Sales and marketing have always been 2 separate castles of a larger kingdom. Marketing has always focused on generating leads for the business and handing them over to sales as fast as possible. Marketers keep track of the numbers generated and consider it as a measure of success: higher numbers – greater success.
Sales department focuses on closing leads into sales, but most of the time never bothers to think about what buyer’s journey stage is that lead in, how did that person become a lead, or is the lead ready for sales at all, maybe he/she needs more nurturing?
This kind of separate approach to a common goal raises problems and difficulties connected with communication and business growth. Both marketing and sales departments essentially work towards the same goal: increase profits and generate more business for their company. Sales and marketing alignment (Smarketing) is a revolutionary approach to how smart companies do business today.
The alignment process has lots of places to start, but here is the fundamental approach that should be implemented for future success.
1. First off, marketing and sales departments need to define: what makes a lead? All leads are created different and it’s crucial to understand which of those leads are relevant to your business. A lead can be considered anybody who visited your website 5 times, read 4 blogs, downloaded an offer or requested a demo. Define what a lead for your business is.
2. It’s equally important to define what doesn’t make a lead. Set specific criteria to what a lead means for your company and cross out all other options until they meet the criteria.
3. Define the stages of the lead. Typically, it consists of the following or similar:
Lead – Downloaded/viewed/visited pages/offers depending on your chosen criteria
Marketing Qualified Lead – Have enough knowledge about their problem and looking for a brand/company that can provide a solution
Sales Qualified Lead – Has a fixed budget in mind, ready for go on
Sales Accepted Lead – Sales approved lead, moving forward towards the purchase
This is a simple, yet to the point example of a lead lifecycle stage. You can have as many divisions/subdivisions as you like, as long as the planning aligns with your business goals.
Don’t forget to also define which lead belongs to what department and consider questions like, what if the sales team is unhappy/dissatisfied with the lead at a certain stage? The lead isn’t ready yet for sales, what should be done? Don’t discard them, instead conduct a research to determine what the problem is, and after that reposition the lead in the corresponding stage of the lifecycle.
4. Handing leads from marketing to sales. It’s important to note that it’s not absolutely necessary for a lead to go through each of the lifecycle stages to advance. Some leads may already be marketing qualified when they join you or even sales ready. This is why handing leads from marketing to sales needs to be defined for each stage with crystal clear instructions: what happens next and who takes responsibility for the lead.
5. Combined nurturing campaigns – when thinking about marketing campaigns to nurture your leads and advance them to the next stage, it’s important to have your sales team contribute as well. This way your leads will be already familiar with your sales team a little, which will help ease the process of closing them into customers when the time comes.
6. Develop a clear Service Level Agreement – Marketing and sales alignment might sound simple, but it’s a hard and complex task to accomplish. Things might get real dirty if there is no clear agreement between the two teams and everything can turn into chaos overnight. This is why it’s important to have a clear SLA agreement to define the services that each department owes to the other.
The alignment process takes a long time to establish. Expect around 12-18 months of consistent cooperation between sales and marketing teams to reach clarity and understanding between the two. Only after everything is defined clearly can you expect realistic sales predictions and constant, sustainable growth rate.