Five top tips to align your sales and marketing teams

24th Aug 2012

Joe Cordo explains how bringing personas and buyer profiles together can better align the departments.

According to Marketing Sherpa, almost 75% of all leads are never sales ready. Therefore is it any wonder that sales and marketing alignment remains a critical, but paradoxical trend? Where’s the confusion? Put simply, at the most basic level and the language that the two organisations speak, marketing talks about personas, and sales thinks in terms of buyer profiles. Bring them together, and the convergence of sales and marketing alignment begins. 
After all, the ultimate goal of sales and marketing alignment is to drive a collaborative revenue engine. The efficiency of that engine, however, is based on the level of customer and sales intelligence that is available to both sales and marketing throughout the customer lifecycle. To better align both organisations it is recommended that the company establish a mutually agreed upon buyer persona that can be achieved by following these five tips:  

Tip #1 - Target markets, segments and sales territories

Even before sales and marketing talk about personas and buyer profiles, fundamental agreement needs to take place on how target markets, segments and sales territories align. What’s fundamental is what accounts and markets get penetrated by the two groups. Once the two come to an agreement on that fundamental, consistency is established that begins to bring together the persona and buyer profile.
What’s particularly helpful at this stage is early agreement between the lead marketing and sales executives, i.e. the VP level. Of course to get to that stage, a top down or bottom up agreement among the marketing and sales groups need to take place regarding the organisation’s target markets, segments, and sales territories.

Tip #2 - Use only one term: buyer persona

Too often, marketing and sales teams come together, and spend too much time discussing their view of personas and buyer profiles. Confusion readily sets in, with marketers having difficulty grasping the concepts of buyers and influencers, while the sales organisation discounts the value of demographic and firmographic information.
Put buyer persona on the table as the standard term, and then build the definition. Start by creating a mapping of the buyer persona. Have both marketing and sales list the attributes of their definition of the buyer persona and find the intersections between the attributes. You might be very surprised to find new buyer personas emerge for marketers to target, or see a demonstrable willingness by sales to commit to follow up activity for particular campaigns.

Tip #3 - Focus the buyer persona on marketing and sales goals

Creating the buyer persona based on customer profile data, a composite of your sales pipeline, and opinions will only create a marginally useful buyer persona and the resulting alignment will only be at the surface level. Think about it, a detailed buyer persona mapped to marketing and sales goals at each stage of the customer life cycle results in higher conversion rates and an accelerated sales cycle. Marketing benefits because its campaigns are much more relevant to the buyer, and sales has a more qualified and educated prospect.
In creating the buyer persona, detail the marketing and sales goals that help provide a more concrete detail of the buyer(s) for each stage. Examples of these goals include:
  • The stage in which the economic buyer is marketed and sold too
  • The stages in which user and technical influencers are marketed and sold too
  • The creation of customised stages, and the resultant buyer personas, for upsell and cross-sell opportunities
Taking it another step, and making it even more visual, draw the stages as a roadmap and personalise the buyer personas with images of real people and their attributes.

Tip #4 - Don’t honeycomb buyer personas

In other words, error on the side of keeping your personas simple as there is always a tendency to overcomplicate buyer personas. After all, in any buying decision there is a level of overlapping responsibility and complexity. Trying to create sophisticated interconnected relationships among buyer personas, like a honeycomb effect, is sure to complicate and polarise the sales and marketing team.
Strive to focus on individual responsibility and the attributes of your buyer personas, rather than making broad assumptions about interconnected relationships. While useful in mapping out an account, creating those interconnected relationships when applying them to a segment or a market, creates confusion.

Tip #5 - Use the completed buyer personas to tell a story

The completed buyer personas should tell a story. That story should be comprehensive from the buyer perspective, i.e. their needs, levels of satisfaction, and the return-on-investment, as well as how sales and marketing will meet those buyer needs.
A useful exercise is to create a role play around the buyer personas. Play out the roles of the buyer, marketer, and sales person. When all three are aligned around concrete value, the buyer persona is at a level that can be implemented into your sales and marketing processes. Take the role playing to another level, and test it out against different stages of the customer lifecycle. Note the changes in behaviors, and reflect them in your personas.
After all, a unified set of buyer personas will create foundational alignment for sales and marketing. This enables them to be fully dedicated to achieving the interconnected goals of both teams, and more importantly to ensure revenue goal attainment.
Joe Cordo is CMO of Extraprise, a leader in right time revenue optimization for B2B and B2C enterprises, providing database marketing and demand generation services.

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By David Evans
27th Sep 2012 16:16

One way of combining marketing and sales is to perhaps form a unit in the organisation that performs both functions. Now, there is a fine line between marketing and sales more so on some sectors than others, and more both departments tend to work better when they are as in tune with eachother as possible. 


David Evans, commercial director at accessplanit, specialising in learning management system and training management software.


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