3 Ways to Jumpstart Marketing and Sales Alignment (MassTLC inspired)

Last week I attended the inaugural MassTLC Demand Gen peer group headed by Christine Nolan of MassTLC and Jonathan Burg of Apperian – it was a vibrant discussion with 35 of the top revenue marketers in the Boston area.

It was striking that with a group of that experience, sales alignment (or lack thereof) was the most common area of frustration shared by many.

We were only able to cover some of the potential remedies in the discussion, so it inspired me to write and share this post – 3 Ways to Jumpstart Marketing and Sales Alignment.

What these three practices have in common is they should help build that alignment by putting marketing on the same side of the table as sales by aligning around common goals.

1.       Build a metrics-based MQL Plan

Also discussed in detail here, you, the demand generation marketer, should work backwards from the revenue forecast and use assumptions around conversion rates to show to both marketing and sales the number of MQLs required to meet the plan.

This accomplishes two things for you:

  • It demonstrates to sales that your demand generation / marketing plan is aligned to their sales plan
  • It solves another problem expressed by a number of the marketers in the room – which is how do you govern processes such as sales acceptance of marketing leads? By building those assumption into your plan, it gives you a leg to stand on when reviewing numbers with sales management… if the metrics such as sales acceptance rates dip below the plan, it should become clear to sales management that the issue should be addressed. It’s not you, marketing, telling sales there is an issue -- it’s a lack of alignment to the plan which should flag the issue.  

2.       Build marketing programs around the sales reps

This next one is a win-win -- make your marketing programs more effective AND build alignment with the sales team.

Here’s an example and here’s how it works:

  • Create “Rep Web Pages” which position each rep as an expert in their field. We demand gen need to remember that -- assuming our products are sold through sales reps -- then we not only need to market our products but also the reps whom prospects need to buy from – because nothing will be bought without a conversation with the rep.
  • The pages include content of value to prospects and provocative questions representing a discovery conversation the rep wants to have with the prospect -- these are both credibility builders for the rep.
  • The page also links to the their LinkedIn profile with similar messaging around the rep for social validation.
  • Email programs both for outbound prospecting and nurturing are emails from the rep (plain text emails with their photo at the bottom), anchored by these rep landing pages aimed to attract the attention of the prospect and move them through the buying process.

The Reps not only should feel good about seeing marketing putting them front and center, but the personalized approach to connect with prospects is a highly effective technique to break through today clutter of information overload. 

Other extensions of this including reps adding this page to all of their email signatures, accompanying emails with calls/voicemails directing prospects to their page and providing intelligence to the reps on who has visited their page to prioritize follow up efforts.

3.       Provide more direction for sales on how to best leverage marketing’s content

In his book “The New Rules of Sales Enablement”, Jeff Ernst of Forrester Research quoted an American Marketing Association stat that 90% of marketing deliverables are not used by sales.

A significant piece of this 90% comes from assets not being packaged and served up with clear direction to sales for how to use them. It’s a pain point for every sales organization and solving that pain point is a great way for marketing to achieve that “same side of the table” status.

I recommend providing both email templates and the related content assets, grouped in categories that are actionable for sales.  The first grouping would be buying stage, then by role, industry and/or topic.

  • Prospecting  – assets used to attract attention and establish need
  • Discovery – assets used to educate prospects during the discovery phase
  • Opportunity – majority of assets for sales use will be during the opportunity phase. An area which marketing can help sales is providing sales with content that reps can provide their primary buyer to share with their buying team – content which help cement the value for the solution for each member of the buying team. Another asset type which sales will appreciate are objection handlers… content that they can share with prospects to address common questions that could otherwise stall out their deals.

So what do you think? Please share other tips and tricks you've found for alignment between marketing and sales.