What B2B Companies Can do to Align Sales and Marketing in 2021

Data is what B2B companies leverage to align their sales and marketing teams, but getting access to reliable data can be their biggest challenge. A survey by InsideView, a sales and marketing intelligence platform, revealed this disconnect—in a big way. 70% of respondents in the survey said that data was a high priority, while 65% said their company does nothing to keep that data clean.

The survey was conducted in February and March of 2020. It comprised 70% of B2B decision makers (manager and senior leaders) with sales, marketing and operations roles in their organization. Interviewers focused on how B2B go-to-market teams could use data to be more efficient at driving revenue for their organization. Improving data quality emerged as one of the highest priorities for 2020. This continues to be the case in 2021, as the economic situation remains challenging due to the pandemic.

The new B2B revenue operations team

More than half of the respondents in InsideView’s survey planned to combine their sales and marketing teams into one revenue operations team. Merging the two teams fosters sales enablement and gives sales and marketing professionals better insight into their customers and prospects.

At the heart of this insight is data integrity. Over 50% of survey respondents noted that insights into the B2B customer would be clearer by focusing on data hygiene, cleanliness and robustness.

Source: InsideView

Data impacts the entire buying cycle, a cycle that’s not linear, per this Gartner illustration of the B2B buying journey:

Source: Gartner

Gartner found that B2B buyers “loop” from one stage of the buying journey to another. This puts the impetus on the data to be as accurate as possible. Bad data costs money and wastes time. It creates “friction points” as InsideView notes. These include:

  • Paying for duplicate records
  • Poor lead-to-account mapping
  • Poor email sender reputation
  • Territory misalignment
  • Lost revenue from incorrect lead routing
  • Nonproductive upsell conversations
  • Inaccurate reporting

It’s not enough to say you’re going to align sales and marketing. Even mapping out an ABM strategy isn’t enough. You must pay attention to your database in an ongoing, sustainable way.

The solution is ensuring data quality

Fixing bad data is more than a marketing and sales problem—it requires getting your operations team involved. That’s why InsideView included operations professionals in their survey. They recommend organizations start the data cleansing process by posing four questions to the operations team. To paraphrase, they are:

  1. How often is company data updated?
  2. Are inbound lead emails validated?
  3. What’s the average age of account and contact data?
  4. How often, if ever, is CRM data cleaned?

In the first quarter of 2020, when the survey was conducted, 75% of respondents were doing little to nothing to maintain data integrity, although 25% said they planned to invest in data cleansing. That’s not a huge number, so the question is—why aren’t more companies investing in data cleansing products and services? It may be that there’s a disconnect between the value of quality data and a company’s bottom line.

Account-based marketing strategies rely on high-quality, reliable data

Businesses across all categories from healthcare to technology, to manufacturing are using account-based marketing (ABM) programs to effectively drive revenue and growth. As with many things that fall under the category of “digital transformation,” COVID-19 accelerated the move to an ABM approach for many companies.

Terminus’s 2020 State of ABM report—a survey of over 300 B2B executives—revealed that just 6% had no active ABM program in place in 2020 versus 23% in 2019.

The level of ABM maturity was high among the respondents in the Terminus survey. 49% of respondents said their ABM program was in the middle or late stages of development (late is defined as “sales and marketing teams are fully integrated into our account-based program”).

45% of the survey’s respondents also viewed ABM as either a medium or a high priority.

Source: InsideView

There’s no refuting the importance of ABM in B2B selling. But this approach relies on data. The simple fact is this—you cannot have an effective ABM program without good quality data.

It’s the data that helps you identify the key accounts to target. It’s the data that reveals what prospects aren’t a good fit. It’s the data that aligns sales and marketing so that they’re addressing the right prospects at the right time and in the right place (from a funnel perspective).

Effectively aligning sales and marketing in 2021

We’ve placed an emphasis on data in this post because it impacts the effectiveness of sales and marketing alignment so critically. You simply cannot align these two teams without also aligning your data.

While it can seem overwhelming to get started, there are some simple steps you can take to put your organization on the right path. Ideally, you will involve multiple, cross-departmental teams from across the organization including sales, marketing, operations, and management. Here’s a brief checklist based on the results of InsideView’s report:

  • Create a multi-disciplinary team that includes the CMO, CIO, CRO, and any other c-level executive that has a stake in your company’s revenue and growth.
  • Do a data audit—review results of marketing campaigns, sales reports, and revenue goals for the past year.
  • Identify current technology and pain points—Review all the tools and platforms in your tech stack. Are they all talking to each other? Are they being used and updated regularly? How can you get data out of siloes? How can you unify customer and prospect personas, or identities?
  • Create a common goal for marketing and sales. Marketing should have more input into revenue, and sales should have more input into generating qualified leads. It’s really that simple. This is achieved through a combination of communication and technology (ABM platforms such as Terminus). This gets us back to where we started—you must create one team—the revenue operations team.

Strong sales and marketing alignment leads to faster revenue growth and higher profitability. It empowers sales teams to connect with qualified leads and close more deals faster. It enables marketing teams to create campaigns that bring in better leads in the first place.

In summary, the foundation for both teams’ success is high-quality data. Maintaining up-to-date, relevant, consistent, complete, and accurate data is everyone’s responsibility. Data cleansing and integrity should be part of your sales and marketing alignment strategy for 2021. If it’s not already a priority, then it should become one.