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3 Ways to Improve Sales and Marketing Alignment

Cornelius Willis headshot

Cornelius Willis
CMO, Clari

Marketing qualifies a lead. The lead moves to an SDR. The SDR connects, and hands off to a sales rep. Close the deal and repeat.

That’s the natural order of the revenue universe, right?

Not necessarily.

When leaders at enterprise-automation platform Workato decided to focus on improving their outbound sales pipeline on top of a strong inbound engine, they took an unconventional approach. They left all of the outbound work to marketing, including bringing SDRs under the marketing umbrella. 

Along the way, they’ve implemented some other major changes that are bearing fruit, too.

I spoke with Workato’s Chief Marketing Officer Bhaskar Roy, the brains behind these moves, during my latest episode of Club Revenue, brought to you by Nasdaq, to understand how this all plays out. Here’s what I learned.

1. Put SDRs on the marketing team

A few years ago, Workato reorganized the marketing organization so that sales development representatives report into the growth team, which owns all demand generation. Growth campaigns could target ads, messaging, and content toward key accounts prized by the sales team—because they’re accounts SDRs are after anyway, at sales teams’ direction. The messaging and outreach was better aligned, because everyone worked together under one umbrella anyway. 

This also allowed the go-to-market team to find alignment from the top of the funnel down to qualified opportunities. Instead of growth handing over marketing qualified leads to sales, they instead passed off a step further along the pipeline. 

2. Toss out MQLs

In this new structure, marketing qualified leads, or MQLs, become old news.

“We don't look at MQLs or any of the traditional metrics,” Roy says. “We just look at what we call qualified opportunities.” 

Growth SDRs will set up meetings and create opportunities, but they’re only qualified by sales reps once they have a meeting of their own with the prospect. That’s considered a stage one opportunity.

“So from marketing, we look at how many stage one opportunities have we delivered,” he says.

That core metric focus applies to the compensation structure as well, with the majority of the team’s bonuses tied to stage-one opportunities, nesting everyone under the same North Star.

“Sales and marketing are tightly aligned to look at what we need to do in order to deliver that,” he says. “It's not just sales quota achievement—marketing teams' bonuses are also aligned to [stage ones],” he says. Meanwhile, “sales also knows that the marketing team is now aligned to delivering to what sales needs. And so, they collaborate more.”

3. Marketing campaigns rely on cross-functional cooperation

Whenever growth plans a campaign, Roy checks with Sales to make sure growth plans align with sales goals. They form a cross-functional pod to execute. Pod members include product marketing, SDRs, the ads team, events, content, and even customer success if there’s an expansion opportunity.

Pod members don’t just moonlight as cross-functional growth marketers. They’re accountable for the outcomes.

“This model has worked for us because it's very flexible, and we are pulling in all the necessary stakeholders who can actually deliver to the goals,” he says.

Before the switch to pods, just one person ran the campaigns. Roy calls that a messy and thankless job spent wrangling stakeholders.  

It was hard on stakeholders too, who, absent the official pod, had little bandwidth to lean in.

“Once we changed to the pod structure and it became more of a shared responsibility, things changed,” Roy says.

The key to making all the changes work, Roy says, was trust. 

“As you can imagine, this is a major shift,” he says, “that we are going to deliver meetings, and the big part of the prospecting from SDRs is going to come from the growth team. It took some time for us to do that.”

But what a payoff.  

Watch Club Revenue

Club Revenue is Clari’s new video series on Nasdaq, airing bi-weekly. Tune into our next episode, when Mark Ebert, the SVP of 6Sense, discusses the value and impact of core activity metrics. 

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