Many organizations have built barriers between the various functions of their business. Even groups that rely on and support each other’s goals (like Sales and Marketing) are “siloed” in their own worlds and rarely communicate. Breaking down those walls and aligning goals and expectations can be challenging, but there are tremendous benefits as well.
1. Eliminate the Finger Pointing Down the Road
For as long as there’ve been Sales and Marketing departments, there’ve been people who complain and look for someone to blame when expectations aren’t met. Marketing complains that Sales couldn’t sell a glass of water to a man dying of thirst in the desert. And Sales doesn’t think Marketing would recognize a qualified lead if it jumped up and bit them on the back side. Typically, poorly communicated expectations are at the root of this animosity. Neither group knows what the other wants or needs to be successful. It can be difficult to support each other’s goals and objectives, if we don’t know what those goals and objectives are.
2. Start Speaking the Same Language
Does everyone have the same definition of what a qualified lead is? What’s the difference between a lead, a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) and a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)? What’s the treatment or workflow for each? Who is your ideal target contact? What vertical markets are your sweet spot? Where is the best opportunity for growth? Where and how can we leverage our past success? When these questions are posed to representatives from Sales and Marketing, you often get blank stares and shrugs or completely different answers. If these questions have already been answered in your organization, then make sure they’re shared and solicit feedback from all sides. If these questions have never been asked, then present them to the entire group and attempt to come to a consensus.
3. Develop Mutual SLAs for Both Marketing and Sales
Once expectations have been shared and a foundational language has been established, it’s time to build in some accountability with a Service-Level Agreement (SLA). A Service-Level Agreement is a contract that clearly defines the scope of services to be rendered, the quality standards of those services, who is responsible for delivering those services, and the time frames in which those services will be completed. At a minimum, Marketing should agree to what their role in the Sales process will be and the number of leads/MQLs/SQLs they will deliver to Sales per year/quarter/month. And Sales should agree to the lead hand-off process from Marketing, as well as processes and timelines for lead follow-up, documentation and feedback. Putting it in writing and having all parties with a vested interest sign their name to the document will facilitate transparency, accountability, and a cohesive team that is working toward a common goal.
4. Idea Sharing and Brainstorming
Salespeople are never shy about sharing their opinions about the type of marketing support they need. Doesn’t it make sense to get this input before the marketing plan is set instead of after it’s been executed? The Sales team is on the front lines with your prospects every day. Find out from them what questions prospects are asking during the various stages of the sales process and the problems their prospects are trying to solve. The topics of conversations that Sales are having everyday with their prospects can be a great source of blog articles and premium content ideas (eBooks, case studies, white papers, webinars, etc.).
Today marketing content isn’t just used to generate leads, but to help advance the sale as well. Marketing needs to understand what tools Sales is using at the various stages of the sales process and what additional help they need. Often, Marketing has existing content that can be leveraged or repurposed and Sales simply doesn’t know it exists.
5. Expand Your Stable of Blog Contributors
Brainstorming sessions can produce a robust content publishing calendar filled with fresh ideas and topics. These sessions can also help identify new contributors to your blog as well. The people who demonstrate a passion for an idea or topic during a brainstorming session may be the best people to write the article. Everyone (including salespeople) is an expert at something and has a unique point-of-view they can share. Remember, one of the primary reasons to blog is to establish thought leadership. Sharing the blog writing responsibilities with the sales team will help them position themselves as thought leaders and become subject matter experts in the eyes of their prospects.
The biggest obstacle in deploying these Sales and Marketing alignment ideas is time. You can’t do these on the fly, via email, or over a 15-minute lunch. Gather key members of both the Sales and Marketing teams. Carve out a couple hours of uninterrupted time. Get a clean white board. And start talking. Soon the walls will fall down. Finger pointing will stop. And goals will be met.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This post was originally published on May 20, 2016, and has been updated.