This is Part 1 of a new 2-Part blog series entitled: “Sales & Marketing Alignment and the Role of Marketing Automation”
- Part 1: Sales & Marketing Alignment – What Is It, and Why Should I Care?
- Part 2: How Does Marketing Automation Help Achieve Sales & Marketing Alignment?
Part 1: Sales and Marketing Alignment – What Is It, and Why Should I Care?
If you’re in B2B Marketing, have you ever thought to yourself, “Why doesn’t Sales follow up on all the leads we’re generating for them?”… chances are good.
On the flip-side, if you’re in B2B Sales, have you ever thought to yourself, “Why are these leads Marketing is sending me so crappy? Most of them won’t return my calls.”… chances are good.
This is what I call, “The Great Sales and Marketing Divide.” I would bet you my next qualified lead that there isn’t a single B2B company in the world that doesn’t suffer from the same disconnect between Marketing and Sales. Maybe it’s not the case ALL of the time, but there are certainly times of the year when stress levels are high and targets/quotas are looming large that the two teams complain about each other.
It’s actually quite natural for Marketing and Sales teams to have conflicting priorities and perspectives on lead generation. Sales is responsible for closing deals. To do that, they need qualified leads who are ready to look for a solution. From a salesperson’s perspective, the best leads are those who already understand the cost of their problems, understand the value of the solution being proposed, and have buying power in an organization.
Marketing is responsible for many things, not the least of which is lead generation. However, Marketers tend to have a longer term view on the challenge of lead generation. Marketers do indeed generate leads that are qualified and ready to buy, but a much larger percentage of the leads they generate are with prospects who are very early in their buying/research process and are not ready to talk with a salesperson. Marketing understands that demand generation requires a lot of effort to nurture and educate prospects over the course of months, or even years.
Ideal Client Profile
Every Marketing book on the shelf talks about how important it is for a company to identify its ideal client profile(s). They are the companies who are most likely to buy your product or service because it is the ideal fit in terms of functionality, solution, and price. Leads that fit the ideal client profile are obviously some of the best leads for Sales to pursue.
Some Marketing and Sales teams have come to an agreement on their ideal client profile. However, many companies have not done enough research and homework to even start this process. Still other companies who have done their homework haven’t had the internal meetings between Marketing and Sales to come to an agreement on this. They’re simply throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks.
What is a Qualified Lead, and Who’s Responsible?
There are as many definitions of the phrase “qualified lead” as there are stars in the sky. In many companies, what Marketing believes is a qualified lead is not the same as what Sales believes is a qualified lead. It’s common to hear disagreement on the definition.
Also, who’s responsible for generating qualified leads? Is it solely on the backs of Marketers, or should Salespeople also be responsible for generating qualified leads through their own prospecting efforts such as: cold calling, targeted direct emails, in-person networking, and being active on social media networks? I have my own opinion on that, but what really matters is for your Marketing and Sales teams to come to a clear agreement on the % of total qualified leads that each is responsible for generating.
Most importantly, they both need to completely buy in to that agreement, or there will always be a disconnect which can lead to a lack of credibility, respect, and trust.
Even Some of the Best Qualified Leads Die on the Vine
Prospects are busy people. They may well be interested in your product or service, they may have the money, and they may even have the buying power. However, it’s very common for even the best leads to “go dark” for a period of time if they are busy managing their own priorities and your product is just not high enough on their to-do list.
What happens when those leads go dark? Most salespeople follow up several times by phone and email, but after several tries, salespeople tend to move on to other, more active, leads. They can’t waste their time chasing leads that never call them back. That’s the very point where ideal client profile leads can “die on the vine”. Nobody is adequately nurturing the lead through the course of months, or even years, until you become a higher priority on the prospect’s to-do list. Putting someone on a monthly or quarterly newsletter email blast list does not constitute proper nurturing these days.
Sales & Marketing Alignment
Achieving proper Sales & Marketing Alignment means that the two teams agree on the following:
- Ideal client profile(s)
- The definition of a qualified lead
- # of qualified leads to be generated by each team
- The key metrics to track together (lead quantity and lead quality)
- A process to move leads back and forth between Marketing and Sales for appropriate action
- Mutual accountability
It wasn’t that long ago that a Marketing Director at a client of ours told me, “I’m not responsible for whether or not leads we generate turn into sales. In Marketing, it’s our responsibility to generate qualified leads, and it’s Sales’ responsibility to close them. I can’t help it if they can’t do their job well enough to close the leads we send them.”
I was shocked when I heard this. Wow, how’s that for a good example of lack of alignment???
To achieve Sales & Marketing alignment, one of the key tenets is to be mutually accountable to each other. To achieve that level of mutual accountability, the following needs to be in place:
- Marketing needs to be on the hook to generate leads that convert into closed sales.
- The teams need a solid and clear agreement on the definition of a qualified lead
- Sales needs to demonstrate which reps are strong, which reps are weak, and what they’re doing to improve.
- Sales needs to commit to a “Lead Follow-up SLA (Service Level Agreement)”. In other words, how long do they have to make the first call and email to a newly generated lead. Is it 1 hour, 1 day, or otherwise?
- There needs to be an effective reporting system to demonstrate metrics in all of these areas (Read more about Marketing Reporting here)
Aberdeen Thinks It’s Important
Aberdeen Group recently surveyed 453 companies to assess their state of Sales & Marketing Alignment. Read their report and recommendations here.
How well are your Sales and Marketing teams aligned? If you have other good ideas to help align the teams, please comment below and let us know what you’re doing to improve. We look forward to hearing from you…
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