Beyond Alignment: 4 Steps to Sales-Marketing Integration

marketing_sales_integration.pngThe team at Integrate is in the midst of ramping up 2016 demand generation efforts like many organizations. While we've always been pretty well aligned with sales, this year we’re committing to moving from alignment (we have a defined set of processes, SLAs, definitions, regular pow-wows and such) to “integration.”

We have a few loosely defined ideas of what “sales-marketing integration” means, and we’re not sure if it’ll make a meaningful difference. However, it felt like we were ready to work smarter and closer to get better results for Integrate and for our demand marketing customers. 

This commitment prompted some homework and discussion with other marketing and sales leaders at respected organizations. While we don’t yet have lessons to learn (we’ll share as we go – the good, the bad and the ugly), we've received many opinions that we think are meaningful enough to share with our marketing peers and community.

Rather than tell you again why it’s important, I thought I’d simply share four ways marketing can (at minimum) align with sales – and ideally develop full sales-marketing integration – in 2016. Please note this has a marketing bias, because…well, our audience is made up mostly of marketers.

1. Manage marketing as an equal partner, not a patsy, to sales

You must work doggedly to establish marketing as a peer-level partner with sales – not a service provider (or worse). That means earning your credibility and your seat at the table in strategy discussions that yield plans and expectations.

marketing_sales_partnership.jpgSome marketing orgs report to sales while others operate in parallel. Regardless of what your org chart says, there should be spirited give and take that underscores marketing’s status as a committed, key player in driving outcomes.

We were reminded to not underestimate the challenge you will face in getting sales’ buy-in to this construct, as many sales orgs are perfectly content to use marketing as their butler.

2. Only go on the hook for marketing KPIs you can meet

Taking the partnership mandate one step further, marketing must be vigilant to ensure quarterly, campaign or other demand generation goals are based on planning that yields realistic, attainable goals.

on_the_hook_marketing_kpis.jpgThis is the opposite of sales requirements being thrown over the fence to marketing (by sales or the executive team), which it then has to execute. Too often, sales gives marketing a quota without enough upfront scrutiny of its feasibility, including whether sales is in position to act on the volume of leads being demanded.

Mutually developed goals are a modern construct that help marketing orchestrate demand and ensure both teams can deliver on customer acquisition goals. Remember: Beware the hook!  

3. Be the go-to resource for customer insights that drive business revenue

Once goals are locked down, marketing should take point in sales’ efforts to engage with the customer. This goes well beyond documenting buyer personas and mapping the buyer journey into ongoing sales enablement.

sales-marketing-revenue.pngMarketing should deliver timely, actionable research, product insights, competitive analyses, white papers, trial offers and more for strong customer engagement. Marketers should take on key roles, where possible, in helping advance and win key customers.

Marketing sits at the center of so much third-party and internal data – as well as customer insights – that it’s uniquely positioned to help drive greater revenue. And make sure to keep sales focused on customer experience so your brand always delivers value, making it easier to engage and create customers.

4. Apply sales-marketing integration principles to data

Lead management processes must align closely with the way your sales org handles outreach and tracks prospect/customer insights. Marketing requires full visibility into the process – status, disposition of leads, rejection of leads and so on.

integrated_sales_marketing_data.jpgThis presumes sales trusts marketing enough to be transparent and share feedback – positive and negative. Integrated demand marketing includes managing the flow of data between systems so sales receives required outcomes, but is spared details on how the sausage is made. Managing that flow provides a clear understanding of what’s in the pipeline and where the chokepoints are.

Thanks to the marketing and sales leaders who provided feedback to help us move beyond sales-marketing alignment and acheive our integration effort in the coming year. We’ll share our learnings as we go. And, as always, we'd love to hear what’s working for you and your organization.

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