Aligning sales and marketing is an imperative in today’s world of the empowered buyer.

There has been much written about aligning around leads…but this is only part of the issue and will lead to trouble down the road if you don’t address the whole issue. These five steps will help marketers get on the road to success in the relationship with sales.

Step 1: Tell ‘Em What You’re Going To Do
Sales needs to understand marketing plans and forecast so expectations are set correctly on the type of marketing activities you will be conducting and the target audiences being selected to pursue. There needs to be a common understanding of the volume of activity and how they can participate and even initiate marketing activities to drive business and opportunities at outlet or branch level.

Without an understanding of your marketing goals and plans, sales will not be able to put together meaningful territory plans. We all know that marketing doesn’t initiate all sales opportunities. Without the forecast and plans, sales will not know how much is expected from their own direct and partner efforts.

Step 2: Make Sales a Part of Marketing
The roles are blurring as marketing communicates deep into the prospect pipeline and sales should be returning prospects for further nurturing campaigns. This can be a disaster if sales and marketing collide and fall over each other, or it can be a powerful combination if your sales team is empowered to work within the bounds of the marketing plans.

This starts with collaborative planning by involving sales personnel in your go-to-market campaign development process. Then, you need to define the guidelines for sales initiating marketing communications and provide a means for sales to return a prospect to marketing for further nurturing. You need to give sales control over how you message to prospects in the sales pipeline and your existing customers by allowing them to select their preferences from a selection of marketing messages.

Step 3: Show Them What You Are Doing
We discussed the importance of providing visibility to plans and forecasts. You need to provide visibility to a dynamic calendar of activities in marketing. As we all know, marketing’s calendar is constantly changing…new things get added, things get dropped and things move.

Your sales team needs an easy way to access the calendar so they know when email campaigns drop, when events are scheduled and when road shows or experiential marketing is taking place. In addition, you should add your sales team to the seed list for your campaigns.

This can serve two functions. First, they can provide feedback on the campaign delivery and content and receiving the campaign will serve as an alert that it is going out to their prospects and customers. They are a key conduit for successful marketing events and they can provide important follow up to campaigns sent to prospects in the pipeline or existing customers.

Step 4: Love ‘Em With Leads
We said defining lead hand-off and quality was not enough….but it is definitely important and required. The first element is to define what attributes you want to track on a lead. BANT (Budget, Activity, Need and Time-line) are tried and true factors to start with. You will also likely have contact attributes such as title, monthly revenue or industry.

Finally, don’t miss the critical behavior category. You should score and factor in their connections with you (where they have reached out to you) such as web traffic on your properties, online and live event attendance, downloads of marketing materials, or viewing videos. Their behavior not only indicates interest, it indicates where they are in the buying cycle (awareness, education, evaluation, purchase for example.)

Once you agree on attributes, you need to agree on what level of quality is sufficient to hand the lead to sales. Do they need all attributes to be known or are some of them sufficient. This varies by the product(s) you are selling, the staffing of marketing versus sales, whether you have telemarketing or not, and the culture of the company.

These discussions will drive a lead score plan that gives different points to the attributes and behaviors of your prospects. Lead scoring can be structured simply with one set of rules that are applied to all prospects or your business may be more complex requiring different lead scoring rule sets for different types of prospects based on product line interest, geography or even buying stage. Regardless, you need to spend time in this definition and then allow for updates and changes as you learn how your plan works and capacity changes.

But don’t just stop at setting up your lead scoring structure and hand-off. Once you have this in place, you need a communication vehicle to keep your sales team informed as prospects continue to interact with you in later stages of the buying cycle. Provide alerts when an individual or company is on one of your web properties.

Provide visibility of online and offline activity to your sales team directly in their SFA tool so they have it in the context of where they go to manage contacts, accounts and opportunities. Keep them informed of new behavior that could be the trigger to driving the deal to a close.

Use the intelligence you gain about your prospects (their “digital profile”) to tailor your outbound messaging for newsletters or announcements. Today’s segmentation tools can use these attributes to segment your lists and also use this same information to dynamically build your emails, landing pages and microsites so they provide relevant information to your prospects and customers. This will significantly improve response rates and drive engagement that will lead to faster movement through the pipeline.

Step 5: Tell ‘Em What You Did
Communicate results so there is a common understanding of how well something worked versus a micro view from each sales rep. Sales will be looking for instant gratification so will only focus on the immediate opportunities that spring from a campaign or event. They also lose sight of the volume of activity that is happening to nurture leads to the right point.

Get agreement on the metrics sales wants to see and then make sure you add in metrics that are important to your team as well so they see the whole picture. Use the connection between your integrated marketing solution and your sales automation tools to provide visibility into the lead flow from marketing through the sales pipeline.

Show them how your leads are moving through the pipeline at each stage and include cost per lead so you can work as a team to improve your pipeline and drive more value.As a team, you want to drive toward improving your lead efficiency at each stage so you can lower your cost per lead overall.

Visibility to the leads at each stage can identify friction in the system and highlight opportunities for new or different messaging and tools. Good reporting and easy access to these reports will go a long way to keeping sales and marketing on the same page. A true understanding of the successes also builds their confidence in the marketing team for future effort.

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