Peanut butter and jelly has always been my go-to sandwich of choice.
It’s delicious, it’s relatively healthy, and it’s filling. And, to borrow from Aristotle, it’s an example of how a whole can be better than the sum of its parts.
Sales and marketing is not a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. That being said, when operating in perfect alignment, the combination of sales and marketing can be quite delicious (and healthy) for your business.
Unfortunately, aligning sales and marketing is a bit more complex than making a sandwich. The following checklist provides some food for thought as you integrate your teams.
Step 1. Identify your roadblocks to alignment
Sales and marketing alignment is not possible until you identify (and correct) major sources of misalignment. As we discussed in What is sales and marketing alignment?, there are three key variables that have the strongest influence on an organization’s misalignment: people, processes, and systems.
What impact do these variables have on your company’s alignment (or lack thereof)? It’s time to ask yourself several important questions:
Does everyone agree on basic terminology?
A sales-qualified lead is much different than a marketing-qualified lead. Does your staff acknowledge this important difference and optimize accordingly? Or, do team members consistently disagree about basic terminology?
What is marketing’s definition of success?
In an environment increasingly powered by digital marketing, it’s easy to get overly focused on website-specific metrics, such as pageviews, form submissions, and whitepaper downloads. Although these metrics are certainly helpful data points, they cannot be marketing’s only definition of success. Leads generated by marketing feed the pipeline, but they don’t deliver immediate revenue. Unfortunately, many marketers (myself included) tend to forget that.
How does sales define success?
Your sales reps want to win as many opportunities as possible — as quickly as possible. That’s a given. But, without assistance from marketing, their pipeline can dry up and jeopardize the future health of the company. Short-term gain must never be at the expense of long-term success.
Does one department rely on siloed data or systems?
Heat maps, web analytics platforms, and email marketing systems are just a few of the many tools in your marketing stack. Likewise, your sales team has a few tools of its own, such as proposal management systems and outbound prospecting apps. What lessons are being learned by one team that could benefit everyone? What business intelligence is going to waste due to data silos?
Is there a breakdown in communication?
Effective communication is hard to come by when data is spread across multiple systems and inboxes. Without a central source of truth, staff spends more time deduplicating data sets than aligning around a common customer journey.
Step 2. Align leadership
Alignment is not a grassroots movement that develops organically. True alignment starts at the top. It is therefore imperative for sales and marketing leaders to collaborate early and often and align around a shared set of objectives, methods, and metrics.
Get the conversation started by asking these questions.
Do our leaders have a specific, common vision of success?
Sales and marketing leaders may not always agree on everything, but they must at least agree on a shared vision of the company’s success. Failing to explicitly define success at the organization level is a guarantee for prolonged misalignment.
Is our shared vision written down and reviewed regularly?
Until something is agreed to and written down, it’s just an idea. To ensure maximum clarity, leaders should agree on (and use) a shared platform for collecting, formalizing, and managing high-level company objectives. They must also agree to a regular cadence for reviewing the vision (at least quarterly).
What is each team’s plan for achieving this shared vision?
To achieve any objective, you must first have a plan. Once a corporate objective is agreed to and understood by leadership, it’s up to sales and marketing leaders to formulate their methods for ensuring success. Method statements should be concise but provide clear explanations of each planned initiative.
How will we track progress?
Email attachments are not an efficient means of tracking progress. Shared documents may be a slightly better solution, but they usually get lost in the shuffle. Ideally, your company should have a highly accessible source of truth that delivers real-time business metrics for maximum insights.
Step 3. Align people & teams
Once leadership has aligned around a common set of objectives, methods, and metrics, it’s time to rally the rest of the troops. This might be the most difficult step, especially when you have so many interpersonal relationships to consider and navigate.
Do our people genuinely enjoy working together?
Alignment is much easier when everyone gets along. Take an honest look at your company’s culture and existing team composition. Are there toxic relationships that need to be addressed? Perhaps it’s time to make some staffing changes?
How can we foster healthier working relationships?
Some staff just never have the opportunity to interact with one another. Hosting informal, team building exercises can be a great way to knock down misperceptions, foster new relationships, and encourage cross-departmental collaboration.
How can we get team members to buy into leadership’s vision of success?
The formation of cross-functional teams is a key step to gaining buy-in and accelerating liftoff of a particular initiative. For example, let’s assume that one of your key metrics is to achieve 25% user adoption for an upcoming product launch. To hit this goal, you’ll need a well-balanced team that possesses a diverse set of sales and marketing skills. Marketing team members might include graphic designers, digital advertisers, web developers, and content writers. Sales stakeholders would likely include a sales manager and one or more SDRs. Leadership should then select a point person to lead the team, track metrics, and, ultimately, own the project.
How can we break top-level goals into smaller, measurable KPIs?
High-level KPIs must be broken down into bite-sized goals that can be tracked at the team level. Drawing from our user adoption example, let’s say that the team aims to close 200 deals during the specified period. Revenue is preceded by pipeline, which is preceded by effective outreach, email campaigns, impressions, clicks, downloads, trial requests, and other top-of-funnel and mid-funnel interactions. Use historical conversion data to work backwards and build KPIs for each part of the funnel.
Step 4. Share data, knowledge, & technology
Finally, don’t forget to equip your staff with the proper mix of data, knowledge, and technology. Your people are smart and motivated, but they still need the right tools to be successful in today’s fast-paced, data-driven landscape.
Are teams empowered with the most important data?
Speaking from experience, we marketers could spend hours looking at web traffic patterns and search query volume. And, although this data is no doubt useful, it may not be the most important or relevant information to your unique business objectives. What data do your teams actually need in order to effectuate positive change?
Can staff easily make sense of the data?
Just because you have the right data, it doesn’t mean that it’s actionable. Scrolling through hundreds of rows of records is not a smart use of anyone’s time. A better approach leverages business intelligence dashboards that bring your data to life. Simplify data exploration and free up more time for value-added activities.
Do we have the right mix of technology?
We live in an age when there’s an app for just about every need. Trouble is, each app creates a disparate data set that must be integrated back to your main source of truth. Encourage staff to routinely review their tech stacks and look for integration opportunities or, better yet, consolidation opportunities. Fewer systems lead to fewer integrations, and fewer integrations create less data confusion. A unified platform for sales and marketing is certainly one of the best solutions for consolidating and aligning data, processes, and people. With a unified CRM for sales and marketing, all customer data and processes are automatically aligned in real time, eliminating the need to clean, organize, and sync data — saving you time, money, and effort.
Nourish your business with greater alignment
Your sales and marketing teams are hungry for greater alignment. It’s time to feed their appetite by taking a more proactive approach.
Check out these additional resources about sales and marketing alignment:
- Sales & marketing alignment: people, processes, systems (Part 1)
- Sales & marketing alignment: the sales blitz (Part 2)
- Sales & marketing alignment: 3 best uses of data (Part 3)
- Sales & marketing alignment: sales and marketing leadership (Part 4)
- Sales & marketing alignment: cross-functional teams (Part 5)