How to Improve Customer Relationships and Business Value with Sales and Marketing Alignment

Learn how an ABM approach can help your sales and marketing teams work better together.

Time to read: 5 minutes
Marketing and sales are two sides of the same coin. While each has a different skill set, their end goal is the same: win business and grow customer relationships over time.
When both teams are in sync, this happens seamlessly. But if there’s misalignment, they may target accounts that don’t fit the profile of their ideal customer, and they might overlook opportunities to grow those accounts after the initial sale is over. Account-based marketing (ABM) overcomes these challenges by taking a comprehensive approach to lead management, account selection, and customer retention, and it works best when marketing and sales are on the same page.
Let’s explore the marketing and sales relationship and discover how an ABM approach can help your teams work better together to target the right accounts, engage every member of the buying committee, and build long-term customer relationships.

Two Teams, One Goal: The Sales and Marketing Relationship

A potential customer visits your website and engages with some content. Now what? In most marketing strategies, the marketing team initiates the customer relationship — activating lead-generation tactics to identify leads that are ready to move into the sales funnel. B2B marketers often use marketing automation to manage prospects and nurture leads with consistent communication.
Pro tip: This process works best when your marketing automation and CRM are on the same platform.
Once the pipeline is filled with high-quality leads, marketing passes the baton to sales. Through a lead routing strategy, leads are assigned to the sales rep best suited to guide them through a successful transaction. This could mean distributing leads by location, deal size, or products and services.

Marketing and Sales Need Each Other

It's true. Marketing depends on sales results to prove the value of their campaigns, and sales needs marketing to provide qualified leads to convert into customers.
Yet despite their interdependency, they’re often at odds. Why? For Tracy Eiler, CMO of InsideView, it’s rooted in a sense of distrust. “In many companies, once an account is in the pipeline, sales says to marketing, ‘I’ve got this.’ In other words, ‘stop communicating to these accounts while I close the deal,’” she said.
These siloes can result in a “one track mind” approach to account selection, based on a sales rep’s territory knowledge and intuition rather than business strategy and data. And you can assume one or both sides are missing critical information on the buying committee. For instance, as InsideView worked to implement a data-driven strategy for account selection, Eiler and her team found that sales was engaging less than half of the buying group’s stakeholders. Marketing knew they were involved, but sales didn’t.
Misalignment can also lead to an overly narrow focus on customer acquisition, with marketing tuning out after the deal is closed and sales moving on to the next account. Disconnects in account selection and lead management stem from conflicting goals and strategies. But how does this happen when both teams have the same goal?
In many cases, it’s a technology problem. When marketing automation and CRMs operate from different platforms, each team misses critical information that would help them reach the right customers with the right messaging at the right time. In the end, both teams struggle to achieve success.

Collaborating for Success: 3 Tips for Aligning Marketing and Sales

An effective marketing and sales relationship can turn leads into accounts that generate business revenue for a lifetime. Follow these three best practices to unify your marketing and sales teams, and they’ll be targeting the right accounts and speaking to every member of the buying committee — together.

1. Adopt an ABM strategy.

Account-based marketing is a relatively new strategy in the B2B space. While 92% of B2B marketers have an ABM program, 64% were started within the past five years. ABM strategies join data management with marketing automation to create personal campaigns for your top B2B prospects. It breaks down barriers between marketing and sales by integrating the buyer journey from lead generation all the way through the sales funnel.
Another major benefit of using ABM is its focus on engaging all the members of an account’s buying committee. And make no mistake: Personalized engagement is what customers expect. Fifty-nine percent say that tailored engagement based on past interactions is very important to winning their business. To make this happen, marketing and sales have to combine their resources and work together to develop a strategy for identifying accounts with the highest revenue value for their business and personalizing communication according to their needs and preferences.

If ABM is about anything, it is about quality leads. It’s about discovering and engaging the active buyer.”

In an ABM strategy, marketing and sales partner on account selection and hold themselves accountable for sharing insights and data to help each other connect with every buyer. For instance, B2B marketers can speak to their sales team to understand their challenges and what helps them be successful. In turn, your sales reps can share current customer insights with marketing to improve your ideal customer profiles (ICPs) and support more targeted campaigns.
Once there’s a shared view of the accounts they want to target, sales and marketing can become familiar with these accounts and their buying committees, including the types of content they engage with and the channels they use. These accounts can also be used as templates to build lookalike audiences for future ABM programs. This can help you find additional accounts, expand your ICPs, and increase the scope of your ABM plan to include all the best accounts for your business.
When marketing and sales adopt an ABM approach to account selection and engagement, they can stop stepping on each other’s toes and start collaborating on a cohesive strategy using all available insights.
Pro tip: When it comes to engaging with your accounts, be mindful of the role that other departments such as service play in nurturing buyer relationships after the initial sale.

2. Unify your marketing automation and CRM.

While ABM is a strategy, the tools and technology that you use to implement ABM programs have a big impact on your success. As more customer interactions move to the digital realm, marketing automation is on the front lines of your company’s communications. And with day-to-day business dealings taking place primarily online these days, marketing analysts anticipate B2B marketers will “actively increase their investment and more fervently adopt marketing automation technologies to facilitate better-targeted digital relationship building and digital engagement.”
Marketing automation tools help you identify your audience and deliver relevant, personalized content with less lift on the marketer’s end. And they’re rapidly growing in popularity: 38% of marketers plan to increase their use of marketing automation or account-based marketing platforms over the next year. So, moving your marketing automation and CRM to the same platform is one of the most powerful steps you can take to align your sales and marketing teams, help them do their jobs more efficiently, and deliver a unified customer experience. It allows you to:
  • Sync information bidirectionally, so that every update in your CRM is reflected in your marketing automation system, and vice versa
 
  • Provide a comprehensive view into a prospective lead’s activity and related insights
This combined approach to marketing technology helped to streamline processes and information sharing for the sales and marketing teams at InsideView. “Today, our strategy includes maintaining a single, updated view of our accounts and all the stakeholders involved in our CRM. This provides a single source of truth that everyone in the company can work from,” Eiler said.
Noodle.ai’s sales and marketing teams can access the full history of every customer interaction.
For Noodle.ai, recent news coverage about how it supported customers during the pandemic generated buzz about the company’s offerings, and marketing and sales found themselves with a growing pile of leads. The teams used ABM tools in Marketing Cloud Account Engagement to identify the most relevant leads, provide a hub to develop sales plans, and guide customers through the journey toward a closed deal.
Because Salesforce is the system of record for everything that happens with its prospects, Noodle.ai’s sales and marketing teams can access the full history of every customer interaction.

3. Engage in constant communication.

Any ABM strategy you implement requires sales and marketing to be in constant contact. In successful companies, these teams are constantly collaborating, communicating, and working side by side to reach their goals. If there’s a divide in your business, it might be time to revisit your communication strategy.
Marketing Cloud Account Engagement leaders realized a lack of communication between marketing and sales was leading to missed revenue opportunities. So the marketing team launched a weekly memo to sales outlining upcoming events, webinars, product announcements, and more to promote available resources.

We share as much information as possible to help each other build strong relationships with the most important contacts for each account.”

Tracy Eiler, CMO of InsideView
Eiler takes a similar approach at InsideView, running a monthly “Smarketing” meeting between marketing and sales to bring the teams together. “We look at a six-week window, and ask: what just happened, where are we today, and what’s next?” she said. “And we share as much information as possible to help each other build strong relationships with the most important contacts for each account.”
Open communication between marketing and sales is critical for unified buyer engagement and for maximizing the potential of each account. It also sets the foundation for a healthy cross-team relationship that will — in turn — strengthen relationships with your customers.

Time to Align

Ready to bring your marketing and sales teams together to boost your customer relationships?
 
 
 
Salesforce Resources

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