How to Master Sales and Marketing Alignment

Article by | September 10, 2018 Marketing Strategy, Sales

Do the sales and marketing teams at your B2B tech company work closely? Do they meet often? Are they working toward a common goal?

If a resounding yes doesn’t come to mind when you think about your sales and marketing teams, your funnel likely has some kinks in it that need to be worked out. Sales and marketing are the yin and yang to your revenue stream—and when they work closely, they keep your funnel running smoothly.

Smarketing”—the process of integrating sales and marketing processes to obtain a common, integrated approach—is the foundation of any successful inbound, outbound, or automated efforts. The foundation of smarketing is an open dialogue between your marketing and sales teams that ensures they are working toward a common goal—creating content and processes that work for both teams—and are completely in-tune with each other’s efforts.

This open communication helps your sales and marketing teams:

  • Save time: When the marketing and sales teams are working together, there is less duplication of effort, and it is easier for certain processes to become automated. It is all about working smarter, not harder.
  • Improve the content that is created: If your B2B tech company has a lean marketing team, you always want to be sure that they’re working on the right things. By staying in constant communication with sales, marketing is able to create blogs, case studies, and other content that helps them overcome their biggest obstacles during the sales process.
  • Avoid list burnout: List burnout happens when your marketing and sales teams are constantly emailing the same groups of people without much strategy behind it. Your contacts get sick of the number of emails they’re receiving, and they either stop engaging, or unsubscribe.

Most importantly, sales and marketing alignment ensures that your funnel is working seamlessly — kink-free, if you will. In an ideal world, here’s what sales and marketing alignment looks like in your sales funnel when nurturing a new contact:

  1. A new contact downloads a piece of content that would qualify them to be in the “awareness” or “early consideration” stage of their journey. Immediately, a “thank you” email is sent with a piece of content that was downloaded.
  1. A couple of days later, marketing takes the reins, with a series of automated emails aimed to turn this individual who “downloaded a piece of content” into a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) to pass to the sales team. This is done using marketing automation —and if you use HubSpot, this will be set up in the “Workflows” section of the CRM. In most cases, the marketing team should have slightly different workflows set up based on the type of content downloaded and how that reflects the prospect’s stage in the journey.
  1. Through the use of lead scoring, every interaction your new contact makes with the series of automated emails is given a positive or negative score. For example, opening an email and downloading a relevant white paper would increase the score, while not engaging with the emails would result in a negative score.

Marketing Automation Lead Scoring Hubspot

  1. Once they reach the score that notes them as an SQL, the appropriate rep is automatically notified to begin the personal sales process. At this point, marketing halts communications to avoid over-communication and contact burnout.
  1. The new contacts that went through the series of marketing automation, but did not reach a lead score that would deem them an SQL would likely stay in the hands of the marketing team. However, this is where open dialogue becomes critical. Let’s say for example, in a given month, 100 new contacts download an eBook and 20 of them become SQLs. Your sales team now has 20 qualified leads to meet with — but what about the other 80? What if they’re almost an SQL? Your marketing team can provide your sales team with a list of contacts that seem to be on the tipping point, too. For those not really at a tipping point, your marketing team can automatically enroll them in another set of automated emails or lay off communications for a bit to avoid burnout.

Within the funnel, it is important to note that there is an obvious hand-off from marketing to sales based on lead score where marketing stops communication, and sales begins communication.

But what happens if the SQL goes dark?

Leads go dark. They stop responding to a rep after engagement. Unfortunately, this isn’t an uncommon occurrence. When the sales rep begins communication with a lead that doesn’t respond after five outreaches, it’s time to pass communication efforts back to marketing.

A common strategy is the implementation of a “dark opportunity recovery” workflow. This type of workflow would be a slower nurture campaign with a piece of relevant content being sent every 10-14 days to see if they can be re-engaged. If the marketing team chooses not to engage dark opps, they should be added to a suppression list to avoid burnout.

Marketing Automation Safeguards

Even with a sales and marketing alignment plan, brilliant nurture campaigns, lead scoring, and open dialogue, there’s the chance your marketing and sales team may cross wires. Sometimes individuals download content from personal and work emails. Sometimes the marketing team forgets an exclusion list. It happens.

But, there are some safeguards you can put in place to avoid the awkward conversation between marketing and sales about who send the wrong person the wrong thing at the wrong time, instead of the right thing to the right person at the right time.

  • Suppression Lists: Having suppression (AKA exclusion) lists for particular workflows and campaigns avoids over-communicating with leads. For example, say a lead score of 80 triggers an SQL and sets the lifecycle stage to “opportunity.” If marketing and sales have agreed that only the sales team communicates with SQLs, then the marketing team should create a smart list of any contact categorized as “opportunity” and exclude them from communications.

Hubspot Suppression Lists

  • Good Data: A marketer is only as good as his/her data — and it is up to both teams to maintain consistent data. Create a cheat sheet of terminology that both teams agree on that includes lifecycle stage, lead score, and reps’ territories (if applicable). Because not all leads will come in the same way, make sure each team is aware of who is responsible for updating what in your CRM when it isn’t automated. For example, say a sales rep goes to a conference and has conversations with five leads. If he/she plans on communicating with those leads, make sure the rep marks them as an “opportunity” so they will also be excluded.
  • Open Communication: An open dialogue makes good data and the creation of suppression lists easier because the sales and marketing teams feel comfortable communicating with one another. One way to automate open communication is to set up “internal emails” in HubSpot or your CRM to automatically notify sales reps when a certain event happens—from downloading a piece of content to enrolling in a workflow.

Hubspot Internal Email Automation

  • Automatic Triggers: Creating workflows that help automate some of these processes can ensure data is always up to date. For example, you can create a workflow that automatically marks someone as an opportunity when they reach a certain lead score.

Hubspot Automated Triggers

Key Takeaway

When sales and marketing work together, your campaigns run smoother, your teams will save time, and ultimately, your B2B tech company will reap the rewards of more sales and higher morale.

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