There has been an age-old disparity between the sales and marketing department. In professional language, we call it “misalignment”. The reason there has been this disparity is because, over the years, businesses have compartmentalized these two divisions and made it so water tight, that they have become very rigid. There has been a total disconnect between these two departments and they have not worked in a cohesive environment. However, times have changed and the need of the hour is that these two units need to function as one single strategic unit that drives business and revenue to the organization thereby contributing towards the growth of the organization. It is very important that the sales and marketing departments work cohesively, and are completely aligned towards one common objective. Gone are the days when these two departments were playing “passing the buck”. But, businesses still try to find an answer to the elusive question – how to align the sales and marketing department? How to bring them work together cohesively? Let us try to understand how this alignment can be bought into practice.
There are various ways in which the two units can be aligned into one cohesive workforce. However, while doing those businesses have to take care of some elements or factors that will ensure that these two units are working together. Let us look at the top 5 critical elements that can bring about a strong alignment between sales and marketing teams across businesses.
Single unified plan
Whether you have two separate buckets for sales and marketing in an organization or whether they are part of a single unit, it is very important to have a single unified business plan for these two entities. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page and they are marching in one direction for a common goal.
Right from the first step in the lead generation process, it is very important for both sales and marketing department to work in an integrated manner. It is very crucial to manage these cohesively at every stage in the lead generation process – be it gathering information through research or negotiating and closing the sale.
Clear Service Level Agreement
Even though there is an emphasis on working as one integrated unit, each department has its own expertise and it is imperative to have the service levels defined on paper and agreed upon between the two units. This will help define common objectives, common tasks and even common definitions of various parameters in the entire lead generation process.
Clear and common definition of a “lead” or a “prospect”
Whatever be the target market, businesses have to ensure that there is a clear and unified definition of a lead or a prospect across both the units. This is required to be established to ensure that efforts are put in the right direction to pursue the right prospect as per the agreed definition. The sales people can then nurture these leads and qualify accurately in the sales cycle. This will result in a more effective sales cycle that adds value to the buying process of the prospect.
Define performance metrics
To ensure that they forecast the future revenues accurately, it is important to define performance metrics that works for both sales and marketing teams. This will help the organization to diagnose the problem (if any) and make necessary corrective actions across the board, rather than sitting with each unit separately. These metrics will help in the improvement of the entire process of lead generation and businesses can drill down to a granular level of determining the duration a lead takes to move through the process.
These 5 points mentioned above are said to be the most crucial elements to ensure that the sales and marketing team are aligned properly; there are other supporting factors which one can’t ignore.
In the process of lead generation, whether you are part of sales or marketing team, if the quality of data that you are pursuing as your prospects is not of good quality, you are in bring trouble. Hence, put a strong emphasis on the quality of data of leads. Define parameters across the organization, not limiting to a department or two, and ensure that every individual in the organization sticks to these parameters when they bring in the data from any external source. To quote a couple of examples, you can define parameters like:
- Strong rating in D&B or BBB
- Employee Size > or equal to
- Industry verticals
- Target Line of Business
- Incentives and rewards against Goals:
If you have defined goals for sales and marketing teams, then you better define the incentives and reward programs for them. This is a strong motivating factor for the teams to walk the extra mile, work together and accomplish the goals. Having a consistent and right incentive structure combined with rewards or benefits programs will create tremendous value among the team members.
There is a need for constant innovation in the processes of sales and marketing teams both at an individual level and as a unit. Only then the two departments can break the barriers and work together one single unit. The above factors and elements can be treated as prerequisites. But the real challenge is to change the mindset of the individual team members. The mindset can be changed only by a top-down approach coming from the executive team. From a sales team perspective, they should help your marketing team first, and understand the language of salespeople and then make them speak that language. The marketing team can share with the sales team, insights on tools and techniques they use to generate the prospects.
In today’s market, there are businesses that still run the show, the old fashioned way and they are doing a pretty good job. But, time and again they encounter this challenge of how to bring these two units together. This alignment can happen only with a top-down approach by following some of the pre-requisites or factors that were mentioned above. De-compartmentalizing the entire unit is the need of the hour and not a forced decision.
According to Jill Rowley “Marketing and sales alignment is really about the customer. We have to look at it from the eyes of the customer. Companies today and people, we need to be customer-centered, customer-centric, and customer-obsessed. The myth? The perfect sales and marketing delineation, marketing generates, tosses to sales, sales qualifies, creates the opportunity, and closes the deal. That’s not how it works today. The reality is that sales and marketing are continuously integrated.”