Any successful organisation recognises the many moving parts that form the entire business and the need for them to work together. However, the sales and marketing departments seem to thrive on living independent of each other with little or no alignment.
This disintegration might have worked well in the traditional marketing strategy, where the sales team had to filter out the best leads among the many picked by the marketing’s wide net. Today, B2B marketing is shifting to account-based marketing, ABM, which involves finding the best lead, then making it the target of all marketing and sales efforts.
Account-based marketing is becoming a favourite strategy among B2B marketers, as 80% of them agree that it outperforms other marketing strategies. 97% of B2B businesses that have adopted it also note that it delivers higher ROI in comparison to the others.
As a marketer, just like us, you can easily see the benefits of this new alternative. Its adoption would be easier if the salespeople would do the same. Sadly, it is not that simple for them. First, it deviates from the norm that made the sales department the critical driver of a company’s success. Secondly, it proposes that sales teams have to work with fewer leads. Any salesperson will tell you it is a risky proportion.
In spite of this, the sales and marketing departments must work in alignment for Account-Based Marketing to succeed.
Why Sales and Marketing Alignment Is Essential
The alignment of the sales and the marketing departments is crucial when it comes to an account-based marketing campaign. Here are some interesting statistics about this:
- A 2014 study showed that B2B companies in which both sales and marketing take part in lead incubation and nurturing had higher conversion rates.
- Companies with closely aligned marketing and sales teams have 36% higher customer retention rates than the ones where the two exist as competitors.
- Aligning the sales and marketing department increases the probability of leads becoming customers to 67%.
How to Align the Sales and Marketing Departments
Since the two teams have been alienated from each other for long, it requires effort and tact to make them forge a lasting relationship. Our experts have put together seven tips to help you get started.
1. Listen to Them
Pushing this new strategy through the head of the sales department without prior consultation will meet resistance. Therefore, the first step is to make the sales team know that you are considerate to their plight. Ask for their opinion on the current lead quality, marketing campaigns, and content.
Give them a chance to express their satisfaction or, as expected, their dissatisfaction with how marketing works. You can go further and ask them to propose solutions. It will give you a perfect opportunity to explain to them about your new marketing strategy and how it solves most of the problems.
2. Streamline Communication
One of the leading causes of the difference between sales and marketing teams is communication breakdowns. It is unfortunate given that sales operate on the information provided by marketing while marketing depends on sales feedback to improve or adjust their campaigns.
Streamline this by ensuring that all the resources and information used by both departments is accessible to all. It will be worth investing in secure cloud-based storage and file-sharing systems. Additionally, let the two departments agree on a uniform method of information presentation.
3. Let the Teams Work Together in the Account Selection
The sales department is always result-hungry; therefore, they care deeply about what marketing considers a quality lead. In the traditional strategy, this was often their call, and they loved it that way. Now that you want them to focus on only a few accounts, it will be best if they took part in the process of choosing these accounts.
Bringing the teams together when choosing a lead, will also help them brainstorm on the content of the campaign that will work best. While you must trust in the expertise of your marketing team, do not ignore the experience of the sales team.
4. Agree on Lead Dropping Process
Usually, the sales department would go after the lead provided by marketing and drop it as soon as it spots an easy prospect. Their philosophy seems to be “take the path of least resistance”. It worked well in traditional marketing. Research by Marketing Charts indicated that sales representatives self-generate nearly half of all the successful leads.
However, this is counterproductive when adopting ABM, irrespective of how hardworking your sales team is. You can avoid this by helping the two departments to agree on the data and insights that marketing should provide when submitting lead details to sales.
5. Let Them Walk in Each Other’s Shoes
According to a 2016 study, B2B companies that have their marketers take time in sales roles are twice more likely to exceed their revenue goals than the rest.
Besides the revenue, it allows each team to appreciate the hard work and challenges the other faces in their daily activities. It also makes it easy to figure out how to help.
Working with a sales field representative, for example, will give the marketer an insight into the everyday concerns customers have and how they need it presented. One day at the marketing office will also provide the sales executive a glimpse of the hard work that goes into creating a marketing campaign.
6. Measure, Improve, and Re-Launch
Sales teams are result-oriented. Keep them motivated and focused by continually providing proof of success in your account-based campaign. Allow also the two departments to share their experience and find out how to improve the next cycle of the campaign.
Whatever the results are, focus the attention of the teams on the goal, not trading blames. They are no longer competitors.
7. Encourage Building Personal Relationships
The rift between the two teams often cuts into their relationship on a personal level. Come up with methods that will help the member of the two teams to spend more time together on a non-professional basis. It can be through non-competitive after-work games, a book club, among others.
As they become comfortable with each other on a personal level, in-office communication becomes more comfortable and more open.
Alignment of sales and marketing, in spite of its benefits, is not an easy undertaking. It takes effort, resources, and time to bring the two together to discuss business goals, express concerns, and celebrate successes. Nonetheless, the results account-based marketing promises are worth the investment.