3 Steps to Improve Marketing and Sales Alignment

Whether you’re more like Ham or Smalls, chances are you’ve had a conversation with sales that included some miscommunication. Whether it’s unfamiliar terminology, information overload or inconsistent rules of engagement, every enterprise marketer has been guilty at some point of creating more frustration than value.

You're killing me

Ham Porter: Hey, you want a s’more?
Smalls: Some more of what?
Ham Porter: No, do you want a s’more?
Smalls: I haven’t had anything yet…so how can I have some more of nothing?
Ham Porter: You’re killing me, Smalls.
 The Sandlot

So, how do you build a partnership that builds revenue instead of resentment?

A solid lead management framework is key to shared understanding and accountability. Lead management frameworks define how and when leads are qualified, scored, and managed throughout the sales process.  If you find yourself in need of some clarity between marketing and sales, review these steps to make sure you’ve built the right foundation for your demand generation program:

Step 1: Talk the Talk

MQL, SAL, SQL, OMY (OK, I made that last one up) are just some of the acronyms you may be using in conversations with sales. Even though you may be using what you believe are industry-standard terms, is everyone speaking the same language? No matter what terms you use, sales and marketing should agree on the definition for each stage a lead goes through and what place it has in your lead qualification model, along with any corresponding lead scoring values. This should be documented and become part of any on-boarding process for new hires.

Step 2: Filter the Noise

When communicating with sales on performance, focus on the key performance indicators (KPI’s) that are most closely related to revenue. You have lots of levers you can pull to improve your demand generation program, but many of them are pretty removed from what sales people can relate to. Click-thru rates, landing page conversions, impressions – these are all examples of some of the measurements you can use to see optimization opportunities, but when you sit down with sales to review performance, zoom in on the areas where they can have the most impact and where you can work together to make improvements. For example, discuss upstream metrics like number of leads per stage and the current or optimal velocity of the lead qualification model. Of course, you need to include pipeline and revenue as well as taking a look at metrics that measure how well you’re managing the hand-off between marketing and sales. But start with a focus on what is most closely related to revenue.

Step 3:  Make a Commitment

According to the 2015 B2B Enterprise Demand Generation Survey, close to 40% of enterprise companies do not have documented standards or service level agreements (SLA’s) between marketing and sales. It’s hard to have a conversation about how the hand-off process is going if there’s no agreement on what that hand-off should look like. If you have agreement on what a sales-ready lead is, then agreeing on how to manage those important company assets should be a no-brainer.

Even when SLA’s are documented, they don’t always work. When that happens, there are often a few reasons why they’re not taken seriously:

  • There was no real joint agreement on SLA’s.
  • SLA’s are inconsistently applied, varying across campaigns, departments and sources.
  • Poor application of what determines a sales-ready lead. When sales is asked too many times to jump right on something that is more nurture-ready than sales-ready, their pain threshold increases for being out of compliance.

When you have SLA’s established, ensure you can the ability to manage the data to determine how well they’re being followed. Reports should be a part of your regular check-ins with sales to review how well the hand-off is being managed and performed. Establishing the service level agreement is the first step, but make sure to have viable reporting to optimize the process as a next step.

Author: Lee Anne Wimberly @lwimberly is Director, Strategy for ANNUITAS