We’ve all seen the ever-present deluge of articles about sales and marketing alignment. The topic is broached so often that even a lifelong marketer like me starts to wonder if it is truly possible for both teams to be on the same page.
The short answer is yes, these teams can be in sync to positively impact sales, revenue and overall brand performance. I’ve seen and lived it at more than one company, though I’ve also seen it fail miserably at others. That’s why I passionately believe that sales and marketing must be attached at the hip to make significant progress.
Just how alignment nirvana is accomplished will vary from company to company depending on organization and structure. Pulling tactics from the myriad articles will certainly get your team part way there. But regardless of company size, org chart or vertical, three foundational components are critical to success:
- Visible, active leadership support for alignment
- Communication in every direction: up, down and across
- Accountability at all levels
Lead, follow or get out of the way
Naturally, sales and marketing leaders beat the drum loudly about alignment. But are they preaching to the choir (let’s face it, every team member knows it’s critical to be in lockstep) or are they practicing what they preach?
- Do sales and marketing leaders schedule joint meetings on a recurring basis, where discussion is open and transparent about direction, opportunities, successes, failures and lessons learned?
- Does leadership openly lead, encourage and support planning collaboration whether at the account, territory or annual strategy level?
- Do team leads encourage active participation by all attendees at planning meetings, territory review sessions and quarterly business review meetings?
Leading by example and being openly inclusive are the surest ways to drive cross-collaboration. Leadership commitment permeates the organization and drives forward progress. Without it, alignment will struggle at best, and at worst, the team will be at odds and ultimately flounder.
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.
I firmly believe that it is impossible to over-communicate when managing people. Of course, you can’t share everything; some things are highly confidential, like staffing, reorganizations, mergers and acquisitions. Individuals get that. But they don’t understand why they are excluded from discussions that directly impact the work they do every day. Erring on the side of over-communicating vertically and horizontally builds trust, supports collaboration and promotes team confidence to tackle new challenges.
- When sales and marketing leaders meet, is essential information shared with the rest of both teams equally?
- Is marketing working side-by-side with sales to understand the voice of the customer to better support sales? (Ride-alongs and walking tradeshow floors with reps are great ways for marketing to learn from sales!)
- Is sales sharing feedback with marketing on how messaging is being received, if and where there are sticking points, and any new market insights that may impact future marketing needs?
- At annual strategic planning time, are sales and marketing working together to identify market trends, competitive threats and areas of opportunity? (These sessions should include product members, too, for real company alignment!) Are joint planning and/or review sessions scheduled?
The frequency of joint meetings will depend on the size of the company as well as the size of the sales and marketing teams. In some cases, like start-ups or newly merged companies, daily scrums may be the way to go, at least for a while. For companies that are more mature or have longer sales cycles, meeting weekly or bi-weekly could suffice. If you’re not sure of the best cadence, ask your team! Then implement the majority recommendation—and stick to it!
I don’t know about you, but accountability seems to be wavering these days and I’m all for bringing it back. If you’re proud of your work (successes and failures—there is always something to learn), own it.
If you’re committed to alignment, own it! That said, creating service level agreements (SLAs) between sales and marketing is a great way to clarify expectations, roles, and responsibilities and get everyone singing from the same songbook. SLAs should be crafted jointly with both teams and always include definitions of terminology (e.g., what is an SQL and MQL), metrics, and deliverables. Additionally, SLAs should include key agreements on communication, collaboration and transparency, such as:
- Rules of engagement (specific to how, when and what to communicate)
- Identify points of contact for scheduling and setting agendas
- Commit to regularly scheduled and recurring sales and marketing meetings
- Define feedback loops (e.g., timing of marketing to sales for campaigns and sales to marketing for client/prospect engagement)
- Commit to the timing for marketing to hand off leads to sales and for sales to follow up and provide feedback
- Rules of disengagement:
- Identify the consequences if either or both sides fail to meet a shared goal
- Define how disagreements will be discussed and resolved
- Agree on how and when the SLA will be reviewed and potentially revised
- Determine the circumstance that could lead to dissolution of the SLA
No, this won’t be death by meeting
Yes, I can hear your eyes rolling that I’m recommending building more processes and adding multiple meetings to already jammed schedules that take time away from “actual” work. But think of it this way:
These meetings are foundational building blocks for the team. The clearer, more defined the groundwork up front, the easier the lift is to build out and execute on all cylinders down the road. With clear communication of expectations, roles and responsibilities, sales and marketing can truly be aligned.
For more great insights that can help drive your sales, marketing and whole business forward, start with a quick chat with FATFREE.