The Importance of Collaboration in the Modern B2B World
If you’ve spent time in the B2B world recently, you may have noticed a new trend.
And I’m not talking virtual trade shows or TikTok dances.
Sales and marketing teams are finally finding ways to become better aligned and work more closely together.
It’s long overdue, too.
With better alignment, team members can work towards the same goals and boost efficiencies throughout the organization – ultimately leading to more closed won business.
Historically – Sales and Marketing haven’t really worked well together.
“We gave you leads!” exclaims Marketing. “Why can’t you close the deals?”
“Well,” Sales responds…
“The leads you sent us were horrible! They were just tire-kickers with no interest.”
And that fight continues until the business folds or the world stops spinning. Whichever comes first.
The main reason for the contention is that Sales and Marketing typically have had their own separate goals.
Marketing is usually focused on brand building and lead generation. They have a long-term vision. And most marketers love trial and error. Especially when it comes to emerging trends or technology – to see if there’s a way for something new to impact the company in a positive way.
For sales, time is money. Most salespeople (especially ones that are well-seasoned or formerly trained), are very results-driven. “Will this effort get me appointments?” is their primary mindset. Many times, they’re aloof to the inner workings of marketing, especially the backend of a website, the behind-the-scenes management of a software, or all that goes into content development.
The fastest route between two points is a straight line. Working out the kinks between the two teams can bring positive change.
In particular, it can help:
Here are a few recommendations on how to better unify the two teams.
Start With an SLA (Service Level Agreement)
A service-level agreement, or SLA, is typically used between seller and buyer. It’s a formal document to outline the expectations of both parties.
An SLA is great to use internally, too, and can be used with Sales and Marketing.
The SLA should outline the roles and responsibilities of each team, what software will be used and how, when those teams will come together and what will be discussed in those meetings, what metrics will be measured, and how often those numbers will be pulled and reviewed.
Overall, it creates buy-in from both teams and holds everyone accountable for their responsibilities to the company – and to each other.
The most important way to promote alignment is through transparency and regular communication.
That includes from beginning to end – from strategic planning all the way through to reporting.
There also must be a feedback loop, meaning Sales should provide Marketing with insight as to the quality of leads, what drove those opportunities, status of opportunities, size of deals, and more. And Marketing should allow Sales to support their efforts, too.
Here are a few examples of ways to develop more transparency and communication across departments:
Plan ongoing scheduled monthly meetings, where teams join together to review dashboards, goal statutes, and milestones, talk through upcoming promotions, events, and offers, and map out a plan to tag-team upcoming projects.
Agree Upon KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
The saying used to be: 7 touchpoints to make a sale. Today, that number has risen to 30. To make things worse, many of those touchpoints can’t be digitally tracked.
We call this the “dark funnel.”
Consider someone hearing about your brand during a podcast. Reading a review on Yelp. Or having a friend mention it at an outdoor barbecue.
Marketing and sales must both understand and accept this and agree that not every tactic will lead to immediate results.
For the rest of the touchpoints – the ones that can be measured – it’s important to capture and attribute properly – based on what activities drove (or assisted with) those conversions.
Visitor. Lead. MQLs. SQLs. Opportunity. Closed Lost. Closed Won. Customer.
There are lots of terminologies when it comes to the lifecycle stages of a potential buyer and how to classify them inside of a CRM or reporting system.
The best metrics to look at collectively are closed won business and revenue per sale.
By looking at the end result, it keeps both teams focusing on the bottom line. And it strips away all those time-wasting arguments over the definition of a “quality” lead.
Reporting against revenue helps with data-driven decision-making, too, so marketing can concentrate their efforts on tactics that drive business, rather than just top-of-funnel leads.
Buyer Personas and Customer Insight
50-70% of a buyer’s research is done before making contact with a brand. Therefore, one could argue that marketing is equally as responsible as sales (if not more) for helping secure a deal.
This truly begs the importance of understanding one’s customers.
For the marketing team, customer insight helps with important decisions: What social media sites to invest in? What targeting can be done within advertising networks? How to organize a website layout? What style, voice, and messaging to focus on with your content?
Sales can also benefit from the data. Pacing, pricing, and packaging can all reflect the needs of the buyer.
Both Marketing and Sales should develop buyer personas profiles.
By building these profiles together, all team members can weigh in on not only the demographics of buyers, but what goes into their buying processes.
Forrester Research found that highly aligned companies grow 19% faster and are 15% more profitable.
That alignment certainly comes from better teamwork. But it also comes from unified systems.
There are many softwares available to help both marketers and salespeople do their jobs more efficiently. Start by identifying what tools are needed and how both teams can learn and embrace them as one.
Here are some examples:
Marketing’s main responsibility is still to generate awareness, interest, and demand for a brand and its products. Sales’ main responsibility is still to forecast, prospect, work deals, and close business.
In silos, major holes can appear that lead to inefficiencies and lost opportunities.
With better alignment, efficiencies are added, sales cycles are shortened, there’s less churn, and more closed deals.
What’s the investment?
Patience, collaboration, better tools, and an agreement that both teams will work together to make a greater impact on the business.
You may have heard the term “Smarketing.”
It was coined to describe cohesion between Sales and Marketing departments.
Organizations that embrace “smarketing” get better results.
It’s not easy. But it’s doable.