I attended two events in the past few weeks where the subject of marketing and sales alignment came up. Although this is not a new issue, it is one that marketing automation vendors have been raising as one of the pains they can help resolve. But be careful of solutions that are technology based but fail to address the underlying sociological and workflow issues of your organization. Otherwise, you are simply “paving the cow paths”. Being a Bostonian, I can tell you that paved cow paths are neither direct nor efficient. Automating a flawed process makes it go a bit faster, but it also makes fixing the underlying problem more difficult.
While marketing and sales have long disagreed with each other, the increasing power of the buyer, what I referred to as Buyer 2.0 in a previous post, makes such disagreements more destructive. Time spent pointing fingers at each other and blaming the other group for poor leads or ignoring marketing generated opportunities is time wasted failing to address the underlying issues within a firm’s lead generation process.
The first event I attended was the Boston area Marketo Users Group which held a panel discussion on sales and marketing alignment. As this was a Marketo event, it was full of marketers. From the panel’s perspective, the goal isn’t simply to provide more leads, but to provide better quality leads at the right time. Marketing Automation provides value through lead nurturing, lead scoring, and lead routing. If leads are too green, then sales reps will become quickly frustrated and start ignoring marketing generated leads. If the leads are overripe, then sales reps have lost critical time in positioning the product or service and engaging with the prospect. One of the promises of marketing automation is determining the optimal time to pass marketing qualified leads to sales.
A simple place to begin is agreeing on what constitutes a good lead. Sales and marketing management need to sit down and define the ideal customer profile. There may be multiple ideal customers based upon your product line and target vertical, but lacking agreement on key biographic and firmographic attributes is an easy place to start. Ideal customer profiles should include agreement upon target verticals, job functions, job levels, and company size. Other variables may include the firm’s technology environment, location, and sales triggers. With this knowledge, marketing can shift from general marketing campaigns to better targeted nurturing campaigns and content. Defining ideal customers also benefits sales reps in their prospecting and qualification efforts. The variables used to define ideal customers are the same variables that drive iSell’s prospectability ranking.
A second recommendation made at the Marketo Users Group was to merge sales and marketing under the same leadership. Instead of separate groups reporting up to a CMO and CSO, This new Chief Revenue Officer position would ensure that the two functions align their objectives and workflows.
At the Sales 2.0 Show in Boston, Ric Riddle, VP of Sales at Sales Engine International, gave a presentation he facetiously titled “R.I.P. Marketing”. Riddle argued that the traditional sales funnel is dead and has been replaced by a multi-directional, multi-dimensional, multi-behavioral funnel. In this new buying landscape, control has shifted from marketing to buyers and influencers and marketing needs to shift from broadcasting to managing multiple one-to-one conversations. He made an analogy to rowing. Traditional sales and marketing alignment is akin to a crew team with all members working in unison. This is a command and control model with all effort managed by the coxswain. Command and control strategies work well in calm waters with a visible objective, but are useless in the circuitous purchasing process driven by buyers. Instead, sales and marketing need to work more like a team of rafters barreling down a rapids. In this environment, there is no central control, but all agree on the objectives and act independently towards the common goal. It is an environment in which sales and marketing work together to manage change, decisions, expectations, communications, and relationships.
And what was the first recommendation from a VP of Sales? It was to establish an SLA between sales and marketing and set common goals. One of Riddle’s recommendations for ensuring alignment was managing via a shared metric – the conversion percent from MQL (marketing qualified leads) to SAL (sales accepted leads). By sharing this metric at the point of lead handoff, both sales and marketing management agree upon common objectives instead of disputing who is at fault for low ROI on lead generation efforts.
Thus at separate sales and marketing events I heard similar advice around shared goals, optimal customer profiles, and metrics. As Riddle commented, ABC no longer means Always Be Closing, but Always Be Communicating.
Do you have tips on how your sales and marketing organizations work together? Share them in the comments below.