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How to align marketing, sales and customer success (without wasting time on finger-pointing)

Earlier in this series, we discussed why marketing, sales and customer success teams can become misaligned, and ways to empower your employees to fix this. In this instalment, we look at more ways to constructively align these teams.


Before we dive into the strategy of aligning teams, here are a few practical tips you can easily implement:

  • Streamline your communication with a shared Google Drive and Dropbox.
  • Organize events (e.g., book clubs, baseball teams, lunches) to build stronger relationships between team members.
  • Set regular meetings to work together—for example, to work on creating a better rapport with high-value buyers.
  • Attend sales weekly meetings. Be involved, ask questions and offer your own ideas.
  • Create a shared calendar with all the scheduled marketing and promotional content.
  • Be transparent about your department goals and, most importantly, why you are doing what you are doing.

Now, let’s look at the fundamental actions you can take.

Set a shared revenue goal

Setting a revenue goal is not part of a marketing or sales plan. But after each team agrees to a shared metric, they can develop a strategy and tactics to achieve it. This will be followed by regular meetings in which the marketing and sales teams will discuss how they are making progress on their shared revenue goal.

Beyond that, you should track your:

  • Revenue pipeline
  • Lead funnel velocity (shows where in the marketing or sales process leads are getting stuck and how to improve the process)
  • Lead-to-customer percentage (reveals the effectiveness of the marketing and sales teams combined in one number)
  • Opportunity-to-customer win rate (indicates how successful your sales team is in closing qualified prospects)
  • Number of marketing qualified leads (MQLs; helps you predict your future revenue.)
  • Content effectiveness

Agree on a value proposition and company messaging

Often sales will be using its own sales deck when talking to customers. Since marketing is usually responsible for a company’s website, the way to test for this alignment is to compare messaging in both the sales decks and your website.

If it’s not the same, which happens so often, here’s how you can fix it. Create a “master deck,” and get all teams to sign off on the messaging and value proposition. Then ensure it’s being used across marketing and sales.

Get teams to sign off on ideal customer profile

If teams are not collaborating, the ideal customer profile can exist in a vacuum. Make your sales and marketing teams align on what success looks like, such as how many marketing qualified leads they need in order to generate a certain number of opportunities, and how many opportunities they need to hit their shared revenue goal.

Have a clear service-level agreement between marketing and sales

In this type of service-level agreement (SLA), marketing agrees to supply sales with a certain number of qualified leads each month, with the expectation that these leads will convert over a certain amount of time. In turn, sales guarantees to follow up with those leads within a specified time period.

Set longer-term goals across teams to hit broader company objectives, like revenue and churn

If, let’s say, your sales team is closing deals that end up having a higher churn at the end of their contracts, you as a leader can introduce another key performance indicator for them to bring in better-quality accounts or revenue. Don’t just leave it to customer success to deal with.

Finding the right balance between new revenue and upselling or cross-selling revenue depends on your company goals. If you want to close more deals faster, move 70% of the commission to new revenue and 30% to upsells.

When you are introducing a secondary goal for your team, the purpose is to improve alignment with your larger company goals and hold teams accountable for it. For marketing, this secondary goal can be a revenue target or average time from a sales qualified lead (SQL) to a closed opportunity, besides the number of MQLs or SQLs.

Read also: Growth flywheel: Building growth engines at MaRS

Make every department head a part of a customer team to build an environment of collaboration

Lots of SaaS leaders talk about understanding one another’s goals in marketing, sales and customer success. But that is simply not enough. Goals must be shared.

Create a cross-functional team with a goal to make your customer successful. When each department head focuses on a customer and shares what initiatives their team is working on, it improves alignment and information sharing across the organization.

It also solves challenges like the MQL or SQL debate. All these leaders have to do is agree on the quality of the leads and define the criteria to evaluate them.

The company does not benefit if marketing is having lots of success with creating sales opportunities but the sales team is not able to close them. This cross-functional team is there to support one another and hit the overall customer-focused objective and the company’s mission.

Introduce training and workshops to build empathy across your teams

One of the big reasons marketing, sales and customer success are not aligned is they just can’t understand what the other teams are doing. Why does sales have to go to two-hour lunches and travel for so long? Why does marketing spend so much money? Is customer success doing anything more than demo-ing the product?

As a marketer, few things are as powerful in understanding sales as actually working in sales and talking to customers. Marketers gain far better insight into customer pain points by dealing with them first-hand. The same applies for sales and customer success.

So what can you do?

Create workshops in which teams switch roles and experience what’s it like being on the other side. Marketers will jump on phones and sell. Account executives will create an automation process in marketing software like Marketo and launch Google Ads. Get customer success to sell for a day. It is a very effective way to build empathy and understanding across teams.

Schedule such sessions for a full or half day, and hold them regularly. You can also create shadowing sessions for teams to promote a better understanding of who does what in the company.

Read more in this series: