6 Steps to Marketing and Sales Alignment

Marketing and Sales Alignment guruA recent McKinsey* article touted the coming age of “on demand” marketing, and while it focused on the B2C market, the evolution of digital technology and customer expectations has implications for B2B marketers as well.  Already, the ubiquitous nature of dynamic information today, made easy and accessible by mobile computing, cloud technologies, and Big Data, has conditioned us to expect  some level of customized service, whenever and wherever we want it. 


For example, mobile-app banking has nearly rendered the face-to-face experience unnecessary – depositing checks is as simple as snapping a photo.  Amazon provides us with tailored recommendations based on browsing history.  We are all consumers, and even those of us who daily work in B2B markets, still bring our B2C experiences and expectations to this work.  It is inevitable that coming changes will pervade all markets to some degree.


From a B2B perspective, where over 65% of today’s buyer’s journey is conducted independently of sales teams and largely online, “on-demand marketing” will require both a strong customer-centric focus and tight alignment between sales and marketing.  The most successful companies in the coming decade will provide the highest level of service across their various functions: sales, customer service, product development, and marketing.  The implication for marketing will be the need for a seamless alignment with sales to provide dynamic content on-demand for highly targeted audiences, as well as unprecedented responsiveness, tailored to the prospect’s particular needs.


To move towards this tight marketing/sales alignment, we’ve identified six key steps:


1) Success is in the details – Target sub-segments need to be clearly defined and agreed upon, by both marketing and sales.  Beyond sub-segments, alignment is hard to achieve unless marketing and sales are focused on winning the exact same accounts. Sales is a quota-driven function and will look for the easiest prospects to close – existing customers, personal contacts, referrals… Marketing traditionally focuses demand generation more towards new prospects and opportunities – from a sales perspective the most time consuming and challenging leads to convert. Alignment – means agreement, not simply communication.


2) Built solid business personas – Once the target accounts/segments are agreed the next step is to understand who the decision makers are. Business personas for key decision makers in each sub-segment should be developed, and the buyer’s journey for each decision maker mapped.  Content and messaging must include the critical information these decision makers require at each stage of their journey, to lead them to make a buying decision.


2) Optimize lead generation – For an efficient and effective program, lead generation processes must span all departments, but particularly sales and marketing.   For example, conducting a prospect survey yields both actionable content and quality marketing leads.  As noted in last week’s post:


Done right,…targeted surveys in particular can lead to valuable insights that are the starting point for great content.  For example, when a Simply Direct client, Kronos, surveyed dining industry management about their time-management practices, they found that many used their point-of-sale systems to keep track of employee hours.  Kronos knew, however, that pending industry regulations were going to render these current practices insufficient for upcoming reporting requirements.  Survey results revealed an opportunity for Kronos to develop content and messaging which explained these pending regulations to help dining management pro-actively address these largely unrecognized, yet imminent industry changes. 


Clearly, Kronos has benefitted from building their lead-gen survey approach into their vertically aligned sales and marketing program.


3) Clear communications and understandings – Service level Agreements (SLAs) between sales and marketing should establish the number and quality of leads to be delivered by marketing, and the timeframe within which sales will follow-up.  Such agreement will ensure that marketing isn’t simply providing leads in volume, but rather focusing on well-defined quality leads.  Concurrently, sales will maximize the opportunities marketing provides –at the rate at which sales can properly nurture these leads – without allowing them to “fall through the cracks.” Of course, someone needs to keep track and ensure performance to the SLAs!


4) Qualifying leads – Agreement should also be reached on lead nurturing programs and lead scoring approaches. Agreed scoring is vital to ensuring only qualified leads are passed to sales and to determine which leads should be nurtured.


5) Review & modify – Regular lead-management reviews between sales and marketing management will permit continuous updates to the status of leads, allowing programs and approaches to be modified as needed.  The frequency of these meetings should be determined by the volume of leads-per-week.


6) Measuring success –A tight coupling of marketing automation and CRM systems will allow closed-loop measurements to effectively measure the contribution and ROI of marketing investments.


Aligning sales and marketing ensures that all are working towards the same outcomes efficiently and effectively, as one team.  Such an alignment promotes organizational success as goals are well defined, processes are standardized across departments, and metrics incentivize behaviour to the benefit of the larger organization, rather than optimizing the individual function (often at the expense of the overall goal).  According to Sirius Decisions** and other analyst organizations, in companies with strong alignment marketing generates more and better leads and sales achieves higher conversion rates. Plus working to align marketing and sales today will see you ready to maximize emerging opportunities in “on demand” marketing as new technologies continue to change the buyer experience.


To learn more about the Kronos experience download our Kronos case study. Please click the image below to initiate the download.

Kronos Kick-starting the buyers journey



* The Coming Era of ‘On-demand’ Marketing, McKinsey Quarterly, April 2013 – http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/marketing_sales/the_coming_era_of_on-demand_marketing


** Best Practices in Sales and Marketing Alignment, John Neeson, Sirius Decisions October 2012 – http://www.slideshare.net/B2B_Marketing/b2-b-marketing-event-john-neesonbest-practice-in-sales-and-marketing-alignment


Are you working on Marketing and Sales Alignment? What do you see as the key elements for success?