Lake One-on-One with Jeff Davis: Author of “Create Togetherness”

At Lake One, we’re all about creating harmony between two key departments- sales and marketing. When the two are fully aligned, it’s a match made in smarketing heaven. We also love talking with like-minded professionals about the importance of aligning sales and marketing. That’s why we were so excited to have the opportunity to connect with Jeff Davis on his award-winning book Create Togetherness.

He shared with us why he thinks misalignment is so common, insights he gained writing the book, the three pillars of alignment transformation, his thoughts on building the buyer’s journey, and what he says is the main takeaway from the book. Jeff specializes in helping B2B companies strategically align their sales and marketing teams to accelerate revenue growth. Jeff pulls from his over 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, and business development at Fortune 100 organizations to early-stage startup. 

In Create Togetherness, Jeff encourages B2B leaders to examine the relationship between sales and marketing and head toward alignment. His goal is to transform sales and marketing to exceed modern buyers’ expectations and increase revenue. Music to our ears! 

Related Reading: Lake One’s Guide to Sales and Marketing Alignment

Why Misalignment is so Common 

The misalignment of sales and marketing departments has resulted in companies falling behind their competitors by failing to acknowledge a structural flaw responsible for a significant loss in revenue. 

In the book, Jeff talks about the benefits of a strategic approach to long-term, sustainable alignment. We wanted to get his thoughts on why it was so common for teams to become misaligned in the first place. “They’ve operated in silos for so long, that most companies see them as two completely separate departments. In addition, the functional leaders don’t really know how to leverage each other because working in this way is new and unfamiliar. Most organizations still don’t realize how interdependent these two functions truly are in today’s modern B2B landscape. Because of this, their goals and incentives are not aligned, thus how they go about engaging the buyer is not aligned.”

What Suprised Jeff 

Jeff is an international keynote speaker and business consultant. He has worked with companies such as Salesforce, LinkedIn, Seismic, and Oracle. He speaks regularly about alignment transformation at conferences, company meetings, association events, and more. So, we were curious to know if there was anything new or surprising he discovered while writing this book, on a topic he is so well versed in. 

He said what surprised him the most was, “How marketing was created as a support function for Sales during the Industrial Revolution and how the relationship between the two functions has changed over time. I was also intrigued by the 4 Sales-Marketing Configurations model as I think it helps company leaders better understand when they are at a point where they have the structure to be able to benefit from an alignment transformation.”

Three Pillars of Alignment Transformation 

There are three pillars of alignment transformation that Jeff covers in the book. They are: 

  1. Data
  2. Process 
  3. Communication 

While all three are important to aligning sales and marketing, is it possible that one is more important than the others? According to Jeff, “They are all equally important but having timely, accurate, and relevant data is the lifeblood of any high-performing Revenue Engine, thus it is mandatory to ensure you have a strong handle on your customer data if you are looking to transform these two teams into better alignment.”

sales and marketing alignment

Building a Buyer’s Journey

Have you ever written something and then after the fact thought of another point you wanted to make or a concept you wanted to expand on? We posed the same question to Jeff. Were there any concepts from the book that he’d like to expand on or add any additional insight to, after the fact? 

“Having sales and marketing come together to build a buyer’s journey is an effective way to ensure they can optimally orchestrate their resources and also identify if there are any content gaps through the buying process.” He goes on to list them below:

7 Steps to Creating an Effective Buyer’s Journey: 

1. Clearly define the key stakeholders or personas from the buying committee of your ICP (ideal customer profile) – use quantitative and qualitative data from both teams to verify 

2. Document the customer’s internal decision-making process 

3. Understand the persona’s goals at each stage of the process 

4. Translate the decision-making process into buying journey stages 

5. Map current sales and marketing interactions (content) to ensure that resources exist at each stage that addresses the buyer’s concerns 

6. Identify interaction/content gaps and develop new resources to fill those gaps 

7. Continuously evaluate the conversion effectiveness of each stage and its associated resources 

Key Takeaway 

With any good book, there are likely a few main points the author wants you to walk away with, so we know it can be a challenge to narrow it down to just one. But we knew Jeff was up for the challenge, so we asked if he HAD to choose just one, what would he say is the main takeaway from Create Togetherness. He said, “The main takeaway is about how digital disruption has fundamentally changed the B2B buyer-seller relationship and the only way we will be able to successfully engage the modern buyer and win their business is for sales and marketing teams to work together to create a cohesive buying journey that is easy to navigate.”

Are you a sales or marketing professional, or an executive looking to ensure there’s alignment between the two departments? Then we encourage you to check out Create Togetherness.  There’s value to be had in the pages of Jeff’s comprehensive yet quick read. Order your copy here.

Unsure if your sales and marketing teams are properly aligned? Take the assessment to find out.

More about Jeff 

Jeff is the executive producer and host of the fast-growing which is heard by B2B professionals in over 25 countries. He and his team of consulting experts also help mid-sized B2B companies build high-performing Revenue Engines that are equipped to win the business of the modern B2B buyer.   

Jeff holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University and an MBA from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. 

How Marketers Can Prepare Sellers to Keep Pace with Modern Buyers

Today’s buyers are in a class all their own: They’re independent, they do their research, and they demand detailed answers to their questions. Modern buyers don’t want to be sold at, they want to be talked to. They’re looking for content that’s pertinent to their situation, and they want to work with trusted advisors who are ready and willing to lead their prospects through every step of the purchasing process. 

Before marketers can arm their sales team with content worthy of these informed buyers, marketing and sales teams require immediate and convenient access to assets, tools, and training––all within a single source of truth. 

If you’re seeking answers for how to centralize your content and ensure your reps have everything they need to win deals, follow these steps.  

modern buyers

Strive to simplify.

As early as 2016, marketers reported that 47% of buyers were likely to review three to five pieces of marketing content before even speaking to a sales rep (and we can only assume that number has risen in the last four years). Given the multitude of moving parts within marketing and sales departments, it’s now more vital than ever to simplify content production processes and align on providing a cohesive customer experience.

Tips on how to simplify: 

First, develop a plan to consolidate your content across all departments. Identify all content storage locations, and then consider: 

  • Where can these materials be accessed and by who? 
  • Does your team have the means to establish a single, reliable repository for content and training?
  • What tools are in place for notifying sellers and marketers if content is updated? 

Depending on how you answer that second question, it may be useful to implement sales enablement best practices. A sales enablement solution provides a centralized platform for uploading, organizing, managing, and sharing content, including training materials. An advanced solution will also include interdepartmental communication capabilities and analytics — for example, data on content engagement and performance.

Prioritize alignment. 

Buyers expect unique and highly customized buying experiences. And regardless of the challenges, sales reps will have to keep up. Given the heightened competition, well-laid sales plans should keep seller preparedness front and center. 

These trends signal a need for tight sales and marketing alignment. Working in lockstep will save companies time and effort by keeping teams in sync when it comes to content creation, usage, and performance. Once the teams are properly aligned, companies can then implement an integrated strategy for managing, stockpiling, and disseminating all sales-related materials. As a result, marketers and sellers will be able to breathe easy knowing that the sales team will always be prepared for every customer conversation. 

Tips on how to stay aligned: 

When determining whether or not your sales reps have the knowledge and tools to make their next pitch, ask yourself: 

content mapping

Once you’ve answered these questions, make a point to re-examine marketing and sales processes with an eye to fixing any gaps you may have identified.

Keep content current. 

Sales reps are well aware of the expectations that fuel their results-driven fire. They likewise know that they need access to all content and training solutions necessary to provide their buyers with real value. Plus, reps need to find and deliver materials specifically curated for each individual buyer, making the job that much harder. 

When a buyer requests a certain asset, be it a case study or contract, a seller needs a seamless, expedited process for creating, distributing, and monitoring that material. Moreover, all company content (educational or otherwise) should feature the most up-to-date, relevant, brand-compliant information available. 

Tips on keeping content up-to-date: 

The key here is to implement systems for complete content evaluation, including plans for tracking buyer and seller engagement as well as for assessing content performance overall. 

Begin by considering:

  • Is sales content current?  Do you have a way to ensure that the assets that sales reps use have the latest messaging and design? 
  • How does your content change over time? What edits are your reps making to your assets once they get out in the field? 
  • How well does your content perform with buyers? How can you measure this performance in a quantifiable way? 

Sales enablement solutions can handle content management and offer comparative views of different versions of specific assets, demonstrating how a piece of content is modified over time. These tools can give marketers a fuller understanding of how their content is performing and can likewise alert marketers as to whether or not the alterations made to an asset remain acceptable and on-brand. Content engagement capabilities provide insight into how buyers interact with your marketing materials with a variety of valuable KPI metrics, from website scroll depth, to click activity, pitch views, asset downloads, and more. This raw data can be used to glean insights, which can, in turn, inform the creation of new content campaigns.

In this new age of the educated buyer, marketers can gain a real advantage if they deploy the tools and techniques that make it easy to partner with their sales team in driving business growth together. Innovative technology, such as sales enablement solutions, make it possible to meet the demands of modern buyers.  By integrating a holistic system for organizing, sharing, and analyzing all content, marketers will be better able to focus on creating content that sets their sales team up for success. 

Thanks to Highspot for this guest post.

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Lead Generation Guide: Basics of Lead Gen

If you’re in sales and marketing, there’s no doubt you’ve heard about lead generation. Business folks, in general, are probably at least a little familiar with it. Maybe it’s discussed in business conversations you’re apart of or you’ve seen it in sales and marketing materials. But what’s all the fuss about? What’s so important about lead generation? We’re here to break down the basics of what it is, what’s tough about it, why it’s worth it, trends to watch for and how tools can help with it all. 

HubSpot defines lead generation as the process of attracting and converting strangers and prospects into someone who has indicated interest in your company’s product or service. Lead generators are things like job applications, blog posts, live events, coupons or online content. These types of things {hopefully} create interest and attract potential customers. The goal is to create unique ways to get people, the right people, interested in your business. 

Lead generation sounds simple enough, right? Well, if it were that easy, everyone would do it and do it successfully. We know it’s not that simple, so we put together a few insights into lead generation to help get you started.

Click here to have the lead generation guide emailed to you.

Smarketing in Action: A Real-world Example

Hubspot provided a definition to smarketing in 2014, and that hasn’t changed. The gist is a process by which your sales and marketing team get on the same page around goals and communicate regularly. The results can be huge. A 2016 LinkedIn report found nearly 60% of teams that reported sales and marketing alignment saw customer experience improvements, and a 2013 report from Marketo found companies with sales & marketing alignment are 67% better at closing deals and drive 209% more revenue.

For a deep dive into driving sales and marketing alignment, check out our comprehensive guide on the topic. But today we’re going to take a look at smarketing in practice; there’s plenty on the internet that can define smarketing. What we’re going to look at is real-world examples of the impact it can have on your sales and marketing operations. 

This review will follow key topics touched on through past posts on sales and marketing alignment. 

Commit to Smarketing from the Top Down

In order for any smarketing effort to be effective, you have to commit to it throughout your organization – starting by leading from the top. 

Over the past year, our work with a client who believed in this from the C-level to the front lines has seen significant benefits from tight sales and marketing alignment. 

But how do you measure the benefit of sales and marketing alignment commitment? This isn’t a scientific, double-blind survey, but on average, our client whose leadership team not only buys into smarketing alignment but drives it forward, has seen faster time to marketing traction and ROI. This is especially impactful for inbound which on the short end can take 9 months or even up to 18 months to start showing in the numbers. 

If the anecdote above leaves you wanting more sales and marketing alignment proof, keep reading. We share some down and dirty numbers that back up our smarketing claims.

smarketing example

Establish & Track Key Measures

Knowing what and how to measure smarketing alignment can sometimes be a challenge. The two teams are often coming to the table with only their view of the funnel. But at the heart of a harmonious sales and marketing alignment, lies marketing qualified leads (MQLs).

You may have a program that with your first pass at an MQL definition is driving good volume, but when push comes to shove, your marketing contributed revenue isn’t all that great. 

The benefit of this is when your best-educated guesses go wrong. We have a favorite saying at Lake One, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” – multiple sources

Over the past 12 months, our unified sales and marketing alignment with our client resulted in increasing marketing-sourced revenue while actually flattening the volume of MQLs.

smarketing example

Wait, what? MQLs flatlining? It truly is about quality over quantity. Fewer, better quality MQLs could only be accomplished because of regular communication, and in two quarters of work, we saw a little over two times the marketing sources impact on revenue. 

smarketing example

Get Acquainted & Communicate 

Just saying we’re going to agree to a few measurables isn’t enough to drive an aligned sales and marketing organization. You need to develop a sales and marketing plan for regular communication and alignment checkpoints. 

Two heads are better than one, a whole group of heads – that’s magic. With the client we’ve been mentioning throughout this post, our smarketing alignment is tied into all of our marketing program meetings. Sales is represented in every meeting so we get to hear weekly what’s working, what’s not, and what’s coming up. This kind of immediate connection between two teams that don’t traditionally work together opens up lines of communication. Both teams feel comfortable lobbing ideas over the fence in between those meetings. 

Ideas that have lead to optimizations seeing traffic nearly quadruple and leads nearly double in 6 months. 

smarketing example

Smarketing Results and You

This is just one example from one client of how smarketing can drive impact throughout the funnel on an organization. Every organization is different, but with so much attention, smarketing or sales and marketing alignment or whatever you want to call it is getting we thought it was worthwhile taking a look at how bringing the two teams responsible for revenue closer together – can actually make a measurable impact. 


B2B Sales Enablement: What it is and the Role Marketing Plays in Making it Happen

We often discuss the age-old battle that can go down between sales and marketing. The tale of two disparate teams. Well in case you didn’t know, now it’s all about alignment. And… enablement.

Sales enablement according to HubSpot, is the technology, processes, and content that empowers sales teams to sell efficiently at a higher velocity. And brace yourself for this one: marketing plays, or should play, a key role in the sales enablement process for B2B companies.

Whether the above sentence has you ready to fall out of your chair or stand up and clap, read on. We’ll cover why sales enablement should matter to marketers and their role in B2B sales enablement execution.

B2B Sales Enablement

Why Sales Enablement Should Matter to Marketers

Today’s modern buyers are different from buyers of old. The sales process is heavily led by the buyers and dictated by the market. Who specializes in the buyer’s journey and converting leads to customers alongside sales? Marketing.

A Seismic article quoted Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing, as saying the following on an episode of the Sales Enablement Shift podcast, “If you’re in B2B marketing today and you’re not thinking every day about sales, what the pipeline looks like, or how close the organization is to hitting the number, then you’re not nearly as integrated in strategy – let alone tactics or activities – as you should be.” Yaaaasss. 💯

We created a guide to make sales and marketing alignment easier. Click here to get it.

This quote really says it all. If the company isn’t making money, more than just the sales team will be in hot water. The above just drives home the fact that strategy, goals, alignment, and yes sales, should be driving teams company-wide.

Successful sales are everybody’s business, but marketing has the skill set to enable sales to be successful and propel growth.

Marketing’s Role in Sales Enablement

Sales enablement is really less about sales and more about serving the buyer through the buyer’s journey. It results in an empowered sales team that sells at a higher velocity which ultimately equals happier customers.

B2B Sales Enablement

With that being said, there are several ways marketing can move the needle and enable sales.

Lead Qualification

Reporting needs vary from company to company, but one constant is the need to qualify leads. Every B2B company has to have some type of lead qualification process. Marketing’s role falls under the Sales and Marketing SLA, but more specifically, the Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) process. [Read more about SLAs here.]

At a high level, MQLs are leads that are ready to be qualified by the sales team. Once the criteria are set and agreed upon, marketing can help with the implementation and qualification process. When marketing does some of the qualification and heavy lifting up front (digitally of course) it ensures sales are talking to leads that are ready to be talked to. It’s a win for everybody including the buyer.

Lead Scoring is a way to put your qualification process into action. Download our guide to learn more.


A major component of sales enablement is arming the sales team with information they can use when selling. Don’t let your brain pigeonhole you into a sales deck. Information can range from internal best practices to customer-facing sales sheets. According to the TOPO blog, regardless of the form the information takes, it needs to be easy to consume and reusable across the sales organization.

Content Audit

Speaking of easy to use, have we mentioned content audits? Content audits at Lake One are a living breathing workbook that houses all of the client’s content (both internal and external facing). The workbook also notes what part of the buyer’s journey that piece of content serves, the location of the document, the persona, if it is a fit for a workflow, etc.

The best part of the document, though, is the collaboration tab where sales can add content ideas. Think repeat buyer questions, a need for a case study, and more. Marketing can pull directly from the tab to help fill the content calendar.

Email Templates & Automated Sequences

Marketing teams should be pros at nurture sequences (if they’re not, contact us) and pros at moving buyers through the buyer’s journey from a lead to an MQL.

That precise expertise applies to the email template and automated sequences of sales enablement.

How do those differ from marketing based workflows? The email templates and automated sequences can be used pre-marketing qualified lead state or even as a way to qualify MQLs to a sales qualified lead.

Despite the differences, the same basics of sending personalized tailored emails to the buyer still apply. Marketing can leverage their knowledge of lead engagement and automation to enable the sales team.

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Key Takeaways

  • A successful sales team should be everyone’s business
  • Sales enablement is really less about sales and more about serving the buyer through the buyer’s journey which leads to an empowered sales team selling at a higher velocity.
  • Marketing contributes to sales enablement in the following ways:
    • The definition and implementation of marketing qualified leads.
    • The creation of content that supports sales and in turn, the buyers.
    • The creation and implementation of email templates and sequences.

B2B Smarketing Check: How aligned are your sales and marketing teams?

“Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.”

— James Cash Penney, founder, JC Penney

Sales and marketing misalignment can lead to a domino effect of problems such as internal tension, inability to achieve goals, and even revenue loss. Yikes.

But in order to grow and move forward, it’s crucial to assess and understand where you’re at currently with your smarketing efforts. How aligned are your sales and marketing teams?

B2B Smarketing

Here are 8 must-ask questions to understanding your company’s B2B smarketing state of the state.

Interested in some mind-blowing sales and marketing alignment stats? Check out this post.

B2B Smarketing Question #1: Are Teams Speaking the Same Language?

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the first areas for assessment is verbiage and definitions. Communication is key but can be extremely difficult if teams aren’t speaking the same language or starting from some place of commonality.

Questions to ask:

  • Do your teams have a common definition and understanding for the following terms?
    • Marketing Qualified Lead
    • Sales Qualified Lead
    • Disqualified Leads
    • Lead Status
    • Contact Lifecycle Stages
    • Deal Stages
    • Traffic Sources (direct, referral, search, etc..)

The above is by no means an exhaustive list of all of the sales and marketing alignment terms, but it’s a start. At a minimum, it should get you analyzing the common ground (or lack thereof) between the two teams when it comes to defining the sales and marketing process.

B2B Smarketing Question #2: Are Teams Targeting the Same Buyers?

We have stressed time and time again the importance of buyer personas. Buyer personas (in conjunction with research) should drive your strategy and be another common denominator among your sales and marketing teams and really, the company as a whole.

Questions to ask:

  • Are buyer personas defined?
  • Did both teams have influence in their creation?
  • Are the personas still relevant or do they need to be updated?

B2B Smarketing Question #3: Are Teams Working Towards the Same Goals?

Sales and marketing can be impactful independently, but joined together and working towards the same goal? Teams will achieve much more.

Nothing sets you on the fast-track to success like SMART goals.

Questions to ask:

  • Do the teams separately have SMART goals?
  • Are the goals well-known among the two teams and agreed upon?
  • Are the goals measured and tracked?

In need of a SMART goal refresh? Then this worksheet is for you.

B2B Smarketing Question #4: Are Teams Promoting the Same Products/Services?

Not all products and services are created equal. Through defining your buyer personas or crafting your smart goals, you likely surfaced key areas of focus whether it be new product offerings, key industries, revenue generation, etc.

For example, if demos have been unsuccessful but consults are effective, marketing likely shouldn’t be pushing demos as their bottom of the funnel offer in the nurture sequences.

Questions to ask:

  • Is sales aware of the products/services that marketing is promoting and vice versa?
  • Are both teams in agreement on the best direction?

B2B Smarketing Question #5: Are Teams Creating Content Together?

Although content creation doesn’t necessarily fall under the job descriptions of the sales team, sales should have an influence in content topic selection. Why? Because they are the front lines and literally the voice of the customer inside the company. Pairing sales’ insight with marketing’s keyword research skills is a great start to creating valuable content for your buyers.

Insider tip: We like to take it one step further and create what we call a content audit. It’s a living document that houses links to all of the content created and breaks it down by buyer persona and stage of the buyer’s journey. There’s also a tab for content requests that’s a direct line into marketing’s content topic queue. Here are some additional smarketing best practices to help.

Questions to ask:

  • What processes currently drive content topic selection?
  • Does sales approve?
  • Is there a way for sales to communicate content requests to marketing?
  • Does marketing have an audit document or something like it?

B2B Smarketing Question #6: What is Marketing’s Lead Handoff Procedure?

Marketing curates leads through inbound or paid media and then at some agreed upon point, the leads need to be passed to sales to be contacted and qualified. There are a few ways to accomplish the handoff. Our favorite is using marketing automation software (HubSpot) to do the heavy lifting. However, software aside, aligned smarketing teams should be able to answer the questions below.

Questions to ask:

  • At what point in the process does marketing handoff a lead to sales? What triggers it?
  • How is sales notified of the lead?
  • What is the follow-up expectation from sales? (i.e. how many days do they have before they make contact, how are they contacting the lead, etc.)

B2B Smarketing Question #7: How Does Sales Provide Feedback on Lead Quality?

In order for marketing to continue to deliver the sales team quality leads, there needs to be a feedback loop. Sales needs to communicate through lead status- the quality of the lead. This ties back all the way up to the first question about definitions.

Questions to ask:

  • How does sales communicate a rejected lead? (marketing automation software or otherwise?)
  • Does sales have a way to communicate why leads were rejected? (Poor timing, bad contact information, no budget, etc.)
  • What does marketing do with the rejected leads? Where are the leads at now?

B2B Smarketing Question #8: Do Teams Have Regular Meetings?

Actually meeting in person, having conversations, and building rapport are critical to sales and marketing alignment success. It’s so much easier to work as a team when you have a strong foundation to work from.

So how do you build rapport? Meetings. But let’s be clear, quality of meetings should be prioritized over quantity. Nothing disengages teams like pointless meetings.

Questions to ask:

  • Do teams have monthly and/or quarterly meetings?
  • Do teams have a way to easily communicate outside of meetings? (Like Slack or Skype)

The trick to these meetings are to make them engaging, yet structured. Here’s an article with some great tips for doing just that.

B2B Sales & Marketing Alignment

B2B Smarketing Key Takeaway: Communication is a Must

Do the questions above have your head spinning or wondering where to even start to begin to achieving sales and marketing harmony?

Start with communication. If there is one commonality that leads to the improvement of sales and marketing alignment, it’s communication. It fuels defining the terminology, the buyer personas, content creation, and the entire smarketing process. Whether facilitated through technology or happening in regular scheduled meetings, it’s critical.

Need a little help with your sales and marketing alignment? You’re in luck because that’s our specialty. Contact us here.  

6 Key KPIs for Sales and Marketing Alignment

According to HubSpot, 39% of marketers say proving the ROI of their marketing activities is their top marketing challenge.

Statistics aside, even anecdotally, the age-old battle of sales and marketing is centered around proving the value of ROI and activity from the often separate teams. Before you can begin to prove ROI, however, you need to determine collectively, which metrics are worth tracking.

Abnormalities in data, whether spikes or declines, can point to issues, gaps, and ultimately, misalignment. Smarketing is everything but a ‘fix it and forget it’ initiative. Measuring sales and marketing alignment may differ slightly from company to company, but there are several KPIs that hold value across the board. Here are six key KPIs for sales and marketing alignment we recommend keeping an eye on.

KPIs for Sales and Marketing Alignment

Still need to fine tune your Sales and Marketing Alignment plan? Download our Ultimate Guide to learn more.

1. Overall Revenue

Every company’s end game is to make money, therefore, everyone should be working towards the common goal of generating revenue. At Action19, we heard Josh Fedie say sales is everyone’s job. And he’s right. Revenue and sales are everybody’s job and everybody’s business quite literally.

For smarketing purposes, the overall revenue metric can be broken down a little further into marketing-sourced revenue. For example, how many leads that came in from paid social became customers? How much revenue did the customer from paid social generate? You can follow a similar deep dive across traffic sources and evaluate each channel.

2. Sales Cycle Length

Tenfold names the sales cycle length as one of the most important KPIs for sales and marketing alignment to track. Here’s the reason they said it makes their list. “The total length of the sales cycle has important consequences that ripple throughout the entire organization and shortening the buying cycle is usually particularly important to the sales and marketing teams in order to minimize bottlenecks in the process.”

In theory, the shorter the sales cycle, the more qualified the lead. Tenfold goes on to say that the tracking shouldn’t stop at just the length of the cycle overall; you should look at each stage individually to determine lags and gaps in the process.

3. Marketing Qualified Leads

HubSpot defines a marketing qualified lead (MQL) as a lead who has been deemed more likely to become a customer compared to other leads. Why? They have taken a specific set of actions and or they fit the lead criteria, like role or ideal company size. The criteria qualifying MQLs are set by both sales and marketing and are part of the foundation of the SLA. Tracking MQLs as one of your main KPIs can help you determine if your team is moving in the right direction with generating quality leads.

4. Marketing Qualified Leads to Sales Qualified Leads Conversion Rate

This conversion rate speaks to the building blocks of the sales and marketing SLA, the point in which sales evaluates leads that marketing deems qualified.

KPIs for Sales and Marketing Alignment

How leads are actually handed off to sales (typically by using software to automate the process) varies from business to business, but the value in the conversion rate does not. What is the percentage? How many MQLs are considered quality (an SQL) by sales?

This also points to why it’s critical both sales and marketing buy into the plan. If this number is low, there’s definitely a problem. Regrouping and going back to the basics can help troubleshoot and realign. 

5. Content Audit & Usage

Another key KPI to track for sales and marketing alignment is your content. How spot on is it? Does it align with target buyers? Is it attracting the right personas? All of these questions can be answered by digging deep into the data and probing to answer the following key questions about content consumption.

  • Which content offers are being downloaded? Which ones aren’t?
  • Are your target buyers downloading your offers or is your offer attracting a secondary or tertiary role?
  • Out of all of your customers, how many actually downloaded a content offer?

In taking a look at the above you’ll be able to determine if your content is in alignment with sales and marketing and benefiting your overall goals. If it’s not? You might need to consider refreshing your personas or brushing up on some keyword research. Here is a refresher on inbound marketing.

6. End to End Conversion Rate

The end to end conversion rate measures the conversion ratio for the full buyer’s journey from attraction phrase through to closing customers. According to Forbes, “Benchmarked over time this metric highlights leakages and inefficiencies between stages, sales and marketing, and enables more accurate forecasting and target performance setting.”

The more aligned an organization, the more stable the rates and rations. See a spike or dip in the data? Better start digging.

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The Sales & Marketing Alignment Meeting

Now that you have your critical KPIs to measure smarketing performance, share and circulate the data amongst the team. Do this quarterly at a minimum. Share the findings, deep dive, optimize, rinse and repeat.

4 Reasons Why Sales & Marketing SLAs Are a Must

Sales and marketing SLAs are essentially a contract between the two teams on how leads will be managed through the entire sales funnel. According to the HubSpot State of Inbound 2018, 65% of marketers whose companies have a sales & marketing SLA see a higher return on investment from their inbound marketing efforts. However, only 26% of respondents actually operate under an SLA. 

Those that have an SLA are also more likely to have a need to grow their sales team to keep up with demand, and they typically have growing inbound budgets. If you think your company is headed for sales growth, a sales and marketing SLA should be in your future. Here’s why SLAs are a must.

Why Sales & Marketing SLAs Are a Must

SLAs Define Alignment

Sales and marketing teams perspectives tend to be different because they collect and digest information differently. These differences can lead to disagreements, disconnection, or simple misunderstandings. SLAs are a must-have because they alleviate these issues by establishing a baseline for your teams’ language through shared definitions, like the following.

We’re about to talk about Lead Scoring! Download this guide and follow along.

  • Customer personas – Sales may not have even utilized personas before this process. We guarantee, though, they’d be able to explain the details of the customers they prefer to speak with. Have marketing and sales use a combination of data and direct feedback to create a more clear picture than ever of your ideal customers.
  • Funnel & customer journeys – Chances are, both of your teams are using some kind of a funnel.  They are probably focused on very different stages and outcomes, though. Combine everything into a single funnel with lead stages assigned appropriately.
  • Lead/MQL/SQL – What’s the difference between a lead, an MQL, and an SQL? What are the criteria for defining each? Setting up lead scorning criteria together can help collaboratively define the terms.
  • Handoff point – One of the most important pieces of the alignment puzzle is the lead handoff. This is a defined point in the customer journey when marketing has done their part and it is time for sales to take over. Lead scoring can help here by setting the trigger point for the handoff, but no matter how you do it, make sure everyone understands and agrees on when.

SLAs Set Goals

Misaligned sales and marketing teams are typically hard-working and dedicated; they are just working hard toward very different goals. A lack of visibility into the other team’s focus and goals can actually lead to conflicting efforts, i.e. – Marketing is testing a price increase, but Sales is pushing for discounts. Having an SLA in place will calibrate your expectations on goals between teams. 

Establishing shared goals will allow your teams to start working in the same direction. Here are a few things to keep in mind when creating your goals.

  • Numerical/revenue goals – It’s fine to have a couple of soft goals, but most of your goals should be hard numbers tied to revenue and easily trackable. [Click here for a SMART Goals Template.]
  • Time-driven goals – When would you like to accomplish your goals? Aim for both short and long-term goals. Then, establish a rhythm of when progress will be reviewed, and be open to the idea that goals may need to be adjusted as everything is established.

Sales and marketing SLAs

SLAs Build Transparency and Accountability

One of the biggest reasons you need a sales and marketing SLA is its ability to address misunderstandings on team functions and contributions perpetuated by the absence of transparency. Laying out goals and roles in a shared SLA allows everyone to know who is responsible for what.”Marketing does X, then Sales does Y.” Having an SLA in place eliminates the, “I didn’t know”s and the, “I thought that was his job”s.

Want to know what a functional SLA looks like? Check out ours.

Additionally, an SLA provides structure around how each person and team will contribute directly to the goals.  Built into your sales and marketing SLA will be predetermined ways to measure this success or failure. Support these definitions with clear tracking metrics and reporting systems accessible to everybody involved.

This allows everyone to understand exactly how they contribute to their own personal goals, and how those goals contribute to the overall efforts of the alignment. It also allows them to see how others contribute and compare their own efforts to those of others on their team.

This level of understanding, transparency, and acceptance of responsibility allows you to have buy-in and accountability from every angle.

SLAs Encourage Commitment

People tend to feel more connected to something they help create. The individual contributors on your teams should be included in the process of creating the SLA and everything that goes into it. Including them will establish buy-in from the very beginning. These individuals also have the most accurate information to bring to the table because they are the ones doing the work day-to-day. You can combine all of their experiences and feedback to create the most accurate agreement.

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Furthermore, each individual and team is more likely to adhere to their specific accountabilities and goals because they are publically set and agreed upon by everybody. People are, in general, less likely to stray from their responsibilities when everybody will know if they fail. Essentially, peer pressure will work in your favor when it comes to SLAs. 

Lead Scoring 2.0- A Deeper Dive

Lead scoring is a great way to use real data to understand what kind of lead is going to be the most likely to turn into a sale or customer for your products or solutions (click here to go back to the basics). Is this person potentially a good fit for your product or solution based on their similarities or differences to your current customers? Are they a decision maker? Do they have a need or interest in your product or solution? Have they viewed a webinar, spent some time on your pricing page, started a free trial?

Lead scoring helps you understand and compile all of this information and presents you with a score for any given lead. You decide which demographics (age, location, role) and possible actions (visited landing page, viewed webinar, requested demo) are most important and you give them a positive points value, there can also be negative points for things that make a person less likely to purchase. The score can and will change as the lead continues to take different actions. So, what kinds of things can you do with a lead scoring system? Follow along.

Lead Scoring Deep Dive

Take a deep dive into your data

You’ve used a CRM system for a couple of years now but have never done anything with all of the records, do you know you are actually sitting on a gold mine worth of data points?

Want more info on lead scoring? Download Lake One’s guide!

Maybe you haven’t gotten around to diving into all of that data quite yet, but now is the time because you could be missing out on great leads while your salespeople spin the wheels on long-shot, cold leads. Here are a few things we recommend taking a look at as part of your deep dive:

  • Look at your leads that ended up in purchases and what kind of journey they took to get to that point. Do you see any trends in their visits? The number of times they came back before speaking with a salesperson? How many times they were contacted before a connection was made?
  • Get a handle on all of the forms on your site and decide which are most important to the customer journey. Rank your website pages specifically for lead scoring; perhaps your demo and pricing pages are quite high values with case studies, features, and customer reviews falling in next.
  • Check out the purchasing contacts and see if there are trends in their demographics. Are they all C-level executives? You can even take a closer look to see if the demographics of these contacts match those of your current ideal customer personas.
  • Consider the account level demographics: industry, company size/employee count, total revenue. You can provide both account and contact level scores for each lead.

As you understand more and more which specific data points make a purchase more likely, you can start to rank and assign them points by order of importance or relevance. Lead scoring isn’t a perfect science and you should be open to changing things both as you get it set up initially and as your company, products, and customers evolve. It’s not something you should set and leave forever.

Lead Scoring Deep Dive

Define lead “buckets” and assign next steps

There are many different types of leads and stages in a customer journey. Lead buckets are filled around the defining points in that journey. Lead buckets make it easy to understand which leads are high, medium, or low priority, as well as who should own next steps with the lead. This can allow you to target users with content or action relevant to their current position along the buying process, which according to Aberdeen Market Intelligence yields 72% higher conversion rates.

You can have a couple of buckets for marketing nurtured leads, one for marketing qualified ready to be passed over to sales, a couple for the different urgency levels for sales, and another bucket for those that were sent to sales and then rejected or lost. This entire process can really be as simple or complex as you want including as many or few buckets as necessary for your unique customer journey.

Build the relationship between your sales and marketing teams

It’s no secret that when sales and marketing teams are aligned and work well together, everyone is happier and the results go up. Involving both teams in the lead scoring process can bring them closer together. Allow them to figure out which data points are important and work together to define and score both MQLs and a SQLs. [This process is called creating an SLA. Read about it, here.]

Understanding these important parts within the funnel first-hand will allow for clearer handoff points and better cross-team responsibility understanding. This cooperative approach provides a single source of truth so there won’t be any finger pointing or blame, the numbers will tell an accurate story of lead quality and customer journeys.

4. Bonus points

There are countless creative ways to utilize lead scoring to better understand and serve your prospects and customers.

Lead score for specific products or solutions

If you have a wide range of offerings, serve multiple industries, or have widely varying price points, you can use lead scoring to define which types of leads would be the best fit for specific products or solutions.

A/B Testing

If you have a lot of data points, it can be difficult to know which ones have more of an effect over others. You can run different iterations of your lead scoring program. Keep all but one or two points the same so you can see which results in more closed leads to create more accurate scoring moving forward. There is no limit to how many times you can do this, so it should be something you do fairly often on an ongoing basis.

Lead Scoring Guide

Use scoring for your existing customers

One buying journey ending in a purchase is just the beginning of your customer’s overall experience with your company and product/s. Your current customers most likely don’t immediately purchase everything you have to offer meaning there may be opportunities to expand their portfolio. Lead scoring for account managers can help raise renewal rates and increase sales of additional products or solutions.

6 Lead Follow Up Strategies

Your marketing campaigns are hugely successful, you’re gathering and utilizing tons of valuable data, and pulling in dozens of qualified leads per week. Now what? Someone needs to follow up with all of those leads. Believe it or not, there is just as much science and finesse to the follow up as the marketing itself. Here are a few suggestions to allow your lead follow up to be as successful as your marketing campaigns.

Lead Follow-Up Strategies

Understand the Difference Between Hot, Warm, and Cold Leads

Not every lead is created equal. Just like each customer is unique, so is each lead that comes in from a prospective customer. Even though you’ll notice trends and may start to feel like you’re having the same conversations over and over again, each situation will have slight variations. An important aspect of telling the difference between leads will be understanding which are hot, warm, and cold.

Looking to increase the quantity  and quality of your leads? Read up on Lead Scoring.

Hot lead – Someone who fits the profile of some of your best current customers, has the means to make a purchase, and is ready to do so now or in the very near future.

Warm lead – A prospect who shares some similarities with your ideal customer and has demonstrated interest in your product or solution. These leads may not be quite ready to make a purchase because of timing, budget, or some other factor, but they’re good ones to keep in touch with because your product or solution can actually help them.

Cold lead – This category can include everything from complete spam to someone that is legitimately confused about what your product or service is and doesn’t understand that it won’t solve their issue.

Once you’ve started to identify some trends, it may be a good idea to take a look at some real data and set up a lead scoring system. This is where you deep dive into the details of what specific factors indicate a lead is really ready to buy. Is it that they visited your pricing page or spent 20 minutes on your features site, requested a demo, signed away the rights to their first-born child? OK, probably not that last one. But a good data analyst will be able to find correlations in the data that will help you to set up a scoring system to organize and prioritize which leads to reach out to more urgently. Read about the basics of Lead Scoring, here.

Timing & Strategy

Timing is everything when it comes to lead follow up. Research suggests that calling a lead within 5-10 minutes gives you the best shot at connecting with them. Most likely, if a lead really is hot, they’ll be looking to confirm some information or ask a couple of questions. Having the ability to do that within a couple of minutes of providing their information, while it’s top of mind, can help them make their final purchasing decision more quickly.

lead follow up strategies

It’s understandable that it may not be possible to call every single lead that comes in within 5-10 minutes, especially if the leads come in at times when there is no sales coverage like overnight or on the weekends. This is where a little automation could play an important role (see the next section).

The next step after the initial touch will be a strategy for how many times to reach out total and the timing of those attempts. This may take some experimentation and testing to find what works best for your prospective customers. You’ll want to aim for a balance of being persistent and regular enough to get noticed, but not being overbearing or annoying.

Automation vs. Personalization

If you are part of a small company just getting started, you may be able to respond to every lead that comes in. If you have the capacity to do so, you absolutely should. In the beginning, even some of the leads that turn out to be a dead end are going to be educational. They’ll allow you to tweak your messaging and content to make your offerings and solutions more clear from the start.

As you grow, or if you are a part of a company that brings in several leads per day, you may have to use some automation in order to respond in a timely fashion to everyone. You can also use that first response as somewhat of a vetting process. Use tracking software to see who opens the message, who clicks on links within the message, and of course, who replies.

Are your marketing and sales teams working together to automate the sales process? Here are some best practices you should be including.

The idea here is to find harmony between the two. If you automate too heavily, chances are you will come across as too canned and as though you don’t actually value your prospective customers enough to give them personal attention. If you personalize too much and spend too much time on each lead, you may lose other leads because you take too long to respond or simply never get to them.

To get started, create a couple of different email templates for the different responses that you find yourself creating often. Personalize each one before you actually send it. You can even utilize software that will pull in a contact’s name, but you should ALWAYS double check that it is correct. Misspelling someone’s name, or worse, calling them [CONTACTNAME] will most likely lose that lead.

Be Creative

The truth is we are all in a state of constant information overload with our devices attached to our hips and wrists. Everything we do seems that it requires our email address, and our inboxes have thousands of ignored, unread messages.

lead follow up strategies

In order to be noticed amongst those thousands of messages, you need to figure out how to stand out from all of that noise. One way to add some creativity to your responses is to vary your methods of response.

According to Mobile Marketing Watch, 98% of all text messages are opened compared to 22% of emails. If a phone number is something you receive from a lead, shoot them a well-thought-out text with a simple call-to-action. Some forward-thinking sales and marketing people are also jumping in on the popularity of video and using video introductions to a specific salesperson in their lead follow up.

Offer Value!

The most creative, eye-catching headlines, content, and graphics will turn some eyes your way. To keep them, you need to actually offer something valuable once you have that attention. There is no faster way to get someone to never look at your messages again than to send nonsense that was designed just to get a click. [Here are some examples of things you don’t want to do in your follow up process.]

Of all of the recommendations, this is probably the most important. If you aren’t offering immediate value, there will be no reason for a person to continue reading and especially not a reason to consider responding to you.

It’s Not Over After the First Conversation

You’ve had a great conversation, you told your prospective customer all of the ways your products can solve all of their problems and make their lives 10,000% easier. Excellent. That’s one of the hardest battles to make it through. However, you aren’t done there. Your job as a salesperson isn’t done until that person becomes a customer or decides they don’t want what you are offering.

Lead Scoring Guide

Every single time you communicate with a prospect, there should be some kind of request for them to take a next step or Call-to-Action (CTA). You want the CTA to be something that will ultimately be beneficial to the prospect. Ideally, it’s best if you can ask open-ended questions that require more than a yes or no response to get them thinking and allow you to learn more information.