Solving your sales and marketing alignment challenges

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We’ve already talked about sales and marketing alignment, and how it can be a competitive advantage to get your sales and marketing teams working together (if you haven’t read the blog post on sales enablement, start here). Getting cultural alignment is probably the hardest part of this process, especially when you have to lead that shift, but it isn’t the only challenge facing you as you try to get these teams to play nice. Tech plays a part, too.

As more B2B organizations try to aggressively scale and grow, leveraging technology has become central to both sales and marketing teams’ day-to-day work. Without ensuring alignment between all of these systems, and setting up the right processes to facilitate them working together, all of the cultural change you are driving will be for naught.

Aligning technology to your organizational maturity

Some B2B organizations love to stay on the bleeding edge of marketing technologies. They are early adopters of all manner of tools, from marketing automation, to chatbots, to sales engagement cadences and playbooks, to automations based on buyer intent. You might be in one of those organizations. It’s an exciting place to be!

Unfortunately, I’ve seen many well-meaning organizations adopt a ton of technology and, despite their best efforts to integrate them, have had the projects crash and burn. Seeing the early adopters succeed is much rarer. And it sucks. Not only does it eat up a ton of budget, it also degrades the hard-won trust between the sales and marketing teams.

These projects fail because the maturity of the organization isn’t aligned with the complexity and value proposition of each tool.  

Let me explain: every sales and marketing technology has an organizational culture requirement for success. As a result, you should be constantly thinking about where your organization sits before you make tech investments. You can’t buy your way into alignment, and without it you’re never going to get the financial return on investment that your technology vendor is promising.

A perfect example of this is an ABM platform like Demandbase. If you buy Demandbase, then your sales and marketing alignment better be rock solid. You better have run at least one ABM pilot, and have a crystal clear view of your strategic accounts. More importantly, your teams better understand that quality trumps quantity. If you have a sales and marketing organization that is focused on driving volume at all costs, your ABM initiatives are going to fall flat, and you’re not going to get ROI from your Demandbase investment. It’s the same with Salesforce, with Drift, with Unbounce. Before you invest, think about what mutual understanding needs to be in place between marketing and sales for it to succeed, then check that your team is aligned with that, then spend that budget.

Aligning martech and CRM

Another opportunity for alignment is combining a marketing automation system (such as Pardot) with a CRM (such as Salesforce Sales Cloud). By integrating these two platforms with a Sales and Marketing mutual service-level agreement (SLA) in hand, you can build the processes and systems to automate the lead management for both teams. This includes (but isn’t limited to):

  • Scoring and grading
  • Automatic assignment of MQLs (based on scoring thresholds, ‘Contact Us’ submissions or trial/demo requests)
  • Tasks and notifications for inside sales to ensure timely follow-up of leads
  • Established sales process stages
  • Tasks and notes on lead and contact records
  • Multi-touch campaign attribution for each stage of the prospect journey
  • Long-term nurturing drips for leads that are not sales-ready

Once the lead management processes are automated, reporting becomes much simpler. Consistency of data means trends can emerge, ROI can be determined, and gaps can be spotted. The teams can react to how the market has responded to campaigns, and leverage the data in their systems to increase their understanding of prospects over time.

The right content asset at the right time

A common pain for marketing teams everywhere is that a ton of time, effort and budget is spent building out content libraries that sales teams never use. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve heard sales teams complain about not having a key piece of sales collateral, only for the marketing team to reveal that it has been on their website for months. Better alignment solves both of these issues.

First, the marketing team needs to leverage the expertise of the sales team to drive their content development efforts. No one understands prospects better than sales executives, so they should be the first port of call when it comes to developing a content calendar. Content that is focused on real prospect pain points is going to resonate better with your audience, and is more likely to be leveraged by sales if it fits within the conversations that they are already having with prospects. Better content equals a happier sales team.

Second, your content library should be easily accessible and allow the sales team to find the right piece of content at the right time. Tools like Uberflip help sales teams quickly find a whitepaper or eBook related to specific pain points, verticals, or pipeline stages, but with the right communication and organization, any storage system will work. When looking to enable sales teams with content, your focus should be to:

  • Remove friction of use – Assets must be easy to download, share, and track. The more clicks it takes for your sales team to share an eBook, the less chance they will actually do it.
  • Increase visibility – Sales teams must know where to find content, and how to find engagement metrics to judge its success. It’s not enough to simply be able to find a video, they must know how to embed it, and how to see the number of times it has been viewed or shared by their leads.
  • Provide context for use – Help your sales team understand the audience for each content piece, how it should be shared, and what outcomes they should expect after they share it. This can be as simple as tagging content by funnel stage or pain point, or as complex as having playbooks for each prospect pain point, with suggested content, email scripts, and next steps.

Sales and marketing alignment is often described as a simple relationship problem, one that can be solved with the introduction of an SLA and better communication. The reality is sadly more complicated than that, with interlocking technologies creating wrinkles and areas of friction and conflict. However, by keeping an eye on the broader cultural shift in your organization, and by understanding how your tech stack can be used to solve more problems than it creates, it is possible to build a strong partnership between these two critical departments.

Jon KaneJon Kane, Director of Client ServiceJon has spent his career proving how a deep understanding of customer needs can be combined with creativity and technology to help drive real business results. At Brainrider, a B2B digital marketing agency, he leads a team of B2B marketers dedicated to creating strong client relationships while helping to build their marketing and sales pipeline. Jon’s experience of B2B marketing, web, content and technology allows him to provide key strategic input and guidance to clients of all sizes and in all industries.