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Aligning Sales and Marketing Part 2: The Part Where You Help Me Help You

by Kayla Portillo

In my last post, I talked about how a regular conversation is the critical (but attainable) first step in linking up your sales and marketing teams. Regular conversations and sharing the right, actionable insights, will give everyone greater confidence in your organization’s growth strategy. That was the easy part.

This next part isn’t exactly difficult, but it requires commitment, follow-through, and collaboration. (You’re right, that sounds difficult. So let’s break it down.)

Once your sales and marketing teams are regularly comparing notes, learning from each other, and incorporating the tools and insights they share in their day-to-day work, it’s time to inject a little strategy into the mix. This part is best tackled when you are goal-setting for your company, setting annual sales or revenue targets, or planning your next year’s marketing calendar.

The idea is to build on that collaboration and trust to have both teams set and agree on the business goals that will fuel your strategic business growth, with full alignment on the best areas of focus, strategies that each team can employ in their work, and agreement on success metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs).

There are a number of resources for annual planning, goal setting, and campaign/sales planning. You know your organization best, and if the conversations between sales and marketing have been going well, your teams should have a good idea of where they each help move the needle. But, this is where I most often see the process break down.

A company leader asks their sales team where they see the most potential for growth in the next year. In a separate meeting, a company leader asks the marketing team to recommend new industries to break into to attract more new customers.

And … cue the crickets.

The worst outcome is when both teams come up with recommendations that run contrary to each other are not based on research or business data, and they require extensive resources to start-up and test. Don’t get me wrong - sometimes breaking into a new industry or launching a new product is your best play and it is absolutely worth the resource investment to get that right. But often, when teams are put on the spot to deliver recommendations to meet a goal that may have been arbitrarily set for them, they simply aren’t equipped to make the best recommendations.

Here's an outline of a better outcome:

  1. Management has a realistic growth goal in mind and is able to articulate it in terms that match with customer data that exists and is accessible to both the sales and marketing teams.
    1. Example: We want 10% revenue growth over 2017, which equates to $XXX,XXX.
    2. Or: We want to diversify our customer base so that 80% of our revenue is coming from 20% of our clients this year. The current ratio is 85% of business coming from 15% of clients.
  2. Sales and marketing spend a working session driving into some of the data, perhaps with a strategist, facilitator, or company leader, to understand various options for meeting that goal.
    1. Example: If we close X new clients with an average deal size of $XX,XXX, accounting for X% attrition in our current customer base, we’ll achieve 10% revenue growth.
    2. Or: If we grow 5 of our mid-level accounts, while maintaining our top accounts, we will see the desired 80/20 ratio.
  3. And then they dig a little deeper.
    1. Example: If we want to close X new clients, based on our close rate, we need XXX leads. This is in line with our typical inbound lead volume.
    2. Or: We can identify 10 accounts that have grown at levels this past year that we want to replicate. We will use this information to create qualification criteria to identify 20 different accounts with the most potential for growth this coming year.
  4. Make a plan…
    1. Marketing creates a lead generation campaign with buy-in and support from sales.
    2. Sales creates a sales playbook for account growth with support from marketing.
    3. Both teams and company leadership agree on meaningful, accessible KPIs that are shared monthly and quarterly to track progress.
  5. And Go!

At Red Caffeine, we are advocates of pilot testing and tweaking as often as is needed, and with a new process like this, expect that tweaks will be made. No one should feel pressured to stay on a course that isn’t working just because the strategy is in place. On a monthly basis, both teams should be reviewing the KPIs and talking honestly about whether or not they are seeing the movement they expect.

Other items to consider during monthly check-ins:

  • Is there a timely but unanticipated opportunity that is worth pursuing?
  • Have there been major shifts with our competitors or in the industry that impact our strategy?
  • Are there sales tools or processes that would better equip us to execute this plan?
  • Are our operations keeping up with the business we are generating? Are we effectively delivering on the promise we are selling?

Having a plan is a smart strategy. Building a plan where the sales and marketing teams are aligned is a better one. The connection - and regular dialogue - will make the work of both teams more efficient and effective. Check back soon for part three to learn what Sesame Street can teach us about the effectiveness of sales and marketing alignment.

(Can’t wait? Drop me a line!)