Sales and marketing teams typically have different perspectives, roles and incentives when it comes to achieving their KPIs. As such, these two teams often function in siloes, resulting in a lack of effective communication and collaboration.
This misalignment can even cause sales and marketing to treat each other as rivals rather than partners and result in lost leads and missed growth opportunities.
This is where sales and marketing alignment, or “smarketing”, can help. Up to 85% of sales and marketing leaders say that alignment between the two teams is the largest opportunity for improving business performance.
In this article, we’ll share what the smarketing definition is and how it can help your company close more sales. We’ll also cover the vital steps you need to take to implement a smarketing business system and provide best practices that will help improve the collaboration between your sales and marketing teams.
What is smarketing?
The word smarketing comes from a combination of the words “sales” and “marketing”, and it’s a business strategy involving the complete alignment of the sales and marketing teams.
Traditionally, sales and marketing teams would work separately to achieve distinct goals in business. The marketing team would work at the top of the sales funnel to attract leads, while the sales team would work at the bottom to convert leads into customers.
This separation of roles made sense historically, before the digitization of sales and marketing. It’s this traditional mentality that still causes sales and marketing teams to view each other as adversaries, rather than partners.
However, the sales landscape has changed significantly over the last few decades and customer preferences and behaviors now reflect a need for greater cooperation between these two previously distinct teams. Enter smarketing.
The purpose of smarketing is to realize the shared goals of the sales and marketing teams through a synchronized strategy, shared goals and constant communication.
How aligning your sales and marketing teams can boost revenue
With shifting consumer behaviors, the smarketing definition of sales and marketing alignment can enable your organization to address challenges with greater agility.
This organizational mindset shift helps businesses increase the number of leads they acquire and the percentage of those leads that become paying customers.
Here are some of the benefits that smarketing can help you realize:
Improved lead generation and nurturing. Aligning sales and marketing helps your teams work together to attract, qualify and nurture leads and prospects. For example, when aligned, marketing can provide reps with relevant sales enablement content that helps push prospects along the sales funnel and towards a purchase decision.
Improved efficiency. Customer data can get siloed in marketing or sales departments. By increasing cross-team cooperation, this shared information can help team members create better processes and content to more effectively meet goals.
Increased return on investment (ROI). Better lead generation and improved efficiency mean shortening the sales cycle and increasing ROI. Not only that, but with proper alignment, you’ll be able to track and measure the value of your sales and marketing campaigns more clearly as they share common, rather than siloed, goals.
Greater team cohesion. Using tools like customer relationship management platforms (CRMs), you can share information easily and transparently, improving team cohesion. This means that you can streamline workflows and identify and fill gaps in your strategy.
A better understanding of customers and improved customer experiences. With consolidated communication channels, important customer information can be shared more effectively. This leads to a better organization-wide understanding of potential customers, which helps both teams deliver personalized content that engages. As such, you’ll be able to deliver a better overall customer experience, improve customer retention and increase customer lifetime value.
5 steps to integrate smarketing into your business to improve collaboration and close more deals
Depending on your current level of collaboration, achieving sales and marketing alignment can take strategic planning and a lot of time and effort – but it’s well worth it.
There are three major components of smarketing:
Aligned goals. Both marketing and sales are interested in attracting qualified leads and turning them into customers. The way they go about it and how they get prospects across the finish line may differ, but realizing that sales and marketing have shared goals helps both teams treat each other like tactical partners rather than separate entities.
Aligned roles. Likewise, sales reps and marketers often view their roles as distinct, which can create friction. Positioning the role of sales and marketing under one umbrella and defining shared goals (like revenue creation) can help build camaraderie and promote collaboration.
Aligned tools. It’s much easier to achieve optimal alignment when using powerful marketing automation and collaboration tools. With total transparency, both teams have access to full customer insights and can work on what’s most important in both the short and long term.
Here’s how to build a cohesive smarketing strategy to align your sales and marketing teams.
1. Assess your current level of alignment
The first step in implementing a smarketing strategy is to assess your baseline level of cooperation and create a series of goals that you need to accomplish to get everyone working together.
Consider how coordinated your teams already are. This may be anywhere on the scale, from completely misaligned to needing a little fine-tuning. Working this out will help you determine where to start, which processes need overhauling first and how you can better line up your sales and marketing teams.
There are a few questions you can ask yourself to gauge your current level of alignment:
How often do your sales and marketing teams meet? Meetings help to facilitate communication between the two teams. If they never meet, their ability to collaborate will be severely handicapped. Also, consider how your teams communicate outside of meetings (e.g. at work events) and whether this can be improved to increase alignment.
Do your meetings run smoothly or is there friction? The quality of communication is just as important as its frequency. If your meetings are adversarial, it’s unlikely that they will be productive. High-quality communication is collaborative and constructive and is data-driven rather than based on feelings.
How do the department heads interact and do they have a good relationship? If the department heads don’t interact, or they have poor-quality interactions, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to help you improve the relationship between their teams. These are the first two people you need on your side when implementing a smarketing culture, so they must work together well.
What is the current quantity and quality of leads that the marketing team generates? Determining the number of leads and their quality will help you gauge the level of alignment between sales and marketing. If sales is unsatisfied with their new leads, marketing may be focusing on the wrong kind of lead and not communicating effectively with sales (and vice versa).
How many leads does the sales team pursue and what is their conversion rate? A low rate of follow-up or conversions indicates low-quality leads. Addressing these issues will help set the sales and marketing teams working toward the same goals, increasing conversions and revenue.
Once you have this information, it’s time to set a handful of goals that will help outline how you will align your sales and marketing team. These will depend on how connected your teams already are and what your other business goals are.
Here are some example goals to get you started:
I want to implement combined weekly marketing and sales meetings that will increase collaboration and instill a culture of smarketing in my sales and marketing teams
I want to facilitate stronger, more effective communication between sales and marketing by encouraging data-driven, constructive feedback
I want to see sales and marketing drive 5% revenue growth by collaborating on an ideal customer persona, generating higher quality leads and closing more deals
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2. Promote smarketing and get organization-wide buy-in
The goal of smarketing is to have your sales and marketing teams working together effectively. This is impossible if parts of your organization (or individuals) don’t buy into the concept, as you will continue to see friction between the departments.
However, it’s impossible to convince everyone and switch from separate to perfectly united teams overnight. That’s why you need to start by shifting the company culture surrounding smarketing, starting with small changes and gradually ramping up to full-scale sales and marketing alignment.
It can be effective to begin at the top and work your way down. Get the department heads and other key people together and work on a strategy to achieve greater organizational buy-in. Lead by example.
Consider their suggestions and concerns, and prove that you embody the new, cooperative approach. Likewise, take a data-driven approach to promote smarketing to key stakeholders.
You could begin by scheduling weekly smarketing meetings to unite sales and marketing so that they feel like they’re fighting the same battle. These meetings should address weekly successes, challenges and new ideas and enable constructive feedback to improve on current campaigns and targets.
As you expand your smarketing approach, you should implement smarketing culture as part of the onboarding process, allowing new employees to meet both teams and experience how your organization now approaches sales and marketing.
3. Encourage consistent and open communication
Increasing the frequency and quality of communication between your sales and marketing teams is one of the most important steps in achieving smarketing alignment. This involves:
Closed-loop reporting between both teams. Sales and marketing should have full visibility of the other team’s actions and progress toward common goals. The sales team can report to marketing how they found their leads, and vice versa, and together they can work on fine-tuning the process.
Clearly defined common terms. The company should have an agreed-upon definition for qualified leads and other key terms. This helps the marketing team know exactly which kind of lead to go after and when they are ready to hand them to the sales department to take over.
Create an ideal customer profile. Identifying the ideal customer profile helps both teams focus on the kind of prospects that are most likely to convert. It helps put sales and marketing on the same page, providing both teams with an improved understanding of what makes their ideal customer tick and the ability to employ more effective messaging to attract and convert them.
Regular meetings. As covered above, meetings allow the sales team to give feedback and sales data on which leads are most likely to close. This, in turn, allows marketing to generate better quality leads.
Friction management. Open communication should include discussions of any frustration between the teams so that misalignments can be corrected proactively. You should approach this in a constructive and data-driven manner, without finger-pointing.
Effective communication is key to encouraging better smarketing alignment at your organization while improving your business performance in general. Without communication, there is no way to discover, address and fix problems with your business strategy or culture, and the issues will continue to hamper your business growth.
4. Create a service-level agreement (SLA) and define the strategy
With an SLA, sales and marketing commit to a shared set of responsibilities and expectations. It should describe the services provided by each department, the expected service level, the responsibilities of each party and the penalty (or remedy) for breaches.
It should also cover processes for changing protocols and definitions, as well as guidelines for feedback between the teams.
Finally, an SLA should cover each phase of the revenue cycle. For example, marketing will deliver a particular number of leads per month at a specific quality. At the same time, sales will work a particular number of these leads at a certain rate and with a certain number of outreach attempts.
A marketing-sales SLA can:
Create accountability through agreed-upon expectations
Define quantitative goals that remove emotion and can be tracked and reported on easily
Reduce wasted effort through better definitions and a streamlined sales pipeline
Accelerate revenue by removing inefficiencies and setting unified goals
Here are three things to keep in mind when creating an SLA:
Define the lead scoring metrics. To be quantitative, it’s necessary to be able to score leads according to their sales-readiness. This is generally a points-based system that reflects how much interest a prospect has shown, where they are in the buying cycle and how close they are to your ideal customer profile. A lead scoring system helps to provide data if there are disputes between sales and marketing about the quality of leads.
Define the lead generation metrics. As we mentioned above, it’s necessary to come to an agreed-upon definition of lead qualification. An SLA should take this to the next level, defining what a qualified lead looks like at each step of the sales cycle.
For example, marketing qualified leads (MQLs) are those the marketing team considers likely to buy. Sales accepted leads (SALs) are those that the sales team has agreed to act upon and sales qualified leads (SQLs) are those that sales considers ready to move to the next step.
Test the SLA before wide-scale implementation. Your SLA won’t be perfect after the first draft. Consider testing it in a small group before extending it to the wider organization, as it may need adjustments to perfect.
5. Integrate your software for collaboration and data sharing
Open and consistent communication is one thing, but total alignment between your salespeople and marketing teams is only possible if the sales and marketing software is integrated. A data-driven approach is the best way you can glean important information like the quality of your leads, the success of your campaigns and any gaps in your marketing strategy to exploit.
Closed-loop data reporting through integrated software (such as a CRM database) allows your teams to automate their marketing approach, track and report on campaign metrics and manage the entire sales funnel from one dashboard.
For example, when the sales and marketing software is integrated:
Sales and marketing both have a complete picture of the buyer’s lifecycle, enabling greater collaboration between the teams
Sales teams can see a prospect’s behavior and discover patterns, pain points and opportunities and improve their sales strategy
Marketers get real-time reporting on what is working so that they can optimize their marketing efforts and content strategy
Prospect information is transparent, meaning that teams are held accountable
Collaboration tools can also significantly benefit cross-team collaboration, particularly if it’s hard for your teams to meet (or if they are remote). Tools like Slack can improve communication, with open threads easily tracked by each team member.
Further, project management tools like Trello or Asana can help both teams see campaign status and progress in real-time, allowing easy information dissemination and task allocation.
Smarketing best practices to achieve true sales and marketing alignment
Developing deep collaboration between your sales and marketing teams is a step-by-step process that takes time to accomplish. However, true alignment is an achievable goal with a strategy in place.
Here are some high-level tips to ensure that your teams collaborate successfully:
Big wins should be celebrated with fair apportionment of praise (and vice versa). It’s always difficult to assess performance and delegate ROI, but removing any adversarial feelings between the sales and marketing teams is necessary. The trick is to ensure that both teams feel like they’re fairly credited for their successes.
Hold teams accountable. How successes and shortcomings are tracked and reported on is key to maintaining high-level cooperation. You should measure marketing on both the volume and quality of leads, and measure sales on the number of leads worked and the close rate.
Any discrepancies should be discussed at weekly meetings to close strategic gaps together, rather than by assigning blame.
Use data rather than opinions. As issues arise, each team must discuss the topic objectively. While this can be difficult, keeping people on track by ensuring they back up their points with data rather than feelings can keep teams accountable without as much friction.
For example, if sales claims that they have been less productive because there were fewer leads from social media in the last month, they should back this up with data from the previous months.
A smarketing business system can be extremely effective at increasing your revenue. By clearly defining roles and incentives, improving communication quality and providing powerful, integrated tools, you will align your sales and marketing team into a unified and dynamic force.
Through this deep alignment, you will see higher quality leads delivered to a better-equipped sales team, optimizing your business operations and driving annual revenue growth.
Download Your Sales and Marketing Strategy Guide
Grow your business with our step-by-step guide (and template) for a combined sales and marketing strategy.