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Aligning Sales and Marketing for Demand Gen

Episode 140

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Sales and Marketing alignment is the holy grail for an organization. When the two work together, the business benefits enormously by having a much more efficient method of acquiring new customers.

But the reality of most organisations is the two teams are often at odds with each other. Marketing are pressured to generate ‘leads’ right now, often forcing their hand to pass onto sales low-intent leads that have little interest in buying. Sales are just looking for ‘hot deals’ to meet their quotas, and become disgruntled with marketing after their leads feel like a waste of time.

Today we’re going to share (in our experience) a framework for how the two roles can become more aligned, and start work as one revenue team. We’ll start by diving into some misconceptions as to how sales and marketing should work together. We’ll then provide our framework and advice on how the two can collaborate better. Finally, we’ll give you the metrics sales and marketing should share, and finish with some practical tips on how marketing can keep a closer working relationship with sales.

This is part of our Demand Gen mini-series. You can access previous whiteboarding sessions here:

As per usual, you can read, watch or listen below to work through our advice on sales and marketing alignment.

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Why is Sales and Marketing Alignment so Important?

Successful Demand Generation requires a strong alignment between sales and marketing. As an organisation, we’re trying to use our limited time, resources and budget to win over a segment of the market. If marketing and sales are working separately and don’t have feedback loops between them, then we’re going to be far less efficient as an organisation.

Sales and Marketing Misconceptions

Before we dive into how to fix sales and marketing misalignment, I want to get into a few misconceptions that irk me.

First up, there’s this notion that marketing is solely responsible for generating leads, and sales is solely responsible for closing them. This leads to a lot of tension between the two teams because sales feels like it isn’t being provided with enough quality leads, and marketing thinks that sales aren’t following up their leads effectively.

The second is the misconception that marketing’s job is just to “make things pretty for sales”. This one makes me so sad when people think that this is what marketing is and that this is what is reduced to. Marketing’s role is far more strategic:

“It’s our job to lead our prospects from being unaware of a product or service to being led all the way through to the logical conclusion that you are the perfect solution for them”.

George Coudounaris – The B2B Playbook

The third misconception is that only sales should talk to customers. If sales are the only people who are talking to customers, then marketing, all of your insights are going to sit and die with sales. It’s like trying to understand your target audience through a game of telephone – you’re going to lose a lot in translation.

These misconceptions are turning sales and marketing into siloed teams, doing things that actually end up putting you in opposition to each other, not necessarily working together.

Aligning Sales and Marketing Objectives

From the outset, most marketing and sales teams fail to be aligned on clear objectives and goals. For example, if AEs are prioritizing closing deals with existing clients over generating net new pipeline, and marketing teams are focusing on lead gen to increase pipeline – then the teams are spending their resources in different ways.

You’ve got two teams working to meet different objectives. There’s no shared reporting or goal setting.

“Strip it right back and look at what are we actually working towards as an organization, as a team”

George Coudounaris – The B2B Playbook – [00:09:20]

Let’s look at a scenario where the two teams can help each other. Say your organisation wants to focus on upselling to existing enterprise customers – there’s a clear way that marketing and sales can work together as one team here. Marketing can help educate on new product/features/capabilities, and sales can work on building 1:1 relationships with key decision makers and buying committee members.

We want defined actions on how the teams are going to tackle this land and expand operation together.

Sales and Marketing Should Be Aligned on ICPs

Once you’re aligned on objectives for the business, the next step is for sales and marketing to be aligned on what your Ideal Customers look like (ICPs). Again – every organisation is limited by time, resources and budget.

We need many touchpoints across an account before they become a paying customer. The wider we cast the net, the harder it will to take a prospect on the buying journey and turn them into a customer.

That’s why the two teams need to define the ICP and segment they’ll be targeting. You should be able to agree on questions like:

  • What does the buying committee look like?
  • What’s important to each person in the buying committee?
  • Where do they hang out online/offline?
  • What do we need to say to build trust with them?
  • Why would they work with us over our competitors?
  • What are the key benefits to them?

After answering these questions, the two teams should be aligned on your businesses’ positioning, messaging, unique value propositions and use cases. This will give you what you need to go-to-market as one team.

Remember – sales and marketing should be communicating very similar points! The main difference is that marketing normally handles the 1:many and 1:few communications, and sales handle the 1:1.

Defining The Roles of Sales and Marketing: who does what?

it’s also important to have a clear understanding of the responsibilities that sales and marketing have, and some of the activities that stem from that.

In my view, marketing’s role is:

  • To work with sales to define who that segment is that our next opportunities are going to come from.
  • Educate that segment on our products/services, benefits, key features
  • Guiding the segment through the Five Stages of Awareness so we can map that full buying journey and usher them through it.
  • Turn a lot of this into collateral that sales can use on a 1:1 basis. It’s also collateral that marketing can use on a 1:many and 1:few basis too – it might just take on a slightly different form
  • Help identify accounts that are more likely to be in market based on their behaviour. How do we find these and surface them for sales
  • Identify high intent accounts and orchestrate an account based marketing approach with sales

And then on the sales side, I believe sales should:

  • Educate prospects on a 1:1 basis, not just pushing everyone to ‘buy, buy, buy!’
  • Nurture prospects using your Five Stages of Awareness content
  • Optimize sales operations and processes
  • Activate pipeline from marketing
  • Provide feedback to marketing on insights generated from prospects and customers

How Should Sales and Marketing Work Together?

One of the most important things that sales and marketing need to do to work better together is to close the feedback loop. And by that, I mean – sales are the ones out there speaking to clients – what are the real world applications and use cases of your product, of your service?

Feedback that you can then pass back to marketing and say, “hey, this is what people are really getting when they use our product or service.. This is how they are benefiting… this is what they want… And this is how it aligns with their jobs to be done.”

George Coudounaris – The B2B Playbook

Marketing can then take those insights, and update all of their materials to better reflect that.

Marketing and sales need to communicate on market dynamics too. You should cover things like: Are there any particular sales dates coming up? Has something happened in your industry that affects how the market is behaving or reacting or what they want right now?

The two teams also need to share more information on buyer journeys or key objections. A lot of that information is going to come from sales. They’re the ones who are at the coalface having these conversations.

Sales and marketing also need to validate that their messaging and content is resonating with their target market. So maybe one of your prospects says, “Oh, I found you because I attended your webinar on XYZ, and I found that really helpful.” That’s really good key information to pass back to marketing. And so by delivering this intel sales ensures that marketing is up to date on the buyer’s pain points and needs. And therefore marketing is better able to do its job.

Shared Definitions Between Marketing and Sales

This is one that my good friend Pasha Irshad from Shape & Scale goes on and on about – but for good reason. Sales and marketing need to have shared definitions of the different stages in their pipeline. That means having written definitions of exactly what each of these mean:

  • MQLs
  • SQLs
  • SALs
  • Opportunities
  • etc.

This is a huge problem across most organisations. In a Gartner study, 62% of respondents described their sales and marketing functions as defining qualified leads differently. This often leads to inefficient and ineffective customer engagement.

By agreeing on the lead scoring process and how fast sales should act on them, both teams will be on track to operate more efficiently. This ensures that interested buyers see a timely response and no opportunity is left on the table.

Important Reporting Metrics Sales and Marketing Should Share

The metrics and dashboards that sales and marketing will share will vary based on the organisation – but here are some pretty crucial ones we think most should align on:

Lagging Indicators

  • Sales opportunities (HIRO pipeline)
  • CAC
  • Pipeline velocity
  • Deals won

Leading Indicators

  • Pipeline
  • Increased engagement with ICP

We’ve written extensively about each of these metrics and Demand Gen KPIs to track here.

Some Final Tips on Working Better Together

Marketers, if you want sales to complement the work you’re doing so you can go-to-market as one team – it’s crucial that you make your sales enablement content easy to share. Categorise your content into each of the 5 Stages of Awareness, so sales can easily understand how they can also ‘be helpful’ to prospects who aren’t ready to buy yet. Make sure you make this easily accessible in a content hub somewhere!

I also recommend that teams have a 30-45 minute meeting every 1-2 weeks, covering:

  • Review of shared metrics
  • Any wins from last week (from sales)
  • Feedback (from sales)
    • Use case feedback loop
    • Content feedback loop (insights from calls?)
  • Marketing insights
    • Key dates, events, sponsorships etc. 
  • New Marketing assets
    • Collaborations, content, etc.

That’s a loose guide for an agenda. Keep these meetings tight – the more of a time drain they are, the less likely it will be for teams to commit to them.

Action Steps For You To Get Sales and Marketing Aligned

If you’re ready to get sales and marketing on the same team, here’s the key actions for you to take:

  1. Align with sales on objectives and ICPs. Make sure your understanding of your ICP is based on a deep understanding of them, not just assumptions
  2. Define your roles, so you know who does what
  3. Map out content for the 5 Stages of Awareness and make it easily accessible for sales in a content hub
  4. Agree on shared definitions and reporting
  5. Create feedback loops with regular meetings

We cover a lot of this material in our 12 week Demand Generation Course – The B2B Incubator. See why marketing and sales teams absolutely love it.

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