It’s no secret that best business practices require your sales and marketing teams to be aligned. Alignment is essential if both sides want to meet their individual goals as well as the goals of the company. Only by both sales and marketing working together as a cohesive unit will you gain better MQLs and SQLs—more customers.
But many marketers don’t know what sales and marketing alignment is or how to do it correctly. Or, even if they know what it is and what to do, they don’t know how to overcome the reluctance and many challenges that come with sales and marketing alignment.
If you can learn to bring your marketing and sales teams together (a.k.a. “smarketing”) with the same revenue-generating goals in mind, you’ll be much more competitive in today’s fast-paced business world. Below, we’ll discuss the challenges of sales and marketing alignment and how to overcome them.
What Is Smarketing?
“Smarketing” is the process of aligning your sales and marketing teams around common goals that are revenue generating. It’s a simple idea, and yet according to a 2018 Forrester report, 25% of sales leaders never meet with marketing about the pipeline, and 58% of sales leaders meet with marketing only four times a year (quarterly). This is a huge problem because the same report reveals that companies with “smarketing” fare 2.3 times better.
In fact, if you don’t participate in “smarketing,” research by Harvard Business Review shows that you can actually erode your company’s profitability. But when you do make sales and marketing alignment a priority, success metrics according to the Content Marketing Institute and LinkedIn include:
- Revenue growth
- Pipeline growth
- Improved quality of leads
- Improved quantity of leads
- Better audience engagement
Challenges and Solutions
Unfortunately, 87% of the terms that sales and marketing use to describe each other are negative, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are five common challenges your company will face when trying to align these two distinct departments, but the good news is they have easy solutions.
Challenge 1: No clear communication between departments and teams
Only 35% of salespeople think that marketing knows what they need, and 41% of marketers have no idea what the sales team wants from them (Kapost). The problem is communication. One-third of marketing and sales teams don’t talk regularly, which means there’s no rapport established, no sharing of knowledge, and no updates on upcoming sales and marketing activity.
Solution 1: Meet regularly and use a CRM + marketing tool
The first step is to plan regular meetings and discussions between your marketing and sales teams. You should discuss everything from:
- Why deals are closing or falling through
- Where customers come from
- The most appropriate messaging to reach customers
The key is to treat your departments as two pieces of a whole, both with the same/interdependent organizational goals that you’re trying to accomplish. In this way, you make sure both sides understand what is going on, what you’re doing, and how much success you’re having.
It’s also a good idea to improve communication through the use of a CRM +marketing platform like HubSpot. This creates transparency for the teams and keeps all your sales and marketing resources in one shared place. We recommend using your tool as a place to host calendars, links to relevant offers, specific content, and more.
Challenge 2: Meetings are wasted time
While 15% of an organization’s time is spent in meetings, many of those meetings are a waste of time to the tune of losing $37 billion per year in unproductive meetings. Worse yet, executives view more than 67% of meetings as failures, probably because no more than 37% of meetings in the US use agendas. This makes it hard for your marketing and sales teams to want to meet and spend time together.
Solution 2: Run focused meetings
The solution is to run your “smarketing” meetings in a more focused way. The good news is that it’s just a three-step process.
- Step 1—Focus on Solving Problems: Go into every meeting with a set of problems and their goals. Then, use the meeting to brainstorm solutions and make assignments for moving forward.
- Step 2—Invite Thoughtfully: Not everyone needs to attend every meeting. Instead, invite people in small groups, being sure to rotate who attends and limiting the number of leaders.
- Step 3—Let Everyone Participate: Finally, make sure that everyone at the meeting has a chance to participate and share their thoughts and ideas.
Challenge 3: Failure to share data
Poor marketing and sales alignment usually leads to a failure to share reports and data, which harms your ability to monitor progress, calculate projections, and measure ROI. Basically, you’ll have a difficult time figuring out if you’re meeting your goals if you don’t integrate data from both your sales and marketing teams.
Solution 3: Closed-loop reporting
Instead, you need to implement closed-loop reporting, the complete integration of data from both your marketing tools and CRM tools. This allows you to take advantage of proper reporting where marketing shares all their insights about the buyer journey with sales, and sales notifies marketing about important buyer activities.
The goal is to allow both teams to better focus on those activities, channels and offers that lead to lead nurturing and revenue. In the end, closed-loop reporting should help both teams plan more strategically for the future.
Challenge 4: No clear SLA
The most critical step to aligning your sales and marketing departments is creating a service level agreement (SLA). This document defines exactly what your customer will receive, establishing your set of deliverables, and your internal operations. The problem is that while each department might have their own SLA, they do not have an agreement between sales and marketing.
Solution 4: SLA both departments agree upon
An SLA between your sales and marketing departments will help you detail your marketing goals (number of leads or revenue pipeline) and sales activities (engaging leads). 65 percent of companies who have a tightly aligned SLA between sales and marketing see a higher return on investment from their efforts.
An appropriate SLA should include:
- A summary of your agreement
- The goals of both teams
- What each team needs to reach its goals
- Points of contact for each department
- The consequences of failure
- Conditions of cancelation
Just be sure to reevaluate your SLA regularly to ensure that it remains aligned with your organization’s goals.
Challenge 5: Lack of sales enablement tools
Last, but certainly not least, is the problem of sales enablement. Too few companies have the tools they need to empower their sales teams to sell efficiently and at a higher velocity. What they require is a tool that both marketing and sales can use to streamline communication and workflows.
Solution 5: HubSpot
The benefits of marketing automation software such as HubSpot for sales enablement cannot be overstated. It can help you personalize customer communication, define MQLs and SQLs with a higher degree of control, and align your sales and marketing department’s activities. In particular, HubSpot can help with lead scoring, assigning points to potential customers based on their actions. This will help both departments better prioritize their customer-facing activities.
The most important thing to remember is that your sales and marketing teams are both in the same boat. You both want the same things and to achieve the same goals, and working together is a far better way to ensure you achieve success. Just be sure that when trying to align you, speak the same language, implement a service level agreement, rely on data, make meetings valuable, and use a sales enablement tool like HubSpot.