How to Align the Sales and Marketing Funnel From the Bottom Up

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When it comes to the relationship between Marketing and Sales, we're often more inclined to think of what Marketing does that contributes to the success of Sales instead of the other way around. But despite the impact that marketing efforts can have on the success of demand and revenue growth in a company, marketers don't always know exactly what kind of results their efforts should yield.

To drive results and build a fully integrated marketing and sales process, Sales needs to hold Marketing accountable for completing their half of the conversion funnel. Conversely, Marketing needs to understand the numbers Sales must hit to achieve its revenue goals.

Tracking Conversion Rates Isn't Just For Sales

Sales always seems to be the team that has a good handle on the conversion rates its efforts yield. A sales manager could probably tell you their close rate or opportunity to closed-won conversion percentage at any given time.

But how many marketers know the exact output they need to generate to ensure Sales will meet its goals and the company will make its numbers? If you're not tracking your conversion rates through the entire marketing and sales funnel, how can your business set accurate goals and manage time and resources effectively?

Sales knows their specific conversion rates, and all Marketing knows is how many website visitors they had last year. On a good day Marketing might be able to throw out a guestimate of how many total leads they generated. Unfortunately we're still missing the conversion rates for each stage of Marketing's lead management process. Given this situation, how do you suspect the marketing team would know whether or not their efforts and results are behind, on pace, or ahead of plan?

Your business' inbound marketing strategy and inbound sales process will be working independently of one another until Marketing completes the funnel through to their lead sources.

Complete Funnel, Accurate Goals

Being able to set goals based on historical data contributes to efficiency, agility, and effectiveness in any size business. It is especially critical for small and medium size businesses (SMBs) to succeed at forecasting targets correctly to ensure time and money are not being wasted foolishly.

You could try to forecast next year's sales and marketing plan without the conversion rates for Marketing's lead management process, but it won’t get you very far.

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You can see that because Sales knows their 2014 conversion rates, they can calculate the number of opportunities they'll need at each stage in 2015 to achieve the $1 million revenue goal, a 25% increase from their 2014 revenue of $800,000.

But because Marketing does not know their conversion rates, two questions arise:

  1. How will Marketing set accurate goals for their team and initiatives this coming year?
  2. Will Sales feel they are in good hands and that their colleagues know exactly what it will take for the business to reach its goals?

Now let's look at what happens when Marketing completes the funnel:

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Let’s assume Marketing knows the conversion rate data from their lead management process in 2014:

  • Website visitors to Marketing Captured Leads (MCLs): 1%
  • MCLs to Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs): 47%
  • MQLs to Sales Accepted Leads (SALs): 38%
  • SALs to Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs): 70%
  • SQLs to Stage One Sales Opportunities: 50% 

Now, marketing and sales integration begins to take shape as Marketing applies the historical conversion rate data to complete the funnel from the bottom up.

After doing the math, your completed sales and marketing funnel emerges:

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With this completed funnel, Sales will have much more confidence in Marketing, and both departments will be on track to make their goals.

Your inbound sales process and marketing strategy should be working together with this funnel in mind. Everything you do should be tied back to achieving or exceeding these numbers.

If you'd like to talk more about Sales and Marketing alignment, I'd be happy to be a resource for you.

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