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It’s More Important Than Ever for Marketing and Sales to Align in 2017

Sep 27, 2016 1:47:55 PM

sales and marketing alignment

Back in 2011, the Aberdeen Group released a study that claimed highly-aligned organizations achieved an average of 32% year-over-year revenue growth, while their less aligned competitors saw a 7% decrease. Today, sales and marketing alignment (smarketing) continues to serve as one of the largest opportunities for improving business performance.

In the State of Inbound 2016 report, Hubspot CEO Brian Halligan shines a spotlight on the trends and growth of inbound by collecting global data from over 4,500 B2B small and mid-sized business respondents across the globe.  

Beyond using the data results to present current trends, this year’s report takes an additional step towards predicting the future of inbound and how emphasis on new trends and technologies will play a large role in success.   By examining the data collected regarding marketing priorities, challenges, and outlook, this blog will specifically focus on why it’s more important than ever for marketing and sales to align in 2017.


Top Marketing and Sales Priorities (and Challenges)

When surveyed about what their company’s top marketing and sales priorities are over the next 12 months, 74% of respondents said Converting contacts/leads into customers.  However, this goal proves difficult for many since 65% of respondents ranked Generating traffic and leads as their top marketing challenge in 2016.  In addition, 20% of those respondents indicated that Identifying the lead was the biggest challenge at their company.  This data clearly indicates that “beginning of the sales process is thorny for reps, more so than the middle or the end.”


Marketing and Sales Alignment is Critical to a Successful Marketing Strategy

In order to gain customers, sales teams rely on the acquisition of quality leads at the front end.  When surveyed, 67% of respondents who believe that their organization has an effective marketing strategy ranked Inbound practices, which emphasizes sales and marketing collaboration, as providing them with the highest-quality leads.   The importance of sales and marketing alignment was further supported by pivoting the following performance metrics:

  • Number of leads sourced by Marketing for Sales
  • Number of marketing qualified Leads (MLQs) handed to Sales
  • Number of MQLs worked by Sales

Results from this data strongly suggest that “The handshake between Sales and Marketing tends to produce the most measurable results for a marketing team.”


                               State of Inbound 2016            


How to bridge the gap between Sales and Marketing

But even with a general consensus that sales and marketing teams need to work together, there still exists an overall disconnect.  “When we asked marketers where they got their best leads, the majority said inbound-sourced leads were the highest quality.  However, salespeople who participated in our study rated marketing generated leads last, behind self-sourced leads and referrals.” 

Results indicated further disconnect when 70% of sales respondents rated the quality of marketing–generated leads only 3 out of 5 stars.  Based on these findings, it is clear that “the leads sourced by Marketing aren’t favored by Sales, even if marketing is none the wiser.”  To further understand this dynamic, the study broke down more data to find that organizations with existing Service Level Agreements (SLAs) tended to rank the importance of marketing-generated leads more favorably over those organizations without SLAs.


The importance of SLAs between Sales and Marketing (“Smarketing")

“Smarketing has been a core tenet of inbound for years.”  Of those companies who have formal SLAs between sales and marketing, 82% of respondents felt that their organization’s marketing strategy is effectiveThis data further supports inbound’s Smarketing philosophy that when “the two work in tandem, there is a higher chance for success.”   

The main objective of sales and marketing alignment is communication.  “There’s room for improvement on Marketing–sourced leads, but Marketing won’t know what needs to be fixed unless there’s a feedback mechanism built into the Marketing and Sales relationship. “   

Further, “When Sales and Marketing have agreements in place that 1) defines a good marketing lead and 2) guarantees a work rate from Sales, the two groups work better together.”  


Looking ahead

Overall, the data suggests that respondents recognized value and importance in sales and marketing alignment.  However, only 22% responded that their two teams are tightly aligned (have a formal SLA in place).  Based on this statistic, the obvious goal for increased marketing success in 2017 is for companies to assess the relationship between their sales and marketing teams and adapt better alignment by way of more effective “smarketing” practices.


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