Does it ever feel like the sales and marketing teams at your company are always pointing fingers at each other?
Marketing: “We sent you 1,000 leads from that webinar – why didn’t you follow up!?”
Sales: “Those leads weren’t any good! – None of them would’ve closed!”
“Sales and marketing alignment” is a term that you’ve likely heard before. And there’s a simple reason for its popularity. It points to a problem experienced by many businesses: ensuring that marketing is producing the right types of leads and that sales teams follow up on those leads consistently and comprehensively.
If that scenario sounds familiar, and you’re eager for a solution, then the following tips will help you achieve closer sales and marketing alignment in your business.
1. Segment, segment, segment! (And segment some more)
To paraphrase Seth Godin,
“If you’re selling to everybody, you’re selling to nobody.”
The bedrock of marketing and sales alignment is a clear ideal customer profile (ICP). It puts every other stage of the process in the appropriate context and assures that sales reps are speaking to the right prospects.
At PandaDoc, we understand our market through two lenses:
- Average monthly recurring revenue
The monetary value of each account on a monthly basis.
- Net monthly revenue retention
The value of customers over a given time, accounting for expansion, contraction, and churn. This metric signifies the longevity of accounts.
Our sweet spot consisted of the segments of our market comprising leads with a high MRR, with secondary emphasis on leads likely to turn into low MMR customers but with high longevity.
We determined leads’ viability using the following criteria and arrived at through a mixture of qualitative and quantitative research:
- Company size
This was a simple metric for gauging the number of seats on an account and, as such, a great indicator of high MRR.
- Persona of decision makers
This criteria arose from our asking the question,
“Which buyer persona is going to be an effective champion of our product? Are they part of sales, marketing or operations?”
- Use case
Why have these people come to us in the first place? Since our software is diverse (solving for every step in the quote-to-cash cycle), understanding as early as possible one’s intentions when using our app is a precursor for how “sticky” they’ll be as a customer.
2. Assign responsibility for every stage of the funnel
The crux of ensuring that sales reps follow up on marketing leads is to provide clear processes, precise goals, and specific allocation of responsibility. The word “specific” means individuals, not departments, with clearly defined roles.
For example, who is assigned leads in the first place? Is it SDR’s or AE’s or a mix of both? Whose responsibility is it to create opportunities? The SDR team or is it the AE? Who reviews disqualified leads that are bounced back by SDRs? Having ownership of your stages ensures accountability across the board and will keep your funnel humming.
Next, set specific goals for graduating a lead or opportunity through the stages. We use a simplified version of B.A.N.T. (budget, authority, need, and timeline) to qualify that a lead is ready to be converted to an opportunity. Once at the opportunity stage, sales moves the opp only when certain milestones are achieved, like team demo complete, procurement process has begun, or proposal sent. Having tighter pipeline management will help you with individual coaching and forecasting.
And don’t forget to set up rock-solid funnel reporting. It ensures constant realignment by giving everybody a clear picture of your funnel health. Collaborative dashboards are of tremendous value, and real-time reporting (or as near as possible) can work wonders.
3. Score leads
Once you’re targeting the right accounts and assigning responsibility for specific stages of the marketing and sales funnel, you’ve already established the basis for alignment.
For the marketing department, before they start sending the sales team leads, it’s crucial to score them correctly. With lead scoring, simpler is always better. We use two major criteria:
- Explicit criteria like budget, industry, and size;
- Implicit criteria like behavior and engagement on site, the tools they already use (especially CRMs) and inferences based on geography.
A robust, mutually-agreed lead scoring system adds credibility to MQLs, which acts as an incentive for sales reps to follow up. There are many great tools for streamlining the process of lead scoring. At PandaDoc, we created a simple homegrown scoring system in our marketing automation platform (HubSpot).
4. Clean and enrich data to eliminate errors
Cleaning and enrichment of lead data takes some of the burden of data-gathering from sales, improving the likelihood that they will follow up on all MQLs.
It’s crucial to remember that a lead is only as good as the data behind the lead. We’ve identified a four-stage process for cleaning (and acquiring) in-depth, useful data about prospects:
- Lead-to-account matching – This step ensures we match new leads to existing accounts so we’re not marketing to current customers or prospects.
- Merge – Next, we’ll combine information from leads and makeup one account.
- Dedupe – This ensures that there is only one lead profile per lead (so we’re not targeting the same lead twice).
- Enrich – We don’t want sales reps wasting time, so we provide them with the most useful information relevant to the sales process by using a combination of our own data collection and third-party data providers.
After this, we route leads to sales reps according to specific criteria, leaving some room for nuance, whether it’s according to availability, experience, geography, etc.
5. Create a working SLA
In the context of sales and marketing, a service-level agreement (SLA) is a written agreement about how lead follow-up should work. It’s essential for marketing-sales alignment because it codifies a clear set of expectations on both sides.
Generally speaking, and as already mentioned, it’s good practice to divide sales processes between ideal and non-ideal customers based on your ideal customer profile (ICP). From this starting point, you can quantify how the outreach and conversion process will work.
It’s important, for example, to properly define the number of times you will contact leads (touches), the channels through which they will be reached, and the duration of time spent researching leads. What’s more, all sales teams should have specific ICP and non-ICP goals associated with activities, outlined in the SLA.
At its heart, marketing-sales alignment is about processes. If you can create clear and goal-oriented procedures that foster a close relationship between both departments, while also effectively distributing tasks and reducing the burden on each, then the margin for error is dramatically reduced. What’s more, you’ll save a sizeable chunk of time and money in the process!