Secrets of a happy sales and marketing marriage

OFX’s Anna Large says meaningful alignment comes down to maintaining good relationships and sharing goals through technology.

Successful sales and marketing alignment is like a good marriage, says OFX B2B Marketing Manager Anna Large. When it works at its best, the relationship offers mutual benefits. Both sides share goals and, most importantly, have respect for each other.

“I work closely with my sales counterparts,” says Large, who began her B2B role at the foreign currency exchange business in March 2017. “I'm very lucky that our sales team really respects marketing as an equal business partner and we work collaboratively.”

[caption id="attachment_1666" align="alignleft" width="300"]B2B marketing Marketorium Anna Large OFX sales alignment OFX B2B Marketing Manager Anna Large[/caption]

She has seen many cases where sales believes marketing is a support function, and where both teams work in isolation. "Very often marketing and sales can become completely siloed in terms of their operations and their KPIs, especially in larger companies," she says. "I’ve seen marketing and sales grow apart before, as the companies themselves have grown. That hasn’t happened at OFX. The lines of communication are open and we operate as one, in many ways.”

While good communication has been necessary for OFX's sales and marketing nuptials, Large attributes data management and CRM technology as the biggest reason for successful alignment. Colleagues in OFX’s San Francisco office led the charge in trialling Salesforce CRM with marketing automation platform Pardot in late 2016 to streamline lead generation and marketing capabilities. Coming into the role in OFX’s Sydney HQ and as a former Salesforce user, Large saw an opportunity to drive sales team adoption in region.

“Championing Salesforce in region has been a really big part of what keeps us talking every single day,” Large says. “Increasing adoption has been a big driver for success in our marketing and lead-nurturing efforts. The quality and robustness of prospect data feeds so heavily into prospect nurturing and engagement success, so it makes sense that marketing and sales operations in region are quite centralised.”

The former CEB (now Gartner) and Hachette Australian marketing executive says shared analytics and KPIs keep the operational relationship close at OFX. "It’s the most important aspect of sales and marketing alignment for me," she says. "I set those KPIs together with our commercial heads. Obviously, revenue is always going to be the key metric, but it's also about working backwards from there to work out exactly what you need from each other to get there – a service level agreement, in a way.

“But you need to leave room in those KPIs to allow for strategy pivots en route. You don't want to be locking down KPIs on the marketing side to hit certain lead quantities at the expense of being able to focus on higher quality opportunities that come your way down the track. So you want to be reviewing regularly what's working and what’s not and why.”

The shared journey at OFX

Large says it’s important to take advantage of this alignment to have an end-to-end view of the customer journey. It’s about asking what is driving lead and opportunity generation, as well as closed deals, she says. Then it’s about looking at customer behavioural trends that correlate with retention, drop off or attrition and share of wallet. That review process needs to be ongoing, so stakeholders learn along the way and don’t cling to immutable annual sales and marketing strategies.

"You have to move together, and we talk every day to those points," Large says. "We have shared dashboards with sales activity data that we're reviewing constantly. I'm also reviewing results in other regions and sharing knowledge constantly with counterparts as to what’s driving their results.

“For us, it's all about building that dataset within Salesforce to start informing those strategies and investment conversations. We're now able to measure ROI on campaigns, event sponsorships and memberships more effectively than we were a year ago.”

On a broader level, Large says forming relationships with sales teams has been a career growth opportunity, too. “I'm a marketer, but I've learned so much in this role about sales operations and sales management,” she says. “I’m working with our sales managers to make sure we're motivating and training the sales teams in the right way, and helping them manage their time effectively and prioritise the right leads. The feedback loop with sales has also been invaluable in driving the development of our Salesforce edition and automation journeys and shaping global sales processes together.

“The human interaction is extremely important. Coming into the role, it was an absolute priority of mine to build personal relationships with every single business development manager. I don't think everything can be top-down.”

Large thinks OFX's sales and marketing alignment success can be replicated in any B2B function, large or small. "I can’t think of a circumstance where a siloed marketing function would be more successful than a fully integrated one," she says. "The partnership is what drives success here, and I don't see any reason why that would be any different across the board, in our industry or beyond."

Or, perhaps, in sickness and in wealth.

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Further reading: ROI shouldn’t stop sales and marketing seeing eye to eye