2020 unexpectedly brought a lot of uncertainty into the business environment. The downsizing of personnel, reallocation of event budgets, and shifting to a fully remote workforce are just a few scenarios companies have experienced. Business leaders are now facing the not-so-simple task of reacting as strategically as possible to these changes and more, even though there is a lot that remains to be seen.
How can you plan for the unknown while remaining fully committed to your present needs?
With a solid team, of course.
More specifically, a solid sales and marketing team that is not only adaptable but also in alignment can help your organization gain the advantage in these uncertain times. We chat with Rowena Winkler, TSL’s Agency Marketing Manager, and Brian Shilling, VP of Sales and Client Strategy, to learn more.
What does sales and marketing alignment (AKA smarketing alignment) mean to you?
Rowena: For me, smarketing alignment equates to efficiency, productivity, and a better quality of work. If I am on the same page as the sales team, I can get more done without wasting time going back and forth, addressing confusion, or managing misguided expectations. Everything that I need is already out on the table and accounted for, which allows me more time to create deliverables vs. answering unnecessary questions about them.
Brian: A UNIFIED team and effort. Sales and marketing teams should be the ‘PB&J’ of most organizations: delightful and awesome as separate entities, but when combined, they complement each other so well and are extraordinary. It is imperative that both sales and marketing collaborate frequently and help each other to reach their goals and boost company revenue, especially in this ever-changing world and business climate.
What happens when teams are not in alignment, and what does it take to become fully aligned?
Rowena: Sales and marketing misalignment causes teams to work in silos. The customer gets a very disjointed experience as a result, leading to missed opportunities, and yes, loss of business. Messages are inconsistent, sometimes even downright contradictory, which makes the hand-off between marketing and sales very difficult. But this can be remedied in a small number of ways. For example, by setting up standing meetings, both teams can provide status updates, discuss upcoming projects and/or sales campaigns, and brainstorm solutions to current pain points.
Brian: Dysfunction and an ‘us vs them’ attitude. One side believes the other is not helping the collective efforts. This can quickly evolve into a toxic work environment and experience for both the sales and marketing teams. It takes discipline, well-defined processes, and active participation by both departments to improve or reach full alignment.
How has HubSpot helped with smarketing alignment efforts? Can you give any specific examples?
Rowena: With HubSpot, we can house the results of our coordinated efforts all in one place. We are able to clearly see each point of the buyer’s journey — from the piece of content that a customer landed on, to their entry point on our website, to the offer that led them to speak to a sales rep, all the way to a closed deal. It’s quite fantastic and there’s no longer any guessing games with attribution. And with this useful data, we can tweak marketing collateral and/or create new pieces of content that can further enhance the customer experience.
Brian: Phenomenally! Having one-single-source-of-truth with HubSpot’s growth stack has enabled our sales and marketing teams to reach their full potential, individually and collectively. For example, our sales and marketing teams leverage the ‘power of personalization’ with HubSpot throughout the entire buyer’s journey.
Not only does the left hand know what the right hand is doing from a communications perspective, but they also have context on the person’s interests and the information that is most meaningful. Tools and functionality such as email and website tracking, ‘Documents’ (share content and track consumption), ‘Calling’ (call logging and transcription), and all-encompassing activity logging provide real-time insights that are invaluable!
What are the benefits of being in alignment? The challenges?
Rowena: The major benefit of smarketing alignment is the ability to work toward the same vision and goals as a strong united front. By developing a comprehensive plan and strategy, everyone on each team has a role to play and something of value to contribute. It promotes accountability and fosters teamwork to get the job done.
On the other hand, there is a lot of planning required for alignment to come into place. Everyone at the organization needs to be on board — not just the sales and marketing teams, but executive leadership as well, which can be difficult to obtain depending on the structure of your organization. Both teams also need to be open and willing to hear from each other. If either team wants to do their own thing and/or refuses to view the other’s perspective, things can fall apart rather quickly, which leads to unnecessary cost, duplication of efforts, and ultimately very unhappy customers.
Brian: The #1 benefit from sales and marketing alignment is a much-improved customer experience. When the customer’s journey is seamless, EVERYONE wins!
What advice would you give to companies looking to get their sales and marketing teams in alignment?
Rowena: There must be a commitment from both teams to understand the other’s functions within the organization — and to not stray from this agreed-upon ecosystem. Document expectations with an SLA, or Service-Level Agreement, so grounds for success are crystal clear. Additionally, define an internal process that is approved by both parties (with proper checks in place) to ensure there are no bottlenecks and single points of failure. Lastly, be proactive and clearly define terms such as MQL and SQL to avoid confusion when it comes to tasks such as lead qualification and content creation. The less time needed for back-and-forth clarifications, the more time you have for building business!
Brian: Rowena’s response is spot on. The only thing I would add is that leadership should explore ‘team-building’ activities where both departments can build on their relationships and trust in one another. Without either, it is very difficult to achieve true smarketing.