B2B Marketing Expo California logo

March 3 & 4 2020

LA Convention Center

Why sales and marketing alignment matters (and how to turn your pipeline into a loop)

When you hear the word ‘alignment’, what do you think? 

–Tsk, yet more marketing biz-blab!

–Oh, I think that’s something we’re meant to be doing…

–Align-what now?

It’s true, marketing and sales are prone to trendy phrases that come and go faster than a plot point in the Game of Thrones finale.  But in this case, it’s less a trend and more of an evolution. Alignment has the potential to change the way we do business. And it starts, as it should, with the customer.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

Once upon a time, when a customer wanted to buy something, they would be at the mercy of salespeople who could push and pull them through the buying ‘journey’ in a linear process that people called the funnel or the pipeline. This linear model has persisted for too long – despite the sea change in the way customers make their purchasing decisions. 

One of the major side effects of this linear model is the idea that different departments hold the responsibility for different stages of the customer journey. Marketing passes the customer to sales, who pass them to customer success – and just like in a relay, the customer (the baton) is treated as a prop that supports the whole idea of the race. You don’t want to drop it, but you also don’t really care how the baton experiences the race.

But customer experience is having a real moment. Through the heady combination of the rise of social media, the end of a global economic downturn and the ageing into work of a generation who grew up with both these phenomena, we have arrived at a place where the customer is in control of the buying process – and the sales and marketing industry have finally accepted that. The result? A new model for the customer journey.

Some are calling it the flywheel. Some, the cyclone. Either way, it’s a closed loop with the customer at the centre and no hard lines between sales, marketing and customer service/success. Of course, everyone still has their jobs to do, but in this model everyone’s goal is aligned: deliver a great customer experience.

1. Start working together

Sounds pretty basic, but the first step to achieving sales and marketing alignment is to get everyone talking. If your relationship has been disharmonious in the past, it’s worth acknowledging that and attempting to work out the issues you’ve experienced. Trying to whitewash over an unhappy history will not make for a successful start to a new relationship.

Regular ‘smarketing’ meetings, involving each other in decisions that have shared importance, seeking out input and expertise all will have a benefit to how each department feels about the other. You each have to recognise what you bring to the table in order to really appreciate what can be gained by an improved partnership.

2. Get involved in each other’s lives

I’m not talking dinner dates – but there’s definitely a benefit to having marketing people sit in on sales calls or visit customers, while salespeople could also learn a lot from attending marketing events and ‘listening in’ to marketing interactions with customers on social media. Understanding how each department builds relationships with customers, as well as the challenges and opportunities involved in that process, is integral to building a shared perception of your organization’s messaging and its positioning in the market. Are you both painting the same picture of your brand? Are you delivering a consistent brand experience?

3. Decide who you are and what you’re selling

Once you’ve lived in each other’s pockets a little, go back to the drawing board and really identify what your organization is offering and who your key market is. Regardless of if your brand identity remains unchanged, running through this exercise together will clarify for all departments the optimum message to attract your ideal customers. If you don’t have one already, create a hero statement.

4. Align your processes

Even with a closed loop model, there’s still a handover between marketing and sales. As you go through the process of aligning your operations, though, take the opportunity to revisit your lead qualification system. One of the big downfalls of the funnel or pipeline model is that leads can be handed over to sales before they’re ready. Utilize this systemic change to improve your lead nurturing program and to underscore what makes a lead sales-ready. 

This is also a good place to mention the importance of having the right tools for the job. An integrated CRM properly used can be a real boon for closely aligned sales and marketing teams. 

5. Recognize your master

Besides the old poor leads/poor follow up drama that can crop up between sales and marketing, the other dynamic that can lead to dysfunction is that of ‘who works for whom’. 

In this new model, everyone works for the customer. That means the question is not ‘what does sales want’ or ‘what is marketing asking for’, it is always: how can we best serve the customer?  

This mantra should be carried through every aspect of the job, but especially when it comes to providing resources for the customer. This begins with content marketing – giving customers plenty of information as they begin their independent decision-making process prior to talking to a salesperson – but should continue throughout the sales process and into customer service/success. 

Again, it’s imperative to have the right tools for the job here, otherwise salespeople won’t know where the content is – and if they can’t find it, it won’t get used. A sales enablement platform can help ensure not only that the content is easy to find, but that marketing can track how it’s used and use that data together with feedback from salespeople to improve content creation going forward.

Sales and marketing alignment FTW

There’s so much more we could talk about when it comes to sales and marketing alignment. It impacts so many aspects of how each department works and how the customer experiences your organization. But for now I’ll sign off with a few meaty facts that should inspire you to make a change in your organization:

  • In the US alone, Sales and Marketing teams waste an estimated $1 trillion dollars per year due to a lack of coordination – LinkedIn’s The Art of Winning

  • Companies with good smarketing practices in place generated 208% more revenue from marketing efforts – HubSpot

  • Organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing functions enjoy 36% higher customer retention rates – Marketing Professionals

It really is worth getting started.

Discover what iPresent could do for your company in a personalised demo!

Josh Dhaliwal

Head of Sales

iPresent Ltd