Misalignment sucks. 

Anyone managing a Sales Development program realizes pretty quickly how important alignment is to the success or failure of your plan.  

After experiencing the relationship between Sales and Marketing on many levels, I believe it all boils down to one word: trust.   

Trust is a big word and it’s been written about extensively

In this context, I’m talking about the trust built between Sales and Marketing leadership, and its importance to a successful Sales Development program. 

Trust answers the questions: Does Sales leadership believe Marketing has their best interests in mind?  Do they trust the metrics they’re getting from Marketing?  Does Marketing trust Sales is taking the leads they are creating and following up properly?  Can key players talk openly about their concerns and are those concerns followed up on?

Unfortunately, if that trust is not there, Sales Development is stuck in the middle, like a kid in a bad divorce.  The program may limp along for while, but it will not reach it’s full potential, and may ultimately fail.    

The results of a lack of trust show up similarly to the divorce scenario, and can be just as costly to your business; the silent killers of confusion, low morale, burnout and attrition.  I’ll go into detail about how this plays out.  

With more and more companies focused on making Sales Development a key part of their growth strategy, and investing heavily in its success, what’s the best way to avoid the broken trust scenario? 

The 3 Key Factors.  

My advice: build trust from the top, build it early, and do whatever you can to ensure the following three factors are lined up and organized as soon as possible: 

1. Critical Sales Development metrics and reports are agreed upon across the board by senior Sales and Marketing management. 

2. There is visible, vocal support from senior management, ideally the CEO, around the mission of Sales Development.

3. There is an agreed upon vocabulary and Service Level Agreement across Sales and Marketing.   

Let’s go through them:

1. Critical Sales Development metrics and reports are agreed upon across the board by senior Sales and Marketing management.  

Trust starts at the top.  Whether Sales Development reports to Marketing or Sales doesn’t matter as long as everyone involved is on the same page around what is important, what is tracked and what is reported. 

If one side thinks phone calls per day is important, but the other side is only looking at meetings set and accepted, there will be a problem.  If one side believes pipeline is the metric, but the other side believes it’s BANT leads, there will be a problem.  If Sales wants to hear lots of loud phone activity, but Marketing has determined the targets prefer silent chats and emails, there will be a problem.  

If the head of Sales and Marketing are looking at different reports, tracking different metrics and emphasizing different agendas, it causes the Sales Development leader to scramble to give everyone what they need, and nobody ends up happy.

What happens when nobody agrees on reports?  The Sales Development leader burns calories building reports that are glanced at and forgotten. Most likely, the person asking for the report just ends up asking for more reports, or different reports.  No one will be satisfied with what they’re getting and go around talking about what a lousy job somebody else is doing. Finger pointing ensues. 

Worse, the Sales Development team hears conflicting messages.  Make more cold calls! No, send more emails! No, hit Linkedin! No, more cold calling!  It becomes noise to the SDR, and they end up tuning out… 

My recommendation: from the very beginning, sit down cross-departmentally and figure out the 5 or 6 things that are most important to everyone involved.  Make a sane schedule for checking on those metrics. If either side doesn’t trust the numbers being presented, they should seek out the truth on their own, and have enough trust in their relationship to have and open and constructive conversation to resolve it.  Don’t fix the blame, fix the problem. 

2. There is visible, vocal support from senior management, ideally the CEO, around the mission of Sales Development.

Get clear on the value of Sales Development. They are not appointment setters, secretaries or “phone jockeys”. They are a critical support link in the revenue chain.  They pitch your value proposition and talk to potential customers all day. They refine and enhance the ideal customer profile in real time, and add that information to your Salesforce. They are constantly gathering information on what is resonating in your marketing message.  They are the next generation of sales people at your company.  Their input and impact on your organization is extremely valuable. 

Senior management should make a point to celebrate wins, support Sales Development management, arbitrate disputes and remove roadblocks.  They should set clear direction, champion the mission of Sales Development, and add detailed feedback.  Take a focused interest.  

When the program is taking seriously it will build trust, foster collaboration and make iteration easier, because people are talking openly and honestly.  They feel valued by the organization and confident to step up and communicate wins, losses and lessons. 

3. There is an agreed upon vocabulary and Service Level Agreement across Sales and Marketing.   

Whatever framework you agree upon, be it the SiriusDecisions Waterfall or others, map it out, describe it and agree upon the vocabulary everyone is going to use.  All members across the Sales and Marketing organization should be speaking the same language and moving toward the same goal, revenue.  What is a Lead? What is Contact? When do you start an Opportunity? 

Now that everyone is speaking the same language, need make sure they know who’s responsible for each part of the lead handoff. That’s where your Service Level Agreement will come in.  Each part of the lead handoff framework should be plotted out by date and tracked in Salesforce.  Reports should be set up (see point 1) that are agreed up and monitored regularly for red and yellow flags. 

The team responsible for creating the SLA should meet regularly to review and iterate it.  Over time, trust will be built that either side has theirs handled, and they know what they’re doing. 

There you have it.  Easier said than done, but if you can these right, you’ll have a better chance of success in transforming your Sales and Marketing silos into one unified force: the Revenue team.  

Do you have any recommendations?  If yes, please add them below.  Thanks. 

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