8 Steps to Close More Leads with Sales and Marketing Alignment
Did you know that 87% of the terms sales and marketing employees use to describe each other are negative? You may think these teams will never be on the same page! And that’s costly.
The good news is that when these two departments put their collective heads together, your business will increase conversions, boost awareness and growth, and improve ROI.
So how do you get your sales and marketing teams to work as one? I’m going to walk you through eight steps to create sales and marketing alignment so that your teams can generate and close more leads.
1. Unite everyone under a common goal: To convert leads.
Sales and marketing have traditionally been seen as two separate, competing departments. But healthy sales and marketing teams work together to:
- Meaningfully engage with customers
- Convert Leads
- Grow the business
So instead of letting each department work on those goals in isolation, your sales and marketing teams need to come together to support each other.
What Sales knows should inform how Marketing markets, and what Marketing knows should inform how Sales sells.
Doing this creates synergy - but how do you make sure each team’s work doesn’t overlap too much?
2. Clearly define roles and expectations.
Sales and marketing share the same goals, but the ways they accomplish those goals are very different. That’s because marketers and salespeople are very different by nature, as a Harvard Business Review study pointed out:
- Marketers are data-driven, focusing on things like customer trends and website analytics. They think about larger, long-term campaign payoffs and believe sales is too focused on individual customer experiences.
- Salespeople build and value the relationships they make with new and existing customers and want to serve them best. They believe marketers are out of touch with their customer base.
You need to work with each person’s strengths to create sales and marketing alignment, and that means assigning roles and defining responsibilities suit.
Sales interacts with prospects and customers on a more granular level. They see pain points, motivations, mindsets, and other details that will help marketing:
- Create more in-depth buyer personas
- Refine brand messaging and content creation
- Market via email and SMS campaigns
In turn, marketing uses its data to come up with trends and insights that will direct sales with things like:
- Categorizing and prioritizing leads
- The best time to contact leads and how many times to follow up
- What kind of content or messages moves prospects further down the pipe
So how do you set expectations?
Define each role and duty for each person (or team) in black and white.
This gives everyone a list of what they’re supposed to be doing, and it prevents employees from stepping on each other’s toes. It also lets everyone know who they can go to for answers or input, encouraging departments to work closely together.
Once goals are set, Sales and Marketing need to keep each other up-to-date on their progress so everyone can move as a unit. How can you create this accountability?
3. Establish a way to measure performance and success.
What your marketing team considers a success may be a failure to your sales team - and vice versa.
In the end, revenue cures all.
It doesn’t matter how many leads you get or how many calls you take. It matters how many customers sign up and stay with you, which is why customer acquisition and retention are some of the most popular key performance indicators (KPIs).
Luckily, the KPIs for your marketing and sales teams should overlap. Popular options include:
- Cost per qualified lead
- Cost per acquisition
- Touchpoints before purchasing
- Churn rate
- Customer lifetime value
- Upsell and Cross-sell rates
Which are the most important metrics for your business to track?
Once everyone agrees to the same metrics, you’ll have Sales and Marketing on the same page for (a) what your company goals are, (b) who’s responsible for what, and (c) how they can tell if they’re doing a good job.
It also creates a great opportunity for teams to work together to brainstorm ideas for content, messaging, and generally getting prospects to move deeper into the sales funnel.
So how can your teams better target prospects?
4. Develop buyer personas as a team.
Your target audience should be the same whether you're in Marketing or Sales.
But while Marketing may have a macro view of your customers, it’s Sales who knows exactly who buys your product, what motivates them to buy, the language they understand, and their objections.
Creating detailed buyer personas, or semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer, will help your teams understand and target those ideal customers better.
Using real data from your existing customer base, these detailed profiles should include information about your buyers':
- Demographics (i.e., age, gender, marital status, education level, income, etc.)
- Needs, aspirations, and goals
- Problems, pain points, and obstacles to achieving their goals
- Buying behaviors and patterns
- Potential objections to your product or service
- Average timeline from interest to purchase
When your teams feel as if they’re selling to a real person they know, they’ll be able to customize content and sales pitches to speak directly to them. That’ll help you close more leads.
Then you’ll need to optimize that content for just the right time in your funnel.
5. Walk through your buyer’s journey together.
Once you have your buyer personas fleshed out, you’ll want to map out a customer journey with both teams present.
This step-by-step buying process will show Sales and Marketing what your target audience does on their journey from lead to customer.
Your buyer’s journey should include everything your target buyer will consider or interact with before they make a decision to purchase, such as:
- Their main objectives for seeking out your brand (or how they find you)
- Activities your buyer will perform (like an online search)
- Content, marketing material, and information they’ll read
- How they will communicate with your brand
While your sales and marketing teams work to understand each step of the journey from your lead’s perspective, they’ll also have the chance to develop a plan to improve this experience.
Then you you need to create content that address buyers in each stage of the journey to answer their questions and move them deeper into your funnel.
6. Collaborate on content creation.
Content is what attracts customers to your product or service. From blog posts on your website to special text message giveaways, content is how you interact with your audience.
Both marketing and sales departments depend on solid, engaging content to meet their KPIs. But one audit showed almost 60% of the content created by companies gets ignored!
That costs companies tens of thousands of dollars in wasted manpower every year (not to mention what they’re losing in sales opportunities).
And data from The American Marketing Association shows 90% of content created for sales by marketing is never even used!
The goal of content is to engage with potential and existing customers to build authority and trust in your brand.
But if marketing and sales don’t agree on what this means, or they’re not speaking the same language, neither will use the content the other creates.
Both teams have to agree to produce content that:
- Speaks directly to your target audience
- Shares a similar tone, voice, and brand messaging
- Is relevant, useful, and helpful
- Answers a question or solves a problem
You can accomplish this with a short meeting, or even a good Slack conversation. One LinkedIn survey showed that “B2B buyers are 5X more likely to engage with a sales professional who provides new insights into their business or industry.”
Generating content is the ideal way to show your company has this insider information - and is willing to share it for free.
Where should this information come from?
Even though your marketing team may be pumping out all the content, your sales team is talking to customers every day. Take the questions and objections they get, and create content to address them.
Then customers can educate themselves (which is what they’d rather do until they need to see the product), and sales will have an easier time closing the deal.
Cara Hogan, a Content Strategist at Zaius, has an actionable tip:
“I have a collaborative spreadsheet where sales reps can drop in feedback from prospects, content they feel is missing from our library, and more. In addition to the spreadsheet, I have meetings with the sales team to gather content ideas and feedback once a month.”
Having everyone in on the creative process at the same time produces highly targeted and effective content while saving time and money
The end result?
Your ROI goes through the roof, and both departments see success.
What kind of content should you create?
Research where your target audience is most likely to interact with your content (this should part of your buyer persona), such as on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, email, etc.
Once you know where they like to hang out, you’ll have an idea of which type of content to produce for them. Every company should have blog posts on their site to increase organic search traffic, but you should create other free content, too, like:
- Case studies
- Short videos
- Quizzes, surveys, or polls
- SMS opt-ins for giveaways and discounts
- Downloadable checklists or content upgrades
- Guest blog posts for other sites in your buyer’s niche
Giving leads tons of easily accessible information will help them make an informed, self-directed decision without feeling as if they’ve been “sold to.” Just make sure your content positions your product or service as the right choice.
Since the content train should always be chugging along, it will be crucial for both departments to stay in touch.
7. Keep the lines of communication open.
Sales and marketing alignment is not a one-time thing.
You can’t expect both departments to work together if they don’t communicate effectively (or at all).
It’s standard practice at most companies to hold weekly meetings with marketing and sales in-person or via video call, but you don’t have to solely rely on these options.
Thanks to technology, you have other choices for keeping everyone in the loop without wasting valuable time on the clock.
Project management and communication tools like Slack, Trello, Basecamp, and Asana may provide the best way for your teams to keep up. These are also ideal if you have remote employees who can’t make it to meetings or calls due to different time zones.
Related: The Ultimate Guide to Remote Working
During these collaborative chat sessions, your sales and marketing teams will be able to discuss new strategies, link to information about the performance of current campaigns, ask questions, voice gripes, and more.
You’ll also have an effective way to gather feedback from everyone in both departments to improve all around. If you find this connectivity helpful, you’ll want to invest in an internal knowledge base for everyone to use too.
8. Connect both teams with an internal knowledge base.
If your departments don’t have a compatible way to integrate and share information, it will be much more difficult for them to work as a team and monitor the progress of their KPIs.
You also increase the chances of inaccurate data or mishandled information, both of which lead to lower sales and poor customer relationships.
Using a knowledge base internally will help align sales and marketing, and give everyone equal access to metrics, analytics, and actionable data. This helps everyone seamlessly view the work collaboratively and transparently.
This shared database of knowledge will also offer team members in other departments the same answers for the questions your customers are asking. That creates a more unified brand image for customers, which increases trust and leads to more sales.
And when you treat the steps in this guide as a cycle, continually repeating them, your sales - and team morale - will grow exponentially!
Sales and Marketing: From Perfect Strangers to Best Friends
Before your sales and marketing departments start functioning as one well-oiled conversion machine, you need to take the right steps to build this relationship on mutual trust and respect.
Even if they have different work styles, sales and marketing share the same objectives: to increase sales and brand awareness.
Get everyone on the same page and they’ll exceed the goals you set forth. They’ll also understand the mutual benefits of collaboration and start appreciating all the work both departments are putting in to achieve them.
Follow these sales and marketing alignment best practices, and you may not know where your marketing department ends and your sales team begins. You’ll just notice higher profits and happier employees!