Keynote speakers Kelly Hopping, Chief Marketing Officer, and John Eitel, Chief Sales Officer at Demandbase, shared insight on aligning sales and marketing efforts at the virtual Demand Gen Summit Fall 2023. The keynote highlighted the leading challenges companies face regarding alignment and provided a roadmap for successfully navigating and optimizing the harmonization of these two teams.
Refocus on Alignment
In a virtual era, companies must refocus and reinvest in aligning their sales and marketing efforts. Aligning the two teams facilitates better communication and helps create a unified message throughout the customer's journey. Coordinating efforts allow for a more customer-centric approach, higher conversions, more qualified leads, and more wins. John and Kelly presented statistics indicating that 52% of companies believe there is room for improvement in aligning their marketing and sales teams. Kelly said, "This tells me that 52 percent of companies have CROs who manage sales and marketing; it's the only reason they're not struggling with that alignment. Because they are one person managing it all, anytime there are two humans, we are working hard to make sure that we're aligned; it is a conscious effort that every company in that boat, I think, has to be thinking about every day."
The biggest difficulties include measuring different metrics, poor handoffs, operating with other data in different systems, and a lack of communication. The core issue is that sales and marketing often operate in silos, each residing in their systems, speaking different languages, and pursuing goals. The three fundamental principles of harmony between sales and marketing include the marketing-to-sales handoff, defining key metrics, and transparent communication. A consequence of misalignment is a divisive us vs. them attitude, conflicting priorities, different incentives, and disunified efforts toward separate goals. The misalignment is ultimately hindering the efficiency of the entire organization.
Successful alignment requires strong leaders on both fronts who operate in sync to ensure their teams align regarding goals, strategies, and future objectives. Recognize that alignment starts with leadership; leaders must be on the same page before they can ensure their teams are aligned, setting the stage for aligning processes, technology, and people. It is important to develop a solid strategy before applying technology; as the final step, it should facilitate an already optimized system. While advanced tools play a vital role, organizations need to establish processes for lead transition and alignment before integrating technology.
As John and Kelly recommended, "get into the weeds together." This means delving into the details to identify potential issues or areas for improvement. Defining key metrics and ensuring their shared understanding across both sales and marketing teams is vital. This shared understanding provides a common language for success and ensures that everyone is on the same page regarding goals and indicators of success. Sales and marketing should align on metrics, including average deal size, conversion rates, average sales cycles, total pipeline creation, CAC payback, and LTV/CAC ratio. Aligning these metrics ensures a clear understanding of what constitutes a win and aligns goals across both functions. John highlighted the importance of letting go of metrics that need adjustment and the power of resetting metrics strategically.
Communication should be bidirectional and frequent; the old model of sales having the bottom of the funnel and marketing tackling the top of the funnel has been challenged; the new reality is that the buyer's journey has evolved, and both marketing and sales are responsible for multiple touchpoints throughout the journey. Transparent communication is essential when it comes to picking a target account list. Bidirectional communication ensures sales and marketing have a say in selecting target accounts. The goal is to avoid scenarios where one-party questions the decision-making process after the fact. The alignment of target account lists, personas, and overall strategies ensures that sales and marketing work toward shared objectives.
What happens when they are aligned
When these functions are in sync, it results in unified messaging, a consistent brand image, and a value proposition. Organizations experience more qualified leads as marketing efforts become more targeted. Efficient lead handoff between teams streamlines the sales process, resulting in shorter sales cycles and higher conversion rates. The customer experience is greatly improved, with customers receiving seamless interaction at all points of the customer journey. Data sharing and analysis become more effective, empowering both teams with valuable insights and cohesive information. Ultimately, this alignment maximizes return on investment (ROI), more wins, and faster and easier closes.
Successful sales and marketing alignment is a multifaceted process that starts with leadership, extends to metrics and communication, and ends in a collaborative effort benefiting the entire organization. It's about fostering a culture of collaboration, transparency, and shared goals. Companies willing to invest in these foundational principles will be better equipped to navigate the challenges of the ever-evolving business landscape and drive sustainable growth.