Customer are the most essential link to create alignment between your Sales and Marketing teams. Having well-oiled Sales and Marketing functions that work well together and that are both aligned with the customer buying cycle can make all the difference in successfully addressing revenue and growth efforts. In fact, research firm IDC calls Marketing and Sales alignment one of the greatest opportunities to improve the revenue cycle. Even so, Mary Shea, principal analyst for Forrester, laments that “After years of acknowledging their issues with each other, many B2B marketing and sales teams continue to be at odds.”

Align Sales and Marketing in Four Key Areas

There’s plenty of talk about aligning Sales and Marketing, and most often that conversation is around lead management. Taking a customer-centric outside-in view is the key to aligning these two functions. This requires Sales and Marketing to be aligned in at least these four areas:

  1. Market and customer segmentation
  2. Customer-centric go-to-market strategy, process, and planning
  3. The customer lifecycle and journey
  4. Your opportunity management process

This fourth area, opportunity management, is one of the first places any organization can address to see relatively fast improvements and value.

Buy Your Best-Practices Workbook

What is opportunity management? It’s the complete process of tracking and managing new revenue opportunities (prospective and current customer business) — from the generation of the opportunity to its conversion into a customer relationship.

Take a Customer-Centric Approach to Marketing and Sales Alignment

Facilitate Marketing and Sales Alignment with 6 Best Practices

When well defined and properly implemented, the opportunity-management process provides insight into both the effectiveness and the efficiency of your Marketing and Sales efforts.

Apply Six Opportunity-Management Best-Practices to Facilitate Customer-Centric Marketing and Sales Alignment

Today’s business environment has brought the topic of opportunity management to the forefront. Organizations cannot afford opportunities to go unpursued. Nor can they afford to expend energy, time, and money pursuing opportunities that will not convert to business.

The following six best practices can help you increase the effectiveness of your opportunity-management process:

  1. Use the customer-buying process as the foundation for aligning both organizations.
  2. Track and score leads based on prospect behavior.
  3. Collaborate on defining what constitutes a qualified lead and to determine when an opportunity is sales-ready.
  4. Measure Marketing’s impact on the sales pipeline and the number of open opportunities that result from marketing programs.
  5. Use customer behavior to map the most-appropriate subsequent interactions.
  6. Leverage opportunity-nurturing programs.

The first best-practice, using the customer-buying process as the foundation for aligning both organizations, is the very first step any organization can take to improve its marketing and sales alignment. Doing so has implications for the remaining best practices as well as for the configuration of your marketing-automation, sales-automation, and campaign-management systems. 

A Customer-Centric Opportunity-Management Pipeline

The notion of a sales pipeline (that is, the flow of business opportunities), is very familiar to most organizations. But developing that pipeline around the customer-buying process may be new territory.

The following two lists show the differences between a sales-oriented pipeline and a customer buying-oriented pipeline.

Scenario A: Pipeline Elements Scenario B: Pipeline Elements
·      Identify the buyer ·      Visit website.
·      Send an email. ·      Download a document.
·      Call to meet. ·      Request a call.
·      Schedule a Meeting. ·      Describe a project.
·      Assess the need. ·      Attend a webinar.
·      Determine the budget. ·      Schedule a meeting.
·      Submit a quote. ·      Provide Specifications and Budget.                                         
·      Deliver a presentation ·      Participate in a Demo.
·      Submit a proposal. ·      Request a Proposal.

Did you catch the nuances between the two scenarios? If you thought Scenario B described customer behavior and Scenario A described company behavior, you are right on target.

Seven steps you can use to create a customer-buying pipeline:

  1. Define the customer buying process and each incremental behavioral commitment for each buying segment.
  2. Group the behaviors into buying stages that map to the buying process.
  3. Validate the pipeline with customers, and modify as needed.
  4. Determine stage owners.
  5. Map Marketing and Sales tools and processes to each stage.
  6. Configure marketing-automation, sales-automation, and campaign-management systems.
  7. Monitor, measure, and report results and payback, and modify as needed.

Ideally, Marketing and Sales should work together to engineer a customer-buying pipeline. There is also merit in using someone from the outside to facilitate the process to ensure it is collaborative, to manage the customer validation, and to support the system-configuration changes.

Using a customer-centric model is a valuable method for improving your Marketing and Sales alignment, effectiveness, and measurement. It enables an organization to shift from a transactional focus to one that is more customer-focused and designed to accelerate and reduce the cost of revenue generation. 

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