Creating Sales and Marketing Alignment in 2021

The marketing world is constantly evolving. Most recently, we’ve seen a major and sudden pivot to digital, remote, and contactless interactions after the chaos of 2020, which has changed the way that sales and marketing teams approach their interactions with potential customers.

What won’t change this year is the importance of bringing in high-quality leads and converting those leads to paying customers. In fact, sales and marketing alignment might be more important than ever — thanks to the level playing field that a digital-first market offers, organizations will struggle to stand out among their competitors. We’ve written extensively about sales and marketing alignment before, but we’ve collected a few statistics and tips for building an alignment strategy in 2021.

Build Trust With Customers

In March of 2020, LinkedIn commissioned a survey from Forrester Research, asking decision-makers in marketing and sales in a handful of countries about building a relationship with customers and aligning internal departments.

Results were interesting. The research suggested that the most pressing issue preventing better alignment wasn’t miscommunication, it was a “gap between expectation and reality in the relationship.” When marketers create an expectation that the sales team can’t fulfill, customers are the ones who suffer. Similarly, when sales teams can’t close leads that the marketing team generates, the company’s conversion rate drops.

The solution is for marketers and salespeople to align their goals and definitions. If market research indicates that you should be targeting a certain category of customer, but your sales team can’t close those leads, you can use that information to reassess your research and buyer personas. On the other hand, if the sales team consistently has better luck with certain groups, they can tell marketing to double down on marketing to those people.

Align Strategy

96 percent of sales and marketing teams say that they’ve experienced difficulties with aligning strategy. The two teams often don’t report to the same executives, don’t measure success with the same KPIs, and don’t share goals and objectives in the same terms. Consistency is crucial — make an effort to align goals using the same numbers, definitions, and analytics so that both departments can keep an eye on the same progress.

Align Process

97 percent of sales and marketing professionals mention struggling with process alignment. Sales and marketing sometimes don’t have the same approach to engaging customers, and they often use different sets of tools that don’t integrate well.

The handoff between marketing and sales must be seamless to the customer, which is much more difficult if the two departments aren’t using the same systems. Unifying data and software tools is a crucial step to better alignment.

Using a comprehensive tool like Marketo or Hubspot is a major help when it comes to facilitating this handoff. A marketing-oriented CRM will allow you to track the behavior of an individual lead through the nurturing process, including every link they’ve clicked and every phone call you’ve made. By unifying the entire process, you can hand off a lead to the sales team accompanied by all the information the sales team needs to create a personalized interaction.

Content and Messaging

The biggest obstacle to coherent content is a lack of communication. Marketing and sales teams create content without each other’s input, resulting in collateral that makes inconsistent claims, fails to focus on the customer’s pain points, or doesn’t guide the customer closer to a purchase.
Salespeople know better than anyone the kind of follow-up questions that their leads will ask, and marketers have a knack for communicating and conveying that information. If your salespeople need pricing sheets, onboarding instructions, FAQs, or other resources to close the deal, the marketing team is the perfect resource.

Focus on Value

Organizations tend to focus on revenue as the ultimate metric of sales and marketing success, but this can create an incentive to chase short-term numbers rather than customers that will prove valuable in the long term. Instead, companies should direct their attention toward the unique strengths of their separate departments to share information, build a common strategy, and create genuine, useful relationships with customers. Alignment is an ongoing process, not a one-time meeting or team-building exercise. The better relationships you can build with your customers, the more value you’ll bring to the company.

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