Last week, I was asked a thoughtful, if slightly provocative question from an enterprise-sales candidate I was interviewing: "What’s your quota?" he queried. But I wasn't put off. As a former VP of sales-turned-CMO, I absolutely loved the direct nature of the query.

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I then explained to the candidate that I do, in fact, have a quota in regard to leads generated and revenue booked -- a success measurement that's not so different from those I had in my sales days.

I suspect that the genesis of the question was rooted in two decades of sales-marketing relationship debt. Sure, the two departments put on a good show in front of the CEO and board of directors. But the "snark" comes out as soon as everyone retreats to his or her respective office. You’ll hear people say things like, “The marketing leads are terrible,” or, “Salespeople are lazy!”

There is something unique about today’s selling environment that represents an opportunity to forever change the dynamics of this relationship. Today’s B2B buyers simply don’t need the assistance of a salesperson in the same way they did a decade ago. Instead, they rely on thought-leadership content, product reviews, case studies and peer recommendations that marketing teams develop to nurture prospects.

Given this increasingly blurry line between marketing and sales, it seems logical that both departments ought to grow closer together in an effort to optimize customer acquisition. CMOs are poised to lead this charge.

Just a few years ago, HubSpot coined the term “smarketing,” which captures the notion of an integrated sales and marketing strategy. Back then, it was an aspirational idea. Today, it has become a necessary reality. Many companies are scrambling -- and struggling -- to put an effective smarketing strategy in place. To overcome this challenge, consider one thing: alignment.

The first step is to get sales and marketing teams in agreement about who the target audiences are and what the pain points are that the product is solving. Once buyer personas are determined, marketers and salespeople should agree on specific and quantitative definitions of a lead: How does each team define a qualified lead? Co-creating these definitions puts everyone on the same page and eliminates complaints and accusations down the road about “bad” leads.

Related: Are You Maximizing Your Prospect's 'Currency of Attention'?

The next step in creating a strong smarketing strategy is to agree on the numbers. Given my background in sales, I’m comfortable with quotas and quantifiable measurements of success. As CMO of Mattersight, I'm overseeing my team's progress in creating a two-way sales-marketing service-level agreement (SLA) which defines how each team will help and support the other. The agreement includes a commitment from marketing on the number of leads that will be generated, rules for how fast sales will follow-up on leads and actions to be taken to engage with prospects.

Depending on your organization, an SLA could look like this:

  • Marketing will deliver 75 leads per product, per month.
  • Sales will make its first attempt to engage with a lead within five business hours, but will make no more than four attempts in 16 days.

Once joint success is clearly outlined, with quantitative factors, the final step is to live and breathe the data. Use dashboards to create transparency between marketing and sales, quickly visualize the lead pipeline and identify where and when challenges arise. Dashboards and statistics can also be used to measure against the goals laid out in the SLA.

Marketing and sales have the same goal: increase revenue. It’s time for the two divisions to come together, make agreements on how each department can help the other and create a culture of honesty and transparency. The technology to do this is readily available. Now, it’s high time that these people and processes step up and adapt to the changing B2B market.

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