Marketing and sales alignment is all the rage these days, but how do you take it from being a buzzword to actually making an impact on your business? According to SiriusDecisions, only 36% of companies that leverage ABM report tight alignment between marketing and sales.
Here is how you can use target account engagement metrics to truly align sales and marketing.
What Exactly Do People Mean by Marketing and Sales Alignment?
Most often when I hear people talking about marketing and sales alignment, they say you should have the same goals, focus on the same accounts, coordinate resources, and communicate. This is great advice in theory, but it still leaves a lot of people struggling to put these items into action.
Why Marketing and Sales Alignment Should be Your Top Priority
B2B organizations with tight alignment between marketing and sales achieved 24% faster revenue growth and 27% faster profit growth, according to SiriusDecisions. The bottom line is that better marketing and sales alignment:
- Increases opportunity creation.
- Accelerates pipeline velocity.
- Increases deal sizes.
- Improves retention.
I don’t think that many people have to be convinced that more alignment is a good thing, so why are so few organizations doing a good job at it?
The Challenges with Aligning Marketing and Sales
The challenge I see is that a lot of organizations’ marketing and sales alignment is superficial. This isn’t to say that these folks are just paying lip service, although some may be — it’s just that the depth of alignment is shallow.
Challenge #1: Aligning Goals
It’s amazing that it took us this long to figure out that marketing and sales should both be measured on the same opportunity and revenue numbers. That being said, how does marketing track how they are progressing to the number?
Pipeline and revenue influence are great metrics for showing marketing’s impact, but they are lagging indicators of success. We for sure need to be able to show our impact, but we also need to have a pulse on how we are doing before the quarter is over.
I am a huge fan of influence metrics, which are one of the key ways we evaluate the success of our marketing efforts here at Terminus. Influence can tell you if you are aligned with sales or if you are getting off track. But tell your sales team that marketing influenced 100% of the pipeline last month, and they’ll say, “That’s great. How are you going to help us hit our number this month?”
If you are talking to a sales rep, you might get away with listing all the campaigns you’re running, but if you’re talking to the CRO, she’s going to want to see what kind of results you’re forecasting for all those campaigns.
What’s the best way to forecast those results? Should you measure leads from form fills — I mean, contacts from a target account — who respond to a marketing campaign? That doesn’t feel very ABM.
Challenge #2: Aligning Accounts and Resources
Again, it is amazing that it has taken us so long to figure out that marketing and sales should focus on the same accounts. The amazing results that account-based organizations are achieving from simply choosing target accounts is undeniable. Nevertheless, once everyone agrees on which accounts you’re targeting, how do you continue to stay aligned?
How do you ensure that marketing continues to focus the same amount of energy on the same accounts that sales is? If a sales development rep (SDR) asked you which account they should prioritize next, what would your answer be? How would you respond to an account executive who asked which accounts they should stop focusing on? If the CRO came to you and said that the numbers were down and you needed to run a high-touch campaign on your top 100 accounts, how would you choose those accounts?
Would your answer be to focus on Tier 1 accounts? The SDR might have a lot of Tier 1 accounts. How do they decide which one to call next? And in the end, an account’s tier doesn’t matter to an account executive if that account has an open opportunity.
However, choosing the top 100 accounts for a high-touch campaign that the CRO would like to launch — that’s got to be the answer, right? Maybe, but what if the SDR team has already worked all those accounts?
At Terminus, we define Tier 1 accounts as those accounts that have Fit + Intent + Engagement. We’ve seen extraordinary results from this model. However, we still needed a better way to prioritize which accounts our sales development reps, account executives, and marketing programs should focus on — a way that was more granular and could be done at scale.
Our marketing operations team spent multiple days each quarter fumbling through spreadsheets to come up with our best accounts. Then they spent the whole day each Friday reprioritizing those accounts.
SDRs were swimming in Salesforce reports, spreadsheets, and marketing automation alerts to figure out which accounts to call next.
Here’s the problem: engagement was basically boiled down to a checkbox in Salesforce. A company either had engagement or it didn’t. We weren’t able to easily distinguish between a company that had one person looking at our careers page and a company that had multiple people visiting our product pages every day.
Engagement Metrics Empower Marketing and Sales Alignment
To solve this problem, we started measuring the level of engagement that an account was showing. We refer to this as surging engagement.
Surging engagement is a spike in engagement from a target account on your most important web pages and content — whether the people are known (filled out a form) or anonymous (haven’t filled out a form). We use Terminus Engagement Spike reports to measure this surge.
We can now measure and forecast how marketing activities are progressing toward our opportunity and revenue goals by tracking how many accounts we have in each stage of engagement.
We track six stages of account engagement:
- No engagement
- Low engagement
- Brand engagement
- Surging engagement
- Open opportunities
You can learn more about how we progress accounts through the six stages of engagement by delivering unique campaigns based on the level of engagement an account is showing in my previous article, How to Accelerate Sales and Marketing Results with Engagement.
Whereas pipeline and revenue influence are lagging indicators of success, engagement is the ultimate leading indicator. It’s no secret that people tend not to fill out forms until they have already done a lot of research about your solution. Even then, most of the buying committee will never fill out a form on your website. There is no clearer signal that an account is interested in your product than when there is a meaningful increase in the number of people from the buying committee researching your solution on your website.
Once you start tracking this level of engagement, you can figure out what your conversion rate is for surging accounts and start forecasting and planning based on the number of surging accounts you currently have.
Align Accounts and Resources
If you know that an account is showing a meaningful increase in the number of visits to your highest value pages, you know exactly where to invest your resources. We deliver our most personalized and highest-touch campaigns to accounts showing surging engagement. We also have specific campaigns for accounts showing lower levels of engagement.
Let’s look at how engagement metrics can help answer the questions we covered earlier.
If an SDR asks you which account they should prioritize next, what would your answer be?
“Prioritize the account showing the most engagement.”
How would you respond to an account executive who asks which accounts they should stop focusing on?
“Stop focusing on the accounts showing the least engagement.”
If your CRO comes to you and says that the numbers were down and you need to run a high-touch campaign on your top 100 accounts, how would you choose the accounts?
“Choose the accounts showing the most engagement.”
The other great thing is that we don’t have to deal with all those spreadsheets anymore. Now, we deliver engagement data to our sales team right inside of Salesforce using Terminus Sales Insights.
Engagement metrics empower you align sales and marketing closer than ever. With these metrics, you can show progress against your shared goals, focus on the same accounts, coordinate resources, and communicate in a more meaningful way. Engagement takes alignment from being superficial to being super deep.