I have some news to share. You may want to sit down for this one. Here it is…sales and marketing departments aren’t always on the same page. You’re shocked, right? Probably not, unless you are the sales and marketing department, or one of the few companies where these two, often opposing forces, exist in harmony.
A recent study by the Corporate Executive Board revealed that 87 percent of the terms used by sales and marketing to describe one another are negative. Even more disturbing, Forrester reported that only 8 percent of respondents claim they have tight alignment between sales and marketing. Pretty scary statistics considering these two departments are responsible for demand generation and revenue. While many executives are aware of the benefits of sales and marketing alignment, these departments continue to operate in silos. So the question remains, why?
Sales and marketing alignment often requires a shift in corporate culture, and, as you know, this process takes time and an open mind. However, this does not mean you should continue to ignore the problem, rather, take the steps to overcome this obstacle. Here are four easy steps you can take to align your sales and marketing departments.
Well, not literally, but let me explain. Do you really know what your sales or marketing counterparts do on a daily basis? What are the common challenges they face? What is their decision making process? Chances are you probably cannot answer those questions. Shadowing your counterparts for a few days can be an eye-opening experience. For example, are your sales and marketing teams speaking the same language to prospects? Without marketing actually hearing a sales pitch or sales reading the content produced by marketing, there is no way to know.
Ask a sales rep and a marketer to define a sales qualified lead and you will get two very different answers. Lack of common language between sales and marketing departments often results in a lot of finger pointing, especially when revenue goals are missed. Marketing accuses sales of being lazy and not following up with leads, and sales accuses marketing of providing inadequate leads. Mutually defining and agreeing to a common lingo will minimize the blame game and help keep both departments focused on achieving a mutual goal.
Once sales and marketing are speaking the same language, the next step is for both departments to establish mutual accountability in the form of a written agreement. This agreement should include performance metrics, such as the number of qualified leads marketing will deliver to sales on a monthly basis. Additionally the agreement should outline how and when sales will follow up with the leads. Be sure to also establish a process for closing the loop on the leads once handed off to sales.
As with all strong relationships, frequent communication is essential. Don’t limit the communication between departments to just senior executives, but rather include team members at all levels. Sales reps should attend marketing meetings and vice versa. Rather than guessing what information should be included on a lead capturing form, why not ask sales what would be helpful to them?
What are your tips for aligning sales and marketing? We’d love to hear them, so please share your thoughts in the comments section.
Shannon Fuldauer has a B2B and B2C eCommerce Marketing background including roles as Vice President of Marketing & Sales Support, and subsequently Vice President of Public Relations & SEO Services, for CareerBoard.com. She has expertise in digital marketing and advanced email communications.
photo credit: Profound Whatever