Companies with effective marketing and sales alignment usually share a common trait — success! We've heard the question before: "How can I get my sales and marketing departments to align better?" The simple answer: the two departments need to share goals, technologies, and internal processes to monitor and optimize the buyer's journey, from first touch to closed deal.
For a more in depth response, we turned to HubSpot experts and posed its employees some of the marketing and sales alignment questions we hear most often from our clients.
Q: What will be our company's biggest obstacle to aligning marketing and sales if we are just starting out? Are these obstacles different if we are a large established company?
David Weinhaus, Inbound Marketing Sales
"In my experience, the biggest obstacle to aligning marketing and sales is that silos exist around each department. The sales and marketing department are typically measured on different objectives, have separate understandings of the customer, and even do simple things separately, like team meetings.
A simple solution is for sales and marketing to simply start getting in the same room and start working more together. One great and valuable activity is coming up with a combined view of the customer buyer's journey. Marketing should offer perspective on what happens before a prospect becomes an opportunity, and sales helps uncover what happends when an opportunity converts––and discussion should ensue on how to create a more seamless and well-informed journey for that customer.
If you don't create a single view of the customers' buying journey, serious misalignment can start. For instance, sales might feel like the early stage leads they are getting suck, while really they are just earlier in the process. If, however, sales and marketing share a common vision of which prospects are valuable, how to identify where they are in the buying process, and how each sales and marketing can help in each stage, this is much less likely to happen."
Rosalia Cefalu, Sales Enablement
"For a company just venturing into the world of "smarketing," the largest obstacles are often overcoming a misunderstanding between two groups of people: sales and marketing. It sounds obvious, but simply shadowing each other or taking over the job of a sales or marketing teammate for a day can work wonders to solve this problem. Putting yourself in one another's shoes forces you to open the lines of communication between these two teams, allowing actual progress and alignment to happen.
For larger companies, the misunderstanding may be more of an engrained belief that these two groups of people are so different from one another. Many times, marketers can be intimidated by the sales lifestyle, and may limit their socialization to their own teammates or coworkers with similar dispositions. Sure, we are motivated in different ways and occupy different job roles, but we are all here to further our company's mission and advance our skill and careers. Those two similarities are enough to strike up a conversation, and so marketers and sales, alike, should make an effort to socialize with each other as both colleagues and people.
This can be hard at first, but here are a few suggestions:
- Throw an end-of-the-month outing to celebrate when marketing and sales hit their goals for the month. At HubSpot, we have a happy hour at the end of the month to celebrate hitting our sales number, where the whole company is invited to share in the work we've all done to help this effort.
- Create a Twitter list of all of your employees, and encourage everyone to follow it. As much as we'd like to make every interaction face-to-face, social media can be a great way for otherwise introverted employees to establish relationships and common ground with other coworkers.
- Establish a free lunch program. Take a coworker you don't know well from the other team out to lunch, and have the company pick up the bill. It's no secret that free food is an enticing offer, and this type of program helps to foster relationships between the two teams outside of sales calls or marketing materials."
Q: How much time should we spend each month/quarter evaluating and improving marketing and sales alignment?
Mark Kilens, Leader of HubSpot Academy
"As much as possible. At the very minimum, have a monthly smarketing meeting to go over the big wins, goal achievement, team member updates, a customer story or two, etc. I would suggest that the marketing and sales leaders meet on a weekly basis to review the marketing and sales funnel. If the teams are small, then a weekly cadence might work. This alignment should be driven from the leaders in the organization, and it should be a top priority if everyone wants long-term success."
Megan Murphy, Europe, Middle East, & Africa Account Executive
"As a sales rep, I LOVE monthly smarketing meetings. Anything more (from a sales rep perspective) would be too much and may lose its importance. Monthly meetings allow for reps to be informed as to what is being done from a marketing front––what they are improving, changing, possible losses, or even big wins. What can sales learn from what the marketers are putting out there? Certain campaign pushes that may increase and/or potentially decrease the lead flow. It also gives sales the ability to hear customer case studies and feedback from the customer-facing side so that, as a sales rep, they can include it in their 'selling.' Marketers push content that helps readers answer questions, and sales reps can use this content in conversations to properly segment and inform leads.
Q: Which metrics should we be measuring to track how our alignment is progressing?
"The most important thing to have is a Service Level Agreement (SLA) between marketing and sales that outlines important metrics, and specifically which metrics are owned by each organization. For instance, marketing is commonly responsible for total leads generated. Sales is typically responsible for lead activities."
"Sales and marketing teams should first meet and establish exactly what a quality lead looks like, and specifically what behavioral actions or triggers elevate a lead's status to marketing qualified lead, sales qualified lead, etc. (Did they request a demo? View the pricing page?) I agree that they should then establish an SLA for the number of these quality leads that marketing will pass to sales per month. This is the first metric a company should begin tracking to hold marketing accountable and track their smarketing progress.
Whereas the SLA tracks the accountability of marketing, a new metric to track is the number/percentage of leads worked by sales. That is, of the leads that marketing has passed to sales according to an agreed-upon SLA, how many have sales actually followed up with and worked? This holds sales accountable for actually making use of the quality leads that marketing has generated.
If this number is low or declining, it warrants a discussion between sales and marketing again, where they should ask questions like:
- Why aren't we working these leads? Are they considered low-quality by sales? If so: we need to re-evaluate what we consider a high-quality lead/MQL/SQL.
- Does sales have too many leads to follow up with and not enough time? If so: we should automate some of that follow-up.
- Is it related to sales productivity? If so: we should audit what types of sales enablement resources we have to increase productivity per rep. If sales is spending too much time on writing follow-up emails, we should establish standard email templates they can customize. If sales is spending too much time explaining the same answers or value props over and over again, we should create content that answers those questions for them."
Q: We want to stay informed on how both our marketing and sales teams feel about the alignment; their suggestions for improvement are important. What are some constructive ways to collect this feedback? How often should we be asking?
"Surveys are easier, but you'll get the best feedback and participation if you have 1:1 conversations with folks. Having conversations will build more trust, get more people bought into the alignment initiative, and uncover questions or ideas that you might not have otherwise received from a survey. I would be asking every 3 to 6 months depending on team size and company goals."
"Surveys definitely, but also mixing in events (in the office and out of the office) for both marketing and sales. Also allow for more group chats. It's 2014––I personally think we should get to know people in our companies outside of our departments. Especially those who allow you to see your company, job, etc. from a different perspective. This also allows for more honest conversations.
Internal HipChat, wiki, and messaging are also helpful. If I ever have a question, issue, or concern, it's easy to find out who to go to when my company gives me the ability to go to an internal company forum. If you can't afford that, sharing a Google Drive allows for unbiased and anonymous opinion sharing!"