Sales and marketing alignment is an essential and the key to effective implementation of your account based marketing strategy. Any organization considering ABM newly or looking to revamp their existing strategy, start with ensuring they have the foundation of strategic alignment between marketing and sales departments. Certainly, it’s important that your teams focus on some of the following alignment fundamentals of shared definitions, goals and agreements.
Firstly, if your teams don’t standardize the way of defining terms or don’t communicate in common vernacular, they are indeed going to fall out of sync.
Agreeing on Definitions
For instance, let’s think of a qualified lead. As per CSO Insights, only 44% of companies have formally agreed on the definition of a qualified lead between sales and marketing.
If the marketing team’s idea of defining such a profile that matters most does not match with that of a sales team, no doubt, you are going to see a conflict in the later stages.
Every company defines terms differently, but it is crucial that sales and marketing teams are aligned and reach agreement in doing so.
Moreover, implementing ABM typically establishes a need for a new point of focus, unlike broad lead-based way where sales and marketing teams are naturally eyeing on different metrics and different short-term goals.
Thinking about it practically, marketing and sales share the same goal of driving the revenue by winning the customers and increasing their lifetime value.
However, due to the alleged handoff from marketing to sales in the broad-based sales funnel, this process of driving the revenue is viewed as two different stages and thus lead to disharmony of marketing vs sales in social selling.
For ABM, it is critical for the organization to get buy-in across and agreements upon definitions and handoffs between two stages.
One way of accomplishing a common view on sales funnel is to structure compensation for sales and marketing around one metric or in a similar way for both. Such a structure will build trust between the two teams because they both have a greater stake in improving target account performance.
In addition, marketing people often feel disconnected to activities of sales reps. Integrating marketing activities regularly into those of sales can engage both teams into whole sales funnel letting them significantly contribute to bottom-line results.
The process of ranking an account or a lead for the fit and their sales readiness should be in coordination between sales and marketing to make sure your organization is aligned.
Assigning scores to identify the accounts to target is the first crucial step. With the help of predictive analytics, you can determine which accounts will be a fit and then prioritize them.
Once you have identified the accounts and delivered the targeted marketing, you should score the accounts or the lead activities within them as MQLAs (Marketing Qualified Lead Account) instead of conventional MQLs.
This approach of classifying prospects as MQLAs and passing them to sales helps you prioritize accounts and contacts appropriately, but your sales and marketing teams must work together to define this score threshold at what score the lead gets forwarded to sales.
Now, let us look at structuring your teams for success.
Creating a proper organizational structure between your sales and marketing is an integral part of the right alignment. This means defining specific roles in your sales and marketing teams to effectively engage and work your target accounts.
Depending on your organization, different people can hold different roles or the same person from sales and marketing teams can wear multiple hats.
Below are some roles and functions to consider while structuring your teams.
- Demand Generation supports the revenue goals by generating qualified leads and passing them to the sales team.
- Product Marketing communicates the product functionalities and their relevance to the target accounts establishing the competitive differentiation, partners and develops personalized late-strategies together with the sales team in closing target accounts.
- Content Marketing analyzes existing content to support your ABM strategy and creates, repurposes, and consistently distributes high valued content to deliver a personalized experience.
- Customer Marketing ensures the voice of customers informs the marketing strategy and involve in creating a targeted set of messages that are specific to target accounts.
- Marketing Operations oversee account scoring, service level agreements (SLAs), and allows your sales and marketing teams to have the accurate data to help the organization to deliver the right message at right time.
- Sales Development Reps are crucial in bridging the gap between marketing and sales with a function of reviewing, contacting and qualifying leads.
- Account Executives are the top representatives who close the sales in the end. You might want them to work on leads most qualified by sales development reps rather than have them trying to convert the leads who have the less possibility of buying.
- Sales Operations support your sales team success by planning sales commission, managing systems and data, and identifying accounts.
Finally, both the teams need to know and agree on what your company is going to do and when, i.e., creating service-level agreements.
Service-Level Agreements (SLAs) are basically originated to define scope and time of service contracts.
In aligning sales and marketing, SLAs contribute to a critical part of making sure no qualified lead is left behind and, that no account is turned over without the proper research, attention, communication, and effort.
SLAs in ABM are accounts specific versus individual leads in traditional broad-based marketing, and they also inform your performance towards pre-defined KPIs.
In conclusion, sales and marketing misalignment is a problem as it affects every step of your ABM implementation from the planning, execution to the measurement and this can be solved by understanding these alignment basics and these two departments working hand in hand.