It’s pretty common knowledge that in order for marketers to be successful, they need to collaborate with other departments across the organization. Creating the most in-depth and effective marketing plan is absolutely a team sport involving departmental input across the board.
Specifically, as defined by SiriusDecisions, marketing success is dependent on “interlock with many internal and external groups,” but alignment among four groups in particular – marketing leaders, demand creation, sales ops and finance – is “crucial to the planning and budgeting responsibility within marketing operations.”
When it comes to just marketing and sales alignment, this teamwork is more prevalent than ever. According to a 2019 SiriusDecisions study on planning maturity, sales has the most involvement when it comes to participation in marketing planning (when compared to departmental involvement from leadership, channel, product and finance).
As such, as explained recently by Engagio, a provider of marketing engagement software, having two separate silos just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Sales and marketing alignment is simply no longer optional.
During a January webinar, Megan Heuer, Engagio’s vice president of marketing, underscored this permanence – no ifs, ands or buts about it:
"Any discussion about whether or not sales and marketing need to work together really isn't a discussion anymore," she said. "Alignment is critical to B2B success in 2020 and forevermore."
The components of alignment
When you’re lacking adequate communication between marketing and sales, explained Heuer, you can get stuck in a so-called “blame game,” as laid out in the following example:
→ Marketing is given a list of accounts they didn’t choose in the first place (and these accounts don’t exactly present great opportunities);
→ Sales hasn’t given account plans, so marketers are “flying blind” when trying to figure out the best route to take for success; and
→ Marketing doesn’t always see follow-up on whether or not sales has taken action.
To combat this unhealthy habit, Heuer focused on three steps:
→ Align your data - make sure it’s all consistent;
→ Share insights; and
→ Coordinate and make sense of interactions that both sales and marketing need to have.
However, if your teams have not yet established “a certain level of foundational effort and trust,” the first and third levels might be more difficult to accomplish right off the bat, she said. In turn, Heuer suggests beginning with the second component: sharing insights.
When sellers are provided with alerts that “tell them the opportunities they need to focus on and give them suggestions for how to do their job,” she explained, “they actually perform much better.”
In fact, citing Salesforce’s “State of the Connected Customer” survey, she noted that 85% of B2B sales reps who get alerts on “key actions required on opportunities” say these insights “help them do their job better.”
To do this, Heuer suggested a few types of “immediately actionable” insights marketers can provide sellers: scoring (e.g., which people in your accounts are most engaged?), heat maps (e.g., where is this engagement coming from?) and trends (e.g., which accounts are no longer engaging?).
When you serve up these insights and enable meaningful, informed communication in areas that are aligned with or are in conflict with your goals, you can then take informed actions to improve your own marketing plan.
The technology side
Oftentimes, the communication issue can also be attributed to a problem with the tools being used. When sales and marketing are combining, for example, a mixed bag of static spreadsheets, PowerPoints, emails and other disparate methods of communication, knowledge and insights can become siloed. Eliminate these barriers by bringing your data into a single repository – one place where everyone can get on the same page.
“There is no longer a great divide between marketing and sales where technology is concerned, and it is more apparent in the tech stack than ever before,” Heuer said, calling this “yet another external force that drives marketing and sales alignment.”
Forget having a marketing stack and a sales stack; instead, the two are converging more than ever.
“Increasingly, we’re not talking about two different stacks,” she explained. “We’re really talking about a revenue tech stack that brings together the technology that both sales and marketing require to be successful.”
When marketing and sales data is gathered into one unit everyone has access to (i.e., aligning data), each department can gain more visibility into the organization’s overall plans, budgets, pipeline, performance and goals. Then, when they’re equipped with insight into metrics to drive results, their focus can shift from the tactical level to a more strategic coordination of larger business goals.
Context, not content, is king when it comes to sharing insights
Yes, you want to share and collaborate, but you need to do it in context.
Sales absolutely needs to be aware of what marketing is doing; however, the sales rep in California responsible for the technology vertical does not need to know about a healthcare CFO roundtable in Boston.
Further, a willingness to share or hand over access to a marketing system does not count as collaboration. You need to share relevant insights with sales - where they work and when they need it. The only calendar technology that sales should need to access is the one they use every day for scheduling their own meetings.
On the other hand, marketing needs to surface the relevant portions of their plans directly into the calendar technology already in use; in turn, sales sees what they need to see, when they need to see it. (Hive9 makes this capability a reality for our clients.)
What does success look like to you?
Aligning marketing and sales through your tech stack is of the utmost importance for B2B success, but it’s no panacea. Again, if you’re not first doing so in the context of your overall plan, you’re missing a lot of the value of your tech stack.
After all, your performance is relative to your plan; the plan is the construct under which all alignment takes shape. Things like conversion rates, impressions, responses, leads and opportunities all need to be measured to gauge the success of marketing and sales, but you first need to establish what success even looks like to your organization.
With that, we’ll include an old anecdote from Bruce Brien, Hive9’s chief strategy officer:
“I once sat in the audience (as a guest) at a company’s annual kickoff. The CFO got up and congratulated the sales organization for helping to reduce the company’s days sales outstanding (how long it takes to collect money from customers) from 90 days to 60 days, which is substantial, representing millions of dollars of cash flow.
What the CFO did not know was that the average company in his industry saw their days sales outstanding drop from 85 to 45. Their industry average was in a better place to start and had a greater reduction.
So, why was he congratulating anyone for achieving slightly less than an industry trend? He lacked context. Context is critical to performance - and that context starts with a plan.”
Make 2020 the year you get marketing and sales on the same page and can congratulate your team on numbers you can all be proud of.
Have any other insight or tips/tricks on marketing and sales alignment? Leave a comment below to get a discussion going.