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In far too many organizations, marketing and sales teams often operate as siloed organizations with distinct goals and processes. Marketing busies itself with generating leads and making them available to sales. What sales does, or doesn’t do, with those leads is considered beyond the purview of marketing. Similarly, sales teams maniacally focus on closing deals based on their own understanding of the market and customers.

Unsurprisingly, according to CEB, only eight percent of B2B companies said they have tight alignment between their sales and marketing teams. Among other challenges, such misalignment results in lack of shared understanding of the buyer, inconsistent processes for lead qualification, lost leads during handoff, and lower sales revenue.

It doesn’t have to be this way. According to MarketingProfs, tightly aligned sales and marketing functions experience 36 percent higher customer retention rates and 38 percent higher sales win rates. You can start your journey to higher performance by following a few simple guidelines:

Ensure both teams target the right audience

The first step in this journey is for sales and marketing to develop a shared understanding of the customer they are trying to win for their business. Jointly define the target customers, or more likely, customer buying groups if you are dealing with a B2B sale of any complexity. Sales can bring its field experience to help marketing craft and refine the targeting profile based on first hand interactions and observations. This will allow marketing to develop more precise targeting based on attributes of real wins and filter out those that aren’t a good fit. Similarly, marketing’s broad knowledge of the target behavior/profile helps sales understand exactly what buyers are looking for, and where they are in the buying process, and what would constitute an effective sales conversation at each specific stage. As an example, if marketing unexpectedly starts noticing interest at trade shows from an industry vertical they’ve traditionally not targeted, joint effort across marketing and sales teams could result in rapid targeting of specific accounts. Such a collaborative approach can provide a reliable way to drive future interactions through personalized content, more suitable interactions based on specific signals in the profile, and so on.

Prioritize leads who are ready to buy

Developing a common definition of the target audience is a good first step, but just that. In order to affect a successful handoff between marketing and sales, you also need to work out the relative “maturity” of these leads. In other words, sales and marketing need to agree when a lead is ready to progress from marketing to sales for the next steps in their journey to become a customer.

A jointly developed lead scoring model is effective in this regard. By agreeing in advance on weights and values assigned to specific demographics, firmographics, activities and actions along the buyer journey, and a minimum threshold when the lead should be considered qualified, marketing and sales can both reap significant benefits. Marketing benefits by having a fully whetted and objective handoff criterion to work towards, while sales benefits by having an ongoing, reliable pipeline of high quality leads.

Connect marketing & sales processes

The benefits of connecting marketing and sales go well beyond common definition of profiles and lead scoring.

Another big benefit is working with one version of the truth so both organizations have the same set of contacts, a common understanding of where a lead is at any given point, and a shared awareness of interactions to date. This helps any team member to continue the conversation with leads and also automate processes like handing off sales-ready leads to the right salesperson. As the process matures, organizations could jointly develop SLAs for sales ready lead engagement and setup mechanisms to ensure no sales ready leads go unattended.

Gain actionable insights

Aligning sales and marketing into a unified approach has the added benefit of marketing and sales team working collaboratively to gain actionable insights. SiriusDecisions notes that 67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally. Provided appropriate marketing automation and tracking is in place, this gives Marketing valuable and actionable insights such as what content is resonating with leads and based on that, what type of sales activities may yield better results. Similarly, sales teams are often the first to hear of specific compelling needs as they interact with their accounts. Feeding such actionable insights back to marketing can lead to faster identification and creation of new campaigns and content to target an untapped opportunity and generate new leads.

Fine tune continuously

For a siloed marketing and sales organization, getting this far is undoubtedly an accomplishment that must be recognized and celebrated. However, marketing and sales as well as markets and customers are constantly evolving, and left alone, the audience profile, prioritization strategy, and nurture journeys will soon become stale at best or entirely obsolete. So, it’s imperative to continually use new insights to review each element and refine as necessary on an ongoing basis to ensure freshness.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Marketing is built on the same platform as Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales. You can use the intelligent business applications in Dynamics 365 to achieve better alignment across marketing and sales. Find out for yourself by signing up for a free trial of Dynamics 365 for Marketing and see how it can help bring sales and marketing together seamlessly.