Source: The Mission Suite
A couple of months ago we attended HubSpot's Annual Inbound Conference. We went to Inbound with the intent of fostering new relationships and learning new marketing initiatives we could leverage in our own marketing strategies. While we accomplished both of these things, one of our business development representatives made an observation about our own marketing initiatives that peaked the interest of a lot of people we spoke with at Inbound: Marketing and sales alignment.
Marketing and sales alignment is a key driver in a successful customer acquisition strategy. At New Breed, we are passionate about ensuring there is a seamless transition from marketing to sales as a lead progresses through the lifecycle stages. Our marketing and sales alignment model was not created overnight, though. Creating fluidity between your marketing and sales teams takes time. But we've got a few actionable strategies to help your business jumpstart the marketing and sales alignment process.
8 Marketing and Sales Alignment Strategies to Set Your Teams Up for Success
1. Establish guidelines for your lead qualification criteria
One of the complaints we hear most often from sales teams regarding their marketing teams is that they are not sending them good-fit leads. You can avoid this common gripe by establishing lead qualification criteria, a critical component in aligning your marketing and sales teams. The best way to go about deciding upon the right lead qualification criteria for your company is by creating buyer personas. These personas depict an image of your ideal customer and who you are trying to target. Personas can be created based on individuals or companies.
At New Breed, our personas are individuals, but a good-fit individual is based on the ideal companies we want to target. For this reason, we look at the firmographics of companies to decide if they are a good-fit lead or not (company size, annual revenue, industry, etc.). If you decide that your buyer personas are just individuals rather than companies, you'll want to look into the demographics of your personas (role or position in their company, years of experience, etc.). Creating your buyer personas will not only enable you to better provide your sales team with leads that fit into your target audience, but it will also prevent companies or individuals who are not within your target audience from advancing through the funnel, causing wasted sales calories or churn later.
2. Create a service level agreement to set the expectations
Sales teams may talk some smack about their marketing teams not giving them good leads, but one of the biggest complaints we hear from marketers about their sales team is that they don't follow up with the leads they provide them. Marketing automation has made the marketing-to-sales handoff much easier, but you should still set expectations around the follow-up process. We suggest creating a service level agreement with the following information:
- Criteria for when a lead transitions from marketing to sales
- The timeframe for sales to follow up with a good-fit lead
- How often sales will follow up with a good-fit lead
- The criteria you have set in place for determining a good-fit lead
Setting up best practices for the sales follow-up process will get your sales team in the habit of reaching out to those good-fit leads. And once this agreement is created, the next step is to measure how many people are coming into your funnel who are a good fit, and how many of them are transitioning from marketing qualified leads (those who are a good fit) to sales qualified leads (those who are a good fit, show interest and are ready to talk to sales).
3. Get your marketing team more involved in the sales process
Another great way to create marketing and sales alignment is to get your marketing team more involved in the sales process. One way you can do this is by having your marketing team hop in on sales calls. This practice is both beneficial for the marketer, who gets to contribute to closing a customer, and for the sales team, as it allows them to leverage someone who is more knowledgeable on a particular topic.
4. Track your marketing efforts based on contribution to revenue
If you aren't already tracking your marketing efforts based on contribution to revenue, it's time to start. Marketers need to understand the full scope of the funnel. If you simply track marketers based on the number of leads they generate, they will be satisfied with just producing leads for their sales team. This is not the mindset you want your marketing team to have. If marketers are hyper-focused on lead generation efforts, quality will be sacrificed for quantity, creating a greater disconnect between your marketing and sales teams.
5. Make sure your lead enrichment process is up to par
Lead enrichment is often overlooked in the sales process, but it's extremely important in successfully aligning your marketing and sales teams. At New Breed, we leverage a tool called Datanyze that allows us to look into company profiles and access their fit. We then transfer that information information into our HubSpot portal so we can segment our customer base and nurture them according to their different attributes. There are plenty of tools out there that can help you with your lead enrichment process. LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Data.com and Ring.io are some other good options to discover and track your target profiles. Making sure to stay up to date with your lead enrichment process will help provide both your marketing and sales team context on the lead's history and where they are in the buyer's journey.
6. Nurture your leads through the funnel
As a marketer myself, I can attest to the fact that sometimes we are so focused on generating high quality leads, we forget that once we attain those leads, we need to continue nurturing them until they become a closed-won. Lead nurturing can take many forms, but one of the best approaches to take in nurturing your leads is providing them with relevant, helpful content at every step of the buyer's journey. Marketers can accomplish this by creating content for the various lifecycle stages a buyer goes through before they turn into a customer (visitor, lead, marketing qualified lead, sales qualified lead, opportunity).
When a buyer is in the awareness stage or at the top of the funnel, blog posts, guides or ebooks are a great way to nurture leads. When that lead transitions into the consideration stage or the middle of the funnel, webinars or templates are good options. Finally, when your leads enter the bottom of the funnel, demos or consultations are a great way to seal the deal. In addition to the content itself, consider the ways in which you will promote that content to your contact base. For instance, having a solid email marketing strategy in place is a great way to transition a contact to the next lifecycle stage. If marketers can help guide leads through the funnel, the marketing-to-sales handoff while be far more in sync.
7. Leverage sales enablement tools
Good news for all you salespeople out there. In today's world of selling, there are a ton of tools you can leverage to make your sales process more effective and the marketing-to-sales handoff a whole lot easier. Sales enablement tools are a great way to bridge the gap between marketing and sales. We already mentioned how beneficial content is in the lead nurturing process. But in particular, case studies are great assets for salespeople to leverage to gain credibility and trust from their contact when they reach the sales funnel.
Aside from content, there are an abundance of sales enablement tools that create efficiency in aligning your marketing and sales teams. Email templates, automation, task reminders, smart email sends and lead routing have all drastically improved the relationship between marketing and sales.
8. Create a clean handoff
Automation has played a significant role in improving marketing and sales alignment. Lead routing has enabled marketing teams to assign qualified leads to different members of the sales team based on criteria such as geographic location or on a rotational basis. But there are still steps your marketing and sales teams can take to create a clean marketing-to-sales handoff. One of the most important steps is making sure that you have good data surrounding the handoff process so you can measure the number of leads that transition from the marketing team to the sales team.
At the end of the day, the most important thing in marketing and sales alignment is making sure your marketing and sales teams are speaking the same language. If you look at the buyer's journey as the story of the buying process, we want to make sure that our marketers and sales teams are telling the same story from beginning to end. We also want to make sure that we are working towards the same goals. Measuring marketing success based on revenue contribution forces marketers to think past the lead and marketing qualified lead stages, and ensures your marketing team is visualizing the buying process in a more holistic way. The goal for marketing and sales alignment should be for your marketing and sales teams to support one another, rather than work against each other. If you can get your marketing and sales team to support one another, you will create a frictionless funnel for your buyers, sending them right down the path to purchase!