A few years back, we wrote an article on the 10 ways sales and marketing teams should be working together. Over time, it became one of our most popular articles.
Fast forward to 2020, where our own sales and marketing teams effectively work together here at PandaDoc each and every single day. Due to our own challenges and successes, we thought it made sense to refresh the article by taking a closer look at how we internally aligned the two teams.
What we found surprised us.
Some of our tactics were already listed in this article, and some of them were missing. Everything we discovered, however, was centered on creating a more enjoyable and effective customer experience throughout the entire journey.
I could slap together some slick reasoning as to why it’s important to align sales and marketing.. or I could quote Jill Rowley, who said it best.
“Marketing needs to know more about sales. Sales needs to know more about marketing. We all need to align better around, with, for, and to the customer.”
When sales and marketing work together, metrics soar, costs decrease, and life cycles are more concise. In fact, sales and marketing alignment can lead to 38% higher sales win rates.
Conversely, it’s estimated that poor alignment can cost organizations 10% or more of annual revenue. What’s more, ongoing tension and disorganization between sales and marketing can breed a toxic environment that takes a toll on morale and work satisfaction.
The sales and marketing teams at PandaDoc work smarter together, and it all starts with our motto:
One team, one dream, all green baby! 💪
Here are the ten ways sales and marketing should be working together.
1. Break down barriers with the right hires
Bridging the divide between the two departments starts with who you hire.
PandaDoc leadership prides itself on putting the right butts in the right seats. If you’re filling positions, try looking for candidates that have worked in both sales and marketing roles. Look at your recruitment process and add a few questions that force the candidates to talk about their experience working with both teams.
We believe that some of the best sales reps are English majors or graphic designers that could do marketing if they wanted to. On the flip side, some of our best marketers used to be in sales. Ideal teammates speak both languages and empathize with their respective challenges.
Here at PandaDoc, we look for candidates that can work smarter together.
Our sales team works hard to collaborate on and share the content marketing puts together. And vice versa, our marketers rely on input from sales on nearly every project. Injecting their opinions from the front lines strengthens the tone, use, and reach of our content.
2. Create KPIs and OKRs that support each other
The Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) of your marketing and sales teams don’t need to exist in separate silos that never intersect.
In fact, your business has a higher chance of increasing your ROI by focusing on KPIs that are significant to both departments. At PandaDoc we establish company-wide annual goals with senior leadership which trickle down to each department.
For example, some of PandaDoc’s current company-wide OKRs include:
- Build The Best Damn Customer Experience
- Develop A World-Class Culture
- Create Predictable Growth
Our sales and marketing teams have the same goals but different OKRs to get to these destinations together. It’s where our corny, but lovable motto was born 😊.
Here’s a sample of some of Marketing’s OKRs that support sales in Q1.
1. Company Goal / Key Result
- Build The Best Damn Customer Experience / Decrease the time it takes a Sales Rep to contact a website lead by XX minutes
2. Company Goal / Key Result
- Develop A World-Class Culture / Activate 3 new ‘Levers’ to drive outbound MQL volumes at XX% plan
3. Company Goal / Key Result
- Create Predictable Growth / Increase MQL volume in 11-200 segment by XX% QoQ
3. Foster relationships between teams
This is one of those strategies that is both fun to write about and fun to implement.
To be clear, fostering relationships goes beyond just holding regular meetings with the teams. At PandaDoc we close the gap between teams by team-building in Slack.
Seeing every deal that gets closed and rooting for them is an excellent way to foster public praise that encourages teammates to keep up the hard work.
See how strong our .gif game is in our #saleswins channel?
Another one of my favorite ways to foster relationships at PandaDoc is to do what my middle school science teachers did when it was time to dissect a frog (or pig or whatever).
I find my lab partners and pair-up to learn from each other.
Here are a few of the content pieces where I’ve personally paired up with a sales teammate to work on something.
- 2 co-marketing eBooks
- 3 blog articles
- 8 podcast episodes
- 4 promotional videos
Managers at PandaDoc are good about assigning projects, and then getting out of the way, leaving the “how” up to individual teammates. Many relationships will nurture themselves, sales and marketing leaders just need to get the ball rolling by encouraging 1:1 meetings to work together to get things done.
Here at PandaDoc, our leadership has also done a good job aligning sales, marketing, and customer support under the “revenue team” umbrella. By grouping them together, there’s been an increase in both the quality and frequency of cross-departmental meetings, goals, and victories.
4. Lift your teammates up on LinkedIn
It’s 2020, and this list would not be complete without mentioning ways to align teams through a social media strategy.
Here at PandaDoc, this began when a few of our sales reps were experimenting with LinkedIn as a communication channel for closing more deals.
As this was gaining momentum and proving to be successful for a handful of reps, we held an official LinkedIn strategy session at our annual Sales QBR. Our reps gave a popular presentation on how to build an audience and prospect on LinkedIn to get outbound responses. Eventually, this strategy turned into a company-wide initiative about building community and extending our reach.
Sometimes, aligning sales and marketing is as simple as posting about your teammates and giving them some love on LinkedIn.
A great example of that was when PandaDoc’s Sales Enablement Trainer, Patrick Downs, posted about some content I published and it allowed me to create 7 new connections and boosted the overall engagements with this video by about 30%.
A small win, but every action to build social media lift like that snowballs and creates momentum. A rising tide lifts all boats, so if you’re helping your sales or marketing teammates with their LinkedIn stuff, you’ll help your company and yourself get noticed more.
5. Leverage expertise
It’s harder for some teams to accept this than others, but…
Not everyone can do everything.
When it comes to aligning sales and marketing, recognize who holds what unique talents and insights is critical for joint projects, managing expectations, and achieving unexpected victories.
At PandaDoc, we have recently started pairing mismatched personalities and roles together to tackle specific projects.
The key to leveraging expertise is learning how to really embrace the varied skillsets, backgrounds, and personalities on the two teams.
Because diversity breeds different.
And when it comes to getting noticed in sales and marketing different is what you want. It’s how a sales rep avoids a hang-up on a cold call. It’s how a marketer breaks through an inbox.
6. Collaborate on sales content creation
A recent CSO Insights study showed that only one-third of organizations effectively tailor their content to the industries they target.
That means sales and marketing still have a lot of work to do on content collaboration, targeting, and personalization.
Creating content that sales teams can use in their proposals and throughout the selling process is a good start for sales enablement strategy. But it’s 2020, and it’s time we take it a step further.
Here at PandaDoc, one way we work on content collaboration is by forming content committees with team members from SalesOps, Sales, Content Marketing, and Demand Generation to determine which parts of our funnel we want to bolster with personalized content based on persona, ideal customer profile (ICP), and firmographic information. These meetings take place on a regular basis as part of our quarterly business reviews.
Rather than relying on a gut feeling for what type of content will generate and nurture leads, our teams review detailed metrics from ongoing testing to see which content pieces are working and which are not.
At the end of the day, we want content that does two things: drives traffic and creates revenue. Taking the time to work with marketing operations to setup proper attribution dashboards helps senior managers analyze content ROI. Our teams take a hard look at which channels and partners are helping us reach our goals, and which are not.
This methodical, cross-team approach to building and sharing content is part of why we see so many active sales users inside our company-wide content library in Google Drive.
Lastly, because of PandaDoc’s target market, we’re building content with sales representative interviews and special features. Our podcast, video promotions, and eBooks often include the faces on the front lines. It gets other team members excited and intrigued to see their peers blasted in Slack and on PandaDoc’s LinkedIn.
However, there are some differences in what each department should handle. Marketing should create the positioning, voice, and general feel of the outbound email content, while sales should take that content and customize it to the lead. Personalization is key to outbound, but that shouldn’t come at the cost of a singular brand image.
7. Systemize lead scoring
Marketing and sales teams need to have an ongoing conversation about lead conversion — what’s working, what’s not, who it’s working for, etc.
Creating and converting MQLs to SQLs and, ultimately, to win deals is an always moving target — that’s why it’s important to ask these questions, to figure out why it’s working or not working.
Those changing results and targets of a company’s “why” increase the urgency for clear communication and getting on the same page. Both sales and marketing teams need to create one system for scoring and evaluating.
At PandaDoc, we team up with our data science team to leverage our own unique scoring system in addition to scoring and grading that we’ve modified with HubSpot & Salesforce based on a variety of firmographic data, prospective behavior, and our ideal customer profile. Our system is entirely conditional and depends entirely on the product, the audience, and the buying cycle. Turning an MQL into an SQL too soon can hurt conversion, so you need to find the sweet spot in the life cycle.
This can only be found by trial and error, communication, and evolution.
8. Develop buyer personas
Sales is the front line of any successful company. They know who’s buying and why those customers are motivated to buy in the first place. Marketing understands the industry at large and who they should be targeting. The best buyer personas are born from a mixture of marketing research and insights from your actual customer base.
And that’s exactly what my content team did when we paired up with three different sales reps at PandaDoc to craft persona one-sheeters. We sat down with the sales reps and shared our outlines.
It was important to get their feedback and to figure out how we could make their experience on the front-lines come to life in these documents. The sales team can provide important insights and generalizations on the leads they’re interacting with the most, while marketing research can inform broader insights like patterns and commonalities. Sales and marketing must direct their efforts at the same prospects and be completely aligned on decisions and pricing.
Together, sales and marketing need to create comprehensive buyer personas to better target their ideal customer, increase acquisition, and create targeted ads and pitches that are symbiotic.
9. Organize regular meetings, QBRs, and annual planning
Even the most amicable and aligned departments need actual face time to develop their internal relationships and sense of how the other works. Hold regular meetings to discuss new strategies, go over the results of current campaigns, and learn more about each team’s processes.
But not all meetings are created equal. Some meetings, frankly suck. Ryan Seacrest harnessed my feels in this meme..skip to slide #4 below.
David Grady cracked me up when he spoke about MAS: Mindless Accept Syndrome. He defines it as an involuntary reflex in which a person accepts a meeting invitation without even thinking why. Something we can all relate to.
Grady argues that attending a meeting without a clear purpose or agenda allows others to steal your time.
At PandaDoc, we aren’t claiming that every meeting is SUPER important. But we make sure that the right people are involved in the call and open ourselves up to opting out of certain meetings and stopping them if they become unnecessary.
We end up avoiding a lot of unnecessary meetings with apps like Slack and Trello to help manage our joint projects.
One thing that PandaDoc has done a nice job with (in my opinion) is holding team-wide meetings quarterly and annually. With four major offices in four different time zones, it’s critical we take the time in both sales and marketing to chat, laugh, joke, plan, challenge, question, and contribute.
Instituting quarterly business reviews or QBRs serves as a sort of reflective reset that allows the two teams to come together in a way that we can’t on the day-to-day. These meetings are planned months in advance, feature lots of faces (not just leadership) and allow everyone to join in on what’s most relevant to their role.
If you haven’t established these meetings at your own company, feel free to reach out and get more information on how we’re running these events successfully.
10. Use collaborative analysis
When you’re trying to align two departments, it’s not enough to just focus on KPIs and collaborative practices. When you’re breaking down departmental barriers, the lines will likely blur between what the marketing and sales teams are working on.
It’s important to analyze and measure the results as a team, which will help everyone get on the same page about ROI and understand how collaborative efforts are impacting your bottom line.
Your team ROI may require both departments to analyze email campaigns or lead generation data to determine what’s working and what’s not. Looking at these numbers individually just pushes your teams back into a silo situation where the work becomes fragmented.
“I’m a big believer in a collaborative analysis as a driver of sales-marketing alignment. There’s so much valuable information already in your data if your teams know how to use it to maximize conversions.Christina Hall, Marketing and Growth at Leadfeeder
Just remember — with Google Analytics on its own, it can be tough to know if your website content is attracting the right audience. Even metrics like bounce rate or average session duration can be misleading. The only real way to know if a visitor fits within your ideal market is to identify them.
If marketing can identify what companies are visiting sales enablement website pages, such as case studies, product or service pages, they can then signal sales to make a warm connection or follow up with an existing lead.”
What ways have you helped your sales and marketing teams to work better together? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
Originally published October 31, 2017, updated March 4, 2020