For many Eons, Marketing and Sales have been at odds with each other. You could say they are the Derek Zoolanders and Hansels of the business world. The Team Edward and Team Jacob of organisations.  Yet, while this competitive paradigm exists, its existence doesn't make much sense. If you take a look at the Customer Lifecycle model, Marketing teams are the ones that hand-off leads to Sales teams so that they can be converted to customers. Shouldn't this make Marketing and Sales teams BFFs? Well, surprisingly no for many companies.Sales and Marketing Alignment

Sales and Marketing discourse is fuelled by notions around 'who is more important or vital in the customers' journey (Marketing will argue they are because they bring customers in, Sales will say they are because they close the deals). While, yes, both Marketing and Sales play distinct roles within the Customer Lifecycle Model,  (where Marketing looks after the Marketing Qualified leads (MQL) stage and Sales the Sales Qualified Leads (SQL) stage), both are equally major parts of this process. Therefore, its time to stop treating Marketing and Sales like apples and oranges, start seeing them as two parts of a whole. It's time for Marketing and Sales to become aligned!

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Smarketing, 101

The term Smarketing refers to the alignment between your Sales and Marketing teams via constant and direct communication. Smarketing goals should be formed by your teams in tandem and re-evaluated every month to identify opportunities for improvement. This way, handing over leads from Marketing to Sales is as seamless as possible. To get the smarketing ball rolling, here are some tactics to:

Get the conversation going

The first thing straight off the bat is to try and get your Sales and Marketing teams talking with each other. Encourage Sales to give feedback on lead quality each month. Doing this will aid Marketers in understanding which types of leads Sales are most likely to close, which means they can keep an eye out for better leads. Incentivise marketers to sit on sales calls and help close deals so each party understands the value of every lead generated. Have weekly Smarketing meetings to rally Sales and Marketing and celebrate their collaboration and camaraderie. Undertaking activities like these will convey to each party that they are both on the same side. Moreover, make sure everyone on every level gets on board with aligning themselves. For instance, Sales and Marketing Execs should also meet regularly to discuss Marketing strategies and communicate it to the rest of their people. 


Measure and Hold Teams Accountable

Once you get the creative juices flowing between Sales and Marketing, its time to encourage your teams to talk constructively about any misalignments or frustrations between the two groups. One way to avoid hurting feelings and egos is ensuring everyone backs up their claims with data. According to Hubspot, the following two data points can help you keep Sales and Marketing accountable for successful alignment:


Lead flow: Marketing should be measured on the volume and quality of leads they hand off to sales. The quantity and quality of leads for which Marketing is accountable should grow month over month in order for the business to grow.

Percent of leads worked and closed rates: The percent of leads worked will measure your Sales team's productivity related to the leads Marketing provides. Sales should be working leads at a high and steady rate so Marketing hard work isn't null and void. As Sales works their leads, the close rates from lead to customer should also remain steady. If the worked rates and close rates decline, it may be an indicator of poor lead quality or lack of sufficient team members to handle the lead volume

If Sales aren’t happy with the lead flow from the past month, start the discussion with stats from months prior rather than fuelling the conversation with feelings. If Marketing thinks Sales isn’t working their leads properly, support claims with lead data showing the amount of leads worked in a given month. Keeping the discussion fact-focused means your Sales and Marketing teams are data-driven and accountable for their efforts, simultaneously ensuring their feelings and opinions are validated or disproved.


Form an SLA

A Service Level Agreement, AKA an SLA, is a all-parties-agreed document that defines an expected level of service. In the context of Smarketing, an SLA documents goals, as well as an outline on how each team plans to contribute to those goals (i.e., number of leads delivered to sales each month, and number of MQL worked by sales). Within this SLA should be definitions of MQL, SQL and an explanation around the lead accumulation process. In a nutshell, it should contain everything you need to execute an effective handover. Remember that SLA's aren't fixed- if a process or definition doesn't work, adjust your SLA until its the right fit for both your teams.


Speaking of Definitions...

When you’re carefully defining MQLs and SQLs, as well as the best opportunities to hand a lead off from Marketing to Sales in you SLA, here are some things to keep in mind:

Lead Behaviour

A crucial factor differentiating a lead from an MQL or SQL is their behaviour on your website or how they engage with your company. Certain behaviours or pieces of information given by a lead will be weighted differently depending on your organisations. For example, Company A might realise that first-time visitors are just as likely to purchase as a repeat visitor, while Company B’s leads need to visit their site three or more times before being converted into leads. According to Amber Kemmis from SmartBug Media, no matter how you weigh particular actions, there are some characteristics to look out for and consider factoring into your MQL and SQL definitions:

  •  First-time visitor Vs. repeat visitor
  • Conversion count or the number of times they fill out a form
  • Stage in the buying cycle as indicated by the content they consume (e.g., Visiting the        products page).
  • Channel or source (e.g., Are leads coming in from ad campaigns more likely to become    customers?)

Lead Scoring

As defined by Hubspot, Lead scoring is "the process of assigning values, often in the form of numerical "points," to each lead you generate for the business. " Its a system that helps Sales and Marketing teams prioritise leads, respond to them appropriately, and increase the rate at which those leads become customers.

In short, you rank a whole bunch of attributes and behaviours and then rank your leads in accordingly to this scale. TBH, its not imperative you have a lead scoring system. In fact, you may just need a simple outline of a customer profile. However, if your company requires a lot of data points to assess a lead's compatibility with your brand, or your Sales team is drowning in leads, putting in place a lead scoring system may be the way to go.


Amalgamate the process using software and automation!

The ultimate Smarketing tactic is using Sales and Marketing software. Software, like Hubspot's Salesforce integration, means both Marketing and Sales can share customer data with each other and see where their prospects and leads are at in the lifecycle stage. Marketing can gain a better comprehension of where their best leads come from, meaning they can better optimise on the ROI's truly benefiting their business. Automation of the handoff process means Sales can be swiftly notified when new SQL's are delegated to them. With Salesforce specifically, because its a closed-loop integration, Sales is able to track their lead's online behaviours, making what would've been a cold call into a warm call. Overall, integrating Marketing and Sales software into your operations ensures a smooth MQL-to-SQL transition (isn't that nice?).


Final takeaways

As any business knows, good leads are hard to come by. So when you do find good ones, don’t lose them because your Marketing and Sales teams are misaligned. Create alignment by encouraging collaboration between Marketing and Sales. Nurture an unpartisan mentality within your organisation, where instead of thinking MQL or SQL, think MQL and SQL. By streamlining your teams and optimising the handoff process, you close more deals quickly and your business thrives.