Most organizations agree that B2B events are critical to success. In fact, 95% of leaders believe in-person events can have a major impact on achieving business goals.
Trade shows, conferences and exhibitions are where account-based marketing comes to life. They give marketers a chance to schedule potential customers into meetings and sessions, which allow salespeople to engage each prospect individually. Using their combined powers, they can drive the sales pipeline, generate revenue growth and maximize event ROI.
However, sales and marketing teams have to work together efficiently for that to happen. Unfortunately, they don’t often see eye-to-eye on how to make the engagement process as seamless and efficient as possible. This disconnect is at least partly due to the complex process of live customer engagement and appointment scheduling, which in turn stands in the way of B2B sales, advancing pipeline, customer experience and so on.
So, it begs the question: How do you eliminate sales and marketing misalignment?
In this brief guide, we’ll explore the value of alignment, why it’s so difficult to achieve, and 10 best practices you can use to align sales and marketing around a B2B customer engagement strategy.
Understanding the value of sales and marketing alignment
Organizations are like one big happy family. But, as with most families, relatives tend to butt heads with one another. There’s no better example of this than sales and marketing misalignment.
Indeed, sales representatives and marketing professionals are constantly at odds. Although they’re equally essential to their enterprise’s long-term success, they tend to play to their own tune rather than working in harmony. This can have significant consequences.
For instance, failure to align sales and marketing costs business worldwide more than $1 trillion annually, according to Harvard Business Review. In fact, it’s the number one reason revenue growth stagnates or declines.
By contrast, the opposite is also true: When salespeople and marketing align, organizations perform better. Connecting the two can help:
- Increase sales pipeline by simplifying meeting scheduling with internal experts and executives for warm opportunities.
- Increase win rate on B2B sales opportunities.
- Optimize conversion rate and accelerate the sales cycle by optimizing the customer journey.
- Help the sales team close deals by improving lead quality.
- Offer a better customer experience during meetings and sessions.
- Empower the marketing department to book more customer engagements.
- Maximize the ROI of your events and marketing programs.
Overall, alignment increases revenue because customer-facing teams can speak with one cohesive voice. It also increases efficiency, reducing wasted time and resources spent working against each other. Rather than operating in their own silos, alignment bridges the gap between the sales and marketing team and encourages them to collaboratively further business objectives.
Sales vs. marketing: Who’s winning the blame game?
The truth is that many organizations fail to achieve alignment. When it comes to placing blame, salespeople and marketers like to point fingers at each other. So, who’s really at fault?
Consider the following two facts:
- Only 10-15% of sales leads make it to the bottom of the sales funnel and convert into deals. And, just 5% of sales reps say that leads acquired through their company’s marketing efforts are high quality.
- Meanwhile, 61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to the sales department. However, the sales team engages with only 27% of them.
Clearly, both departments are equally responsible. But what’s going wrong? Where does sales and marketing misalign come from? Let’s take a closer look at the most common factors.
Firstly, goals are often misaligned. Even the definition of a qualified lead may differ between departments. This is because both are concentrating on opposite ends of the same spectrum, rather than working together to complement each other’s strengths. The marketing team handles brand awareness, lead generation and meeting scheduling, but that doesn’t always translate into conversion. The sales team may have a pipeline full of prospects, but they don’t always convert into customers.
Secondly, sales and marketing leaders too often use different tools and technologies that don’t integrate well with one another, meaning their data is siloed and disconnected. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to truly qualify high-quality leads, book them into meetings and increase your odds of conversion.
So, although both teams have distinct objectives, they’re equally focused on key elements that drive revenue, reach positive outcomes and build a stronger brand (such as B2B customer engagements). Focusing on this overlap is a key starting point for aligning sales and marketing and optimizing your B2B event strategy.
10 best practices to align sales and marketing around B2B engagements
Growth-focused marketing teams invest heavily in events and campaigns with a goal to increase customer engagements for creating and advancing pipeline. Bridging the gap with sales won’t happen overnight, but with the following best practices, you can greatly increase the return on marketing investments.
1. Develop cohesive buyer personas
Sales reps and marketing leaders have to understand who they’re targeting on a granular level. The more deeply they understand the target audience the better.
Outline a handful of buyer personas you’d expect to attend a trade show or conference, including influencers and key decision makers. This not only helps the marketing department develop the right messages and plan the right meetings and sessions with the most relevant prospects, but also empowers salespeople to identify the right opportunities to invite for the event.
2. Map the customer journey
Understanding the buyer is one thing, but to know how they buy is entirely another. Creating a step-by-step map of the customer journey can be extremely helpful in achieving alignment.
Connect the dots between where a prospect is in their individual journey and where they are in your sales funnel. This enables sales and marketing to decide which engagement type best suits their needs at that time.
For instance, potential customers at the consideration phase may be looking to learn more about their options. Marketers can offer educational sessions or demo meetings for signup. Or, if they’re ready to make a decision, sales representatives can seal the deal by setting up an executive meeting.
3. Established shared goals
What are you hoping to accomplish at the event? What’s the ultimate goal? Are you increasing awareness for your products, educating attendees about new innovations or advancing sales pipeline that drives revenue?
Whatever the underlying objective, identify at least one common goal that both sales and marketing can work toward. You may even have multiple — either way, having a shared goal that directly impacts the company’s broader initiatives will set both teams on the right path. More importantly, it ensures your event marketing efforts align with your organization’s strategic priorities.
Ideally, choose objectives that mutually benefit both departments so they can work together to achieve them.
4. Define your common metrics
Sales and marketing teams must also be speaking the same language in terms of how they measure performance. Based on your shared goal, identify metrics that link back to your big-picture definition of success. Some examples include:
- Meeting attendance rate.
- Deal conversion rate.
- Lead-to-meeting ratio.
- Meeting room utilization.
- Demo stations used.
5. Align roles and responsibilities
It’s crucial that all team members know their responsibilities at a B2B event and how they contribute to its overall success.
When it comes to engagement, the marketing team should be focused on facilitating meetings and sessions. From optimizing booth space to empowering sales reps, their job is to ensure that customer engagements are as impactful as possible. This includes pre-programming the event by offering multiple meeting types and sessions, and by booking meetings via inbound requests.
For sales, outbound engagement is the name of the game. Their role is to reach out to potential customers, leverage existing relationships, schedule appointments and contextualize the meeting for internal participants, such as executives and subject matter experts.
6. Identify key accounts
Using their mutual expertise and historical knowledge of their target audience, sales and marketing should together decide which attendees are of the highest value. These key accounts are those that may have the best chance of conversion or represent the greatest impact on your broader objectives. Knowing this information in advance allows team members to target high-value prospects more effectively.
7. Encourage collaboration
It should be easy for marketers to share data with the sales department and vice versa. The best way to break down silos is to deploy technologies that integrate their tools together.
For example, a robust meeting scheduling platform like Jifflenow’s eEvent software can seamlessly coexist with sales and marketing automation tools, including Salesforce or HubSpot. With shared data, teams can stay on the same page and easily funnel insights from one department to another.
8. Automate the meeting scheduling workflow
Different time zones, hundreds of engagements, onsite and offsite meeting locations, internal participants and dozens of calendars — needless to say, the meeting scheduling process is complex. Traditional and basic tools don’t suffice.
In contrast, a meeting scheduling automation platform can streamline the workflow and help you optimize bookings. It automates inbound approval processes, appointment reminders and notifications to avoid no-shows and conflicts. Better yet, it can map internal team members to specific engagement types, topics and locations — greatly reducing the administrative burden of manually connecting prospects to the most relevant sales reps. Attendees can simply choose an available time slot based on topics of interest and their requests will be automatically or manually confirmed based on predefined criteria.
9. Create a feedback loop
It’s important for sales and marketing to meet before, during and after an event. These sessions allow you to identify key areas of focus, address challenges and decide on next steps.
It helps to have a meeting scheduling tool that automatically collects engagement data and makes them accessible in real time via on-demand reports. Share these insights during the debriefing to establish areas of improvement.
10. Feed insights back into your strategy
Lastly, gather your collected feedback and funnel them into your event marketing program. Evaluate meeting data to understand performance at a deeper level and how your engagements track back to your overall objectives. Over time, these insights enable you to drive continuous improvement.
Continue your quest for sales and marketing alignment
Sales and marketing alignment is absolutely critical for B2B event success. It’s hard to achieve, but it’s a lot easier when you’re leveraging best practices — and even simpler with Jifflenow’s meeting scheduling automation platform.
For more insights like these, checkout our library of resources designed for marketing and sales leaders.