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Align Your Sales and Marketing Teams in 9 Easy Steps For Big Revenue Wins

By Ata Khan | July 9, 2018

Let’s face it, the struggle to align sales and marketing has become commonplace in today’s B2B environment.

 

Both teams have their needs. Marketing needs sales to give their leads the attention they deserve, and sales needs marketing to start generating leads that are worth their time…or so the story goes.

 

In the past, the two teams mostly worked in silos, but advancing digital technology has now enabled them to work in tandem, and the results have been nothing short of phenomenal!

 

Utilizing a combination of technology and a strong feedback loop, marketing teams are generating higher quality leads with higher sales acceptance rates, and sales teams are closing more marketing generated opportunities.

 

The end result is more marketing generated revenue.

 

But how do you evoke strong partnership and collaboration between your sales and marketing teams?

 

The following is a detailed guide that should help set you on the right path. The path towards alignment!

 

Build Your Technology Infrastructure

 

build your technology infrastructure

 

Before you can make any advancement towards sales and marketing alignment you must set up your technology foundation. On the marketing side, this means setting up a marketing automation system (like Eloqua, Marketo, Hubspot, etc).

 

Your website should be connected to the marketing automation system to feed it data. The automation system will capture leads, track/tag them, and deliver them to the CRM (where your Sales Development Reps are notified for follow up).

 

On the sales side it means setting up a CRM system like Salesforce, Netsuite, Hubspot CRM, etc. This system will house leads and opportunities, and provide a platform for account executives (and sales leaders) to track sales progress and efforts.

 

Your automation system should be bi-directionally synced with the CRM system (this will ensure that updates made to fields on either system will auto-propagate to the other).

 

In most cases, you should treat your CRM as the single source of the truth for your reporting needs (i.e. the master repository). The entire organization should follow suit.

 

Set Your Attribution Model

 

set your attribution model

 

This is a very important piece of the puzzle. Once you have your automation system and CRM synced, you must set your attribution model (i.e. rules that govern who gets credit for revenue generation).

 

There are two types of attribution models you must set; one within the marketing automation system (used to determine which marketing campaigns are awarded credit for generating opportunities and revenue), and one within the CRM system (used to determine if sales or marketing as a whole should be awarded credit for generating opportunities and revenue).

 

For your automation system, the most applicable and comprehensive model is the linear multi-touch attribution model. This model gives equal credit to all campaign touchpoints on the buyer lifecycle and uses those percentages when calculating revenue attribution for the individual campaigns.

 

For your CRM, it’s important to set a first touch model. This model gives 100% credit to the first source of opportunity generation.

 

For example, if marketing generates a lead that is converted to an opportunity, and sales generates the same opportunity around the same time, the credit goes to whomever generated the opportunity first.

 

An important thing to note is that when leads are being created by your automation system and being passed to your CRM you must filter them in order to avoid duplication.

 

Do this using a 30 day (or longer) timeout window for leads that are the same prospect and for the same product/services.

 

Data, Data, and More Data

 

data, data, data

 

It’s not enough to just have these systems in place, you still need to aggregate all that raw data into charts and visualizations containing metrics and KPIs.

 

You can use the native capability of the automation and CRM systems or you can use a business intelligence tool like Tableau (which provides far more flexibility to manipulate data).

 

At a bare minimum you should be tracking sales accepted leads (or SALs), pipeline bookings, won deals, and won revenue within the confines of your attribution model (in monthly, quarterly, and yearly increments – using closed dates for won deals/revenue and create dates for the others).

 

If you are looking for more information on metrics and KPIs, there is a great blog post here that gives a very detailed breakdown of all the different metrics you can track (and what they mean).

 

Once you have these three core systems in place (i.e. marketing automation, CRM, and BI), your organization will have the foundational tools necessary to align your teams, and you will have the intelligence you need to make the case for alignment.

 

Build Your Case

 

build your case

 

This is typically the hardest part! Now that you have your systems in place, use the data to identify gaps in your lead to win funnel.

 

Here are some common themes that come up when there is misalignment between sales and marketing:

  • Your marketing qualified leads (or MQLs) are being accepted by AEs at below industry standard rates (i.e. low MQL to SAL conversion rates).
  • You find that MQLs are not being dispositioned by AEs (i.e. they’re not being accepted nor rejected).
  • You find that marketing generated opportunities have higher “Closed/Lost” (or “Closed/Removed”) rates than sales generated opportunities.
  • You find that marketing generated opportunity average deal size is smaller than sales generated opportunity deal size (anything more than a 10% difference is worth investigating).
  • You find that marketing generated opportunities have longer sales lifecycles than sales generated opportunities. Or even worse, you find marketing generated opportunities that have been abandoned/orphaned (where they appear to be stuck in upper stages of the sales funnel for 3+ months).
  • You find that marketing generated opportunities are closed, and duplicates are created as sales generated (this takes a little bit of data savvy to identify).

 

Get Feedback from Your People

 

get feedback from your people

 

After you have identified the problem start interviewing your AEs, SDRs, and key marketing folks. Ask them specific questions regarding the lead to win funnel gaps you are seeing.

 

If MQL to SAL rates are low, ask your AEs why they are rejecting MQLs.

 

If AEs are giving feedback that marketing generated opportunity quality is low (and that’s why the “Closed/Lost” rates are higher than sales generated opportunities), ask your marketing folks about the campaigns they are running to generate leads.

 

If you are finding abandoned marketing generated opportunities, ask AEs why they have forgotten about them.

 

You may find that there are workflow, technological, or process hurdles that are creating these gaps. The key is to start a dialogue with every individual.

 

Have a Sit-Down with Senior Leaders on Both Sides

 

have a sit down with senior leaders on both sides

 

The next step is to get everybody on board by first gaining buy-in from senior leaders on both sides (they will be the ones that will champion your initiatives through the ranks and enforce the behavior necessary to make alignment a success).

 

Put together a very concise PowerPoint presentation highlighting data gaps, feedback from folks, your action plan, and the benefits of implementing your action plan.

 

For example, talk about the trickle-down effect on revenue generation if MQL to SAL conversion rates were increased by X%, or how much revenue is being left on the table in the form of stuck pipeline from orphaned marketing generated opportunities, etc.

 

Talk about these issues as being the result of marketing and sales working in silos (and that the solution is to have them work collaboratively).

 

Align Marketing and Sales Goals and Bonus Payouts

 

align sales and marketing goals and bonus payouts

 

In order to get both your teams on the same page, it’s important to align their interests. Sit down with senior leaders on both sides and work with them to set the same goals.

 

Set monthly, quarterly, and yearly quotas for marketing generated opportunities, pipeline bookings, won marketing generated opportunities, and won revenue (these quotas would be in addition to the ones your sales team already has for sales generated opportunities).

 

If the goals are met both teams win, if they are not met both teams lose. Pay bonuses in the same fashion; if the yearly goal was met 95%, then both teams get 95% of their bonus payout.

 

Additionally, provide the exact same commission to AEs for won opportunities that are generated by marketing as well as won opportunities generated by sales (no additional compensation or notoriety should be given to AEs for closing sales generated opportunities over marketing generated opportunities).

 

This will prevent personal interests from getting in the way of collaboration and partnership.

 

As soon as you align goals and bonuses, a healthy synergy will quickly replace the typical competitive dynamic between the two teams.

 

Establish a Service Level Agreement (or SLA) Between Sales and Marketing

 

establish a service level agreement (or SLA) between sales and marketing

 

This is the single most important piece of the puzzle; enabling a contract between the two teams which sets expectations and holds everyone accountable.

 

The SLA should be very specific in its details concerning technology workflows, manual processes, expected behavior, and rewards. Once finalized, present the SLA to both teams.

 

Specifically, here’s what a typical SLA should cover:

  • Technology requirements of the automation and CRM systems (i.e. lead scoring, routing rules, email notifications, required fields, field values and definitions, workflows, analytics dashboards, etc).
  • The attribution model and how credit is given for new and existing opportunities.
  • Quality guidelines for leads generated by marketing (as well as data accompanying leads).
  • Quality guidelines governing quickness and thoroughness of follow-up on newly generated leads by SDRs (typically should be 5 mins or less).
  • Quality guidelines for MQLs generated by SDRs (as well as data accompanying MQLs).
  • Quickness by AEs to disposition newly generated MQLs (typically should be 24 hours or less).
  • Quality guidelines for opportunities generated by marketing that are accepted by AEs (as well as data accompanying those marketing generated opportunities).
  • Quality guidelines governing quickness and thoroughness of moving marketing generated opportunities down the funnel by AEs.
  • Follow up processes in the case of sales or marketing personnel not following guidelines (for example, sending auto-generated email notifications to supervisors, etc).
  • Specific goals shared by both teams as well as bonus details.

 

Create a Strong Feedback Loop

 

create a strong feedback loop

 

Once you have your SLA in place it’s time to put things in motion and continually obtain feedback from both teams.

 

Hold bi-weekly meetings and talk through issues and wins. Not only will this tighten the funnel, but it will tighten the relationship between the two teams.

 

Conclusion

 

If you execute on the above-mentioned tasks your organization’s bottom line will undoubtedly increase.

 

Aligning your teams will position you to further capitalize on outlier opportunities (such as resurrecting orphaned/abandoned opportunities), account based marketing, or streamlining hand-off for certain tricky lead types (such as event or webinar leads).

 

One thing to note is that setting up the technology can sometimes be a daunting task. There are so many moving parts which require many minds working together, such as data scientists, developers, programmers, etc, as well as top sales and marketing professionals to guide them through to see the big picture.

 

If you are feeling stuck, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Xoobo for help. We can handle all aspects of your technology implementation.

 

 

What are some of the specific issues you’ve faced when attempting to align your sales and marketing teams?  Reply with a comment to let us know!

Ata Khan

Ata Khan

As President and Chief Operating Officer at Xoobo, Ata calls on more than 10 years of hands on marketing experience to guide the organization across the digital landscape. He works to ensure the integrity of the business' vision and introduce its unique service offering to the market.

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