Smarketing: Align Sales and Marketing to Boost Revenue

by By: Colleen Daly-Tinkham Jan/Feb 2020 2020
Colleen Daly-Tinkham Marketing Consultant, Susan Carol Creative
Colleen Daly-Tinkham Marketing Consultant Susan Carol Creative

As customer-buying behavior has shifted, the roles of sales and marketing teams have evolved. Colleen Daly-Tinkham examines this trend and provides actionable steps that sales and marketing teams can take to achieve better alignment.

In many companies, sales and marketing teams operate in silos. Each team has its own goals and objectives and interaction is limited. But a strong push for better alignment between sales and marketing is happing in today’s environment, driven by unprecedented changes in buying behavior.

It’s All About the Customer

The driving force behind this push for better alignment between sales and marketing is the realization that to remain competitive the customer must be the primary focus. A paradigm shift in customer-buying behavior has occurred, and buyers are no longer following the traditional “marketing-to-sales-to-customer” funnel.

A whopping 80% of B2B purchase cycles are completed before the buyer considers contacting the vendor, according to research from Wheelhouse Advisors. Buyers today are well informed; they independently seek information online instead of contacting a salesperson. Research conducted by SiriusDecisions found that the first 67% of a buyer’s decision-making process is completed online — in marketing territory. This change in customer behavior has necessitated a new approach to sales and marketing.

Jill Rowley, chief growth officer, Marketo, says: “The buyer has changed more in the past 10 years than in the past 100. The buyer is in control. We’re living in the age of the customer, no longer the age of the seller. The required mindset is one of helping, not selling.” Today’s buyers are looking for useful, educational materials to help them solve problems. Companies must be experts on their product offerings but also have a real understanding of the issues their customers are facing and how their solutions can help. Research from Wheelhouse Advisors revealed that 95% of buyers chose a solution that “provided them with ample content to help navigate through each stage of the buying process.”

In today’s marketplace, companies must become trusted educators by providing valuable content and demonstrating expertise in their industry. B2B companies creating educational materials and distributing their content over multiple channels are well-positioned to reach potential buyers. This shift in buying behavior has led to a major change in the sales and marketing roles. As marketing becomes increasingly about creating valuable content, and the role of sales becomes demonstrating expertise, it is imperative that the two groups operate in sync.

Welcome to Smarketing

Smarketing, a word coined by HubSpot, is the process of integrating a business’s sales and marketing processes. The objective is for the sales and marketing functions to have a common integrated approach. The benefits of “smarketing” are compelling. Research from Marketo and Wheelhouse Advisors found:

Aligning sales and marketing can result in 208% more revenue from marketing efforts.

B2B companies with tightly aligned sales and marketing operations achieved 24% faster three-year revenue growth and 27% faster three-year profit growth.

When sales and marketing teams are in sync, companies are up to 67% better at closing deals.

Steps to Achieve Marketing and Sales Alignment

The benefits of sales and marketing alignment are numerous, and it’s especially critical in today’s marketplace. But achieving alignment requires a shift in mindset and diligent effort. The teams must break down silos and create a true partnership between sales and marketing. HubSpot has done extensive research on this topic and provides several tips on how to enhance collaboration between sales and marketing. The following steps have worked well in practice:

Communicating: The marketing team must work closely with the sales team to develop compelling content that engages the right target audience. It should answer their questions and help them solve problems. The sales team has the critical, hands-on knowledge of their customers and prospects. It understands its customers’ pain points and the problems they are trying to solve. The more advanced teams even know when the customers are poised to act. The sales team also knows what’s on the minds of their customers and what topics they are interested in. All content creation should be driven by input from the sales team. The marketing team needs to create a seamless process to gather feedback from sales.

Meeting: The marketing team must conduct regular meetings with sales leaders. When the sales leaders develop their strategic plans and goals for the year, the marketing team must review the plans to determine marketing campaigns and initiatives that will help them achieve their objectives. Developing a content marketing calendar for the year will ensure everyone is on the same page. Meetings should be conducted on at least a quarterly basis to review activities, analyze results and determine if changes in strategy are needed.

Onboarding: Marketing must meet with every new salesperson to provide an overview of resources and support to ensure the salesperson takes advantage of all available tools. This is also a great opportunity for marketing professionals to gain competitive information. Which tools or resources did her previous employer provide that were particularly valuable? Which marketing campaigns or initiatives were effective?

Coordinating: All marketing campaigns must be closely coordinated with sales personnel. The content marketing calendar shared at the beginning of the year must be updated regularly. For email campaigns, the sales team must have input in developing the target lists. Marketing must share the timing and content for campaigns in advance so the sales team knows what their clients and prospects will be receiving. Depending on the topic, a training session may be needed to ensure the sales team is well versed on the subject matter, able to answer questions and help educate clients and prospects.

Showcasing: Position your sales teams as experts in the industry. Marketing departments must work with the sales team to ghostwrite articles and blog posts under the salesperson’s name. This can be accomplished by interviewing them on a topic that they have expertise in and creating an article or blog post from the conversation. Marketing executives must also encourage the sales team to be active on social media; for B2B businesses, LinkedIn is particularly effective.

Working together, the marketing team can create a monthly calendar of posts, and the sales team can share relevant content to augment social media posting to wider audiences. The sales team will enjoy the way this expands their social media community. Your sales executives will become more visible, establish credibility and be perceived as a trusted resource.

Organizing: Marketing professionals must strive to house all relevant sales resources in one convenient location. Salespeople are busy and they are often on the road, so making materials accessible is the best way to ensure they will be used.

Keeping Sales & Marketing Alignment on Track

To maintain sales and marketing alignment, the teams must have standards in place to stay in sync. Marketo suggests the following steps to reinforce alignment:

Define common terms: According to CSO Insights, the sales and marketing teams of only 44% of companies have formally agreed on the definition of a qualified lead. If sales and marketing are not in agreement, teams will not be on the same page. The two teams must work together to clearly define what constitutes a qualified lead. Only by establishing a mutually agreed upon definition can the teams identifying sales-ready leads.

Consider establishing Service Level Agreements (SLAs): SLAs can enable sales and marketing teams to firmly establish the roles of each department in the lead-generation process. An example of an SLA might be requiring the salesperson to follow up on a lead from a campaign within a certain timeframe.

Set mutually agreed upon goals: Sales and marketing must agree upon how lead generation will be measured as well as realistic objectives. The two departments must work closely together to collaborate on establishing attainable lead-generation goals. Once the goals are set, mutual accountability is essential to meeting goals.

Measure results by the same metric: Marketing teams have numerous ways to measure the success of activities, everything from email open rates, website visits and completed forms to LinkedIn followers. In sales, activities like calls made, proposals generated or prospects visited are recorded. However, the ultimate goal for both teams is revenue generation. The closer you can tie marketing activities to providing viable sales leads that become new customers, the better the alignment becomes.

Enhanced alignment between sales and marketing has many benefits, such as better conversion rates, valuable long-term relationships, increased revenue and improved profitability. Alignment requires diligent effort and buy-in from all levels of the organization. Companies that make this effort will meet the needs of today’s customer and ultimately position their company for future success.

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