Improve Sales & Marketing Alignment with these 5 Questions

If a composer wrote an incredible music score, but handed the orchestra pieces of paper with only the title, what would the result be? Or even worse, what might it be like if the musicians received sheet music but chose to ignore its directions and notes? The result would be cacophonous. Unfortunately, due to frequent disconnects between sales and marketing, this kind of dissonance is frequently felt by prospects and leads.

We hear over and over again how the educated buyer is completing more of the purchase journey before contacting sales. As a result, marketing departments like yours are being held directly responsible for revenue. However, for most B2B sales, customers will talk to sales before making their final decision. Think about how the transition feels to your customers. Do they feel like they're continuing a journey or starting a new one?

Marketing must start thinking about the continuity of the relationship after the lead goes to sales. We've got more of a vested interest in the outcome than ever before, so we need to take a more active and collaborative role with sales.

We need to stop thinking about the “handoff” between sales and marketing and start thinking seriously about alignment – and how to integrate the conversation.
The Editors, Dun & Bradstreet

It shouldn't be that hard. As marketers, we spend a big part of our lives trying to figure out what customers care about and how we can tell a differentiated story so they'll buy our stuff. Sales cares about the exact same thing. The key is that we need to stop thinking about the "handoff" between sales and marketing and start thinking seriously about alignment - and how to integrate the conversation.


Sales and Marketing Communication Essentials

Jazz musicians are adept at taking a melody and finding new ways of interpreting and presenting it. One musician can start a theme and the next can improvise off of it, expanding and exploring. That same interplay should exist between sales and marketing. By the time sales picks up a lead, the relationship "theme" has already been established. So how do you make sure that sales is taking advantage of and building on that foundation?

There isn't a big secret or any kind of magic. Sales and marketing alignment is really about increasing transparency and improving communication. The better (and faster) the sales team understands what marketing has done prior to the transition, the easier it will be for them to pick up the lead. Most importantly, marketers have to remember that customer information and insight don't just come from digital footprints. Insights also come from the interactions that sales reps have directly with clients. The more that sales sees that you're embracing what they've learned, the more receptive they'll be.

Have you ever watched drummers count off the introduction of a song? They make sure the band is paying attention, then provide a starting beat (often by clicking their drumsticks together). This helps the band get aligned to the rhythm so they can start together. That's what marketers need to do to start creating organizational alignment. Make sure that the entire organization is paying attention and then establish the tempo that everyone can agree to. Everybody is already driving to the same outcome: building a relationship with a prospect or customer. But we need a central point – a "click," if you will – around which we align. Customer data can be that click. By using real customer data, not only will we create better alignment with sales, we'll develop better marketing – because it'll be more aligned (and more responsive) to what customers actually want.

Questions to Improve Sales and Marketing Communication

It's critical for marketing and sales to be on the same page. Take time to sit down with your colleagues in sales. Agreement has to start at the most senior levels or it will be difficult to make it stick. Work with your sales team to answer the following questions:

  • What constitutes a "qualified" lead? Spend some time with your sales team to make sure that the criteria you've established are not only accepted by sales – but that the sales team actually believes in the criteria.
  • What data does sales need about a lead? Marketing is in the position to capture data – so make sure you're capturing everything that the sales team needs. Look for ways to supplement or enrich the data that customers give you directly.
  • What outcomes is each team driving towards? If sales and marketing don't agree on what you're trying to accomplish, it will be hard to align team priorities.
    • Product vs. solutions sales?
    • One-time or recurring revenue?
    • Acquisition or development?
  • Is everyone being held accountable for the same thing? Alignment and collaboration will be very difficult if the key performance indicators (KPIs) and performance incentives are based on different things. Make sure that everyone is being rewarded for the same type of results.
  • What feedback is welcomed? What feedback is expected? Create established channels for sales to provide feedback to marketers – and make sure that the marketing team is willing and able to listen to that feedback.
    • Not just if leads are working or not – but why certain leads aren't working (why they are not qualified, wrong industry, wrong product or solution).
    • How well are messages and content resonating with customers and prospects?
    • What content are customers asking for that we need?

Ready to partner with sales to take your customer connections to a higher relationship level? Download our 25-page e-book, "The Data-Inspired Art of Sales Acceleration" for more ideas!

"4 Years From Now Barcelona" by Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media via Flickr