Within a B2B organization, both the marketing and sales teams are defined by their core responsibilities.
B2B marketers are focused on building brand awareness, managing the buyer experience, and generating demand.
Sales teams, on the other hand, work to generate revenue by managing conversion rates, relationships with prospects and clients, business expansion, and forecasts of growth opportunities.
What is a conversion rate? And how to calculate conversion rates:
Simply put, a conversion rate is the percentage of leads that complete the B2B sales process and become (or “convert” into) clients. Rates can be determined by using a conversion rate calculator to divide conversions with the number of interactions over a set period of time.
However, the best results come from when these different processes and teams work in harmony. This can be achieved through alignment.
Studies by LinkedIn indicated that 60% of respondents believed that a misalignment between sales and marketing teams could have a damaging effect on company finances. This is often true, as up to 50% of sales time is wasted on costly, poor-quality leads.
LinkedIn also found in their study that 87% agreed that collaboration between departments was critical to enabling business growth.
B2B prospects expect a smooth, seamless experience that is personalized with their unique needs, pain points, and goals in mind. This places great importance on the necessity of optimized and congruent sales and marketing processes to deliver this experience.
Aligned teams take joint responsibility for brand awareness, adding leads to the funnel, and closing deals. In short, both teams work together to educate and engage buyers and decision makers to create and nurture a legitimate interest that will result in a qualified lead.
How is a Lead Qualified?
Leads are most commonly categorized in two ways, as a marketing qualified lead or a sales qualified lead.
What is a Marketing Qualified Lead?
A marketing qualified lead (MQL) is a potential client that has been categorized as having indicated interest and buyer intent. This is measured from interaction materials and content created by B2B marketers that normally addresses pain points.
MQLs are essentially leads that have made the first step in the buying journey and can later be considered sales ready leads. This requires an assessment before handover to sales teams can occur.
What is a Sales Qualified Lead?
A sales qualified lead (SQL) is a prospect that has progressed through the B2B sales funnel from being a marketing qualified lead, to being accepted by sales, and finally reaching a position in the B2B sales process where they are considered as a conversion ready lead.
For more on the impact low-quality leads can have on your business, watch our webinar on The Real Cost of Bad Leads.
Lead qualification is just one of the many marketing and sales processes that can be enhanced and streamlined with alignment. However, for successful alignment, it is important to follow and implement best practices for teams to achieve their full potential together.
In this article, we explore the 10 best practices for marketing and sales alignment:
When aligning teams, it is important to establish the correct procedures for teams to follow, as well as the expectations for each team member. This is especially important as sales staff often have contrasting focuses and goals (inside vs outside sales or inbound vs outbound sales, for example).
Having workflows clear from the beginning helps teams work on projects more efficiently and avoid potential bottlenecks.
This also ensures that the relevant parties are informed of each project and have a chance to contribute. Healthy communication and transparency are important and can boost team morale as well as efficiency.
At this stage, teams—and especially newer members—should be informed of company values and overall goals. This helps to orientate and bring teams together from the get-go.
An integral part of aligning teams is built on a thorough understanding of the company’s client base and buyer personas. Although typically reserved for marketing teams, they serve as a solid foundation of knowledge that supports outbound lead generation for the salespeople and lead managers.
Buyer personas can help sales teams recognize who they are selling to, what they care about, and how to meet the needs of B2B sales leads. Not only does this help maintain consistency across the messaging of both departments but also boosts conversion rates.
For true alignment, it is beneficial to hold meetings with members from both teams. This is particularly important for joint projects and creating campaigns with new marketing efforts that require insights and opinions from sales.
Lead managers can often provide useful ideas and feedback in meetings from their unique perspective of engaging directly with prospects and clients. This can result in unexpected developments that improve the quality and accuracy of campaigns.
Meetings, virtual or in-person, promote healthy interdepartmental communication by helping to put faces to names and can often cut down on the number of emails needed for outlining ideas.
This also facilitates the onboarding of new team members and establishes a safe environment of collaboration from the beginning of their time with the company.
However, it is also crucial to strike a balance between inclusion and holding too many meetings. Filling up calendars with unnecessary meetings can strangle productivity and contribute to screen fatigue (in the case of virtual meetings).
Having shared KPIs and ROI metrics can be a challenge as sales teams are typically focused on monthly revenue and marketing teams on statistics such as website traffic. However, creating shared KPIs for conversion rates and lead value can give teams a common goal.
Although the qualifiers for KPIs for each team will vary, this helps to break down the misconception that each team is only interested in their individual goals.
To aid this process, implement these solutions to the common challenges to sales and marketing KPI accountability that will make teams feel empowered and excited about KPIs:
These tactics should help make the adoption of KPIs more palatable to both sales and marketing teams.
Sales and marketing working towards the same goals helps to increase empathy and reduce the risk of resentment building. Setting ROI metrics between both teams can also help to determine and demonstrate the value of marketing strategies, which may otherwise be hard to prove.
Sharing should also extend to the praise and celebration of achieving positive results. Communicating to both teams that they have earned a win is crucial. Each member should be able to celebrate and feel proud of the role they played, however small, in reaching the shared goal.
Boosting the teams in this way will also help to jumpstart productivity and encourage solid communication between departments.
Part of avoiding misalignment is ensuring information does not become siloed within each team. This can be avoided by involving sales teams in the development of content marketing campaigns and lead generation strategies.
Co-creating elements of the lead generation strategy will help teams align their understanding of the buyer persona behavior:
Building a shared knowledge of buyer behavior is key for guiding messaging and content usage across a complete sales cycle. Messaging in outbound marketing should be consistent across all B2B sales lead generation, sales enablement, and marketing materials.
This starts with alignment and builds towards creating a seamless experience for buyers that encourages them to progress from the awareness stage.
Collecting feedback and ideas from sales teams can prove to be very insightful for both marketing and sales enablement content. After all, sales teams interact daily with prospects, conversion ready leads, and clients.
B2B marketers should boost salespeople with their content and campaigns. Not only does this leverage their connections and streamline outreach but also helps with morale. Marketing efforts can feature sales members, establishing them as thought leaders in their space.
Salespeople may be under strict time constraints and unable to strategize social media outreach. In this case, marketing teams should lend support by providing ghost-written content and sales enablement tools for outbound lead generation on social media platforms.
This benefits the whole company as salespeople who share quality content on a regular basis are 45% more likely to exceed quota (LinkedIn,2020).
Finally, sales teams should be well informed of when each campaign is going live. This way, sales members can act as representatives and brand advocates to boost the reach and effect of each campaign. Sales can also aid in the distribution of campaign event invitations to decision makers.
Understanding and performing regular analysis of how decision makers purchase products is another essential element of aligning and orienting teams. Both teams should track and share insights of the following data:
As buyer behavior continues to evolve, both teams should provide each other with updates so that marketing processes and future outbound and inbound sales strategies can be adequately adapted.
This includes developing a detailed nurture program that focuses marketing efforts on client retention and encourages repeat purchases rather than on prospects in the awareness stage.
Not only is this central to maximizing the value of each client but it is also much less costly than chasing new clients.
Following the previous point, optimizing the handoff starts with establishing the characteristics of a qualified lead and the proper time for leads to be transferred from marketing to sales.
B2B sales leads should have demonstrated quantifiable buyer intent, as determined by each company’s unique lead scoring system.
This avoids squandering valuable opportunities for conversion by taking too long to engage leads or approaching them too early on in the sales cycle (the awareness stage, for example).
Some businesses choose to use service level agreements (SLAs) for the lead-handoff process. That way, when a lead is handed over to sales, there is a high degree of certainty that the prospect is high-value.
SLAs are essential criteria that guide the sales process and include protocols for handling, scoring, and handing off leads. SLAs also assure that processes are documented and that steps can be replicated, providing teams with yet another source of future data and insights.
The basis of the handoff process is a solid foundation of shared information. Sales teams should have as much information about incoming leads as possible. This helps to avoid issues later as leads move through the B2B sales funnel and are transferred from sales development representatives (SDRs) to account executives (AEs).
Nurturing is also facilitated as sales members are better able to deliver a personalized experience to sales ready leads throughout the sales cycle. Teams can also analyze data to determine which sales team members are best suited for each account and meeting with decision makers.
To maintain and improve upon the handoff process, sales teams should deliver feedback regarding the quality of leads to the marketing department. For quality control to be maintained, this feedback should go through a judiciary process and should cover all marketing efforts.
Made up of high-level executives from both teams, this process ensures that lead rejection is valid and informs improvements. This helps to weed out inconsistencies and long-term issues.
For example, in the case that the judiciary committee agrees with the consistent rejection of leads, this can kickstart adaptations to the marketing process to solve these issues. In general, C-level support can have a positive and powerful impact on alignment as a single authority for both teams helps to create a unified vision.
Poor communication is the first step towards misalignment. Good communication is essential for the inter-departmental transparency necessary for sales and marketing alignment. This also applies to sales communications as well as the aforementioned transfer of leads from SDRs to AEs and is central to a seamless buyer experience.
One way to improve communication is by investing in a streamlined process and placing a limit on official channels for internal communication. This helps to reduce miscommunication and projects getting lost in a mountain of emails and messages.
Both teams should meet and spend time investigating the right communication platform, such as Slack or email, for the team workflows and organization in general. Connecting channels through one platform can facilitate round table discussions and the sharing of feedback.
This should also form part of the onboarding process, as it is essential to establish guidelines for setting and following up on specific tasks. Much like finding the right strategy for team meetings, it is also important to not bombard every team member with messages daily.
Make sure to give team members the option to leave groups when they are no longer relevant to them as to limit the influx of notifications and emails.
Evaluation and analysis are key to the success of marketing campaigns as well as inbound and outbound sales strategies. This can also be aided with efficient team alignment.
Regular meetings should be a chance for both teams and the members within to share feedback and trends they have been following. This mixed with data from findings is essential for the development of future strategies and the adaptation of existing campaigns to boost sales cycles.
B2B sales lead generation feedback can be insightful for the creation of content, outbound marketing, and sales enablement tools. With alignment, salespeople can relay comments directly from prospects to marketing teams to aid the development of content pieces that resonate better with the company’s target audience.
It is imperative to establish an environment between teams where members feel comfortable sharing their opinions as well as receiving criticism and feedback from others. Peer review should be focused on optimization, rather than being overly critical.
Shared goals and streamlined, organized processes are great for alignment but it is equally important to make time to socialize as a team. Team-building events are particularly effective at breaking down barriers and encouraging open communication that lasts beyond events.
On a more regular basis, this can take place at the beginning and end of meetings to build relationships between team members. Having teams get to know each other is a worthwhile investment that can lead to an overall boost in productivity and quality of work.
To establish and maintain alignment, have high-level team members lead by example. Higher-ups actively keeping up alignment helps the rest of the team follow suit.
This also promotes a positive work environment that can help with onboarding new team members and retaining existing ones.
The alignment of sales and marketing teams within an organization is a crucial element to the success of strategies that is often neglected. However, following the 10 best practices outlined above, you and your teams will be able to optimize internal processes to achieve outstanding results and increased revenue.