Thursday, July 23rd, 2009
Wouldn’t be nice if sales and marketing activities were aligned? Some may ask, what does “alignment” mean? Well, it means that both sales people and marketing resources are working together to identify potential customers, set qualification criteria, convert them to customers and then continue to work together to ensure the customer experience is maintained and maximized for the life of the customer. Their individual incentives may even be the same. Unfortunately, many organizations still have traditional expectations for these two groups - Marketing is responsible to get the word out, develop brochures, run ads and trade shows, keep the website current and primarily generate leads for salespeople. Sales people are then expected to take the leads, diligently follow up, convert them to customers and then maintain the relationship, exclusively, for life. Sound familiar? If so, then you may have also heard “the leads marketing gives us are no good”, or, “the leads we gave to sales are not being followed up on”. In addition, few companies have formal systems or processes to align sales and marketing activities - less than half according to a 2008 survey by the CMO Council.
Much can be gained by aligning sales and marketing. A cooperative effort will produce better results. Best practices today place the burden of generating qualified leads on marketing. But, for them to be successful, they need input from the sales team as to what constitutes “qualified”. The reality is that most leads generated by marketing efforts are not qualified - they are in a unknown state and should be nurtured through a qualification process. Not by a sales person, but, with tools and processes that are enabled by technology.
Now, once a qualified lead is passed to sales, the probability of converting that lead into a customer is much greater. But, marketing’s role is not complete. Again, best practices today will have marketing continue to work in support of the sales team by helping maintain direct and consistent communications with the new customer. Basically, marketing and sales work together throughout the entire life-cycle of the customer.
Diluting sales people with unqualified leads can be very expensive. And, the time wasted is at the expense of existing customers. Aligning your resources can offer huge benefits. There’s a ton of articles, white papers and new technology all built around the concept of sales and marketing alignment. In summary, here are six tips you can use:
- Get buy-in across your teams and from management.
- Layout a process that shows where sales and marketing functions align, intersect and support each other.
- Establish common definitions for leads to include the criteria that will be used to consider a lead qualified.
- Collaborate on strategies and messages that are to be used at various stages of the sales cycle, and beyond.
- Build a system that will show the progression of leads and provide insight as to what prospects and customers respond to.
- Establish key measurements to gauge success.
The old adage: “together we stand, divided we fall” seems appropriate. My advice to is examine your current process to see if you can achieve more efficiency and gain more opportunities through better alignment of your business development efforts . As always, I welcome any comments or thoughts.