Your Sales Kickoff was a rousing success, and it was inspiring to be able to attend in person again. But you’ll need more than just an SKO to ensure your marketing and sales organizations remain aligned. I’m a big fan of designing and facilitating bi-annual Sales & Marketing Summits. Here’s what they are and how they work.

A Marketing & Sales Summit, co-owned by the CMO and Sales Ops leader, is a bi-annual half-day meeting where both departments share key information about their priorities for the next 6 months. The objective is to confirm tight alignment between these departments. If marketing and sales are not working together “hand in glove”, then there is lots of room for improvement. These collaborative, informative sessions are usually held 6 months after your SKO. These are the meetings where marketing learns meaningful lessons from the sales front-lines on their latest sales wins and losses. The better marketing understands the sales process, the more accurate their programs and content will be. These are also the meetings where sales gets real-time information on marketing’s lead-gen campaigns. The more sales understands that marketing is working with them, the more successful both teams will be. Because marketing-sales relationships can be contentious, these meetings are best facilitated by a neutral third party.

Preparing for the Summit

Prior to the Summit, both departments should conduct an honest assessment of their successes and opportunities for improvement. The Summit is not about finger pointing. It is about working as a team and mapping resources to specific priorities and objectives.

For Marketing: Take a hard look at your marketing team’s performance. How well did your integrated marketing campaigns work last year? Did you run true “integrated campaigns”, or did you run a series of random tactics (“marketing popcorn”)? Where are marketing’s priorities: filling the pipeline or converting leads to sales opportunities? If you are trying to do both (and  you probably are) how are you dividing your resources? Ultimately, what was marketing’s contribution to the sales pipeline?

For Sales: Assess your relationship with marketing. (Where does the role of inside sales reside? With marketing or sales?) How well have you been sharing your priorities with marketing? Have you and marketing agreed, in writing, on the definition of a qualified lead? (FYI – many companies never write this down. This may be the source of some frustration you may be feeling.) Have you pinpointed specific accounts for true account-based-marketing (ABM) efforts? Or, is every sales rep jumping on marketing for their own personal needs?

In conducting this internal assessment, I recommend both teams look at four quadrants:

  1. What marketing-sales interactions are currently working well today that most be kept in place?
  2. What marketing-sales operational elements are in need of minor tuning? They are working “okay” but a slight adjustment would yield an immediate positive result in productivity. (This is often an area for a “quick win” — see below.)
  3. What elements are clearly broken and need a complete overhaul?
  4. What are these groups not doing that you know your company should be doing?

Each department conducts their assessment. Then, the CMO and Sales Ops Leader meet to share and determine the best agenda for the Summit. Acknowledging past successes and collaborating on alignment priorities is the first step to establishing trust and true teamwork. Leave your egos at the door.

If you don’t feel you have the time, skills, or comfort level to conduct a meaningful assessment, hire an unbiased outside executive-level resource to do it for you.

Running the Summit

The objective of each Summit meeting (and I recommend at least once a year) is to keep the spirit of your SKO alive and well while strengthening the sales-marketing bond. A typical Summit is a half-day, facilitated meeting. These Summits take place regionally. Attendees typically include the regional sales leadership and a few local sales reps. From marketing,  the CMO and directors of each marketing discipline should attend. I’ve found the the most productive Summits have 20 or less participants.

The agenda is split into several parts, per the outcome of the internal assessments. Here’s one example of an agenda:

1) Presentation: Reaffirmation of the company’s business objective for the year, including sales goals for the region.

2) Sharing: Sales shares a couple of examples of a recent win or lost opportunity. This is presented as a meaningful case study for marketing because marketers don’t often get the chance to hear details of the conversations customers are having internally or with the sales rep. Understanding the buyer’s journey from the sales rep’s perspective can be incredibly helpful. What conversations are taking place? How have these conversations changed over the past year?

3) Working session: Affirmation or tuning of the definition of a qualified lead.

4) Presentation: Marketing shares the latest “marketing blueprints” for integrated marketing campaigns being run today and/or starting shortly. This is to ensure these campaigns map to the lead pipeline expectations. One tech company I worked with put their blueprints on display in the executive hallway.

5) Discussion & Decision: Reaffirmation of marketing priorities to support sales and where sales will nurture their own suspects/prospects (because they fall outside of marketing’s priorities). Collaborate on near-term opportunities. (See “quick win” below, as an example.)

6) Close & Action Items: What next steps will marketing and sales teams take to maintain this spirit of teamwork in the coming months?

Finding a “quick win”

Summits are serious endeavors, but they are well worth it. Yet, getting started can feel overwhelming. I recommend finding a “quick win” to show the benefit of the Summit. Here are a few ideas that are easy to initiate:

* Have a marketing leader attend the weekly pipeline calls. Make yourself visible. You might rotate attendance among marketing directors.

* Have a sales leader attend a CMO’s marketing all-hands meeting to share insights on the latest wins/losses.

* Appoint a marketing leader and sales leader to work together to design a 3-part integrated campaign to nurture a specific set of leads. Example of a mini-campaign: 1) Blog post/infographic summarizing latest trends/drivers affecting your customers’ business(es), 2) inviting an elite set of target customers to attend a local “executive roundtable” with an analyst or noted leader to talk further on these trends, and 3) inviting the prospect’s technology leader to have a 1:1 with your CTO to share latest technology best practices that address these trends/drivers. What I like about this approach is that it not an aggressive sales tactic. Instead, you offer information and guidance to help the customer deal with an acknowledged concern. Offer advice and guidance before you sell anything. As a result, they will be more likely to invite you in.

For more information

Mike Gospe is co-founder and principal of KickStart Alliance, an Advisory Board and customer success leadership consulting team. Mike has 35 years of marketing leadership, having designed and facilitated vision, planning, and marketing & sales leadership Summits for most of his career. For more advice on Summit best practices, contact Mike.