Align once, measure twice: Success metrics for marketing and sales teams

DSCN5264Sometimes I say to myself, “Our work is never done, and that is half the fun!” Those of us in marketing or sales roles must go beyond our immediate responsibilities to qualify more than just leads. No matter how many previous successes we produce, we must also evaluate our own individual performances. Naturally, the objectives of those in marketing roles differ somewhat from those of their sales counterparts, yet the activities of the two groups are intricately co-dependent. Given this, it’s surprising that their end goals are so frequently misaligned.

Marketing goals in terms of lead generation are commonly distilled down to quantity over quality, making measurement of these teams a numbers game. However, anyone who has ever worked on the sales side will attest to how frustrating a bulk lead generation campaign can become. On the other hand, our sales teams are analyzed (and scrutinized, when the going gets tough) against measures like realized sales and closed deals, which are directly related to revenue. While both of these are numbers-based metrics, sales professionals live much closer to the ebb-and-flow of profit.

Given the way they are usually evaluated, when sales teams receive an overwhelming number of unqualified leads from marketing activities, it is of limited value to them. In fact, a staggering 80 percent of leads generated by marketing are rejected by sales. This dangerous cycle detracts from the potential power of a skilled sales team. It dilutes their efforts and distracts them from nurturing qualified, high-quality leads or even following up on the leads provided by marketing.

How do these objectives become so misaligned? While marketing and sales teams might have different objectives, they share a mutual goal of increasing revenue. In order to be effective, they must align on their approach of how to do so. In a recent (November 2015) survey of B2B marketers commissioned by sales analytics platform ToutApp, the respondents admitted they believe they “measure success differently” from their sales counterparts, a clear indication of misalignment at a fundamental level.  Any savvy business professional knows that what you choose to measure will influence the tactics used to get there – for better or for worse.

The other top challenge the marketers attributed for their disconnect with sales was a lack of regular meetings with sales teams, cited by 22% of respondents. This is worth calling out because, to me, nothing says ‘low-hanging fruit’ like this statistic. Give your teams a forum in which to align, and everyone will be happier for it – especially your CEO and CFO.

While it is encouraging to see marketers acknowledge and take ownership of these reasons for misalignment, it is not enough to stop there! Marketers must not only seek alignment with sales but must also get on board with making their metrics more qualitative.  If this sounds reminiscent of the fundamentals of content and intent marketing, it’s because it is, and it’s worth a reminder. Content marketing and intent marketing, when executed correctly, will result in target account activities that can be measured through metrics that measure a customer’s true engagement. Engagement metrics are specific, measurable activities from your customers such as completing a task, revisiting a website or inviting team members to connect. Engagement metrics differ from program to program, and are usually more sophisticated than traditional metrics, but they indicate commitment level within otherwise unqualified leads.

Sales teams crave high-quality leads, and one of the best ways to deliver them is by generating traffic using engaged, strategically aligned content. This will result in capturing and retaining the attention of the best leads, the ones most likely to buy your services or products. By designing our marketing programs to qualify leads higher up in the sales funnel, marketers can provide a first layer of screening to make the most of the organization’s resources and optimize the revenue stream.

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