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  • April 29, 2013

Define and Conquer: Tips to Improve Sales and Marketing Alignment

Editor’s Note: Today’s blog post comes courtesy of Sam Boush, the President of Lead Lizard, a marketing automation agency based in Portland, Oregon that delivers world-class demand generation strategy, lead nurturing and lead scoring programs, lead management processes, and sales enablement programs. The following is the first of a two-part series on strategies to bridge the gap between sales and marketing. Check back on Wednesday, May 1 for part two!

At its best, the relationship between sales and marketing is like a fresh romance. Sales still tells marketing it appreciates all the hard work and revenue contribution. Marketing thanks sales for bringing home the big checks. Each department is in sync with the other, and even knows a little about what its counterpart is thinking. They finish each other’s sentences. Other departments look on with envy and nausea.

At its worst, dishes break against the wall.

Chances are, your organization’s marketing and sales relationship is somewhere in the middle. So, to help your organization move towards blissful compatibility, we recommend a process-driven, metrics-oriented approach.

Here are two keys to marketing and sales alignment will help each team build the trust they need to attract and win revenue for their company — and live together in harmony.

#1 – Define a Sales-Ready Lead

The handoff between sales and marketing is a key part of the relationship between sales and marketing—and is often an area of frustration for both sides. For this reason, it’s crucial for sales and marketing to work together to define the process for the handoff.

The sales team is on the front line, working to convert prospects to customers on a daily basis — so they usually have the best insight into what factors and qualities contribute to making a lead more or less likely to buy. Work with your sales organization to define when a lead is ready to talk to sales. “This is best done through a service level agreement, said Maya Kamoshita, Sr. Account Manager at Lead Lizard. “The SLA is a binding document that sales and marketing produce together that defines many aspects of the handoff, including which leads are ready to go to sales, why those leads are qualified, and how leads are passed to sales.”

In a perfect world, every Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) sent to sales would convert into a customer, eliminating the need to distinguish between MQLs and Sales Qualified Leads (SQL)—but information is asymmetrical. Using data in concert with information gathered from the sales team to define “sales-ready” leads can help bridge this gap. Closed-loop reporting reveals which marketing activities and criteria are associated with higher conversion or close rates, and this information should be used to determine which leads make the cut.

#2 – Qualify Leads using Best Practices

Helping sales generate more pipeline and revenue is perhaps the greatest impact that marketing can have on an organization. A considerable component of this is insuring that the leads delivered to sales are at the appropriate stage in their buying process --which should not be confused with your organization's sales process. Qualifying leads through a combination of automated processes, such as lead scoring, and manual validation-qualification allows a demand marketing organization to deliver greater volumes of high quality leads efficiently.

There are plenty of examples lead qualification templates that can work well for qualifying leads.  Brad Giles, Sr. Director, Global Demand Marketing at PTC has helped his organization build one of the more successful demand generation processes. "Our lead qualification team prioritizes based on two primary parameters," said Brad. "First is lead score and we tele-qualify leads that score as highly relevant and highly engaged (based on a proprietary formula) to insure we are providing sales with the highest quality and fully verified leads. The second parameter is based on the value of the most recent asset that the contact/lead engaged with. High value assets like buyer guides, ROI calculators or attendance at an event will take priority over lower value assets such as info-graphics and early stage white papers."

Stay tuned for Part 2 with more tips to improve Sales & Marketing alignment on Wednesday, May. 1. Can't wait until then for more? Check out Eloqua's Grande Guide to Lead Scoring.

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