Six Stages to Sales and Marketing Alignment

By Melonie Dodaro

Gone are the days where sales and marketing departments work in silos. In order to attract today’s modern buyer, there needs to be sales and marketing alignment. Today’s digital B2B landscape requires a strategic and collaborative approach to sales and marketing, to grow the sales pipeline.

In any kind of collaborative effort, there’s bound to be conflict, or at least some form of disagreement. But if both teams are unable to establish common ground and goals, then collaboration will be impossible.

Alignment between sales and marketing is necessary for the success of both initiatives. Neither team can create a significant impact on the buyer’s journey without first establishing how to combine their efforts.

The importance of sales and marketing alignment simply can’t be overstated. When these two work in concert, the results can be amazing. It boosts financial performance, improves the customer’s buying experience and can improve your company’s internal culture. But when these two areas of a business are not in alignment, and in some cases at odds working against each other, the results can be equally disastrous for a company’s bottom line.

From working together in composing an overall strategy, to setting objectives and targets, all the way through to applying the sales and marketing alignment best practices involved in the various stages of the process; both departments must see eye to eye.

Sales and marketing alignment is critical to the health of a company. LinkedIn research showed significant alignment between sales and marketing with 79% of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing that there is a culture of collaboration between Sales and Marketing at their company.

However, only 21% said they “strongly” agreed, so there’s room for improvement.

What’s even more interesting is the alignment between sales and marketing is consistent no matter the size of the company.

Note, that at all of these stages, training is a must to ensure the success of both your sales and marketing strategy.

Marketing messaging

i) For Leads: In the early stages of lead generation your marketing message must be centered around creating content that addresses your prospect’s problem. There should be NO sales related information at this stage.

ii) For prospects: Once a lead has arrived in your sales funnel, you’ll need to create content with the purpose of helping the prospect determine what he or she needs to do to solve their identified problem.

Clearly lay out each step that they will need to take to be able to produce the exact kind of solution their problem requires.

iii) For opportunities: When creating marketing messages for opportunities, your message focus should be on validating and/or reinforcing their choices. This will help you to move them closer towards the actual decision.

So for example, if your are selling an e-commerce solution and a buyer is interested in the social media integration of your system, send them case studies or client testimonials that reiterate the advantages of this part of your solution and the success they can also expereince.

iv) For clients: Here, you should be working to further build trust and confidence, while staying top of mind through semi regular messages that provide continued value with helpful content. This content can be content that you have created or curated, but must provide value and must NOT constantly bombard them with sales pitches. Occasional surveys or fact finding emails can help you gather information about what is working and what isn’t in your current client retention process.

Sales activities

i) For leads: Take advantage of social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and apply your social selling skills. You can also gather some sales intelligence and compare the success of your sales activities to your past sales or even your competitors.

ii) For prospects: Your sales activities at this stage should be pretty straightforward. Your focus should be on prospecting, building your credibility and aligning the solution with the needs of the business.

iii) For opportunities: Your sales activities should be focused on this three-step process.

– Qualifying: determining if the lead fits the profile of your ideal customer.
– Proposing: pitching your services to your prospect.
– Closing: the actual sale.

iv) For clients: Your sales activities at this stage should revolve around ensuring client satisfaction, as well as uncovering upsell and referral opportunities. You need to retain your customers through activities that will encourage them to buy again from you.

Marketing goals

i) For leads: At this stage of the game, your primary goal should be brand awareness. You’ll want more people and specifically, more potential buyers to know about you and your brand. They’ll know that they can come to you, if they require the solution that you offer.

ii) For prospects: Your marketing target here is to turn these prospects into potential customers via lead generation.

iii) For opportunities: Your ultimate goal here is to nurture the leads that you obtained during the first stage. Filter them by qualifying which ones are most likely to purchase from you. You need to help lead them towards conversion with the right content.

iv) For clients: For your marketing goals here, there are only three keywords you need to remember when it comes to your clients.

Retention: keeping your clients satisfied enough to continue your relationship for an extended period of time.
Engagement: communicating with your clients, exchanging ideas, and making your presence felt.
Enrichment: providing value to your clients.

Sales enablement

i) For leads: Digital advertising, social media/social selling, SEO, and speaking opportunities are some of the most significant and effective strategies for sales enablement and lead generation.

ii) For prospects: As for sales enablement activities, email nurturing and prospect events are best suited for this stage and phase.

iii) For opportunities: Your sales enablement strategy should include targeted content and email nurture campaigns. You must begin incorporating behavioral insights into your process, especially during the qualifying part of your sales activities.

iv) For clients: Engagement campaigns are also a great way to keep the lines of communication fresh and flowing between you and your client.

Referral programs can be very lucrative and shorten the sales cycle when third party credibility is part of the equation.

You need to be always present for your customers. Their satisfaction shouldn’t just be when you’ve made a sale. You need to always follow up through communications and keep providing value.

Content marketing

i) For leads: Content marketing is so important in lead generation that the goal of marketing must be to equip the sales team with both content that educates and content that guides your readers towards a specific path or course of action.

ii) For prospects: The content you’ll be producing at this stage needs to focus more on evidence, facts, and comparisons. Here, you’re no longer telling them that a problem exists, because they already know that. Instead, you’ll show them what they can use to solve those problems, be it a product or service that you provide.

At this stage, people love to see your white papers, case studies, and industry reports.

iii) For opportunities: Sharing testimonials, product reviews, and sales presentations provide additional insight on the other ways you can assist them. This will help you build your credibility, so that they’ll perceive you as a trustworthy service provider.

iv) For clients: Here, you can use a variety of content types, but your primary objective is to establish that you are a competent and trustworthy business that deserves to be a long-term partner.

Focus your attention on developing user guides, product information, and thought leadership content to build your reputation while providing quality, useful content to your clients.

Sales results

i) For leads: Nail all of the previous stages, and you’ll notice that your leads will be more likely to reach out to you and become your prospects. Mission accomplished.

ii) For prospects: By providing adequate time and focus on the best prospects for your business, you can expect your sales efficiency to increase by a considerable degree.

iii) For opportunities: If you do all of above, you’ll enjoy shorter sales cycles and more “yes” answers from potential and exiting clients.

iv) For clients: Higher retention rates, account growth, and increased referrals are the primary benefits you can get from a well-executed, properly aligned marketing and sales strategy.

Wrapping up

To sum it up, collaboration between sales and marketing is necessary for the success of businesses of all sizes, and it requires proper planning and training. Any business that chooses to stick to an old, outdated “division” of departments will be at a distinct disadvantage when pitted against businesses with a strong collaborative culture.

At the end of the day, revenue is the best way to measure sales and marketing alignment.

Melonie Dodaro is founder of Top Dog Social Media that helps brands and businesses, use social media marketing and social selling to boost visibility, attract new customers and increase revenue. Dodaro is also the author of The LinkedIn Code. To learn more visit www.TopDogSocialMedia.com

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