How Marketing & Sales can become a dynamic duo

Asset 10That’s the sound of the internet and social media channels making an enormous impact on the B2B buying cycle. Today’s buyers are no longer dependent on the vendor as the sole source of information about their products and services, instead preferring to educate themselves.

And as the buying process continues to get zapped by powerful external forces, greater alignment between Marketing and Sales organizations is not desirable, but imperative.

Don’t look now – the numbers bear it out.

Asset 6There are highly aligned Marketing and Sales teams out there who have realized substantial improvements in key performance metrics, including a 67 percent improvement in closing deals, and according to Aberdeen, an average of 32 percent annual revenue growth. Predictably, less well-aligned companies report a seven percent decline in revenue growth on average. So here’s the challenge: Marketing is the nemesis of Sales, and vice-versa. They work off different metrics, possess dissimilar personalities, and utilize disparate systems. And it all creates tension. Marketing criticizes Sales for not generating revenue from the leads its obviously brilliant marketing efforts produced; while Sales complains that Marketing doesn’t deliver good content or quality leads, despite burning through the budget.

Holy inter-office politics Batman!

It’s as though Marketing and Sales are channeling Superman and his arch nemesis, Lex Luthor. They’re always at odds and frequently go out of their way to make life miserable for the other.

But what if in the quest for alignment you could be more like Batman and Robin? A true dynamic duo, rather than steadfast archenemies?

Well, the good news is you don’t have to wear funny pajamas for Marketing and Sales to become an entirely compatible lead generating duo that exemplifies teamwork.

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Think about it. Batman and Robin couldn’t be more closely aligned. They’re united in a common purpose: defending the good citizens of Gotham from a whole host of heinous criminal masterminds, masterminds not entirely unlike those a Marketing and Sales team would defend against the ominous threat of flat revenue. Eeeeek!

So as you embark on your quest to achieve tighter alignment between your Sales and Marketing teams, take your cue from the Dark Knight and Boy Wonder and follow our six steps for transforming yourselves into revenue growth superheroes.

Six essential steps for superior Marketing and Sales alignment

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It’s time to get to work on getting aligned. Here’s our definitive list of the six essential steps for achieving superior Marketing and Sales alignment:

  1. Create a common, shared lead taxonomy.
  2. Coordinate the lead passing process.
  3. Ensure teams share the same objectives and metrics.
  4. Integrate the process with automation tools.
  5. Plan and collaborate on an ongoing basis.
  6. Create a service level agreement to drive joint accountability.

Without further ado, let’s proceed to step one.

Step one: Create a common, shared lead taxonomy

In any relationship, whether business or personal, it’s hard to communicate if you don’t speak the same language. And in a relationship as complex and dynamic as the one that typically exists between Sales and Marketing, a shared understanding of the fundamental terms and definitions is essential.

Step one in our process, then, involves creating and agreeing on a shared lead taxonomy for your organization.

But what exactly is a lead taxonomy?

The lead taxonomy is your trusty utility belt, which both Marketing and Sales must utilize to create order out of chaos.

Asset 5By clearly defining the different stages a lead must pass through during the B2B buyer journey, a foundation upon which the entire relationship is built is created.

One of the most daunting barriers organizations face during this crucial step is that Sales and Marketing often have very different ideas about what constitutes a lead.

If you’re a Marketer, for example, you might consider a lead to be anybody who has given you their email address when they download a piece of content from your website.

If you’re in Sales, you likely have a very different idea.

To you, a lead has to meet some fairly strict criteria. For example, have they clearly articulated a need for your product or service? Do they have a budget? And have they identified a specific timeframe for making a purchase?

The fact is, both of these are valid definitions and represent different lead stages. When creating your organization’s lead taxonomy, you need to account for these and all the other stages the lead passes through during the buyer journey.

Though some details may differ,, here are the typical stages you’ll want to consider as you create your own lead taxonomy / utility belt:

  • Anonymous lead – an early-stage lead who has interacted with your brand anonymously by visiting your website.
  • Known lead – A lead who has interacted with your brand and has provided you with a name or an email address, for example, to download a piece of content from your website.
  • Engaged lead – A lead who is known to you and has begun to engage more and more with your brand through website visits, webinar attendance, content downloads, etc. The engaged lead has also begun to accumulate a lead score through the various interactions with your brand.
  • Marketing Qualified Lead – When an engaged lead reaches a specific lead scoring threshold, it then becomes a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL). It’s now mature enough to be passed over to Sales or a Telequalification team.
  • Telequalified lead – When the Telequalification team follows up with an MQL by phone and determines that the lead has potential to become an opportunity, it is a Telequalified lead (TQL).
  • Sales Accepted Lead – When the Sales organization accepts an MQL from Marketing, or a TQL from the Telequalification team, it becomes a Sales Accepted Lead, or SAL. Depending on the particulars, the Sales team will sometimes do further qualification before moving the SAL to the next stage.
  • Opportunity – When Sales is satisfied that the SAL meets its criteria, it then becomes an opportunity that Sales is actively trying to close.
  • Won or lost – Depending on the outcome of the sales process, an opportunity typically becomes either an opportunity won or an opportunity lost.

Step two: Coordinate the lead passing process

Asset 6With a new lead taxonomy clipped to your belt, it’s now time to figure out how leads are passed from one department to the next without letting it fall into the bottomless pit of despair from which there is no rescue.

This process consists of systematic coordination between Marketing, Sales, and Telequalification of when – and how – to pass leads from Marketing to Sales to drive pipeline.

This usually involves the Marketing team handing off MQLs to the Sales team, where they become SALs. In many B2B organizations, a third team, the Telequalification team, operates as an intermediary between Sales and Marketing.

This “three-in-a-box” arrangement can help ease the transition of MQLs to the Sales team, and by adding an extra qualification step, increases the likelihood these leads will turn into solid opportunities.

The process works like this:

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Before proceeding to the next step, spend some quality time together as a Sales and Marketing revenue team – just like Batman and Robin would at Wayne Manor – to determine the process that makes the most sense for passing leads within in your organization.

Step three: Ensure the teams have the same objectives and metrics

Asset 8With your lead passing process firmed up and agreed to, step three of our process finds our heroes (Marketing and Sales) aligned on key shared objectives and metrics.

As a unified revenue-generating team, everyone needs to have a clear understanding of shared goals, and how progress will be measured.

It’s particularly important during this step to agree on what Marketing will contribute to the overall pipeline, and also to define Marketing’s required pipeline coverage target (3X, 4X etc.). This latter metric ensures that Marketing is on the same page as Sales, and both are striving for the same goal.

To measure the efficiency of your united front, focus on the following metrics. Laser focused Marketing and Sales vision will result!

Step four: Integrate the process with automation tools

Asset 9What would a proper Dynamic Duo be without gadgets? To achieve tighter integration, Marketing and Sales must utilize powerful tools – Marketing Automation and CRM – together for the purposes of good!

In many organizations, these systems operate in silos. Marketing tracks, nurtures and scores leads using marketing automation, and Sales manages the end-to-end sales process and all customer relationships using the CRM system.

In more tightly aligned teams, both Sales and Marketing can benefit from the data and insights each system provides as they work to achieve shared revenue goals.

For example, the marketing automation system can be used to provide hyper-targeted lead nurturing throughout the buyer journey. This allows you to create segmented communication to leads using any field, stored in either system, from industry to job role, and from company to buyer journey stage.

Holy integrated systems Batman!

Marketing automation systems are a rich source of analytics, allowing Marketing to optimize program performance and measure return on marketing investment (ROMI).

These analytics can in turn be delivered to Sales, and injected directly into the CRM system – just like jet fuel gives the Batmobile extra boost.

As you might imagine, the resulting insights can help everyone understand the digital body language of leads and build a much more informed account plan.

The more your team can work together to automate as many aspects of your lead management process as possible, the easier it will be for everyone to perform at a higher level.

Step five: Plan and collaborate

Asset 11We’ve accomplished lots in terms of definitions and process and making sure we’re achieving our revenue generation goals as a fully aligned Sales and Marketing team.

But this step is arguably the most important step in our entire process.

Everyone needs to commit to the plan, and collaborate on the process to ensure the organization benefits from all the groundwork they’ve laid in the first four steps.

And by everyone, we mean everyone – including the most elusive amongst all known revenue generators.

Sales. Field Marketing. Telequalification. And Corporate Marketing. All of these parties need to come together to collaborate on a weekly basis, and be involved in quarterly business reviews (QBRs).

Tell everyone to wear their cape to weekly meetings that are designed to discuss all revenue generation strategies and tactics. Corporate marketing, for example, must coordinate with field marketing to push corporate campaigns to regional levels, and identify new regional sales plays. Pipeline gaps should also be identified as part of this process and a plan put in place to address them.

Step six: Create a Service Level Agreement to drive joint accountability

With your lead taxonomy and lead passing process sorted, and a plan in place to make the most of your automation tools, you now need a way to make sure everyone is living up to their side of the bargain.

According to insidesales.com, if a rep responds to a Marketing Qualified Lead in less than five minutes, the odds of contacting that lead are a hundred times higher than if you were to wait 30 minutes.

Step six in our process involves putting a service level agreement (SLA) in place between Sales and Marketing. It’s a rulebook of sorts that sets out in detail what level of service each can expect from the other at the various phases of the revenue generation process.

Asset 12This agreement is vitally important for achieving stronger alignment because it gives both sides specific goals to strive for and tends to prevent disagreements and conflict that may arise.

One foundational component of any SLA between Marketing and Sales is an agreement on Marketing’s total contribution to sales pipeline and the percentage this represents of the total pipeline.

On the Sales side, there needs to be an agreement on the length of time Sales has to make contact with a marketing qualified lead once they’ve received it from the Marketing or Telequalification teams.

As you work out an SLA that makes the most sense for your organization and revenue model, consider including some of the following key metrics for each of the Sales and Marketing organizations.

Conclusion

The path for Marketing and Sales to becoming a Dynamic Duo is fraught with peril. There will be cliffhangers, twists, and unexpected turns.

The relationship may even be adversarial at times. But don’t fret. Denouement is near. As both parties work together, towards a single cause – improved revenue generation – the ultimate goal, is realized.

As Marketing and Sales put their differences aside, and commit to ongoing collaboration and communication through these six steps, superior alignment and results for your organization are within reach.

To borrow and augment a line from the Marvel universe… “With great execution comes great results.”

Until the next episode…