Tighter alignment between sales and marketing is a key enabler of revenue growth and improved customer experience. After all, the customer journey (or sales funnel) encompasses multiple touch points across marketing and sales, beginning with prospect awareness and continuing to lifetime customer value.
While everyone understands the strategic importance of alignment, it can be a struggle to connect and coordinate two functions that have different languages, systems, cultures, and processes. Too often, marketing and sales professionals play the “blame game,” pointing fingers at one another when targets aren’t met (that’s “anti-alignment”) rather than focusing on driving closer collaboration.
Two recent guests on our Selling in the Cloud podcast discussed how their respective organizations drive marketing and sales alignment in order to enable increased cloud revenues. Three big steps for alignment success emerged:
Start with common pipeline metrics
As former Director of Product Marketing at Coupa Software, Charlene Wang led go-to-market strategy and supported sales success across Coupa's entire product suite. For Wang (listen to full episode), driving sales and marketing alignment begins with understanding the company’s “revenue engine” and how marketing and sales impact the pipeline: “it starts with the high level metrics we look at to see how we’re advancing our pipeline and how we're building that pipeline.” Those metrics start with “how many leads we’re getting,” she says. “We have different ways of classifying leads, but in general, it's marketing qualified leads, sales qualified leads up until closed/won deals.”
Wang and her revenue team next analyzed overall pipeline efficiency: “we look at what's the volume [of leads] going through that funnel and then what's the percentages getting across from one [funnel] stage to another.” Wang can then identify where inefficiencies (i.e., funnel leaks) arise and work across her revenue team to close those leaks.
“We’ll do a win/loss analysis at the end of each deal to try to understand what happened, ultimately, that got us to whatever outcome. And then we'll think about what kind of collateral, what kind of positioning we have to ensure we're impacting those deals in the right ways that increase wins” moving forward.
Formalize alignment conversations: “The Pipeline Council”
Having common metrics between marketing and sales is a great start, but Wang knows that ongoing, data-informed conversations between marketing and sales are another foundation for alignment. “We have what we used to call the pipeline council. We’ve changed its name, but this communication structure facilitates regular syncs that marketing leadership has with sales leadership that go over all the metrics so that we're fully aligned around what's happening with leads and where we're helping sales and where they need more support from marketing.”
Informal communication also happens whenever needed, says Wang, outside pipeline council conversations. “We just regularly check in with each other on an individual level too,” says Wang, “depending on the situation” and what needs to happen.
Facilitating alignment with Sales Engineers
Mary Carter, Team Lead Manager at GoCardless (they specialize in recurring payments, called ACH in the US), agrees with Wang that “It's very important for [sales and marketing] to be talking to each other." GoCardless leverages a role called “Sales Engineer” to facilitate alignment and revenue growth.
"I really think of a [sales engineer] as being the trusted advisor for customers,” says Carter (listen to full episode). A sales engineer is “not just the traditional salesperson that's trying to close the deal, but someone to provide honest, real feedback in terms of, will this software work for me [the customer]?"
The sales engineer adds value at every stage of the funnel, working as an informal customer advocate and an internal advisor to both marketing and sales pros as they seek to develop and sell offerings that address customer needs. As Carter explains it, both marketing and sales teams “can leverage [sales engineers] for product roadmap discussions, for a deep dive into the API or integrations, for support queries: How do I get access? And of course, for the why – why did we build this feature? Why are we selling to you today?"
The key takeaways from Wang and Carter are clear: driving alignment requires (1) common pipeline metrics (i.e., shared measures of success), (2) continuous communication at the formal and informal levels, and (3) “alignment facilitators” such as sales engineers. Achieving closer alignment enables organizations to provide better, full-funnel experiences to customers while simultaneously driving increased revenues and growth for the business.
For even more actionable insights to help drive marketing and sales alignment in order to improve revenues and customer experience, tune in and subscribe to our Selling in the Cloud podcast.