How to Align Marketing, Sales and Customer Success

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 7.00.09 AMThis is article #18 out of 50 in The Startup Marketing Playbook.

Modern B2B startups look at sales and marketing as one cohesive unit responsible for generating revenue. Marketing owns the top of the funnel (generating leads), sales owns the middle of the funnel (converting leads to opportunities and customers) and, in the SaaS world, customer success owns the bottom of the funnel (retaining and upselling customers).

Successful organizations understand that in order to convert leads to customers, and retain them, each stage of the funnel must work in unison. This requires tight alignment between sales, marketing and customer success. Marketing must generate the right number of qualified leads, sales needs to provide adequate pipeline coverage to close, and customer success must properly onboard, deliver on sales promises and prevent cancellations.

To make each funnel stage work together, consider the following:

1. Share metrics

Starting with sales targets, everyone on the team should be aligned on what resources are needed to meet the period’s target. If the goal is 10 new customers in a month, and the MQL > Customer conversion is about 10%, marketing needs to provide sales with at least 100 MQLs to work and move through the funnel. Using a CRM and marketing automation system like Hubspot enables the team to see all of this data in real time, and adjust sales and marketing activities accordingly.

2. Develop an SLA

An SLA (service level agreement) is an outline of what each functional area agrees to deliver to make the funnel a success. For example:

  • Marketing agrees to deliver 100 MQLs per month
  • Sales agrees to respond to all MQLs within 24 hours to schedule a demo
  • Customer Success agrees to connect with all customers once per month and understand their product usage to prevent churn

This agreement should actually be discussed and documented with the leaders of each functional area. Having the expectations clear and in writing keeps everyone on the same page.

3. Communicate constantly

Great alignment starts with great relationships. The leaders of sales, marketing and customer success should be intimately familiar with each other’s roles, challenges, and growth plans. Think of these three leaders as the “funnel dream team”… each one leading the charge to move a target successfully through a stage of the funnel.

On a regular basis, these leaders should be meeting to review:

  • Lead quality
  • Pipeline stage conversion
  • Specific lead journeys and where they may have dropped off
  • Effectiveness of sales collateral

4. Gather feedback from the bottom of the funnel

The Customer Success team is working with customers daily, delivering the product that was marketed and sold. Rely on them to feed the sales and marketing teams with quality customer feedback, use cases, and insight to tighten marketing messaging and sales demos.

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