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5 Tips to Make Sales and Marketing Live Happily Ever After

happily ever afterThis is a guest blog post written by David Kirkpatrick. He is a reporter for MarketingSherpa, covering the B2B and consumer marketing beats. He is also a guest blogger for HubSpot at Dreamforce '11 this week.

Marketing and sales alignment is a topic I've covered often in MarketingSherpa case studies and SherpaBlog posts. In fact, if you make it to one of the upcoming MarketingSherpa B2B Summits, you'll likely get a dose or two of this topic. Because I enjoy the concept so much, I eagerly anticipated the breakout session at Dreamforce, "So Happy Together!: Bridging the Gap Between Sales & Marketing." The presentation featured HubSpot's Business Systems Manager Leah Norris (who represented the marketing side) and Nancy Kamerer, account executive and former senior director of sales development at Salesforce.com, who represented the sales side.

Nancy described some of the main challenges of getting Marketing and Sales to work in tandem:

The Sales Point of View: "We're not getting enough leads, the leads we get are bad, and the data we're using is bad, too."

The Marketing Point of View: "Sales never follows up on the leads we send them, Sales doesn't update the status of leads, and Marketing never gets enough credit for closed deals."

Nancy also provided five actions that can improve this disconnect between the two departments:

5 Ways to Improve Sales & Marketing Alignment

1. Make an Agreement: Sales and Marketing should work together to define a common agreement on what constitutes "success."

2. Agree on Certain Definitions: Sales and Marketing should have common definitions for terms used in their agreements. Two terms they should definitely agree on the meaning of include "lead" and "converted opportunity."

3. Create Accessible Dashboards: Leave the guessing out of it. Dashboards provide accountability, visibility, credibility (by offering ROI figures), and can serve as a single source of truth for results that both teams can access. This eliminates the possibility for Sales to accuse Marketing of under-delivering on results, and vice versa (unless the data proves it!).

4. Use Collaborative Tools: The departments should use online tools to regularly collaborate and keep each other aware of various programs, progress, and results. Great tools for this include a corporate, internal wiki, and as we mentioned above, online report dashboards.

5. Improve Lead Quality: The sheer number of leads often isn't enough to satisfy a company's leads needs. Part of your sales and marketing agreement should also include requirements for lead quality, too. Quality leads result in better customers, and as a byproduct, more money.

Why "SMarketing"?

"The biggest thing for us [at HubSpot]," said Leah, "is aligning Sales and Marketing so Marketing has specific goals and accountability and both teams can be successful."

Leah added that one way to accomplish this is to create specific lead generation goals, such as lead volume by types of leads. For example, a qualified lead at HubSpot includes potential customers who request a demo or a free trial.

When Sales and Marketing are in agreement, there is more transparency and openness between the functions, which means everyone understands the common success they are aiming for.

How important is Marketing/Sales alignment at HubSpot? Leah said the concept is called "SMarketing" at the company. Holding regular meetings on understanding dashboard data, which are attended by both departments, is what leads to SMarketing harmony.

Furthermore, Sales operations and Marketing operations meet weekly -- it might even be an informal lunch meeting -- to review results. If the numbers aren't getting reached, changes are made quickly to adjust the marketing budget or realign sales reps to ensure both teams are hitting their goals.

And what's the most important takeaway for getting -- and keeping -- Marketing and Sales so happy together? "Addressing issues in real time leads to real time success," said Leah.

How do you ensure your sales and marketing teams are living happily ever after? Do you have a so-called "SMarketing" agreement in place at your company?

Image credit: AForestFrolic

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