Stop fighting over the funnel: Marketing OKRs sales will love
Why sales and marketing need to be aligned
By Kevin Shively, Sr. Director of Marketing for Ally.io
You’ve never heard a sales leader come to a marketing leader and say, "we need to talk about our brand’s Twitter engagement.”
Marketing is a service organization. In general, our programs are successful when sales is successful, when our customers are successful, or when our product’s features are adopted.
Even still, most marketing goals and objectives are developed in a silo.
I’ve managed OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) for marketing teams at three companies now, and one of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen made -- and made myself -- is not partnering with other departments to create alignment as we set our objectives, priorities, and commitments.
In this post, I’ll share some OKR examples that will keep your sales and marketing teams connected, but first I want to share three reasons WHY it matters, and I’ve brought our VP of Sales, Chris Pitchford, to help.
Three Reasons to Build Marketing and Sales Goals Together
- The customer experience
As a marketer, it’s easy to think only in terms of metrics: visits, leads, conversion rates, revenue, etc. But the top mandate for a marketer needs to be thinking like a human. The same is true for sales. Volume means nothing if we’re not considering the experience of the customer (who, believe it or not, is also a human).
“It’s easy to build programs that continuously increase touch points; you just add another email or phone call,” says Pitchford. “But when we don’t coordinate efforts, that gets overwhelming for the person evaluating our product or service, and our effort works against us. We have to consider the customer’s experience, first and foremost, or no one wins.”
- The funnel breaks
As a marketer, the sales team’s forecast is reliant on the marketing forecast. If marketing is focused on Offer X, which has a closed/won rate of Y%, and sales is building goals based on the understanding that marketing is driving Offer Q, which has a closed/won rate of Z%, that misalignment can be costly. It influences focus, tactics, talk tracks, and staffing. Conversely, marketing needs to know what sales capacity and requirements are in order to know where they need to double down.
“One of marketing’s primary jobs is to find new leads and new ways to qualify and get them sales-ready,” says Pitchford. “But that requires testing and changing things, which can impact pipeline volume and velocity. The two teams need to be in lock step about what the goals and commitments are in order to do this in a sustainable and scalable way.
- The feedback loop breaks
As a marketer, you should spend most of your time thinking about the customer and what they want, need, etc. How did that message resonate? How did it miss? What do we need to do differently? The sales process is an extension of your messaging and your greatest resource when it comes to understanding what is working, but if you’re pointing in different directions, there will be a misalignment and a gap in understanding.
“My team is on the phone, interacting via email and chat, and listening to the needs and concerns of the market every day,” says Pitchford. “We have the best pulse on why people buy, and why they don’t, which is a critical piece of feedback for marketing.”
How to Build Marketing OKRs that Sales Will Love
Creating OKRs for a marketing team can be tricky. It’s easy to focus on tactics, since the tactics that influence these OKRs are where the real magic happens, but remember that your objectives should be ambitious, and the key results should be measurable and impactful.
It’s also important to avoid vanity metrics as key results. Think in terms of winning the objective; “If I achieve all of these key results, will I have hit the objective?” Once these are defined, the tactics can be built to drive each key result.
Below are some sample OKRs for aligning marketing to sales goals. Each of these objectives focuses on a different component of the marketing-sales motion: Driving quality leads, facilitating sales-readiness, discovering growth levers, enabling the sales motion, and increasing velocity and conversion rates.
Objective: Drive qualified leads for the sales team
Key Result (Volume): Drive XX SALs
Key Result (Quality): Increase MQL:SQL conversion rate
Key Result (Growth): Drive 10% of SALs from new channels
Objective: Become the most recognized brand in our industry
Key Result: Run XX partner marketing programs to expose ourselves to new audiences
Key Result: Generate XX press mentions through contributed articles
Key Result: Advertise in XX industry trade publications
Objective: Build capacity to scale
Key Result: Establish a referral program that drives XX new leads in-period
Key Result: XX meetings booked from organic channels
Key Result: Drive XX top-of-funnel leads via content promotion
Objective: Arm sales team with “wow-worthy” collateral
Key Result (Volume): Deliver XX pieces of sales-accepted collateral
Key Result (Quality): Marketing collateral used to assist XX% of sales conversations
Key Result (Differentiation): Ensure new messaging and positioning is reflected in XX/XX pieces of sales collateral.
Objective: Improve funnel mechanics to deliver XX sales-ready leads
Key Result: Audit all prospect touch points to increase conversion rate at 3/4 sales stages
Key Result: Create programmatic approach to lead quality loss analysis of 100% of lost deals
Key Result: Increase sales velocity among key ICPs by XX%
I hope these examples are helpful starters, but I want to remind you that you shouldn’t just copy and paste these. Each business is different, and your marketing OKRs should be developed hand-in-hand with your sales leaders. To learn more about how to do this in practice, check out our helpful guide for facilitating an OKR Writing Workshop, and jumpstart the program at your own company.