By Team Intricately · June 30, 2021 · 10 minute read
Sales and marketing are in a constant collaboration to attract, inform, engage, and convert prospects in the hopes of them becoming a customer. On top of that, they both do plenty of work for retaining existing customer relationships, like boosting engagement and improving the customer experience.
In this module, we’ll cover exactly what sales and marketing alignment is, why your business needs it, and its increasing importance in ABM.
Why Sales and Marketing Alignment is Critical to ABM Success
Even though many businesses have made great strides in aligning Sales and Marketing, few enterprises that execute account-based marketing (ABM) are satisfied with collaboration between the two departments.
When done well, Sales and Marketing alignment should look like teams determining plays together, collaborating on campaigns, agreeing on analytics and reporting, and winning target accounts.
Whether you’re an ABM novice or expert, there’s always room to increase alignment between Sales and Marketing. The key is to first identify your current stage of ABM program development.
ABM completely changes the traditional relationship between Sales and Marketing. Sales and marketing must come together to identify target accounts, create strategies and plays, and be accountable to the same metrics.
Some teams who are mature in alignment refer to it as ‘smarketing,’ because in ABM, sales and marketing are in lockstep.
Both teams in this relationship bring something different to the table in the complicated B2B buyer’s journey - and both teams share the same goals in driving revenue.
When Sales and Marketing are in sync, businesses experience:
A significant reduction in cost to gain new customers
More predictable results from marketing
Improved customer experience
Significant business growth
But when teams are not collaborating well, they can lose significant revenue. When responding to a global LinkedIn survey, about 98% of sales reps and marketers expressed that misalignment negatively impacted the business and the customer.
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Roadblocks to Sales and Marketing Alignment
If business leaders know that Sales and Marketing alignment is essential for success, then why aren’t they doing it already? Because it isn’t easy. Every organization has unique challenges to overcome, but they often boil down to trust, resources, and a failure to identify a roadmap for improvement.
Tension between teams
Tension between sales and marketing has deep-seeded roots that can be hard to overcome. If sales thinks marketing isn’t giving them enough quality leads, while marketing thinks sales isn’t following up on opportunities, the relationship can erode quickly. The good news is that consistent communication can help ABM teams overcome this lack of trust.
ABM isn’t cheap, or fast. To land high-value accounts, teams need to invest significant sums of money and time into planning and executing coordinated ABM programs.
Marketing may feel like their resources are limited for what they’re being asked, and Sales may feel that marketing isn’t warming up target accounts sufficiently for them to make the sale. In order to overcome this, teams need to identify target accounts, create programs, and examine the budget together.
When the budget and priorities are discussed together, there is more room for realistic expectations and agreement on campaigns and processes.
Teams may hit a point where they know they reduced silos between sales and marketing will drive growth in their company. They may take initial steps, run some programs, invest in ABM technology, but then they might plateau.
Alignment is never a one-and-done deal—it’s a constantly evolving approach. ABM leaders need to assess areas for improvement, identify their needs, and brainstorm ways they can get more support from executives.
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Overcoming Sales and Marketing Alignment Challenges
Build trust between teams
The only way to build alignment is to have a foundation of trust. Marketing and Sales leaders should meet regularly, offering constructive feedback and listening to each others’ perspectives.
Teams should choose target accounts together. Because sales interacts more directly with customers, marketers should listen in on calls directly or ask sales to compile common feedback responses about the product and use cases they receive. Marketing can use feedback to build case studies, white papers, testimonials, and more to build a better case for their product.
Likewise, sales should pay attention to the messaging and gifts marketing is delivering in order to maintain consistency throughout the customer journey. If sales has suggestions, marketing can take them into consideration, and even if they disagree, they can offer an explanation of what they’re doing to address specific concerns or improve certain tactics.
Transparency, sharing data, and brainstorming together are crucial steps in keeping teams working as one.
Establish your process together
Enterprise B2B sales is a highly complex, non-linear process. Instead of attracting and selling to one buyer, teams must sell to a committee that often ranges from six to ten decision makers.
When selling to a group this size, the pipeline can’t rely on a simple handoff between marketing and sales. Gartner pointed out that marketing and sales teams are often organized in a “serial” manner, when they should instead be operating parallel to each other. In this way, teams coordinate an equal share of digital and in-person touchpoints that will keep target accounts engaged.
Traditionally, marketing planned events and sales did a set number of outbound activities. With ABM, teams still have distinct responsibilities, but tactics are coordinated. ABM teams focus on the same accounts, gather around the same metric, and identify what is the most strategic way to work together. In order to do this, leaders from both departments meet regularly.
As part of establishing your process, teams should go through their TAM and target account list together. Create a plan that identifies the data points necessary to inform your strategy, and who is responsible for keeping databases up-to-date and clean.
The Gartner Future of Sales 2025 report states that 60% of B2B sales organizations will transition from experience- and intuition-based selling to data-driven selling by 2025. Much of the B2B buying experience will be done through self-service channels. Vendors need to be preparing teams, processes, and technology for the move to a more digital, data-driven B2B buying experience.
Establish and analyze success metrics together
Depending on a company’s ABM maturity and unique situation, success will look differently. It’s important that marketing and sales are aiming to hit the same goals, even if they play different roles in getting there.
Enterprise sales cycles are long, so it can be difficult to measure precisely how marketing efforts are driving short-term gains. Marketing teams should be measured by how they impact the pipeline. For example, did marketing attract new target accounts to the pipeline, how much engagement did they stir up, how much awareness did they build?
Metrics can be divided into two groups: funnel metrics and business outcomes. Funnel metrics give you insight on account behavior within each stage of the funnel, funnel velocity, and more. Business outcomes reveal larger outcomes like revenue, net profit margin, how much growth the business experienced year-over-year, and more.
Invest in the right technology
Various martech tools can be used to support the various activities required for effective sales and marketing alignment. Marketing teams can build their tech stack with tools for market research and data, management, marketing automation, sales intelligence and intent data collection, CRM, and advanced ad serving tools.
Comprehensive ABM platforms allow teams to keep accounts and contacts organized, segment audiences, distribute customized content and web pages, run analytics and reports, and promote collaboration between sales and marketing.
Improved Sales and Marketing Alignment Drives Revenue
Sales and Marketing have always been on the same team — but organizational gaps exist that prevent them from functioning like it. On the people side, trust, communication, and accountability are necessary for teams to support each other.
On the process, data, and technology side, teams need transparency and accuracy. And sometimes they need the support of experts. Intricately helps cloud sellers with their ABM execution by providing teams the tools and data they need to gather intelligence on target accounts and competitors.
Even the most advanced company has the opportunity to bring their sales and marketing teams closer together. When they do, they ultimately enhance the customer experience, shorten sales cycles and increase revenue.