Sales & Marketing alignment. We’ve heard it a hundred times, but what exactly does it mean and how do we achieve it?

What is alignment?

The oxford dictionary defines alignment as “a position of agreement or alliance.” Let’s take the first part: “Agreement”. Well, in order to agree on something, we must first understand what we are agreeing to. We should be sharing our goals, strategies and tactics with each other, and we should agree that these are the right ones to focus on!

Now let’s take the second part (and personally my favorite): “Alliance”. Wow! What a great word to describe the relationship between a sales and marketing team. An alliance implies that you’re working together towards shared goals and for mutual benefit. I don’t know about you, but I don’t see “finger pointing” in that definition at all!

How do we get there?

So now what? How do we get started on achieving alignment and start working together? Below are four steps you can take to begin the journey to sales and marketing alignment.

Step 1: Define success. Together.

Great! Your marketing and sales teams have decided to form an alliance and work together. But what are you trying to achieve? What are the common goals that bring you together and what does success look like?

I recommend getting your marketing and sales leadership teams in a room and brainstorming. Even if you think you already know the answer, it’s important to include your teammates in every step to ensure buy in and confirm shared beliefs across the teams. Here are a few strategies to discussing your common goals, and defining success:

  1. Ask ”why?” and keep asking. Why does marketing exist? To generate leads? Okay, and why does marketing need to generate leads? You get the idea. Do the same things for sales, and I bet you’ll find some common themes.
  2. Start with your company goals and work backwards. List out the company’s goals and break down the departmental goals needed to achieve them. For example, if the company wants to achieve 50% growth in the next year, then what does marketing and sales need to do to support that goal?
  3. Switch teams. Have your marketing team pretend they are sales and vice versa. Have each team create a presentation around their goals and a plan to get there. This is a great way for the team to get outside of their box. It also creates empathy as each team member has to put on the shoes of another team and work through their challenges.

After spending some time brainstorming common goals together, you may end up with a long list of ideas. It’s important to focus on “SMART” goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic & timely) and pick the 2-3 that will make the most impact.

The best part about these brainstorms is that they can be repeated as often as needed. They can be used for anything from big vision goals such as “increase revenue in the EMEA market by x% year-over-year” to very specific goal planning such as “generate $x in sales at event ABC.”

Step 2: Create a customer journey. Together.

The old way of doing business goes something like this: marketing would develop the company’s messaging and key differentiators, launch advertising campaign, and deliver leads into the hands of sales reps. Sales would then pick up the phone and call, call again, and again until they had any luck reaching a human on the other side. But, buyers are changing. They’re spending more time researching their purchase long before they even get on a call with a sales rep. This means sales reps are looking beyond the phone for new ways to connect with their prospects earlier in the funnel. The good news is that marketing can help.

A customer journey isn’t always linear and many customers will follow different paths. However, every interaction a customer has with your brand should be tied together in a cohesive way. Sales and marketing should also be sending the same message, at different but intentional moments throughout the journey. Each team member knows when it’s their responsibility to reach out to the customer and is confident the message they are sending is timely and relevant.

Note to the Marketing Tech Nerds: Once you have the customer journey outlined, then you get to use all those fancy tools to make that journey a reality. Nurture programs, lead scoring, machine learning, web personalization, you name it! This is where we start to have fun!

Step 3: Measure and review the data. Together.

You created the goals together (you didn’t already forget step 1 did you?). So why not measure them together as well!  It’s important that sales and marketing are analyzing their results together so that they come to the same conclusions. This allows us to take corrective action when needed, or to high five each other when the alignment is producing the results we hoped for!

To make sure this step doesn’t get forgotten, I recommend agreeing on a handful of metrics to review together as a team and also choose an appropriate meeting cadence. On a weekly basis look at the performance indicators that show whether or not the teams are tracking towards their  larger monthly or quarterly goals as expected. If the data shows we’re not on track, there is still time for a mid-month course correction. Then, meet again at the end of the month and quarter to reflect on past performance and make necessary changes for the coming months.

Don’t just stop at reviewing the data together. Take it a step further and find opportunities for the teams to present their results together. Sharing the same story in front of your teams or the rest of the organization shows everyone that you are united and “aligned.” It will increase morale and build trust within the organization.

Step 4: Buy each other donuts.

It doesn’t have to be donuts, but you get the idea. Say “Thank You” to your partners in sales or marketing by buying them lunch or heading to happy hour after work to celebrate the wins! When teams spend more time together, relationships are built, lines of communication open, and team performance increases.

Starting the sales and marketing alignment journey can be difficult at first, but it’s worth it! These four steps can be repeated as many times as needed. Achieving (and maintaining) alignment is always a work in progress. If you ever feel stuck, it’s okay to reach out to the other team for ideas, or you can always drop us a line!

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