How brands can align sales and marketing more effectively to drive growth

Successful marketing campaigns generate business growth and are even more effective when an organisation’s marketers work collaboratively with the sales team.

Nine out of 10 sales and marketing professionals say they are misaligned across strategy, process, content and culture, a new report by Asana and Hubspot has found. That’s despite the fact that, according to research by LinkedIn, 87% of sales and marketing leaders say it is critical the two functions work closely together.

Asana and Hubspot’s report, ‘How to Create Marketing Campaigns Your Sales Team Will Love’, outlines the benefits of marketing and sales being better aligned, arguing that it improves campaign planning, execution and reporting, while enabling an organisation to be more agile and improve customer experience.

It also says that if marketing and sales co-ordinate around clearly defined and efficient campaign processes, the number of quality leads will increase. Campaign content will also be more targeted and interesting, and this will help sales reps to better engage with customers and drive long-term brand loyalty.

Jessica Gilmartin, head of demand generation, campaigns and regional marketing at Asana, comments: “It has to be a two-way street. Marketing and sales leaders need to be equally motivated and committed to creating a close working relationship, and, most importantly, both sides need to truly listen to each other and understand how they can support the other team’s needs. Only when marketing and sales teams work together can they collectively drive growth.”

Pandemic pressure

One of the reasons collaboration has not happened as much as it should have in the past is because of the enormous pressure marketers and sales teams are under. This has worsened during the pandemic.

Even before Covid-19, marketers were having to master more channels, technology and tools than ever before and they often felt overburdened. Meanwhile, sales teams spend just 33% of their time selling because of administrative tasks such as generating reports.

Asana’s ‘Anatomy of Work’ index claims that 71% of respondents have experienced burnout in the past year. The same study reveals that knowledge workers spend 60% of their time on ‘work about work’, including meetings, chasing for updates or searching for information.

Too often marketers look at targets that are relevant to their team but aren’t actually an indicator of overall success.

Jessica Gilmartin, Asana

These issues are partly hindering marketers’ attempts to align more effectively with the sales team and meet agreed KPIs for the benefit of the wider business.

One thing that can help both functions, says Asana, is a centralised work management platform. This integrates key apps and provides visibility on the planning, organisation and coordination of sales and marketing activities.

Campaign planning

When it comes to sales leads, quality wins over quantity every time.

This means marketers need to provide the sales team with clarity when it comes to the different stages of a buyer’s journey. In an ideal world, the handover between marketing and sales would be frictionless.

This is possible, but it relies on sales and marketing collaborating from the very start to identify the target audience for a campaign based on factors such as geography, industry and budget.

The two functions also need to co-operate on defining ideal customer profiles (ICPs) and buyer personas. As part of this process, it is important the marketing team avoids providing sales reps with unhelpful, unnecessary or irrelevant data on leads, such as how long someone has been in a job.

Asana and Hubspot’s report says it also is important to have a system in place to score leads, to make sure they are as strong as possible. This will enable both functions to target their efforts more effectively, and boost conversion rates. Marketing and sales need to agree at the beginning of the planning stage the criteria for defining a quality lead – whether based on behavioural and demographic information, for example.

Measuring success

The two functions must also decide on what a campaign is hoping to achieve and how to measure success. This includes using qualified leads to help decide on KPIs, set achievable sales targets and make sure the marketing team’s performance is quantifiable.

“I think too often marketers look at targets that are relevant to their team but aren’t actually an indicator of overall success for the business,” says Gilmartin. “There are always going to be certain goals that marketers pay more heed to, but both sales and marketing should be aligned on their end goal: revenue. All the other standard KPI’s such as pipeline, leads or sales activity should contribute to that number.”

The key to any effective campaign is clear and aligned communication, so there should be a single source of truth for setting, tracking and managing company-wide goals.

This single source of truth comes from sharing content and responsibility for the customer experience.

The report recommends using the ‘flywheel model’ rather than the traditional sales funnel because this effectively encourages collaboration between sales and marketing. Both functions are given responsibility for attracting, engaging and delighting customers. This can make it much easier to create and align important assets such as case studies, customer testimonials and infographics.

Campaign execution

If sales and marketing are to remain on the same page it is important to avoid silos, so everyone involved in the activity has clear visibility of what is happening.

Investing in tools that integrate and are easy to use enable sales professionals and marketers to see a timeline, have access to branded assets and templates, be aware of who has been set which tasks and with what deadline, monitor progress, and provide and respond to feedback.

The report recommends using forms to collect customer and website visitor information and to create branded landing pages. The information gathered can be fed into lists, workflows and individual contact records accessed by the marketing and sales teams.

Everyone can see a customer timeline outlining how someone has interacted with the company so far. This makes it easier to segment and nurture leads, and to use targeted content to improve the customer experience, whether in sales or marketing.

Accurate reporting

The reporting stage will confirm whether collaboration between marketing and sales has been a success and reveal what needs to be addressed to improve the relationship. Different reports might be needed for different internal audiences requiring specific insights into how a campaign performed and if KPIs were met.

The reporting should illustrate the contribution of sales and marketing in terms of generating leads and subsequent conversions, the research recommends. How did each function interact with customers and which channels and content were the most effective? Does the ROI demonstrate the value of making the effort to improve marketing’s relationship with sales?

The results should be integrated into a work and project management platform for the next campaign.

Gilmartin adds that simply spending more time with sales colleagues will help them be more effective: “Sales teams understand their customers, and the customer journey and behaviours, better than anyone else in an organisation. They’re a deep well of insights that I feel isn’t used enough by marketers looking to build impactful campaigns that tap into the customer mindset.”

By taking steps such as these, alignment between sales and marketing will quickly translate into tangible improvements in revenue and campaign effectiveness.

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