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Five keys to sales and marketing alignment

Five keys to sales and marketing alignment

by Justin Johnson

If you want to increase revenue and better understand the ROI of your marketing campaigns, then it’s critical to align your marketing and sales teams. However, achieving such alignment is far more difficult for manufacturers that sell through independent reps and distributors.

Manufacturers’ marketing teams can face significant challenges in understanding the effectiveness of their marketing and advertising because they receive little feedback from the distributors selling their products. On the other hand, distributors lack the tools to provide that critical feedback and have little visibility into the quality of sales leads sent to them.

But this disconnect doesn’t have to be your reality. Follow these five steps to better align your internal marketing teams with your suppliers:

1) Agree on the meaning of a qualified lead

The manufacturer has the ability to generate and share leads with distributors. But it’s hard to align the groups if each party has a different definition for what constitutes a qualified lead. You can remedy this situation by initiating a discussion with your manufacturer about what makes a lead qualified and actionable, as well as the specific profile (title, role, etc.) of a lead. You’ll create a shared perspective and make lead sharing more productive.

2) Create a Service Level Agreement (SLA)

All too often, manufacturers share leads with their sales reps and never hear back on whether a sale resulted. Meanwhile, distributors may receive leads that are unqualified, and yet lack an efficient way to provide feedback on lead quality to manufacturers. An SLA can help further align the two groups.

A formal SLA outlines the specific requirements and actions committed to by both parties. Such agreements include the definition of a qualified lead, specific details around response time (how quickly will the distributor actively engage with the shared lead) and how and when the sales reps will provide feedback to the manufacturer on lead quality.

3) Tie opportunities and sales to marketing campaigns

For manufacturers that sell through distributors, determining the effectiveness of marketing efforts can be difficult. To know what’s working, they need information from their distributor sales reps about where their best opportunities and ultimately sales are coming from. Thankfully, leading software tools can help create a system that makes it easy for distributors to denote their highest quality leads and provides real data about which marketing programs are worth the manufacturer marketing team’s time and money.

4) Prioritize distributor enablement

To get the most out of distributors and representatives, manufacturers must have a distributor enablement mindset. That means continuously focusing on how they can help their distribution partners to sell more. There are a variety of techniques
that can help do this, including account support, actual-to-plan performance reviews, and various types of product training.

Also manufacturers should consider creating and deploying “sales playbooks” so that the distributor knows what content and collateral is available at a particular deal stage or for a certain type of lead. Leading technology can ensure that sales reps know which assets to use and at what time. They also create a closed loop process to inform the manufacturer of how effective their sales content is for the distributor.

5) Make communication timely and actionable

In a communication vacuum, people draw incorrect conclusions based on opinion, processes break down due to of lack of coordination and dreams of marketing-sales
alignment wither.

However, you can avoid communication breakdown by creating a system of record that includes real-time information and actionable direction. A shared intelligence platform improves communication between the manufacturer’s marketing and sales teams and establishes a foundation for accelerating your revenue.

The stakes for improving alignment are high. Without it, even manufacturers that are prolific at generating leads risk wasting their marketing investment and losing sales, primarily due to a lack of nose-to-tail visibility. By focusing on better communication with your suppliers, improving your processes and taking advantage of technology, you can make sales and marketing alignment a reality.

Justin JohnsonJustin Johnson has more than 20 years’ experience building software solutions for the manufacturing sector. He is an author and regular contributor to publications and thought leadership groups on the use of technology to improve profitability for manufacturers and their distributors. Currently, Johnson is co-founder and CEO of LeadMethod, a channel sales and lead management software company. He can be reached at or (800) 406-5020.

This article originally appeared in the Jan./Feb. 2016 issue of Industrial Supply magazine. Copyright 2016, Direct Business Media.


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