The Sales & Marketing Alignment Conversation

October 27, 2011

The path to sustained sales and marketing alignment can be a simple one – simple to do, simple to repeat, simple to remember.  All you need is a map.  In that spirit, I attempt here to boil down some alignment opportunities for Sales and Marketing leaders.

The chart below shows the three main focus areas each for Sales and Marketing which, if approached collaboratively, can improve business results and transform the relationship.  Below the chart is a set of definitions, followed by a few examples of how to apply it to your own situation.

Sales and Marketing Alignment topics chart

Sales and Marketing Alignment topics

3 Sales goals – Value, Volume, Velocity

Value.  Since it is almost as costly to close a small sale as it is to close a large sale, Sales professionals would be wise to focus on increasing the potential Value of each sale.  In larger organizations, differently skilled teams manage different sized deals.

Volume.  The more deal flow you can create, the better your chances of growing the customer base and improving the company’s financial ability to innovate and fulfill their evolving needs.

Velocity.  Increasing the speed of deal flow through the pipeline also increases your capacity to sell, grow the customer community, and learn from them to help you innovate and improve.

3 Marketing goals – Content, Community, Conversion

Content.  The more compelling and relevant your content, the more you will attract the audience most likely to benefit from your offerings.

Community.  The more your content resonates within and among audiences, the greater your capacity to build a community and engage in dialogue to improve sales, products, services, and support.

Conversion.  The more effectively you convert sales, the more you can learn from experience about how to improve the conversion process.

Conversations Worth Starting

Using the 3×3 chart above, look at the 9 intersecting boxes and ask the questions implied by the two nouns whose paths cross in each box.

Example 1:  Value + Content.  In the upper left intersecting box, where Value and Content intersect, Marketing might ask: How can we improve our Content to increase the Value of each sale?  Sales might ask:  How can the improved Value of each sale guide us in improving Content?  It’s the same question, asked from different perspectives, that aligns your response.

Example 2:  Conversion + Velocity.  In the bottom right box, where Conversion and Velocity intersect, Marketing might be asking: How can we improve the Conversion process to accelerate the Velocity of Sales?  Sales might ask: What sales accelerators can we use as input for improving the Conversion process?

See how it works?  You may come up with better questions to suit your organization’s culture and challenges.  Now, formulate your own questions using the relevant nouns for each intersecting box, turn those questions loose in your organization, and watch what happens.

Measuring results with analytics, sales CRM and marketing automation solutions can help you measure and manage your improvement.  If you need assistance here, contact us.

How’s it working for you?  What questions would you ask your colleagues to help you get better aligned?  Drop us a comment here; we’d love to hear your feedback!  Visit our Resources page for more free strategy tool downloads.



Accurate Sales Forecasting: the AIM HIGH approach

January 7, 2011

Sales and Marketing really are a power couple, and need to know one another’s business intimately to succeed together.   I know what it’s like to lead a quota-busting sales and marketing team, and have had to work hard at achieving sales and marketing alignment, so I thought I’d share some playbook pages from the Sales side of the aisle.   If you read between the lines, you’ll find it contains implications for the marketing mission every step of the way.

I chose to talk about forecasting because I humbly believe it is the most vital skill any sales professional can possess.  Without it, your revenue projections are a fairy tale, and your organization can’t reasonably plan its financial and operational future.

With that said, read this admittedly cutesy formula, and think about what types of questions you’d ask your prospects and customers to determine if you have accurate information to satisfy these 7 facets of converting a Lead to a Qualified Opportunity and plotting its trajectory in your sales pipeline.

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The AIM HIGH Approach to Accurate Sales Forecasting

1. Align with appropriate internal and external partners.  Partners could include members of the customer’s organization (or their partners) who contribute necessary skills and knowledge, or other third parties you can identify who could help you comprise a complete solution.

2. Ingrain pain and urgency.  Find out how broadly and deeply the pain is felt — is there an executive champion? A critical event causing urgent attention?  A persistent motivating force?  Use the customer’s language to express this, and refer back to it occasionally to re-validate it.

3. Measure how your product/service can solve the prospect’s need.  Paint a hard, statistical, monetary picture of how your proposed solution can solve a need, and take action to make that vision a reality.  Get agreement with your customer on how success will be measured and verified.

4.  Harden the decision criteria and processes.  Gain clarity into the necessary steps and individuals involved in getting to final approval and sign-off.

5.  Identify all buyers – economic/financial, technical, executive, etc.   Discuss all possible players, even those your prospect might dismiss as irrelevant, if you think their support matters down the road.  Extreme example: suppose you are selling a cloud computing solution.  You and your prospect might ordinarily think the I.T. organization is not relevant.  Actually, I.T. plays  a vital role in validating cloud computing solutions for security of information and access, and increasingly are the experts in building account access solutions, so their standards and expertise are often critical.

6.  Gain trust through internal champions with strong political capital.   Ask your key prospect contacts about how they see your solution impacting the organization, and listen for clues to organizational strategy, institutional patterns of practice and key buyers’ alliances and affiliations.  Include social networking sites like LinkedIn and Twitter in your research to determine how closely your key prospect contacts are aligned.

7.  Hoist your solution over the competition.  Give your customer the information they need to convince themselves that your solution is the right fit.  Consider external competitors (know what & how they sell!) as well as internal ones – – apathy, inertia (stay the course, status quo).  Note: the “right fit” can be based on price, feasibility, etc. – not necessarily superior technology.   Often the best solution just lays on their template nicely, requiring less effort to implement, or perhaps matching their own complement of people and processes.

How do you spell forecasting success?  Holla back!


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