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How to bridge the sales and marketing alignment gap – once and for all

By John Cheney, CEO of cloud-based CRM vendor, Workbooks

Alignment between sales and marketing should be a priority for any business leader looking to generate growth. Of course, experience tells us it’s easier said than done. Their destination may be the same, but often sales and marketing teams have been at odds when it comes to getting there, relying on different approaches, using different success metrics and speaking different languages.

And yet, sales and marketing alignment is not new to the agenda. So why is it still so difficult to achieve? According to Gartner, less than half of organisations (49 per cent) have a common lead definition that was developed and agreed upon by sales and marketing teams together – more than one-third fewer organisations than expected. At Workbooks, we put this alignment gap down to three things:

    1. A lack of communication
    2. A lack of insight into each team’s customer interactions
    3. Disparate and disconnected technologies

The business impact of these can be very costly. Lack of coordination between sales and marketing is not only a cause of frustration for employees; according to a study by LinkedIn, it wastes an estimated $1 trillion annually in the United States alone. Even for those organisations whose sales and marketing teams appear to operate harmoniously, it’s enough to make you question: “How could we be doing more?”

It starts with you

The first step to achieving greater alignment between sales and marketing functions is to recognise the importance of doing so – and prioritise it for your business. Ensure an open dialogue between the two departments, where you can discuss the important questions: Are sales and marketing goals truly aligned? Are teams communicating as well and as often as they should? Does each function really know how the other is communicating with prospects and customers? Have you agreed common definitions – for example, what is a qualified lead (you might be surprised to hear two very different answers!)? Could teams work collaboratively – and more productively – using shared tools? Ultimately, what financial impact could a better alignment of sales and marketing functions have on the organisation?

Most businesses that probe a little deeper in this way conclude that there is room for improvement. The question then becomes: “How can we make it happen?”

Share goals, performance targets and metrics

Much of the frustration we hear from sales professionals when discussing marketing relate to two things: insufficient focus on revenue generation and unviable or unqualified leads. Marketers, on the other hand, often feel that salespeople do not show enough interest in – or acknowledgement of – long-term brand building, that they are not following up on leads provided, and not providing feedback on why leads may be qualified out.

Spend time at the outset communicating the importance of short-term revenue growth and long-term brand development, and ensure both teams are clear on what the sales and marketing process looks like. Then put in place KPIs that measure both teams on their contribution. Shared goals and KPIs should always be centred around the pipeline and revenue; this will go a long way towards bridging the alignment gap, with both teams agreed on the metrics they will be measured against.

Enable with technology

By 2025, 75% of the highest growth companies in the world will deploy a revenue operations (RevOps) model, according to Gartner; a move away from siloed and linear sales enablement functions towards revenue enablement activities that support all customer-facing roles and connect every single part of the business.

This level of alignment will take time, effort, and commitment across the organisation – it is not something that can be achieved overnight. Technology can, however, make the transition faster, simpler, and more effective. It can also help ensure these changes stick. Specifically, CRM systems can provide a single source of truth, centred around the customer. Using these systems provides access to features such as dashboards and reports where sales professionals and marketers can easily see the sales pipeline and track performance and conversions at each stage of the buyer journey, allocate tasks between departments, and make required changes to marketing and sales campaigns that are visible to all.

Crucially, a CRM system is both a result and a prerequisite of successful sales and marketing alignment; it requires everyone to have agreed a common language, set mutual KPIs, and showed a willingness to work together. But business leaders and their CRM providers must also keep in mind why sales and marketing alignment has yet to be achieved, and these reasons can differ from business to business. Look for a technology provider that wants to understand these nuances, get under the skin of your business, and agree clear business outcomes based on your objectives, to ensure maximum return.

Workbooks aids CRM management with Enrich

UK-based CRM vendor Workbooks has launched its data enrichment tool, Workbooks Enrich, which is designed to increase productivity and make life easier for marketing and sales departments through richer information on contacts in their CRM.

Enrich automatically searches the web and pulls in data to provide users with a far more detailed view of the people and organisations they are engaging with.

This information enables greater personalisation of sales conversations, marketing campaigns, and customer service engagements. Consequently it drives far greater effectiveness across those core business areas, delivering significant returns to Workbooks users.

To date, organisations have either managed without this information or salespeople, marketers and customer service reps have had to search for it themselves. Workbooks Enrich does all this work for them. They simply enter the contact email address and Workbooks Enrich gathers any public information available on the web, including data from sites such as LinkedIn, Google, Facebook and Twitter, and enhances the personal and corporate profile for that contact in CRM – at the click of a button. It is delivering efficiency as well as effectiveness.

“As consumers we are very used to finding the information we need available at the time and place we need it,” says Workbooks CEO, John Cheney. “With Enrich we’re changing the game. We’re bringing the ease and functionality of the consumer world into the business world, providing our users with immediate access to valuable data. We help our customers get 360-degree insights into the people that matter most to them. It’s yet another exciting addition to the fast-growing Workbooks suite.”