Sales and marketing.
It doesn't matter if you run a startup with just a few people, or work as a manager of a big enterprise with dozens of employees: sales and marketing alignment is key for growth. But it's still the Achilles' heel of many companies all over the world.
Inbound marketing may be working like a charm. The flow of leads can be constant, increasing month after month. But the lack of parameter to define which leads can be sent to sales and which of them are ready for a purchase is staggering for a company's health.
You already know how to manage a marketing team and create a aligned content marketing process. Now, it's time to unleash the power of sales and marketing with an integrated workflow that automatically manages MQL (marketing-qualified leads) and SQL (sales-qualified leads).
Sales and marketing alignment: the great challenge
Managing leads is not hard, but that's not a task for only one team.
Sales and marketing working together to properly identify and convert high-quality leads is what keeps a business alive. But making both teams work as one is still one of the main problems companies face nowadays.
A study from DemandGen Reports have shown the three main reasons sales and marketing alignment is tough for many companies: communication (49%), broken processes (42%) and different metrics for measurement (40%).
By the way, an integrated process workflow software can help businesses get rid of all these problems at once. Don't worry, I'll get there in a minute.
Take a look at how a well-aligned workflow to send MQL to sales should run:
- Sales and marketing teams define together what's a MQL and SQL - lead score, read content, pages visited, ebooks downloaded, webinars watched, and so on;
- Marketing builds a nurturing flow that gradually sends quality contentsuch as blog posts, webinars and ebooks to cold leads until they're properly educated;
- Once leads are marketing-qualified, the leads are sent to the sales team so they can check the lead's fit according to its industry, company size and job role;
- The now sales-qualified leads are ready for an approach from the sales team, that tailors a personalized message according to their information, read content and etc;
In an ideal world, both teams are aware of this process and work like a single organism to drive great results for the company. But just willpower isn't enough.
Even if you have the greatest teams in the whole industry, lack of communication and broken processes still affect performance and close rates in your company - which bring us to one of the most crucial items of sales and marketing management.
First of all, create a sales and marketing SLA
The Service Level Agreement (also known as SLA) is an agreement between teams, in our case, sales and marketing, which establishes the role of each team in the conversion process, as well as their common objectives and the metrics that'll be analyzed.
The SLA is the Playbook of sales and marketing teams, and of course, must be written by both teams together to effectively align efforts and make the best of the sales pipeline. It's also crucial that this agreement reflects the C-level objectives and which kind of paying customers they're looking for.
Let's take an overview of the required steps to create a flawless Service Level Agreement (SLA) and achieve sales and marketing alignment:
- Build your buyer persona(s): it may be seen as a trivial step of the marketing process, but it's also incredibly important to align your company's buyer personas between sales and marketing teams. After all, you should both be selling to the same kind of lead.
- Distinguish between MQL & SQL: both teams should also define what's indeed a qualified lead for each one. This includes consumed content, behavior, leadscore, industry and job role for leads to be handed off from marketing, be accepted (SAL or sales-accepted leads, as some people call) and be properly qualified by sales.
- Establish clear objectives: now it's time to set up the numbers and goals that must be achieved by both sales and marketing. This is where teams settle up how many MQLs and SQLs must be handed over every week/month to reach the company's revenue goal;
- Define the handoff workflow: the key for a great MQL & SQL management is building a streamlined process that handle leads from marketing to sales easier, faster, and more accurately. Most companies have some sort of "email alarm" that notifies teams as soon as a quality lead is identified, but there are more effective ways of doing that - as I'll show you next;
- Choose which metrics to follow: the last step is to define which metrics teams will follow during the specified period. These metrics include total sales goals in terms of revenue quota, average sales deal size, total leads needed (calculated according to lead-to-customer rate), and average sales cycle. Everything your teams should know to keep track of results and evaluate the performance of lead acquisition, MQL handoff and SQL conversion strategies.
Creating a workflow for sales and marketing management
Although it can help teams "speak the same language", the Service Level Agreement (SLA)isn't the final step to achieve sales and marketing alignment.
In order to automate the handoff of high-quality leads, companies must have a flawless workflow that connects sales and marketing teams. With it, marketing won't need to manually choose which leads have been nurtured enough to be considered MQL, and sales won't need to manually accept which leads can be considered SQL.
The key is marketing automation & workflow management integration. I'll guide you through the steps for building a workflow that automatically creates a card in a kanban board for leads that might be ready for a sales approach.
I'm assuming you already have a good customer journey automation solution to properly push qualified leads through the sales funnel. If you don't, I suggest you take note and mirror the strategy in a project management tool you might already have.
First of all, let me explain how it actually works:
1st Step - Nurturing
Let's say marketing have created an automation flow for lead nurturing. It consists on a series of emails with relevant content that leads might find useful, much like a drip campaign. This will help contacts to be more qualified for an approach, after all, they'll be more likely to purchase a product if they know how it helps them.
2nd Step - Qualification
Each relevant action from leads is worth points on their lead score, such as visiting a blog page or a clicking on an email's link. A different marketing automation flow verifies if leads have achieved a certain lead score: if yes, that might mean the lead has read enough content to be considered a MQL by both sales and marketing teams:
3rd Step - Handoff
If the leadscore is enough for the lead to be considered a MQL, the automation automatically creates a deal for that contact in sales CRM, which will make the handoff way more quicker than just notifying the sales team every time there's a new MQL in town:
4th Step - Approval
There you go! Every time a new lead reaches the score you've set, a new deal will pop in sales CRM. Note, it's up for the sales team to approve the MQL and turn them into SAL, or sales-approved leads. After they analyze the lead's fit to your company, they'll surely drag the deal to the SQL column:
5th Step - Follow-up
Sales can also automate the follow up with potential buyers by setting an automation flow to start as soon as a deal is drag to a specific column. This allows quick, yet personalized communication with high-quality leads with a single click. This can be configured in the board settings:
To sum up the process:
- The lead achieves a high leadscore through nurturing;
- A new deal for the MQL is added to sales CRM;
- Sales approves the MQL and turn it into a SQL;
- A personalized follow-up email is sent to the SQL;
See how simple it is? For your sales and marketing management workflow run flawlessly, it's absolutely important to establish a SLA between teams. Without it, you won't know which are your objectives and how marketing or sales efforts are performing towards the company's goals.
In conclusion, alignment equals results
Sales and marketing alignment isn't that hard.
Actually, if you consider all the benefits of sales and marketing working together, it's a pretty simple process that your company must go through in order to drive more sales.
Teams that qualify leads together, sell more together.
And now you have everything in hand to skyrocket your company through sales and marketing management: you know how to create an effective marketing management plan and a content marketing workflow, but don't forget about the conversion process - MQL & SQL management.
Remember to share your thoughts about this content in the comments below. I'm looking forward to know what are your plans for improving sales & marketing alignment!