sales marketing alignmentMuch has been written about the quest for Sales and Marketing alignment, and Marketing Operations is often at the sharp end in its pursuit. Among those declaring “tight” Sales and Marketing alignment, significantly higher growth rates were reported in Aberdeen Group’s benchmark report, Sales and Marketing Alignment: The New Power Couple. Keys to success include shared lead definitions, qualification criteria and best-practice processes. With the usual proviso that technology is never the answer, underlying system considerations should be emphasized.

Systematic Information Sharing
Efficient and effective sharing of contact data and leads between Sales and Marketing is a crucial aspect of alignment and marketing agility. Holding data separately means that updates are not reflected in the other system, a significant lost opportunity for data maintenance. Good sales people are close to their contacts and will have information on changes in individuals’ circumstances, from new job titles, through changing business priorities to leavers. Similarly, updates captured via marketing activity, such as web form submissions, email bounces and so on made available to Sales ensure they can act on the latest insights.

Systematic Lead Progression
At the same time, management of leads throughout the funnel is best managed systematically, particularly the overlapping stages where Sales and Marketing may both be acting on a prospect. This gives Sales visibility of ongoing Marketing nurturing activity designed to nudge prospects toward conversion, making it possible to refer to recent communications in conversation and follow-up. Leads not ready for further progression right away can also be readily recycled and placed into suitable marketing programs until they are ready for re-qualification.

Systematic Data Management
Such systematic alignment is of course best achieved by deploying a marketing automation platform alongside a sales force automation system. Implementation is just the first step, though, and it’s crucial to ensure that the data synchronization and lead hand-over rules are properly designed and configured. This ensures high quality customer data is maintained, and it also means leads are available to Sales on a timely basis for rapid customer follow-up.

Capabilities to share prospect and customer data, deliver qualified leads that are acceptable to Sales and measure end-to-end ROI, are key differentiators of successful Marketing organisations.