By Sandy Moore
You may have heard the terms “smarketing” or “sales and marketing alignment” but do you really know what these terms entail when it comes to implementation? For many organizations, there are a variety of reasons why it is difficult to align the sales and marketing departments. This is especially true for larger organizations that may have several locations across the company or even across the globe that make meeting more difficult.
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Many employees have different viewpoints on whether or not their organization is aligned when it comes to sales and marketing. HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2017 report states that, “31% of C-level executives feel that their marketing and sales teams are tightly aligned, (but) only 17% of managers and individual contributors feel the same way.” At the end of the day, it can all come down to how effective the sales and marketing alignment meetings are and the communication between the two departments. Let’s take a look at some of the best practices for running an effective sales and marketing meeting.
It is best to designate one team member from each department (one from sales and one from marketing) to be the department spokesperson and collaboratively lead the alignment initiative. This role can be assigned to either the head of each department or a member of each department. Both individuals should have the same authority within the organization to avoid one overruling the other. It is best to choose an individual that has exceptional communication skills, can provide an objective viewpoint, and has the ability to negotiate. Assigning one person from each department holds that person accountable for achieving the sales and marketing alignment goals for their department and executing assignments outlined in the service level agreement (SLA).
Creating an SLA for the two departments and setting clear SMART goals will provide the basis for aligning the sales and marketing teams. The SLA should outline both the marketing strategy and goals for the year, along with the sales and marketing teams’ action items for helping achieve the overall revenue goals for the company. The SLA is a commitment between both departments and should be agreed upon prior to the first sales and marketing meeting. If your organization does not have an SLA in place, check out this article on “How to Create a SMarketing Service Level Agreement.”
Once the SLA is finalized, bring the printed document to each sales and marketing alignment meeting. It is best practice to set a recurring meeting on the calendar that both teams can commit to. It may be best to start by meeting every two weeks and decide later if you only need to meet once a month. Either way, setting up regular meetings will help with ongoing communication and will help your team monitor the progress toward achieving the goals outlined in the SLA.
Keep in mind that you do not need to have the entire sales and marketing teams attend the sales and marketing alignment meetings. In fact, having too many team members involved during the meeting may make the meeting less productive and last longer than time permits. Instead, the designated team member from each department should gain collective feedback during the individual department meetings. They can then act as the spokesperson for their team during the alignment meetings and share the opinions and needs of the team members not present.
Each meeting should have a clear agenda set before it happens. This could be a list of talking points and action items, as well as designated time to report challenges and progress from each department. The agenda should be sent to those attending the sales and marketing alignment meeting at least a few days prior to the meeting. From there, each designated team member will have time to gain collective feedback and prepare any documents needed for the meeting.
During the meeting, each department should share both their challenges and successes that have occurred since the previous sales and marketing alignment meeting. The meetings may be held in person or through video conferencing. It is best to incorporate face-to-face interaction to achieve better communication. Each team should be given an equal amount of time to outline their needs for achieving the goals outlined in the SLA. Referencing the SLA keeps the conversation on track to identify clear action items for both teams to help them achieve the specific goals.
This is also a great time for marketing to share any new content that would be valuable for the sales team to use during their nurturing process. Whether it's a new top-of-the-funnel "how to" blog that sales can share with their contacts or an upcoming educational webinar that's further down the funnel, it's important for both teams to be aware of the tools available. In addition, marketing can provide insight into the particular collateral that is converting well and can be used by sales to continue nurturing contacts. To close the loop, sales should let marketing know which pieces of content have received good feedback from their contacts and helped close a sale.
Remember, sales and marketing alignment is about working together as one team, instead of two, to achieve the company’s revenue goals.
At the end of the meeting, work together to outline clear action items for each department. The designated team member is responsible for executing or delegating the tasks agreed upon during the sales and marketing alignment meeting. In addition to outlining the tasks, a detailed timeline to complete each task should be agreed upon. It may be best to utilize a project management tool with a project specifically set up for sales and marketing alignment. This will help keep everyone organized with assigning tasks in a specific timeline and gaining specific approvals to complete the tasks.
From time to time, members from the leadership or executive team may need attend the sales and marketing meetings to provide additional insight on the company’s revenue goals and help reinforce that the SLA is in line with the company’s objectives. These should be separate meetings, outside of the regularly scheduled meetings. This is more of a high-level overview meeting versus the tactical sales and marketing alignment meetings and therefore should remain separate.
Each organization will have their own customized strategy for sales and marketing alignment. To make sure the strategy is well executed, you’ll need to have constant, ongoing communication between both the sales and marketing departments and regularly scheduled alignment meetings. How productive and successful the meetings are with the designated team members will help predict the success of your company’s sales and marketing alignment.