Sales and marketing alignment should be a top priority for most midsize companies. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. After all, true alignment requires careful coordination among a multitude of variables, including people, processes, and data.
According to Mark Ripley, the VP of Sales at Insightly, where alignment continues to be a strategic initiative, the effective use of data is instrumental for achieving alignment.
Data & the evolution of sales and marketing
As I spoke with Mark, I realized how much sales and marketing has changed since the beginning of my career. My first “real job” was in a corporate marketing department. Although sales and marketing were technically part of the same team, to say that they were “aligned” is an overstatement. Sure, we worked together to prepare for trade shows, develop sales collateral, and collect customer feedback. However, most interactions felt transactional in nature. When sales needed a new brochure, we created it for them. If marketing needed customer feedback, the sales team would gather data and publish it into a written report that resided on a shared network drive. Digital marketing, still in its infancy, was not really on anyone’s radar at that point.
Fast forward to today, and it’s hard to believe how rapidly things have evolved. The democratization of the web has changed how buyers from all sectors — including B2B — identify, research, and acquire goods and services. In an environment where most buyers start their research with an online search, sales and marketing teams can no longer coexist in separate worlds.
Smart companies recognize this trend as a prime opportunity for alignment and put their data analytics tools and techniques to good use. Unlike trade shows and brochures that are difficult to measure for effectiveness, a web-fueled pipeline is intrinsically data-centric and trackable.
“Data is powerful,” says Mark Ripley, Vice President of Sales at Insightly. “Data can align teams in a way that is both objective and scalable. At Insightly, we believe that data should be the cornerstone for aligning any two teams — especially sales and marketing.”
1. Establish a data-driven vision of success
Generally speaking, most sales and marketing teams are focused on helping their companies grow. But what does that actually mean? Unless both teams align around a shared set of metrics, leaders from sales and marketing may develop completely different understandings of success — making it difficult, if not impossible, to actually be successful.
“Data is a vital component for overcoming vagueness and developing shared, measurable indicators of success,” says Mark. “At Insightly, for example, product trial and demo requests are fundamental indicators of shared success. Both teams align their activities around increasing the number of trials and demos.”
With a solid understanding of top-level goals, individual teams should develop their own sets of KPIs that support the main mission, while avoiding new data silos.
“At Insightly, we look for ways to expose department-level metrics to other teams,” says Mark. “This empowers users from across the organization to see around corners rather than wait for data.”
Case in point, Insightly’s sales team keeps a close eye on the lead-to-opportunity ratio, which indicates the percentage of leads that turn into pipeline. Although this metric is most useful to sales, the marketing team occasionally needs real-time visibility to better understand conversion trends among inbound leads.
2. Implement flexible, shared data management systems
Of course, data-driven alignment is impossible without the right toolbox, which includes data driven marketing tools and a CRM.
“You need a flexible CRM that enables rapid innovation and delivers real-time insights to stakeholders,” says Mark. “Burdensome CRM systems inhibit innovation and stifle growth.”
Whether your pipeline is fueled by inbound, outbound, or some combination of the two, your CRM should seamlessly capture each interaction with potential buyers, resulting in a 360-degree view of the customer journey. (If your current CRM can’t live up to this basic expectation, perhaps it’s time to make a change.) Interactive business intelligence dashboards make data more digestible and allow sales and marketing leaders to answer tough questions, such as:
- Where do our hottest leads come from?
- Which campaigns deliver the most pipeline?
- What percent of total leads do we expect from each channel?
- Is inbound or outbound our best method of lead generation?
- What is our average return on ad spend (ROAS) by customer segment?
- What is our true cost of acquisition for inbound vs. outbound?
System flexibility is also vital for ensuring an optimal handoff between marketing and sales. Integrated web-to-lead forms and automated lead routing workflows prevent unnecessary delays and boost productivity for both teams.
“Web leads become cold within minutes of interacting on your site,” says Mark. “As leads transition from the marketing funnel to sales, you need a CRM that automates the handoff and accelerates engagement.”
3. Leverage data for continuous collaboration and innovation
On its own, data can’t transform your organization. To fully capitalize on business intelligence, your sales and marketing teams must remain committed to ongoing collaboration and innovation. Developing a continuous feedback loop that’s backed by data benefits everyone.
How do you create a continuous feedback loop?
Establishing a predictable meeting cadence is an important first step. Keep in mind that it takes time to identify the optimal cadence and format for such meetings. More important to dates and times, however, is the shared commitment to ongoing participation.
“Our go-to-market team meets bi-monthly and brings together leaders from sales and marketing,” says Mark. “Data tells us what’s working and helps us identify new strategies for building pipeline, advancing deals, and encouraging innovation.”
Innovation should not be restricted to the confines of sales and marketing. In fact, frontline teams can be excellent sources of ideas that transform other areas of the business.
“Sharing customer feedback with the engineering team allows us to make an impact on the product development cycle, which ultimately leads to a better product, more leads, and healthier performance,” says Mark.
As the line between sales and marketing continues to blur, the need for data-driven alignment has never been greater. Tools like Insightly CRM make it easier to securely collect, interpret, visualize, and share business intelligence.
Stay tuned for our next post where we’ll explore a softer side of alignment: the human factor.
In the meantime, would you like to know how Insightly CRM can help your sales and marketing teams to keep track of their shared KPIs and stay aligned? Request a personalized demo to learn more.