How B2B Startups Can Unlock Growth By Establishing Strong Sales and Marketing Alignment
November 20, 2020
There is no question that B2B startups are tasked with achieving aggressive revenue goals — and these growth expectations largely fall on Sales and Marketing. Both teams want high quality leads that convert (ideally within an expedited Sales cycle) into closed won revenue.
LinkedIn’s research reveals that 87 percent of Sales and Marketing leaders believe that collaboration between the two teams enables business growth, and 85 percent believe that alignment across the Sales and Marketing teams is the best opportunity they have for improving their business performance.
Therefore, a B2B startup’s Sales and Marketing alignment is a crucial factor in how quickly it can scale revenue.
Amanda Bates, who formerly led LinkedIn Marketing’s very own demand generation strategy, is now the Head of Growth Marketing at mental health startup Ginger. Below, Amanda shares her approach to developing and strengthening Sales and Marketing alignment from the ground up at Ginger.
Answers to B2B Startups’ Most Asked Questions on Sales & Marketing Alignment Success
Startup Spotlight: How do you inspire teams to prioritize Sales and Marketing alignment?
Amanda Bates: I learned early in my career that Sales & Marketing alignment was the key to success for a demand generation marketer. It’s something I take to every team I lead; my team talks about it on a daily basis.
Today, we have a good relationship with our Sales team and I believe we are building our way towards a strong partnership. When I arrived at Ginger just over eight months ago the Sales & Marketing relationship was not very strong. There was some distrust amongst the teams and some improvements could be made in collaboration. Building a strong relationship became a top priority for my team.
Startup Spotlight: What are the foundational building blocks that ensure successful partnership between Sales and Marketing?
Amanda Bates: My approach to alignment is to always first build trust with Sales. I over-communicate with Sales leadership and give full transparency in reporting. I never want Sales leadership to be caught by surprise in numbers being shared internally. If Sales doesn’t agree with numbers Marketing is reporting, it makes for a very rocky relationship. This includes alignment on definitions for our KPI’s like “Marketing Sourced Opportunities” and “Marketing Influenced Opportunities”.
After establishing trust and transparency, I can then work with Sales to define and align on goals and finally to have a regular cadence of information sharing to allow for open collaboration. Working towards a common goal helps to keep the teams aligned and strategic about the work we are doing.
Startup Spotlight: What are some tactics you use to build trust and transparency?
Amanda Bates: At Ginger, we worked towards building a strong Sales and Marketing alignment by doing the following:
- Setup a regular meeting cadence with Sales Operations (weekly) and our VP of Sales (monthly)
- Revamped our reporting strategy and definitions to gain alignment with Sales
- Review metrics weekly or bi-weekly with key partners like Sales operations and the Sales development tea
- Built out a lead scoring program, educated Sales on the program, and rolled out in partnership with Sales
- Include them in the review process for new campaigns, events and other tactics so they can share valuable feedback and input
When I was at LinkedIn I would attend the Sales team quarterly planning session. I got to see firsthand the results the team was driving and where the challenges or trouble spots were. I was able to help brainstorm ways Marketing could better support the team in the moment. This also gave me in-person time to build relationships with my sales colleagues. We saw each other as extensions of our own teams and that really drove the success of both of our teams.
Startup Spotlight: What success metrics should Sales and Marketing use to align?
Amanda Bates: For this fiscal year we look at the number of Marketing qualified leads generated and the number of opportunities created. We look at both Marketing sourced opportunities and Marketing influenced opportunities.
We have two types of leads defined as Marketing Qualified leads.The first type of lead is a “contact us” lead, when a prospect raises their hand and wants to be contacted to learn more about the company and products. These leads are all automatically pushed either to our Sales team. The second type of lead includes those that come through content downloads and webinars/event registrants. We use lead scoring to determine if they should be passed to Sales. Our fairly simple lead scoring in Hubspot looks at both demographic data on the lead and marketing activity. Combined, these two make up a lead score and we use that to pass these leads to Sales when they hit a specific threshold.
In the coming year we hope to expand our KPI’s and goals to look at the number of closed won opportunities and dollars generated. We will also evaluate multi-touch attribution to help us understand the impact our programs have throughout the funnel. We are now building out a more robust reporting system to start getting at the ROI on our campaigns now that we have the foundation for reporting built. This will be key to helping us determine if we continue to run programs and what channels are most effective.
Startup Spotlight: What collaboration processes drive improvement in alignment overtime?
Amanda Bates: Data has been key to our success. We are looking at the number of leads generated, MQLs, opportunities created and closed won/lost opportunities. It has really helped us learn what is working and what is not working. In Marketing the best way to learn is to test and hopefully you can build a strong enough relationship with your Sales team that they will not only understand sometimes experiments fail but that they will be a key partner in sharing feedback on what is working and what is not working. Transparency and accountability are also key here. If you try something new and it doesn’t work then be honest with your Sales team. Share the learnings you had and then try something new.
Startup Spotlight: How has improved Sales & Marketing alignment helped your business?
Amanda Bates: This year we unlocked two key growth opportunities from our experiments in partnership with Sales:
- Our targeting experiments enabled us to unlock new segments. Our team at Ginger was previously focused on a set of target accounts. This strategy was great for reaching Enterprise accounts but did not allow us to capture a lot of the SMB market. We began testing to expand our targeting strategy to focus on companies mid-size or larger and have grown our internal database nearly tripling the amount of growth compared to 2019. This allows us to nurture our leads more, surface new Marketing qualified leads and gives us a larger audience to market to for webinars and virtual events.
- Our content experiments confirmed there was value in prioritizing agility across our team to produce relevant and timely content. For example, as we approached September going back to school surfaced as a top priority for many employers due to parents working from home and kids learning virtually. We decided to create a piece with tips for employers on how to help employees balance both and we got tons of interest both in terms of the leads generated and great conversation started for the Sales team which gave them a reason to reach out to prospects. This resulted in us scaling our learnings to produce multiple pieces around election stress to keep the conversation relevant.
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