I started my career in technology as a sales development representative (SDR), so I know first-hand the importance of smooth, well-coordinated hand-offs between marketing and sales.
But when I became the lead of a growing SDR team here at Kapost, alignment between myself and my marketing counterparts quickly became mission critical. We needed a smooth process and a scalable plan in place to continue to fuel an SDR team that had quickly doubled in size.
Now, having recently moved to our marketing team to lead demand generation, I am rounding out my view of the delicate sales and marketing alliance and both the challenges and opportunities that come with getting it right. Having held these multiple roles at the intersection of marketing and sales, I’ve had the opportunity to approach the same marketing and sales alignment problems from multiple lenses.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
Set goals and expectations that make sense for the company and constantly revisit them.
On my first day at Kapost, my instructions were as clear as mud: set up conversations with good prospects who are interested.
At that time, we were still trying to figure out what a “good prospect” meant—and even defining a “good” conversation. These loose instructions made sense at the time, and my real interest was how we defined a marketing-qualified lead (MQL).
The relationship between sales and marketing will never be “set it and forget it.”
As our software, our business, and our market matured, it made sense to qualify these leads more; first by sales, then by the patterns of engagement we saw from marketing. We started to ask ourselves, “Does the lead look like our now-successful customers? Will following up with this type of leads be a waste of our sales-peoples’ time?”
The relationship between sales and marketing will never be “set it and forget it.” Having clear and realistic expectations and definitions of stages within a sales and marketing funnel is important, but it is also important to be constantly adjusting them to fit your business needs. Which leads me to my next point…
Communicate, communicate, and then…communicate more!
Communication is key.
If sales and marketing don’t talk to each other, how are they supposed to grow and make these adjustments? Good marketing organizations are talking to sales constantly about what is resonating in the market place. Good salespeople are leveraging all of the content and tools that marketing is working hard to produce. GREAT sales and marketing organizations are leveraging tools that provide real-time visibility and alignment across the two teams allowing sales to see what marketing is working on, and marketing what sales is using all in one place.
The last thing you want to have happen is have marketing work on a bunch of programs that sales doesn’t see as valuable.
Align marketing to revenue.
This is something that Kapost has done from day one, and a lot of the reason why we have been so successful working together as a sales a marketing organization. I heard Joe Chernov of InsightSquared speak at the most recent Marketo Summit in Las Vegas, and he said something that stuck with me that really illustrates the power of aligning marketing to goals further down the funnel:
“The MQL is eating marketing. Since there is no universal definition of MQL, and marketers are measured on the volume of the production, marketers are provided a tacit incentive to set the bar as low as possible…this results in a broken promise with sales.”
Aligning sales and marketing across real metrics that matter to the business, such as pipeline dollars all the way through to closed deals forces the two teams to work together in whatever ways help the most. Balancing volume and quality to have things operate efficiently keeps everything moving. Using metrics, such as Kapost’s content scoring, helps our marketing team get real visibility into our programs’ effects on closed business which is a big source of pride across the team.
Staying aligned hasn’t always been easy (I don’t think it ever will be) but the way Kapost has continued to be successful in facing the challenges that come with being a hyper-growth tech company are through following these steps and keeping all of our eyes on the prize: revenue. Strong communication and visibility across both teams, a willingness to adjust as both sides learn more about our market, and a common focus on attracting and pleasing great customers has kept us constantly focused on the next deal (as a team!) and has limited our wasted efforts.