Traditionally, sales and marketing are considered two different business functions. On the one hand, marketing relates to generating interest in the goods and services being sold, while sales refer to the set of defined activities that will convert a prospect into a buyer.
However, both sales and marketing share a common goal: to create brand awareness, attract prospects, close deals, and generate revenue. Sales and marketing alignment, or 'Smarketing,' forms a harmonious partnership between the two. In this post, we shall discuss smarketing and how you can achieve optimum alignment for maximum benefit.
What is Smarketing?
Sales marketing alignment is a smart adaptation to the change in customer behavior. Considering that nearly 47% of modern B2B purchasers conduct their research online, the onus lies with the marketing unit to create sufficient brand awareness. As a result, the demarcations between sales and marketing have started to blur, thereby giving birth to smarketing.
Smarketing is a portmanteau for Sales and Marketing. As stated previously, smarketing is basically sales and marketing alignment carried out to achieve organizational growth and emerge as leaders in their respective sectors. It unifies the two wings and gets them behaving as a single unit rather than keeping them as squabbling corporate twins.
It operates on the principle of inbound marketing, wherein companies find it easier to qualify leads through a well-defined process. Eventually, it proves to be effective mainly because you are selling to businesses that actually wish to hear from you rather than pitching to uninterested leads.
Benefits of Smarketing
Upon successful B2B sales and marketing alignment, companies can overcome the individualistic challenges faced by sales and marketing.
Further, smarketing offers the following benefits:
1. Unified Common Goal
Once companies reach sales and marketing alignment, there are fewer chances of finger-pointing and passing the buck. It ensures that the sales and marketing teams pursue the same mission, vision, and objective as that of the company. It also clearly defines the role of each team or executive, which ensures that everyone is on the same page and accountable for their actions.
Further, when sales and marketing put an end to the constant bickering and bury the hatchet, the office environment will be far more positive. As a result, happy employees will contribute to the overall productivity of the organization. Moreover, a nurturing environment will help your company acquire and attract new talent.
2. Seamless Communication
Communication is one of the most fundamental units of every business operation. Maintaining seamless communication between sales and marketing can improve the effectiveness of their respective techniques. Thus, in order to achieve the same, smarketing encourages several meetings and follow-up sessions between the two. As a result, it establishes positive communication channels while also setting up a constant feedback loop between them.
Given the fact that customers are spoilt for choices, operating a customer-centric business model can play a decisive role in B2B organizations choosing your services over that offered by others. Businesses must get a clear idea of what the client expects and work towards it in a holistic manner. Smarketing basically aims at creating value together.
Essentially, the different teams and departments sit together to discuss what is best for the client and how to offer the same. Since sales and marketing interact with clients in different manners, they can compare their data points and exchange information that may help the other. Hence, the company can have a better understanding of the target buyers and capitalize on this information to offer a more personalized and engaging customer experience.
4. Increased ROI
The greatest pull towards developing a smarketing strategy revolves around the handsome return on investment. As smarketing involves closed-loop reporting, marketing can have a better understanding of where the best high-quality leads come from. As such prospects have better chances of converting, marketing teams can concentrate their efforts on such customers.
At the same time, sales can gain valuable insights into customer behavior that will make pitching easier. The processes are then modified as per each lead, making the sales touchpoints relevant, which eventually improves their hit-rate at every stage. Thus, collectively, smarketing maximizes the ROI efficiently.
5. Revenue Growth
At the end of the day, sales and marketing are both working towards increasing revenue. To gain a better understanding of how smarketing affects revenue growth, consider the following facts and figures:
- Organizations that focus on B2B sales and marketing alignment register an annual growth of nearly 20%
- Sales marketing alignment can bump your revenue by a whopping 208%!
- B2B organizations, after successful sales and marketing alignment, enjoy 36% higher customer retention rates and 38% higher sales win rates
- Smarketing grants 24% faster three-year revenue growth and 27% faster three-year profit growth__.
- Companies with sales and marketing alignment are 67% better at closing deals.
Need we say more?
6. Scaling Business Goals
When sales and marketing, the two departments playing an important role in revenue generation, operate in a collaborative manner, the business can effectively meet its end goals. Clearly, smarketing is the best way not only to meet your business goals quickly but also to aid the growth of your company.
Steps to Achieve B2B Sales Marketing Alignment
After going through the advantages offered by smarketing, you may already be rearing to get started on achieving sales and marketing alignment.
To help you with the same, here’s a step-wise guide on how to achieve B2B sales and marketing alignment:
1. Identify Your Buyers and Map Out the Buying Process
For the sales and marketing alignment to work effectively, the teams should have a clear idea of who they wish to attract. Thus, the smarketing team will first have to design an ideal buyer’s persona. This target audience profile does not necessarily have to be a single outline. In fact, companies can draft multiple buyer’s personas to categorize and get a feel of who they wish to market and sell to.
The following metrics help understand and scope out your buyer’s persona:
- Basic demographics: Age, sex, geographical location
- The type of the organization they work at, their role in it, and the size of it
- The primary objective of the buyer
- Organizational priorities
- The biggest challenges and problems faced by the target company
- Buyer’s purchasing decision roadmap
Having an understanding of the buying process can prepare you for dealing with objections, answering specific queries regarding the buyer’s consumption, and get an estimated timeframe against which the process finalizes.
2. Define Roles, Responsibilities, and Aligned Terminology
The objective of smarketing is clear - sales and marketing have to work together.
However, it’s not as simple as getting the teams together in the same room and watch them miraculously find out what role they have to play. Given that these two complementary units downplay each other’s contributions, it is easy to play the blame game. Eventually, companies will find it hard to identify the problem areas and address them. Hence, it is of utmost importance to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of each team and individual in the smarketing strategy.
It’s also worth mentioning here that sales and marketing often use different terminologies to define their actions. While these phraseologies may overlap, they may have a completely different meaning in either setting. Mushing the two teams together without any background could lead to communication gaps. Given that you have already defined the buyer’s persona, it is now all about your smarketing team speaking the same language and maintaining regular communication.
3. Setup a Collaborative Platform
To facilitate sales and marketing alignment, you need to make sure that the two can collaborate and work with digital data in real-time. The marketing team supplies the information to the sales, based on which they can convert a customer. On the other hand, the sales department shares valuable feedback that helps marketing teams create high-quality, engaging content to gain brand popularity. The closed-loop integration allows for sales enablement, wherein sales can have information, content, or resources readily available for action.
Thus, it is important to set up seamless channels of communication between the two so that data and resources are available to both even at a moment’s notice. Normally, companies choose cloud-based storage systems, like Google Drive, Slack, and Dropbox, to assume the role of a collaborative platform. These avenues are not only handy for storage and filing purposes, but they are also easy to use, and most individuals are well-accustomed to using them. For more advanced data sharing and synchronization, companies can make use of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to maintain coordination.
4. Encourage Regular Meetings
Regular meetings allow for the smarketing team to interact with each other and build meaningful relationships. It lays the foundation for effortless communication between sales and marketing, which is instrumental for smarketing success.
It is a good practice to conduct smarketing meetings on a weekly basis. It offers them perspective on measuring their success so far and reviewing their performance. The teams can utilize it to discuss vital keypoints like change in customer expectations, adaptations in buyer’s persona, promotional deals, sales and marketing strategies, and so on. Further, these meetings help them identify any ongoing issues and find out new, innovative, and remedial ways to address them. As a result of this association, sales and marketing will have the capacity to understand each other’s point of view and process.
5. Draft a Service Level Agreement (SLA)
Once you have developed cohesion between the teams, it is time to implement the sales and marketing alignment through the creation of a Service Level Agreement (SLA). The benchmark for measuring sales and marketing efforts are different. At the same time, even if one portion of the team fails to deliver, the entire smarketing unit suffers.
Drafting an SLA unifies the rules under which both, sales and marketing, operate. Committing to an SLA is basically solidifying the role diversification and adoption of aligned terminology by putting it to paper. An SLA will clear up any confusion, whatsoever, on the role played by each team or team member and is a document that outlines the obligations that each team has to fulfill within a set period.
Typically, an SLA includes details such as conversion timeframes, criteria against which marketing can pass off leads to sales, a definition for sales-ready leads, and so on. Each team should have an understanding of the minimum SLA points that they must achieve to hit the targets. Basically, the SLA is the baseline to measure the team’s performance, ascribe accountability, and facilitate seamless synchronization.
Thus, it should come as no surprise that nearly 65% of companies that have a smarketing SLA in place register a higher return on investment.
6. Develop Branded Content
Another essential component of sales-marketing alignment involves the development of content and the creation of content marketing strategies. This content creation process must offer clarity on who needs what kind of content, when, and how.
The diversity in B2B content ranges from on-page infographics to whitepapers and case studies, all of which are important for smarketing. Marketing needs content for pre-funnel social selling, attracting and engaging leads, driving traffic, and improving search rankings. On the other hand, content acts as sales collateral and aids the sales team in generating organic leads and pushing them further down the funnel. Clearly, smarketing would also require a variety of content that serves the primary purpose - Brand Storytelling.
As salespeople engage with prospects, they may discover the kind of content that is creating a hype amongst the ideal clients. Furthermore, the sales team may also need content in the intermediate stages of the sales process to close more deals. Based on the inputs shared by the sales team, the marketing team can generate relevant content for lead scoring and lead conversion.
Thus, the sales and marketing teams can come together to create content that is targeted, useful, and more effective in generating better results. The weekly smarketing meetings can also play host to brainstorming sessions where the teams can explore the kind of content that ticks with their prospects and how to make the best use of it.
7. Share a Common Funnel
Traditionally, sales and marketing funnels are very different from each other. For marketing, the funnel is all about capturing leads and handing it over to sales, regardless of the end result. On the other hand, those in sales do not care where the lead comes from, but all that matters is closing the deal. For smarketing to be successful, you will have to do away with the sales and marketing funnel and replace it with an all-in-all funnel that ties the marketing pipeline with sales quotas.
In the present scenario, buyers do not follow such a straight trajectory wherein marketing can handover leads to sales. Moreover, the transition from marketing to sales is not smooth, which makes it even more important to have a common funnel for smarketing to be truly successful.
For a smarketing funnel, marketing is responsible for the top half of the funnel, and the sales department is accountable for the lower half of the funnel. The middle section requires effort from both the teams and is common between them. Maintaining uniformity throughout the smarketing funnel ensures that the lead remains engaged throughout the complete process. Consistency in messaging and the tone will convert more leads into buyers.
8. Keep Communications Open
One of the biggest reasons for sales and marketing misalignment is communication or lack of it thereof. Communication is the glue that holds both the teams together. Thus, it becomes critical for the teams to meet periodically and often. If required, you may even mix up the desks of sales and marketing together to break the ice and get them talking. In addition to the regular verbal communication, working in close quarters assists the members in experiencing firsthand how the other functions, enabling an empathetic and understanding environment.
To nurture effective communication, make sure that both teams rely strictly on data while communicating. It is based on the principle that data never lies, and as such, verifies the feelings of the teams. Plus, it is more productive than merely stating that “salespeople are lazy” or “leads generated by marketing suck.”
With data-centric communication, both sides can be honest with each other. For example, if the sales team feels that the lead flow has trickled, they can compare the numbers with that of the previous month’s. Similarly, marketing can show a percentage of leads worked on in the previous month and motivate the sales to work harder on the leads. Addressing such issues also highlights the team’s importance and the vital role that they play in reaching the combined goals.
9. Set up Closed-Loop Reporting
Feedback is one of the most overlooked and undervalued practices of B2B sales and marketing alignment. Closed-loop reporting allows for feedback that is direct, specific, and constructive. Sales can share feedback on the lead quality passed down by the marketing department, while marketing can gain reports on what happened to all the leads.
However, for truly effective closed-loop reporting, there must be complete transparency on the actions, objectives, and progress of both the teams. Therefore, they can make use of SLA reporting to locate these metrics and measure the performance against these.
Smarketing teams can also create feedback templates for the various campaigns and deliver them to the clients. Accordingly, they can further analyze these inputs from the client’s experience to fill in the gaps in their sales and marketing strategies.
10. Have Fun
Spending quality time together may not appear to be a conventional business strategy. However, it can help the departments in fostering a common team spirit.
Organize office outings, corporate lunches, and picnics just to break out from the normal humdrum of monotony and have fun! Getting to know the team members outside of office hours allows them to build personal connections, making them comfortable around each other even at work. Once the team members feel understood by their counterparts, they will be more open to leaning on them for support or guidance. The development of trust defeats the idea that these departments are in competition with each other. In fact, it lays the foundation of the belief that they are working with each other to help the business grow. Through the development of mutual respect in the personal and professional spheres, sales and marketing alignment can follow an organic route.
Hence, the smarketing team should spend time with each other, even in casual settings, whether it is during the happy hours at work or post-sales celebrations. In fact, companies should encourage the teams to collectively celebrate reaching goals and touching milestones.
As we diverge from the traditional roles played by marketing and sales, smarketing emerges as a future-forward adaptation to increase revenue, establish team cohesiveness, ensure customer satisfaction, and sustain long-term growth of your company.
However, achieving sales and marketing alignment is a herculean task. It requires active participation, constant engagement, and involvement from both teams and the top-order managers of the firm. Smarketing calls for the investment of time, efforts, and resources from all the stakeholders to come together and redesign the roadmap for their marketing and sales efforts.
Further, these metrics have to be reviewed and modified on a regular basis to ensure that sales and marketing are at the top of their games. Communication is the cornerstone to maintain thorough integration, while feedback ensures that the teams stay on track. Eradicating emotions by relying on data to stay unbiased while measure the smarketing team’s performance, take remedial actions, and to keep things transparent and accountable, is the best way to stay ahead of the competition.
Finally, as much as it is important to achieve the results, it is also essential to celebrate the successes that come along the way. Remember, achieving sales-marketing alignment is a huge achievement, so remember to have fun!