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Smarketing: A case for sales and marketing alignment

When a Head of Sales says “the leads generated by marketing are no good” you know you need Sales and marketing alignment. This essentially means adopting a single view of sales and marketing which works together seamlessly to generate revenue, leads and close sales. This makes it much easier to track results and make high-impact, agile changes in a bid to increase customer numbers.

Aligning sales and marketing strategies: Smarketing

Most organisations still believe that the perfect sales and marketing narrative goes as follows: marketing generates leads for sales and then the sales team qualifies these leads, creating opportunities that the salespeople hopefully turn into revenue. This, of course, perpetuates the outdated mindset of “Sales Vs. Marketing”, but we need to eliminate this attitude and create a partnership between the two teams.

Agree on customer personas

Both sales and marketing teams need to know exactly who they are selling to, and not having defined customer personas can lead to a disconnect between your teams.

Sales, for example, could think they’re selling to global enterprises, while all your marketing materials are targeted at small to medium-sized businesses. What are your salespeople going to do when all their leads are asking for the lowest tier software package, while their scripts are geared towards enterprise-grade solutions? First off, the messaging will be all wrong, potentially resulting in lost sales; secondly, their forecasted sales figures will be skewed in the wrong direction, making the team look like it’s underperforming.

Everyone needs to be on the same page working together as a team, meaning sales and marketing need to agree on the customer profiles – ideally creating them together so there’s no disconnect. This will help both teams understand the type of customer they will be targeting and dealing with, based on factors such as company size and industry. This will help you understand their problems and their needs, which will help massively with creating effective messaging that really speaks the customer’s language.

Outline the customer journey

Second, focus on creating and defining a single customer journey. The aim should be to construct a consistent brand experience for the customer that stretches across your marketing outputs and sales pipeline.

Begin with the awareness stage of the customer journey and work right down through to the purchase stage. The whole experience should tie together, and this connectivity should allow sales and marketing to track their prospects across the entire funnel.

Track the same KPI’s

Sales and marketing success is measured differently, which becomes a bit of a challenge when trying to align the two teams.

Sales is measured by numbers (including new accounts, number of deals closed, number of contracts renewed), while marketing is measured by brand awareness, as well as quality and quantity of leads generated. So it should come as no surprise that the teams are, more often than not, misaligned.

Measuring joint key performance indicators (KPIs) is a great way to get your teams in sync: doing so ensures your team is working towards a common goal. It will help you identify the weaknesses in your sales funnel – and not just parts of it, the whole thing.

Sales and Marketing Aslignment

Create consistent messaging

We glossed over this before, and you’re bound to have experienced this at some point, whether among your own team, or when being sold/marketed to by another company. Often, the sales team will call something one thing, and the marketing team will call it something else: classic example, your website calls it an “application” while your sales team calls it a “platform”. This is confusing for potential customers, especially in the world of SAAS – remember, not everyone is an IT expert and many customers may be ideal prospects, despite not being “tech-savvy”. You could end up with lost sales due to confusing, mismatched messages.

One of the biggest benefits of aligning your sales and marketing teams is producing consistent messaging that both teams use: your marketing messages can now inform and educate the prospects while the sales team reinforces those same messages and closes the deals. If the marketing messages work, the prospect is brought through to the sales team who can then reiterate the messages and specifically act on them to close more deals.

If you avoid doing this you can end up with an inconsistent – and ineffective – journey for your potential customer, so it’s important to maintain a consistent message across the entire customer journey.

Communication

A key benefit of the two teams collaborating is open communication, which should be constant and open. Encourage the sales department to give feedback on the quality of leads every month. This will help the marketing team better understand which types of leads the sales team are closing, helping them focus their strategy to generate better quality leads.

Look at post-sale growth and retention

There’s a lot more to gain from Smarketing than just gaining customers: the teams work together to improve customer growth and retention.

It costs more to attract customers than to retain them. By only focusing your efforts on signing up new customers, you could be missing on making profits from your existing customers. Sales and marketing should be working closely together in order to optimise the lifetime value of your customers – after all, you’ve made the effort to catch them, why not make the effort to keep them?

And this is where technology comes into play.

Technology for Smarketing

Companies that are really good at aligning their sales and marketing use technology to support their teams, with the most effective being the CRM.

A good CRM software will provide you with a detailed view of the customer, allowing your team to be more agile and responsive in delivering value at every stage of the customer journey. The introduction of sales automation tools and marketing software allows you to gather a wide range of data on prospects, making the whole process much more data-driven.

The most complete CRM, Marketing automation and Sales automation all in one software on the market is Hubspot.

Having the right technology to hand will help you bridge that gap between harvesting marketing data on prospects and turning them into leads and then sales. We’re going to look at two key tools here and how you can align them to your Smarketing team: Hubspot and Salesforce.

Hubspot Sales and Marketing Alignment

Hubspot alone is a great tool for aligning your sales and marketing teams and strategies.

You can create and optimize processes within Hubspot that ensure no lead is left behind, and all inbound leads are prioritised based on your sales process.

If you clearly define each part of these processes – such as tracking the right metrics and scoping out the weak areas – then you can focus on the areas that need continuous improvement.

Hubspot is a great tool for sales and marketing to use to work together on creating and defining buyer personas. The sales team can describe to the marketing team a typical meeting with their prospects and use data from Hubspot to give accurate descriptions of sales-ready leads. Marketing can then understand the questions sales were asked in the field, the objections they need to overcome, and the problems customers want to solve.

Hubspot Sales and Marketing Alignment example

You can then use this data and share it with the marketing team in Hubspot to build your buyer personas. This data from Hubspot can ensure you painted an accurate picture of our clients. Your sales team started to become more engaged with the marketing department’s work to help the team better understand leads to deliver marketing content that addresses the real needs of prospective customers, allowing both teams to create a more aligned marketing and sales strategy.

You can also add these personas to the HubSpot Persona tool. This will help you keep tabs on the buyer journey and marketing materials by persona. HubSpot workflows can be used to map existing and future content based around the buyer personas you’ve created. Workflows can also support progression through each stage of the buyer journey, ensuring they match each of your different personas.

To do this, you will want to assess all of your current content (landing pages, emails, workflows, and so on) and match them to your personas. This will help determine what existing content is appropriate for which persona. From there, you can create new workflows in HubSpot for each buyer persona and, based off of our sales team’s feedback, you can determine which personas have longer or shorter buying cycles, allowing you to adjust the workflow for delivery timeframe. Using Hubspot in this way helps you constantly refine and perfect your buyer journey from marketing through sales.   

HubSpot and Salesforce for sales and marketing alignment

As we’re sure you’re aware, Hubspot and Salesforce are both sales, CRM, service and marketing tools. They are two very similar platforms, so naturally, they overlap and are able to integrate to help facilitate your sales and marketing alignment. Having a HubSpot-Salesforce integration lets you seamlessly pass data between the two tools to maintain consistency between your marketing and sales teams. You need to build an infrastructure on which to streamline both platforms to their full capacity. Some of the benefits of doing this include improving the customer experience (by responding to customer requests and behaviours in real time, for example) and providing sales teams with better-qualified leads.

Earlier, we highlighted the importance of personalisation to the modern buyer: integrating these two platforms can help with this. You can use details from Salesforce contacts or accounts to personalize Hubspot marketing emails, segment your database, or send emails on behalf of a lead’s assigned sales rep.

Additionally, as your sales team transforms leads into customers, Salesforce will send revenue data from closed-won opportunities to HubSpot, letting you tie specific marketing campaigns to real revenue.

Here is an example of how Hubspot works with Salesforce to align sales and marketing:

Use case:

The sales team of one of our clients (a 500 person company) were using Salesforce and the marketing team were using Hubspot.

In the diagram below, leads come into Hubspot via various touch points: Events, SEO, PPC, Content Marketing etc

The leads are then assigned to a Business Development Rep (BDR) in Salesforce (SFDC), based on the MQL criteria defined in Hubspot. If leads do not meet the MQL criteria, the contacts are nurtured in Hubspot until they become Marketing qualified.

The BDR then qualifies the MQLs and changed them into Opportunities for Account Executives to follow up with.

Where do we go from here?

Call your first Smarketing Meeting

The purpose of your initial Smarketing meeting will be to do the following:

Define your goals

Outline the current process for setting company goals and translating them into goals for sales and marketing. Is this process clearly defined? How well do all company employees understand it? Consider the relationship between marketing and sales in your company: Do they have shared goals or separate goals? How closely are their goals aligned?

Sales and Marketing alignment goal setting

Agree on the metrics that show whether you are moving the needle: Revenue.

Sales and Marketing alignment metrics

Agree on Target Buyers

Work together to agree on a target buyer. What characteristics make a person or organization a good fit for your software? How do you know this? Are there any factors that make someone a bad fit?

Outline processes

Detail how you currently pass leads between marketing and sales. How well is this process understood by your sales and marketing teams?

Note down the processes you have in place to align marketing and sales – regular meetings, reports, service-level agreements, for example. How effective are these processes? What could be done to improve them?

Content creation

Outline the current content creation process at your company. Who manages it? What other team members are involved? How effective is the process? If you don’t have a defined process, describe any efforts your company has made to produce content. Detail how content is used in your sales process. Does your sales team use the content that marketing creates? Do they know where to find it when they need it?

Design your vision

You should be able to outline your company vision in less than 5 minutes. Once you have the vision in mind, you need figure out how much it will cost to get you there. Then you need to consider how that cost compares to the resources you have on hand and how much more revenue you need in order to make the vision a reality.

Once you have defined your vision and the costs involved, you need to convert it into tangible goals for your Smarketing team. The first step in doing that is developing a good lead qualification framework. To do that you need to….

Agree on an ideal customer profile

You have to understand what makes someone a good fit for your offering, and creating an ideal customer profile is a great way of doing so. An ideal customer profile is a list of basic qualities that a potential customer needs to have to be considered a good fit for your business. The best way to create your ideal customer profile is to get team members from sales and marketing together to agree on what attributes your best customers have in common.

Here are some questions that should help you get started:

  1. Are there any economic factors that make a customer ideal or not? Number of employees, revenue, customers, etc.
  2. Are there market segments that are ideal or not? Industry, vertical, etc.
  3. Does geography affect the customer’s potential?
  4. Are there any legal standards that are required to purchase your software?
  5. What other attributes make a buyer ideal or not ideal?

Going Forward

You can do this by using the POP model – this stands for purpose, outcome, process:

Once you have the groundwork laid, you will want to meet regularly to keep your goals aligned and feed back to one another. Your ongoing meetings should focus on identifying and solving problems.

Purpose = the reason an item needs to be addressed.

Outcome = what needs to be accomplished before the meeting closes.

Process = the way that outcome is going to be achieved.

For example:

Marketing’s lead closing rate isn’t as expected.

Purpose = Figure out why the close rate is low and how to fix it.

Outcome = Specific action items for fixing the close rate.

Process = Identify the root of the problem, then develop a possible solution, and create a plan for implementing it.

Tip: Having a rule that requires every item on your smarketing agenda to have a POP will make your meetings more productive.

Think about who should regularly attend your Smarketing meetings. Try not to make these meetings too large; they don’t need to involve every team member, especially if you’re a large organisation.

If you’re a small company (e.g. your combined marketing and sales teams amount to fewer than 10 people) you can start by inviting everyone. If you’re in a larger company, you might want to consider setting up a rotation so each team member gets a turn while ensuring the meetings contain no more than 10 attendees each time.

Running a Smarketing meeting

If you want your Smarketing meetings to be successful (i.e. productive and collaborative), you need to ensure the teams see them as a place of safety – this will allow them to be comfortable taking risks around each other. They won’t be afraid of admitting to mistakes or asking “stupid” questions or voicing their new ideas. If your meetings don’t foster an environment of psychological safety, attendees will be hesitant to contribute.

This should leave you with some actionable steps to take to start aligning your sales and marketing departments to create the ultimate Smarketing team.

Actual weekly Smarketing Agenda for a Saas Company

Objective: How are we tracking compared to the weekly / monthly target

Focus : Very short term / tactical / metrics driven

Audience: Sales and Marketing + Exec

Time : 30-60 minutes

MetricsVisitors

MQL

Trial

SQL

Activations

ARPU

New MRR

Expansion

Churn

So, to sum up, rather than the sales-driven funnel as it used to be, aligning sales and marketing steers you towards a more cohesive marketing-driven sales funnel. Sales and marketing teams should go hand in hand as one department in order to attract, inform and retain customers using consistent messaging across both marketing and sales efforts. Aligning these two departments into one single “Smarketing” team plays a crucial role in cementing the future success of your business.

Need help aligning your Sales or Marketing teams? Let us help you.

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