How to align sales and marketing

How to Integrate Sales & Marketing to Close More Deals

Marketing has funnels, sales has funnels, but customers? Customers don’t have funnels.

Customers have journeys.

While that journey might follow some sequential steps you have planned, it probably won’t fit neatly into those steps every time. Especially on large deals, closing a sale can take a long time, with lots of back and forth that could go on for months.

In that time, the prospect will probably check their email hundreds of times, spend many hours scrolling through social media, attend trade shows – all of which present opportunities for you to continue marketing to them.

For example, let’s say you have some ideal prospects attending next month’s industry conference. How do you think they would feel if your marketing team recognized them and said hello?

Here’s how to integrate sales and marketing to not just close more deals, but to land more ideal customers.

Why Integration Is So Important

Integrating your sales and marketing teams will help give potential customers a more seamless and natural experience. And it’s not just the customer who will benefit. By better understanding the complete customer journey, these two teams will be able to better execute within their own pieces of the puzzle.

When sales knows what kind of marketing a prospect has been exposed to, they’ll be able to manage expectations. And when marketing understands prospects’ most common sales objections, they can better craft marketing to capture more leads. In other words, both teams will be able to learn and become more effective.

By sharing data and accurately attributing credit, you’ll be able to measure your company’s results more effectively. 

Best Practices for Integrating Sales and Marketing.

I’ll be honest with you – this integration won’t happen overnight. Most people are resistant to change, so it will require a process of trial and error. But I have five tips for you today that will make the whole process go a lot smoother and quicker.

1. Intermingle Data from Both Departments

If your organization is large and siloed, this can be one of the most challenging steps. However, it can also be the most rewarding.

In 2017, 20% of marketers said that big data was the most important marketing tool out there:

Top rated digital marketing techniques

(Source)

So why hinder them?

Right now they’re optimizing for things like traffic, email signups or free trials. Those are all great KPIs, but you know what would be even better? Sales and revenue.

Of course, you can’t hold the marketing team directly responsible for the job of your sales team, but you can help align them with sales by connecting your data and allowing them to see where leads end up.

For example, they may have a great low-cost campaign on Facebook that is driving tons of leads. But few of those leads end with a closed deal. By connecting the data from marketing to sales, however, that would become apparent and you can stop wasting resources on campaigns that don’t bring in customers.

There are several integrated CRMs like Salesmate that help companies with this:

Salesmate

2. Use a Consistent Process when Handing Over a Lead to Sales

The specifics of this process will be different for every company, but it should be clear and documented. Specifically, there should be a obvious signal telling sales when to get involved and where to find all the information they need.

They should be able to see what marketing materials the customers had as well as any demographic data collected in the process (remember, intermingle your data!).

The sales team also needs to update these accounts with notes as they go through the process so that marketing is up to date if they need to jump back in. If the deal doesn’t close, sales should make a note about why the deal fell through so both teams can analyze and learn from their results.

3. Foster a Collaborative Work Environment

One of the hardest parts of any cross-team integration is changing the culture – especially when it comes to individuals’ attitudes and ideas about others.

For integration to work, it’s important that both teams feel like they are in this together, not opposing one another. Trust and communication are keys to facilitating this (not to mention fair compensation models – more on this in a bit), and as I mentioned above, a written process can help facilitate this. However, written processes doesn’t do much to foster collaboration and don’t  generate new ideas or improvements. In fact, they can do quite the opposite.

That’s why you should consider having regular collaboration meetings where both departments come together to look at recent results, problems, and questions. Then work together to find ways to experiment and enhance the process. Two heads are always better than one, right?

4. Create a Rotational or Shadowing Program

Rotating salespeople into your marketing team and vice versa can help each one understand the other’s perspective a bit better. This helps to build trust, understanding and a collaborative environment.

It can also help them give customers a more seamless experience since they know the entire journey they go through, rather than the little piece they would normally see. It also gives more people a chance to see the process with fresh eyes, which can lead to new improvements and recommendations.

I highly recommend that all new hires get to experience both departments for a few weeks before moving into their permanent role. Many large companies require marketing hires to spend 6-12 months in a sales role. I see no reason the reverse shouldn’t be true.

Rotational programs have tons of benefits in general. Check out this short video from Cleverism:

In addition to new hires, it’s also important to do this with existing employees if departmental integration is a new direction for you. A program like this can take many different forms.

At a minimum, you should have some shadowing days where a member from one team (say sales) will spend a few days watching and learning what the other team (marketing) does all day. If your organization can handle it, you can also consider longer rotational programs for employees interested in working in a new department for 3-6 months.

While productivity might decrease since the employee has to ramp up to new skills, tools and colleagues, it won’t take as long as a fresh hire and this should pay itself back by improved collaboration and integration following the rotation.

5. Establish a Balanced System of Incentives

Having shared team incentives can help bring the teams into alignment. For example, you can offer a shared sales commission that is equally distributed among members of both teams based on deals closed each quarter. This ensures that marketing is incentivized to work toward KPIs that move the sales needle, not just vanity metrics like traffic or brand impressions. It also encourages sales to work with marketing to help them improve their efforts.

However, the key is to strike a balance between personal and individual incentives. If they don’t feel like their individual efforts have a significant impact on their individual rewards, employees may not be as motivated to give it their best, since their bonus is the same with or without their going the extra mile.

The answer is usually some combination of shared revenue-based commissions (the overall team goal) with individual incentives based on KPIs specific to that role. For example, sales would receive sales commission but a content marketing manager might get measured by website traffic or the number of leads captured.

Conclusion

At my digital marketing agency, Single Grain, we focus on results and ROI. That’s why we encourage our teams and those we consult for to work with sales operations to make sure that marketing efforts are driving real sales.

This isn’t always easy. Any time you bring two groups of people together, there will be some friction. The process isn’t simple, but it’s worth it.

With aligned goals, understanding and incentives, the two teams will operate with increased performance and agility. Problems will have better solutions. Prospects will feel more attended to. More deals will close.

As technology blends the roles of marketer and salesperson more and more, it doesn’t make sense to keep them isolated in their own silos. Marketing and sales team integration lets you design a journey and process around the customer, not departments or job titles.

Customer-centric strategies always win!

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