Why Aligning Sales & Marketing Gets Big Wins in Customer Experience
Decision makers know that sales and marketing teams are the go-to source for acquiring and maintaining customer relationships, and they can accomplish more by working together. While that sounds like it would be a gimme, in many cases it’s quite the opposite.
Successfully aligning sales and marketing can be somewhat of a unicorn in business. We have all heard of it, but few have seen it with their own eyes. In the customer focused reality, it is a pivotal point if companies want to provide a memorable and compelling customer experience.
Sales and marketing alignment is challenging for several reasons. Lack of communication and cohesion between departments can evolve into an adversarial relationship that hinders productivity and ultimately fails to offer a unified, helpful front for the customer.
The path to alignment is littered with stumbling blocks that make it easy for efforts from both sides to break down. The “working in silos” environment doesn’t build an experience focused on customer support and satisfaction, it hinders a company’s growth and stability.
SiriusDecisions’ VP and Group Director Megan Heuer provided more insight on this topic at the recent #FlipMyFunnel Account-based Marketing event in Chicago. She says, “both sales and marketing should be looking at something else altogether if revenue growth is coming up short. Your pipeline’s silent killer is the quality of customer experience.”
Even though it seems elusive to achieve, the positive effects of sales and marketing alignment are huge, which is why companies continue striving to create an aligned environment between the teams. According to a survey by CMO Council, “38% of CMOs said aligning, and integrating sales and marketing was a top priority.”
More and more companies realize the importance of having sales and marketing teams work together for the good of long-term business viability. Teams that put effort into better alignment reap a variety of advantages that directly impact the customer experience and the company’s performance in the marketplace.
Four rewarding benefits of aligning marketing and sales:
1. Greater productivity. When teams try to accomplish the same goals in different ways, tasks are bound to intersect and cause extra work for both sides. A well-planned, cohesive strategy where all parties understand their roles AND the roles of everyone else cuts down on double work, confusion, and wasted time. It’s a plus when the customers and prospects aren’t contacted multiple times about the same thing by different people.
2. An increase in ROI. A company needs to be able to end up with more money after the initial financial outlay of marketing and sales budgets. Aligned marketing and sales teams can work toward the company initiatives together, share effective ideas, and reach their targets faster than if each works alone. Sirius Decisions found that:
“B2B organizations with tightly aligned Sales and Marketing operations achieved 24% faster three-year revenue growth and 27% faster three-year profit growth.”
This finding paints a dramatic picture of how alignment positively impacts the bottom line. A 27% faster growth in profit could be the difference in a company flourishing, or closing its doors! When goals are reached, and ROI is high, teams reap the rewards.
3. A better opportunity to close the lead conversion loop. One of the biggest fails, when marketing and sales are not aligned, is the loss of leads. When marketing doesn’t properly qualify leads, sales loses trust in marketing, and when sales doesn’t value marketing’s leads, they slip through the cracks.
Aligned teams can salvage a good portion of these leads and convert them to customers. This directly impacts the company’s bottom line and maximizes the chance of the lead receiving the needed information and proper support.
4. An enhanced customer experience. The biggest winner of sales and marketing alignment should be the customer. If marketing and sales are on the same page, at every turn, every interaction with the company, the customer receives a unified experience.
On the other hand, if the two teams are disjointed, the customer experience suffers tremendously. Creating a positive customer experience is no one person, or even one team’s, responsibility. From initial outbound and inbound campaigns, to email marketing, to sales contact, the customer will feel more connected to the company’s brand and product if he or she experiences alignment.
So, now that we are all sold on the dramatically fabulous benefits that sales and marketing alignment brings about, we need to know how to accomplish it. How, after what may be many years of butting heads, miscommunication, and negative attitudes, can a company push past the past and build a bridge between the two teams? While it will take work from everyone, it is possible to turn the separation into a single, revenue increasing machine.
Here are six actions to align marketing and sales for big customer experience wins:
Establish cross-team buy-in. Before marketing and sales alignment is anything more than a beautiful dream, management needs to get both teams to agree to work towards a cohesive union. This begins at the top. Once you’ve hammered out an opening for discussion, there needs to be a plan in place to get everyone involved. Perhaps a team building meeting, or individual surveys to see where each team thinks the weak areas are.
Keep in mind this is not a one-time thing, as both teams will need encouragement and reminders to break old habits and to establish trust. Only by consistently crafting buy-in, encouraging unification, and promoting common goals can these barriers start breaking down.
Seat teams together, physically. Debbie Farese at HubSpot highlights in this article how the close physical proximity of desks can lead to deeper understanding and communication between teams as they see, hear and interact with each other on a daily basis.
Work toward uniform goals. In some organizations, it’s scary to see how the goals of the sales team differ from those of the marketing team. Lack of a common focus creates issues with effectiveness and waters down customer service, revenue efforts, and new account expansion. It’s critical for marketing and sales to be on the same page in regards to what needs to be accomplished. Is the focus customer retention? Lead nurturing? New customer sales? Conduct specific goal setting meetings where all team members offer input. During this time, short and long-term goals can be set.
Agree on the targeted buyer. Sales may think that marketing isn’t in touch with what their leads want while marketing is irritated that sales doesn’t use the proper marketing materials or follow up on marketing-originated leads.
These differing opinions and standards are obstacles to the overall plan to create better leads, and close a higher number of sales. Reduce the risk of this by pinpointing your targeted buyer. Answer questions like “what are my buyer’s pain points?” and “what is my buyer looking to accomplish?” Sales and marketing then need to recognize their buyer, the types of information that gains their attention and trust, and how to “talk” to them, regardless of whether the conversation is marketing or sales driven.
Define what a lead really means. A huge obstacle in marketing and sales alignment is deciding when a lead is really a lead. If there is miscommunication, marketing ends up annoyed that sales didn’t properly follow up on the leads they sent over from inbound efforts, while sales is frustrated because they don’t feel the lead was properly qualified, and their time was wasted. The biggest loser is the customer, not receiving the attention and respect that they deserve.
One white paper download may not make a lead, but three white papers and one webinar attendance might be a hot one. Marketing and sales need to establish when sales needs to take over with the lead and attempt to convert to a customer. There also should be a set process for nurturing the leads and prospects who do not immediately become customers. By agreeing on the definition of a lead, trust in the overall endeavor is built.
Make communication a priority. The previous point included that sales and marketing need to talk to each other, and, perhaps more importantly, listen to each other. What an out-of-the-box concept! Seriously, sometimes relationships improve by simple communication that goes beyond short, impersonal email. Initiatives will move forward faster and each team will understand the challenges of the other better if both put effort into building a strong communication channel.
Encourage and reward two-way communication between sales and marketing, and lead by example. Meetings that include participants from both teams, and regular updates help everyone feel in the loop. Or go wild and get everybody together for lunch or dinner once in a while!
Craft initiatives together. Humans in general dislike being told what to do. Sales and marketing professionals are no different. When marketing bounces in with a “directive” for sales, or sales “dictates” a new campaign roll out to marketing, mutual cooperation evaporates.
Close the gap and avoid these disruptive scenarios by involving both teams in key objectives during the planning stage. If each individual team member feels his or her points were taken into consideration and they had a hand in developing the initiatives, everyone will be more invested in its success, and more inclined to work together to achieve it.
Marketing and sales alignment isn’t easy and, even when reached, needs consistent maintenance and effort. It’s not so much a project that has a beginning and an end, but a philosophy, a way of conducting business. The main benefit is for the customer, with a stronger connection and a more engaging, valuable experience.
Do you have a story, advice, or a personal experience with the path to marketing and sales alignment, and it’s effect on the customer experience? We want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or tweet us @AppDataRoom.