Five Paths to B2B Sales and Marketing Harmony
This article is based on trends as well as tried-and-true methods to facilitate alignment. These include tracking leads to the end of the sales cycle, avoiding vanity metrics, proper data alignment as it concerns the CRM system, etc. We also mention the holistic solutions like collaboration, team-building, as well as the regular exchange of information and management's overall role.
The proverbial fly in the ointment of any otherwise thriving B2B operation is misalignment between its sales and marketing departments. We’ve heard the horror stories of larger companies throwing millions of dollars at a problem only to find out it was the wrong problem in the first place. And if you are experiencing misalignment in your own business, as an estimated nine in 10 are, according to Forrester, then you know just how frustrating it can be.
Probably the most frustrating thing is that it’s totally possible to have both a solid sales and marketing strategy yet you find those two departments still aren’t aligned. Since we’ve all felt that sting of misalignment, it makes the benefits of proper cohesion that much more enticing. Consider these statistics:
B2B companies with properly aligned marketing and sales departments enjoyed a 36% higher customer retention rate
32% of properly aligned companies enjoyed a 32% yearly revenue growth
Businesses with aligned departments saw a 27% faster three-year growth
Now that we can see the benefits, it’s time to choose which paths to embark on to ensure your company enjoys efficient, proper alignment. Here are five paths guaranteed to lead you in the right direction.
Agree on common metrics
Communication is key to alignment. It’s the overarching principle to ensure these two departments work in harmony towards the same goal. You can start a very basic dialogue between the two departments that involves coming together on precise definitions of customer metrics. Business owners are often surprised to find that there is a sizeable gulf between how the two departments view otherwise straightforward metrics. These include:
The definition of a qualified lead
Rules for disqualifying leads
Various stages of lead management
Behavioral or demographic traits associated with qualified leads
If your marketing department can properly define a sales-ready lead, they will be able to identify it, harvest it, and pass it along efficiently so that sales can take the ball and run. Make no mistake: the lead handoff stage is one of the most crucial actions for any B2B operation. The legacy of B2B sales is rife with stories of frustrated sales departments who feel they are chasing dead-end leads.
You can also solve this problem by automating and filtering leads identified by your metrics. A perfect example is an automated email marketing campaign that filters out leads actively looking for the solution your B2B company offers. And above all else, avoid vanity metrics (i.e., anything that doesn’t translate directly to customer acquisition). These include things such as the number of page views, social media followers, and email subscribers. These metrics mean nothing if you’re not seeing a proportional increase in revenue.
Merge the sales pipeline
With fragmented sales and marketing departments, oftentimes the pipelines become separate processes. This is often caused by a lack of communication once marketing passes their leads to sales. Sadly, in many cases, this is typically about as much contact as the two departments have with one another.
The solution isn’t to merge the departments completely (both sales and marketing will still have their distinct responsibilities), but rather merge their separate pipelines into one continuous process. Ensure both departments are communicating and have the same understanding of the sales funnel: prospecting and qualifying at the top, customer retention at the bottom.
Invest in a CRM system
If the goal is to streamline the efforts and facilitate communication between departments, a solid CRM system will be an invaluable resource. Not only will a CRM tool help boost communication, but it will also eliminate wasteful meetings and redundant emails. Moreover, work-management software will help your business accurately track which sales tactics in your strategy are most effective as well as automate certain marketing processes, like social media and email.
Many advise investing in an SaaS CRM, as maintenance charges are minimal. There are a number of quality options out there, but if you want to narrow down your options, check out this list of the top 15 CRM software suites.
Properly manage leads
We’ve mentioned the importance of sales and marketing agreeing on common metrics. It’s equally crucial to manage those leads effectively once the leads are in hand. A great way to properly track leads is to implement a service-level agreement. Drafting one between departments will not only detail how to hold both departments accountable, but also how to help test your lead-management process from first contact to conversion.
Also, don’t disregard the value of lead nurturing. This is the process of creating a continuous conversation with leads until they are sales ready. It goes beyond email marketing and involves appealing to them via their preferred channels, whether it be social media or dynamic web content.
Refine your efforts
Proper alignment isn’t a single solution at one moment in time. Rather, maintaining proper alignment is an ongoing process. You’ll want to review and refine your efforts on a consistent basis. Analyze the performance of both marketing and sales, including the number of qualified leads passed between departments as well as average lead follow-up times.
This all starts at the top, with management. If your department heads aren’t on the same page, then the rank-and-file sales and marketing people won’t be either. Ensure those in charge aren’t C-level executives but managers who spend time on the floor, day after day, with their employees. These are the ones who can clarify goals and galvanize their respective teams. They have the most power to facilitate communication and build teams that work in harmony.
Placing an emphasis on shared performance is the key to alignment harmony. If your teams are on the same page,communicating regularly, and functioning in service to a common goal, they will have plenty of data and feedback to inform their efforts. Without this, misalignment will continue to be the order of the day, and you’ll have two rudderless departments meandering blindly at the expense of your annual revenue.