This is the final blog in my 3 Things You Need to Know to Nurture a Lead Through a Long Sales Cycle series. After covering buyer personas and the sales cycle, we’re at the most difficult but most important part of lead nurturing – sales and marketing alignment, affectionately known as smarketing.
What IS Smarketing?
Sales and marketing are two different animals. Some companies fuse the departments, but their actions and activities are quite different. It’s the goal that’s similar – to drive sales – but the actual handoff between marketing and sales is where the distinction lies.
Marketing is responsible for lead generation – identifying opportunities and creating content that leads prospects through the buyer’s journey by answering questions and solving challenges. Sales is responsible for guiding prospects down the buyer’s journey path, determining if their company has the answer to the prospects’ challenges.
So, sales and marketing alignment – what is it? It’s the process of making sales and marketing work like a well-oiled machine instead of a disjointed unit. And if you assume sales and marketing misalignment isn’t a common problem, you’re wrong; in 99.99% of company accounts I’ve worked on in my career, there have been hiccups between the sales and marketing teams. In most cases, it’s the expectations of the two teams that cause the hiccup, and the result is missed sales opportunities and market expansion opportunities, a lack of company growth, and an unhappy, disengaged team.
So, How Do You Get Aligned?
Sales and marketing alignment isn’t a tactic – it’s a component of company culture and a business process in which the sales and marketing team are on the same page and work in unison. Sales and marketing alignment is NOT an overnight deal. It takes time to set mutual lead generation and sales goals, get a firm understanding of each other’s responsibilities, and know each other’s sales and marketing cycles.
Communication is Everything
The key to sales and marketing alignment is communication. Constant communication. Without it, alignment is impossible. If marketing doesn’t communicate with sales and ask about the questions prospects are asking and what their pain points or challenges are, how can marketing create content to help sales provide the insight prospects need? If sales doesn’t communicate with marketing about the quality of their leads, or where in the sales cycle leads were lost, how is marketing supposed to know if their tactics and strategy are working?
Listening is More
For effective alignment, marketing and sales need to listen without egos involved. Each side must be honest about what they need and tell the other when something isn’t working (diplomatically, of course). Sales cannot work without marketing, and marketing cannot work without sales.
Be Mindful of Each Other’s Roles
Often the most enlightening thing is for sales and marketing to spend a day in each other’s shoes – to experience the other team’s job. For sales, this includes prospecting research, prospect calls, and meetings; for marketing, an explanation of reporting, content creation, and a marketing strategy session. Every time I’ve had my clients do this, the takeaways were a newfound respect for each other’s positions and refocused expectations. Especially in B2B, sales and marketing aren’t overnight activities, and each team realized the importance of patience, communication without misguided emotions, and, most importantly, being engaged and a cheerleader for the other team’s successes.
While Building a Rapport
Finally, sales and marketing need to have weekly or biweekly meetings to discuss objectives, goals, and current lead generation – one job-shadowing day won’t cut it. Sales needs to know what marketing has coming down the pipeline (and provide marketing ideas, too!) and sales needs to communicate to marketing how lead generation tactics are working. Aside from regular meetings, it’s also beneficial for sales and marketing to have team building activities or regular outings to further build trust and a solid working relationship.
But Remember, It Takes Time
Sales and marketing alignment doesn’t happen overnight, and there’s no exact science of reaching alignment. It’s truly a customized process that needs to take into account your company culture, sales cycle, team size, and the hand-off points of sales and marketing.
Having an aligned sales and marketing team breeds quality lead generation, a firm understanding of each buyer persona (and their buyer’s journey), and, most importantly, prospects and eventual customers who have trust in your company due to a positive, educational, compassionate, and understanding buying experience.