Sales & Marketing Alignment: Working Together Towards a Common Vision

 In B2B Engagement Marketing, Demand Generation

Sales and marketing alignment is challenging, but improvements significantly increase the likelihood of winning new business.

Effectively using a team of sales development representatives (SDRs), who engage marketing-generated leads and deliver qualified opportunities to account executives, is a good starting point for embedding this synergy throughout your sales function.

Looking back, sales and marketing have historically existed as separate entities in most organizations. Salespeople dismiss the hard work of marketers, demand ‘better leads’ and blame the marketing manager when they miss quota. Marketers hand deals over to sales on a plate, yet the ‘lazy’ salespeople can’t follow up in a timely manner. Sound familiar?

Potential customers can access more information than ever before, so the need to work together towards common goals is crucial. Both functions have responsibilities to share information that helps the business as a whole to gain a better understanding of their customers.

It is much more difficult to change a habit than to teach a new behavior, which is why focusing on the relationship between marketing and sales development is the best starting point for improving alignment.

In most organizations, sales development representative is an entry-level role that forms the backbench of the account executive (sales) team. Only 25% of SDR teams report into marketing.

By having your SDR team report into marketing and focusing on the objectives outlined below, you will develop effective sales and marketing alignment and instill best-in-class behaviors that flow through into your sales team, as SDRs grow into account executives.

Define what’s being measured

SDRs work on leads that are delivered by marketing to set up qualified opportunities for account executives. Their most common KPIs are: sales qualified leads (SQLs), sales accepted leads (SALs), pipeline generated, closed-won bookings, and SAL/closed-won conversion ratio.

Focus on metrics that impact the bottom line and make sure all parties know the definitions of what’s being measured and, most importantly, why.

Align common goals

Including a percentage of variable commission for closed-won bookings in SDR compensation plans rewards reps for delivering high-quality opportunities. With greater emphasis on revenue marketing and demonstrating ROI, aligning the bookings element of SDR targets with specific marketing campaigns is ideal common ground for SDRs and marketing to work towards.

Work out your conversion ratios

There’s always an element of unpredictability here, but historical data will give you a good indication of the inputs required to hit your desired outputs.

Work backwards from the end goal (closed-won business) to figure out how many SALs, SQLs, and MQLs you will need to achieve that number. Aim for 80% SQL-to-SAL conversion and 20% SAL-to-closed-won conversion as a good benchmark.

Make sure all teams understand and agree with the numbers you decide on — especially with inbound SDRs who deal with high-volume leads; it’s important they appreciate what’s being asked of marketing and adhere to an effective contact strategy across all MQLs.

Define the MQL

Marketing will have a good idea of what an MQL looks like, but when considering sales and marketing alignment, it’s important that both functions have input on the definition. Work together to define the MQL and get a service-level agreement in place so everyone knows what your internal standards are.

Businesses win when they have a deep understanding of their customer, their journey, and pain points. Marketing can emulate sales by treating SDRs as their customer and developing a more sales-like mentality.

Identify your ideal customer profile

Helping SDRs understand what a model customer looks like to your organization and why they choose to buy your products (rather than your competitors’) enables SDRs to quickly identify the ideal customer profile (ICP). Something as simple as an ICP cheat sheet created by marketing adds value by helping SDRs prioritize and follow up with the best leads first.

This presents a win-win situation: MQLs are followed up with in a timely manner, which helps SDRs reach their targets and get the best opportunities over to account executives quickly so they don’t slip through the cracks.

These are the basic foundations for improving sales and marketing alignment. To learn more, attend my upcoming webinar, where I’ll be discussing how to convert more marketing-sourced opportunities by building and managing SDR teams that work with marketing to achieve a common vision. You can register for the session below.

If you have any questions or ideas you would like to share, please connect with me on LinkedIn.