How to Set Your Sales and Marketing Teams Up for Success

I recently had the pleasure of speaking at Inbound Marketing-Dagen which took place in Oslo, Norway. The event was organised by HubSpot partner agency, MarkedsPartner and I gave a talk on how to plan sales and marketing.

It’s always fascinating to visit another country and learn more about its marketing industry, practitioners and clients. I discovered a lot and now have a deeper appreciation of the great work agency partners do, and how HubSpot can support them to drive further growth. I hope the audience found my talk interesting, and more importantly learnt something - judging by the number of conversations I had with attendees during the lunch, this was certainly the case.

On a personal note, I relish the challenge of refining and practising a talk, as well as the excitement of delivering it on stage. Beyond the buzz of giving a talk, speaking opportunities like this are a golden opportunity to build my personal brand, both within and outside of HubSpot. And in terms of career development, being able to effectively communicate the value of an idea through powerful public speaking is a key component of leadership. Delivered well, a talk is infinitely more powerful than the written word. It’s something I’m continually trying to get better at.

Here’s a summary of my talk on how to set your sales and marketing teams up for success:

Buyers are getting better at screening out marketing
Today, people are becoming skilled at blocking out marketing messages. They invest in technology like DVRs to skip TV adverts, they use ad blockers to stop online advertising, direct mail goes straight into the bin and they leverage the Do Not Call Registry. To succeed in this new world, brands need to earn attention with great content, rather than interrupt. This is where inbound marketing comes in - and many marketers are evolving their playbook from one that focusses on tactics like cold calling and spam emails, to an inbound approach centred on content and free tools that provide value.

Outbound tactics are becoming less and less effective
With a growing number of people actively screening out traditional marketing and sales approaches, it’s no surprise these tactics are becoming less successful. The same old sales and marketing tactics no longer work like they did. But how have companies responded? They’ve found ways to increase traditional marketing and sales activity using automation. But more of the same cold emails and calls doesn’t lead to better results. Doing more of something that is broken is not a good strategy.

It’s marketing’s moment to lead
60% of the sales cycle is over before a buyer talks to a sales rep. This is hugely significant - people are searching for information online and educating themselves before speaking with sales. This was not always the case - the power has now shifted from the seller to the buyer. The opportunity, as I see it is for marketing to participate in the opening stages of sales cycle by providing content, tools and resources to inform buyers. It’s marketing’s time to lead.

Legacy sales process is still prevalent
While many companies have modernised their businesses with inbound marketing, they often hamper further success with a legacy sales process. A legacy sales process is centred around how sales reps want to sell, rather than how buyers want to buy. Specifically, this means they look to quickly qualify and close prospects with no education and use brute force to close each deal. Legacy sales processes are characterised by generic messaging, demos and case studies.

Sales and marketing alignment is key
At HubSpot we coined the term “smarketing” to describe sales and marketing alignment. It’s the foundation of our sales and marketing engine and spells out clearly which team is responsible for each stage of the sales and marketing lifecycle. Crucially, within each stage there is a service level agreement (SLA), which details what should happen. It keeps both teams accountable and shows how they need to work together.

Importance of a common language
SLAs are important, but so too are definitions and you must get everyone in sales and marketing using a common language - and do it quickly. Too many businesses do not have a clear or well understood definition of a lead. For example, is a lead someone who visits your website, completes a form or speaks with a sales rep? Definitions matter and without them, miscommunication seeps in.

Define your lifecycle stages
Grey areas inevitably lead to misunderstandings between sales and marketing, and when this happens it’s not uncommon to have sales complaining about the quality of leads and marketing bemoaning sales for not working leads effectively. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Clearly set lifecycle stages help to rid businesses of such misunderstandings, especially at the crucial point where leads are handed over from marketing to sales.

What stages should your sales and marketing funnel include? I’ve already covered the challenge of not defining a lead, however I often speak with marketers that have a half-baked process which looks like:

  1. Prospect/Visitor

  2. Lead

  3. Customer

While this is clearly an improvement on having no process or definition, it is basic and potentially means the marketing team will generate poor fit leads, and sales will waste time following up with the wrong ones. The above process fails to provide the detail or nuance sales teams require to be successful.

To build an effective sales and marketing engine at your SaaS business, you need a funnel consisting of the following stages:

  1. Prospect/Visitor

  2. Lead

  3. MQL

  4. SQL

  5. Opportunity

  6. Customer

Create your sales and marketing SLA
To ensure sales and marketing alignment you need an SLA in place. As mentioned earlier an SLA is a contract between a service provider and end user that defines the level of service expected from the service provider. But when sales and marketing are involved we need a commitment from both sides.

For this to work at your business it has to be bi-directional. Marketing must commit to providing a set number of leads of a certain quality each month, and sales must play its part by following up with an agreed number of leads, to a defined depth within a set timeframe. This is best practice, but unfortunately it is uncommon - many companies only have marketing commit with sales making no promise in return.

The first step to righting this wrong is for marketing to get more data-driven and scientific. You can do this by having a firm grasp of the business metrics and partnering with business leaders to define the new revenue goal for each year. Once the new revenue goal is defined, marketing can calculate how many leads they will need to generate for sales to close to hit (and exceed) that revenue goal.

Here are two formulas to help you do that:

  1. New revenue goal ÷ average sales price = # of new customers

  2. # of new customers ÷ lead to customer close rate % = lead goal

Understanding these metrics and how they impact the business is how marketing will truly earn a seat at the executive table.

I’d like to thank MarkedsPartner for giving me this opportunity and I look forward to participating in many more events with HubSpot partners. Seizing opportunities such as this is the best way to develop my public speaking and presentation skills. And, there’s always room for improvement.