer on your website. We see companies use the lead lifecycle stage for what we think of as general, broadly appealing, or top of the funnel offers. As each lead demonstrates a higher degree of sales readiness and qualification, they will move to further stages.
  • Marketing Qualified Lead: Marketing Qualified Leads, commonly known as MQLs, are those people who have raised their hands (metaphorically speaking) and identified themselves as more deeply engaged, sales-ready contacts than your usual leads, but who have not yet become fully-fledged opportunities. Ideally, you should only allow certain, designated forms to trigger the promotion of a lead to the MQL stage, specifically those that gate bottom of the funnel offers like demo requests, buying guides, and other sales-ready calls to action.
  • Sales Qualified Lead: Sales Qualified Leads are those that your sales team has accepted as worthy of a direct sales follow up. Using this stage will help your sales and marketing teams stay firmly on the same page in terms of the quality and volume of leads that you are handing over to your sales team.
  • Opportunity: Opportunities are contacts that have become real sales opportunities in your CRM.
  • Customer: This is everybody’s favorite lifecycle stage: an actual, paying customer.
  • Evangelist: Evangelists are those contacts that are advocates for your business - they sing your praises from the rooftops! They are usually a small but vocal group who will refer new business to you unsolicited. Leveraging their networks often bring in new customers and help you reach leads you may not have been able to otherwise.
  • Other:Other is the wildcard lifecycle stage. Examples of what this stage has been used for include: closed lost opportunities, customer renewals, and key accounts.

Then there are the four steps that both teams need to work on:

  1. DEMAND GENERATION

Generating quality leads means engaging new, previously anonymous buyers and turning them into marketing qualified leads. Your demand generation team should be measured on the number of new leads they produce and report results against their monthly goal — these leads will also build up your contact database, a critical asset to your growing company.

How to compensate: Your demand generation team should be compensated based on lead goals that you set based on pipeline and revenue targets. Its job is to focus on filling the top of the funnel. I think at least 25% of their total compensation should be tied to this goal. And pay them more for over-achieving their monthly goal, too!

  1. CONTENT MARKETING

Attracting net new leads and moving existing ones along in the funnel means offering valuable, targeted, and quality content. Your content team needs to know which keywords and offers work to engage new buyers and where they have gaps based on the marketing plan and competitive analysis. The right content is more important than a large inventory — get started with what you have and measure your results. What keywords and offers (CTAs) work best, and what’s the ROI on your content? Make sure to align your new product releases to drive a significant portion of your content and new campaigns. This is how your content gets differentiated from that of your competitors. Be a thought leader and know where your content stacks up with your marketing campaigns and against your competitors.

How to compensate: This one is a little trickier. Get your content and demand-gen teams to agree on campaigns and the content needed to power them. Also set some conversion goals for inbound marketing campaigns. Tie variable compensation to the ROI of the content created: How much was spent to create a piece of content you offer, and how effective was that content driving incremental revenue? You should tie around 25 percent of content marketers’ compensation to content ROI (and accelerate the money for beating their goals).

  1. LEAD QUALIFICATION

This step is owned by SDRs who qualify leads and turn them into opportunities (sales qualified leads). To keep them productive, make sure that you score your leads intelligently so SDRs spend their time working the ones with real potential.

How to compensate: Your SDRs should be measured and compensated based on the number of new opportunities sales accepts per month. Just make sure your sales team is converting these opportunities at the right rate to your revenue goals!

  1. SALES

The agreement the SDRs must have with sales is that once they accept an opportunity, there are a set number of days until that new customer should be closed. The hand-off between the SDR and sales rep is critical – once the SDR says it’s a qualified opportunity, that opportunity should be owned or rejected by sales within 24 hours.

How to compensate: Compensating sales is a whole job (or industry!) unto itself, but I like sales reps having 50 per cent of their compensation tied to their revenue quota. Measure time-to-close and close rates per rep so you are up-to-date on pipeline data and conversion rates across your funnel. Finally, make sure all four of these teams know the others’ goals and responsibilities. It will help them work better together and marketing performance will take a leap forward.

If you need a second set of eyes to review your marketing and sales strategy for this year to help you make your number, we would be more than happy to do so. We are empowering companies in the US and Canada with marketing and sales strategies that will help them make their numbers for this year and more years to come.

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