Sales and marketing alignment is not a new concept.  In fact, it has been pretty much beaten to death over the last few years with many marketing technology vendors claiming their product was the key to this Zen state.

Where has all that attention and investment left us?

Pretty much in the same place.

Sales and marketing alignment is more about process and people than enabling technology.  Of course the technology can help automate tasks, create shared reports, and remove inefficiencies and workarounds but without the process aspect locked down and both sales and marketing leaders on the same page there is no alignment.

With that in mind, here is a 5 item Sales and Marketing Alignment Checklist you can put to work in your organization immediately:

1. A shared “actual to plan” model mapping leads to customers and customers to revenue

This is not a new concept to sales leaders as they (should) live this view of their activities and accomplishments on a monthly or quarterly basis.  What is a bit of a twist is having a marketing “actual to plan” model that parallels the sales plan and incorporates historical conversion rates so the number of qualified leads needed to generate the number of customers and accompanying revenue within the defined time period is known and tracked.

2.  An agreed upon definition of a Marketing Qualified Lead and Sales Qualified Lead

Lead quality is the hot potato of sales and marketing alignment.  It is frustrating for marketers to hear this when they work hard to generate interest and inquiries and it is frustrating for salespeople who struggle to engage and close leads that are barely more than a contact record.

Getting an agreed upon set of definitions in place and agreeing between groups to a Service Level Agreement (SLA) about qualification criteria, response time and recycling processes is essential. Print it out and have people sign it.

3. A “Full Funnel” view of conversion rates and costs from lead to won or lost including month over month growth rates and quarterly/annual trends

Sales and marketing leaders must unite behind the funnel and own it collectively.  It is a dynamic, complex, and living thing that must be constantly monitored and improved.  Don’t be afraid of the numbers.  Embrace them and know how lead quality changes show up in the numbers or how investment in both sales and marketing efforts is actually paying off.

4. A standing weekly meeting between the VP of Sales and VP of Marketing with a set agenda

Talk to each other – often.  Have a standing meeting and even better if it is out of the office or early in the morning.  Have a defined agenda that parallels this checklist.  Communication is crucial to sales and marketing alignment and it starts at the top of the organization.

Two different functional groups usually compensated differently creates a ripe situation for misunderstanding and conflict.  Own it and resolve it.  Speaking with one voice in the next executive team or board meeting is a powerful signal of complete alignment.

5. An agile mindset to constantly challenge assumptions and improve the customer acquisition process

Know that sales and marketing alignment is a journey and not a destination.   Continually challenge the assumptions being made about how customers buy or how the team finds, engages, and closes customers.  Be open to new approaches and new techniques.  Iterate often and create a tolerance for controlled experiments that can inform process changes and investment decisions.

Sales and marketing alignment is not out of reach and using this checklist will go a long way towards getting aligned and becoming a customer acquisition machine.


Image via Flickr