Sales and Marketing Alignment: Can Alignment Be Achieved Without Communication?
This blog post is a shortened version of our eBook – Zero Communication Alignment. The full eBook contains more content, insights from experts, a case study, an infographic, market data, stories of alignment, and much more. You can read/download it for free from here.
Marketing and Sales have walked on separate paths since forever. The marketing team’s job would be to bring in the leads and the sales team’s job would be to close as many of them as possible. And often, there would be jitters. Sales would claim that the leads are not qualified and the marketing team is disconnected from their customers. Marketing, on the other hand, would claim that they are bringing good leads that the sales team is not able to close. This not only creates a negative collaboration environment but also hurts the bottom line.
This has started to change with data-driven sales and marketing. While the approach has brought Sales and Marketing closer to each other as both departments rely on data and information from one another, it creates an unproductive collaboration environment. The meetings and collaboration often focus on leads and customers and sharing information and updates. The bigger picture gets less priority.
Meetings between the two departments should focus on ideas and innovation instead of information exchange. Data exchange meetings are unproductive and are a waste of time for everyone involved. In a perfectly aligned state, Marketing collaborates with Sales to discuss thoughts and ideas while information exchange is automated.
Identifying the Misalignment
Many companies who follow a traditional sales and marketing workflow suffer from Sales and Marketing misalignment of some sort. The first step of addressing it would be to identify the underlying problems.
Sales and Marketing disagreement on leads: As I had mentioned in the introduction, sales and marketing teams who are misaligned would have disagreements that would lead to blame games.
Marketing would claim that the sales team is not using all the leads Marketing is sending to them and this is resulting in poor conversion rates. Sales would claim that they are not real leads because they are of poor quality or are not qualified. Sales would learn this after their first discovery call or email and discard leads they think are not qualified.
Sales is unaware of lead developments: B2B buying cycles are long. Leads would engage with marketing materials for days and weeks before they are actually ready to buy.
- Does Sales know how leads are engaging with marketing materials?
- Does Sales know if a lead is engaging highly or if they have gone cold?
- Does Sales know if a lead has an existing customer support ticket unresolved?
Sales needs to know how leads are actually engaging with Marketing.
Sales is unaware of lead motivation and intent: A continuation from the previously stated problem that needs a separate mention of its own. It is crucial for Sales to know what leads are interested in, what their motivation is, and how they are engaging with your brand.
- Does Sales know when an existing customer would benefit from an upgrade?
- Does Sales know what leads are reading about? Do they know which marketing emails and content a particular lead has engaged with?
- Does Sales know when a lead becomes sales-ready?
Marketing’s disconnect with revenue: In a traditional system, Marketing’s job revolves around generating demand and generating leads. When leads are generated, Marketing’s job is considered to be done. As a result, they are not directly connected to revenue. Marketing and Sales alignment not only helps Sales stay up to date on marketing but also helps marketing stay connected to sales data and contribute directly to revenue.
Complex Sales and Marketing collaboration process: A side effect of misalignment is having an inefficient collaboration headroom that is often complex.
- Do you have a need to reduce back and forth between the two teams?
- Is there a need to shorten the Marketing → Sales workflow?
- Do you need to reduce manual work and time consumption while syncing leads and data between the two departments?
- Is Sales and Marketing collaboration focused on information and data exchange instead of think-along and idea generation?
We will address all of these problems and learn how they can be mitigated. When a proper Sales and Marketing alignment is established, the two teams can work in harmony to drive revenue more efficiently.
Solving the Problem with Data-Driven Sales and Marketing
All of the challenges that are faced during Sales and Marketing collaboration are solved by one key element: Data. Data combined with marketing tech is what works as a bridge between these two departments to generate the best outcomes.
Buyers start the journey by interacting with marketing content and funnels. Every action buyers take is tracked by Marketing for marketing development and analytics. Marketing uses the data to improve their funnels and acquisition rates, run lead nurturing campaigns, and for various other activities.
If we dissect the data B2B marketers collect, it contains holistic views of customer interactions, company data, demographic data among other information. Marketing uses this data collectively to answer questions like:
- Which marketing channels attribute to what percentage of leads?
- What are the key profile attributes of converting leads?
- Which campaigns are generating the most qualified leads?
- Which leads belong to which customer segments?
And, many more…
B2B marketers also collect data of individuals separately to qualify them, run targeted nurturing campaigns, and send profile data to Sales.
Aside from basic profile attributes and contact information that Marketing provides to Sales in a traditional workflow, there are other data points that Marketing collects which can also be immensely helpful for Sales. Data like an individual lead’s website activities like page visits, form fills, button clicks, media views, email reads, among other things. Sales could use this data to actively gauge a lead’s interests and motivations which would ultimately help them close more deals and always stay one step ahead. If a sales rep knows exactly what a buyer needs, they would have no issues in closing the deals.
Sales also has data that Marketing needs that can help them market better and connect their efforts to revenue. We would get to that later.
What marketing data does Sales need? Can Marketing provide it?
In this section, we will address data in terms of data points. The data that marketing has in practicality or the data that marketing can easily have.
Lead and Company Data
Some of the data here is already being provided by Marketing to Sales. Like name, email address or phone number, and company details. Marketing can however up their game here. They can provide more details that can help Sales profile better. Data like job role, company size (which helps them know of decision-making structure of the company), industry, revenue, etc.
Marketing can also send details of companies who visit your website without signing up for account-based marketing. Sales can reach out to qualified prospects among these visitors and regain their interest.
In many companies, Marketing qualifies the leads before they are passed on to Sales. This reduces the scuffle between Sales and Marketing as Sales does not need to call unqualified leads and waste their time. However, in a long B2B sales cycle, the qualification is gradual. Marketing can instantly qualify leads based on their profile data but the behavior of leads demand gradual qualification.
For example, what if a lead was initially qualified but went cold. On the other hand, what if a lead was initially not much interested but over the course of nurturing has started to show significant interest. A qualification metric like lead score is dynamic and Marketing needs to send real-time lead scores to Sales so they stay updated about qualification and intent status of each lead.
The internet marketing setup has made customer interactions easy to access especially when they are on your website. This not only helps Marketing serve customers better by paving way for more relevant content but also helps Sales understand lead motivation as we discussed previously.
For example, if a lead is reading content about a particular use case of the product, what does it imply? Let’s say a lead has watched a webinar or has performed some key actions. It helps Sales know how interested they are. The same can be said for marketing email engagement.
If your marketing team has all of these data attributes, the question is how you can send them to Sales in an efficient manner? If the data is being collected in real-time, does Marketing have an opportunity to declare some of these data-points as a milestone and engage their ideal customer profiles on these milestones, and without depending on any kind of technical lock-in?
If your marketing team doesn’t have these attributes, how can you get them for marketing enablement and also send them to Sales?
These questions will be answered but before that, let’s address the kind of data Marketing needs from Sales.
What data from Sales does Marketing need? How can Marketing use the data to optimize campaign budget, bidding, and dynamic nurturing?
There are three reasons for Marketing to use sales data:
- Connecting their marketing directly to revenue while collaborating with Sales i.e Revenue Marketing.
- Proper nurturing of sales-engaged leads.
- Acquiring better leads with lookalike modeling of sales-likely leads or customers.
Let’s understand each of these reasons:
1. Connecting their marketing directly to revenue and while collaborating with Sales for revenue i.e. Revenue Marketing
While discussing the challenges of misalignment, we mentioned the common problem of marketing being disconnected from revenue. Not only did Marketing struggle to connect customers to specific marketing activities, they have also been working autonomously without collaborating with Sales.
This has changed with data-driven sales and marketing and companies are now working hard to adopt ‘Revenue Marketing’ going as far as creating a dedicated revenue marketing squad. In revenue marketing, Marketing works with Sales to contribute to revenue and as such it needs data from Sales to know what’s happening to the deal and use the information accordingly. For example, if Sales has marked the value of a deal as $50,000, Marketing can optimize ad bidding for that lead accordingly.
Once a deal is closed, Marketing can attribute the revenue generated from it to the specific campaign, funnel or keyword, or segment (based on their requirements).
2. Proper nurturing of sales-engaged leads
Marketing can’t show the same ads and share the same content throughout the buying process. For example, when a lead is first acquired, you might send them an automated email asking them to book a demo or show retargeting ads promoting them to book a demo. Will it make sense to push for a demo while the lead has already seen a demo is almost close to buying?
The content that Marketing needs to show to leads changes based on where leads are in the pipeline. If Marketing could get sales data in real-time, they could engage leads with more relevant content that helps them move further in the buying process.
3. Acquiring better leads with lookalike modeling of sales-likely leads or customers.
Lookalike audiences are pretty straightforward. You upload a list of customers and the ad platform (mainly Facebook) spews out a new audience that resembles your customer list. Things are however a bit more tricky. First of all, Facebook doesn’t have many B2B filters. Second, if you are a small or mid-market B2B company, you probably have many customers to work with.
If you have 10,000 B2C customers and your average revenue per customer (ARPU) is $500, your revenue is $5 million. If you have 500 B2B customers with an ARPU of $10000, your revenue is also $5 million but you have much fewer data to work with. Getting signals from Sales would mean you can create lookalike audiences of sales-qualified leads.
Can any of these three workflows be automated on any scale? YES!
Now that we have addressed the why we should address what data can Sales send back to Marketing.
Deal Stage: Sending deal stage data from Sales to Marketing would mean that Marketing can optimize nurturing based on the deal stage. Marketing can also create segments and lookalike audiences based on leads on desired deal stages.
On top of that, when a deal is complete, Marketing can have the conversion marked for the account and attribute the data back to campaigns achieving closed-loop marketing.
Deal Value: Sales can pass on deal value directly to Marketing and help Marketing not only optimize marketing expenditure on each lead but also predict revenue.
Sales Action: What is Sales doing with the lead? How is the lead engaging with sales emails? This data can certainly help in personalizing the nurturing.
Sales and Marketing Alignment with Marketing Tech
Now that we have established the benefits of proper sales and alignment and the drawbacks of misalignment, it is time to TAKE ACTION!
You might already have some form of data sync in place either with integrations provided by your SaaS tools or using APIs, but it might be time to take it up to the next level and automate all the benefits and use cases we have drawn out in this article. We will also look deep into how sales and marketing professionals are using data and technology to streamline their alignment.
Technology at the Marketing End
Let’s start with the marketing side of things as the first set of touchpoints a lead has is controlled by Marketing (aside from outreach conversations if you are doing outbound).
Leads learn about your presence either through organic sources (search, social, etc.) or through advertising and then they visit your website. When they visit your website, along with the content, they also come across your forms, lead magnets, live chat widgets, etc. When a lead is captured, Marketing sends them email nurturing campaigns. The leads are then sent to Sales.
Now, you have all these Martech tools to help in this process. Landing page builders, form builders, live chat tool, pop-up builders, email marketing software and the list goes on. If you are dipping your foot in data-driven marketing, you will also have a site-analytics and behavioral tracking system, a lead qualification framework, and an on-site engagement framework that are enabled by different Martech products.
The Middle Ground for Marketing
You have all of these tools capturing leads from your website. You want these leads to be qualified. You want these leads to be segmented. You want to increase your conversion rates. You want to engage your visitors. You want to run nurturing campaigns (targeted and personalized, if possible). You want to retarget them and send emails to them. You want Sales to get these leads. You want Sales to get data of these leads. You want Sales to get leads that are actually potential buyers and you want Sales to get them when they are ready to talk to Sales. You don’t want Sales to end up discarding many of your leads because they think they are bad. Remember the symptoms of misalignment that were laid out at the very beginning?
There are so many things you want to do and so many things that can be done. You would be using tools to facilitate all of this. Tools to get lead data, to improve conversion rates, to track lead behavior, to qualify leads, to create automated workflows, to pass the information to Sales, and the list goes on and on. Let’s look at Salespanel for example.
You would be using it to capture the leads from your forms, live chat, and email marketing software and track visitors and leads in real-time. You will also be segmenting and qualifying your leads. In this case, Salespanel works as a hub to gather all of your marketing data from where you can start your lead nurturing and sales data sync process.
You can use any tool or a set of tools of your choice to get the results you need. It all depends on the workflow you want. For example, you can marketing qualify your leads and create deals for them on your CRM and sync all the needed data like lead information, lead score, lead activity in real-time. You can have Slack notify your sales team when leads are added to the CRM or when leads perform significant actions. The Martech workflow you set up should also enable all the use cases tied to the Sales to Marketing data flow that we discussed in the previous section.
If you perfectly set everything up, Sales and Marketing would never need to communicate for information exchange and routine tasks. They can all be automated and 80% of the collaboration will be through automation. The remaining 20%, which is the most vital part, should focus on the bigger picture. And, this is where Sales and Marketing need to get the brains together and work on ideas and innovation that will have a direct impact on revenue.
We have Martech products on one side and your CRM on the other side. Most products (including Salespanel) will have direct integrations with a handful of CRMs. What if your CRM is not supported by the software you are using? What if you had to set up a custom workflow between your marketing software and your CRM that is not possible using direct integration?
This is where Zapier comes in. Zapier is the thread that connects most SaaS applications in the market. There are alternatives to Zapier but Zapier is the most popular tool in this segment which is why it is compatible with almost all commonly used sales and marketing tools including Salespanel.
What happens in the CRM? How does it play a role?
Your CRM or sales pipeline software is the comfort zone of your sales reps. Your CRM does what it needs to do for making the data-sync as seamless as possible. Let’s take Pipedrive for example. Pipedrive has set up an App Panels feature that lets products like Salespanel update constantly changing data (eg: lead score, lead activity, etc.) in the sales pipeline. This means that sales reps always get fresh data when they work on a deal. Salespanel is also able to pick sales data from Pipedrive and bring it back to Marketing for segmentation, nurturing, and automation.
In this case, a closed-loop data flow where Sales gets marketing data and Marketing gets sales data is established.
The surge in marketing technology and data in the last decade has completely changed how businesses do Sales and Marketing. Businesses have found more ways to reach customers at a faster rate but this also means that customers are more likely to subconsciously ignore you even if your business could change their lives.
Remember the time you received a cold email and you completely zoned out reading a generic copy? When you browse the internet do you subconsciously ignore generic adverts? They stay in front of your eyes and yet you fail to see them. Our minds are truly fascinating and they have adapted to automatically block stuff that are subconsciously deemed unimportant.
The only way to stand out is by creating relevant and personalized customer journeys. And, this can be efficiently done when Sales and Marketing work together. A collaboration between these two departments also means that Marketing can pass on crucial information to Sales and Sales can pass back crucial information to Marketing which will, in turn, help both teams be more productive and efficient and generate more revenue.
Sell more, understand your customers’ journey for free!
Sales and Marketing teams spend millions of dollars to bring visitors to your website. But do you track your customer’s journey? Do you know who buys and why?
Around 8% of your website traffic will sign up on your lead forms. What happens to the other 92% of your traffic? Can you identify your visiting accounts? Can you engage and retarget your qualified visitors even if they are not identified?