4 Steps Every Organization Can Take to Improve Sales and Marketing Alignment

August 14, 2019

There’s often an unspoken tension between sales and marketing teams. On one hand, marketing might feel like sales isn’t following up with the leads they’ve generated. On the other hand, the sales team might feel like marketing isn’t handing off quality leads.

CEOs everywhere are hitting their heads against a wall.

In most cases, it’s not a marketing or sales issue—rather, it’s an alignment problem. In order to turn your sales and marketing teams into one revenue-driving machine, here are a few steps that will help you achieve true sales and marketing alignment.

Get sales and marketing on the same page

Many sales and marketing issues occur because there’s a breakdown in communication. Sales expects one thing from marketing. Marketing delivers what they think sales wants. Sales doesn’t end up using the leads/sales collateral/pitch decks that marketing is providing them. And the cycle goes on and on.

Instead of allowing this to happen, take a step back and identify the areas of confusion. The confusion often is directly related to metrics being measured (or not measured) or how target audiences are classified.

For example, it’s impossible for marketing to deliver quality leads if sales and marketing aren’t clear on what a quality lead looks like. Is a lead simply anyone who has shown interest in a product? Or is a lead someone that has a specific job title in a certain industry at a company with over 500 employees? By drilling down and being hyper-specific about who a lead is, it may be more difficult to obtain as many qualified leads, but the leads will be—at least in theory—a better fit to purchase. By keeping lead definitions higher-level, a company can generate more leads, but perhaps fewer will be truly a fit to buy.

The same applies to metrics and goals. While it makes sense for both sales and marketing to have specific goals to run towards, make sure those goals complement—not contradict—one another. It might seem great for marketing to generate a ton of demand, but if sales can’t handle the amount of leads sent their way, the overall customer experience may suffer. As such, goals should remain both attainable and manageable.

When in doubt, make sure you’re creating clarity around target audiences; the definitions of leads, MQLs, SQLs and opportunities; and what goals both teams are running toward.

Build empathy through understanding

Another issue that pops up between sales and marketing teams is that each team doesn’t have a clear understanding of the role the other plays. Sure, they know marketing is responsible for the brand and engaging certain audiences. But do they understand how marketing is capturing information? Why they’re capturing that information? What messaging they’re using (and why)?

The same can be said the other way around. Do marketing team members understand why leads are being followed up with at a certain time, or by a certain method (phone, email, direct mail)? Maybe certain leads aren’t being contacted at all, which could be frustrating for marketers to see. Dig deeper to understand—maybe the leads weren’t a good fit after all.

Having a deeper understanding of each department can help build empathy between the two teams. Some businesses even make marketing and sales shadow one another—a person from the marketing team sits in on a sales call or demo, or marketing brings sales in to talk through audience targeting for an upcoming campaign, for example.

Communicate and iterate

They say good communication is the key to any relationship. The relationship between marketing and sales is no different. If your marketing leaders and sales leaders aren’t already meeting regularly, you have some work to do.

Does that mean you need to talk through processes every week? Absolutely not. But it does mean that you need to find a cadence that works for your company. Make sure there is open communication between meetings, too. This is especially important if sales and marketing teams are working on different sides of the building, or even the country.

A few questions to consider for hosting meetings between marketing and sales leaders:

      • Who needs to be involved?
      • How often do we need to meet?
      • Should we put a cap on meeting time?
      • What do we need to keep a consistent pulse on?
      • How can we make the meeting more efficient?
      • How do we inform our departments of the outcomes from the meetings?

It will likely take some time to find a good rhythm. But regular communication with specific goals will fix a lot of headaches down the road.

Know how the data is flowing

This is often overlooked, but it helps tremendously to understand how customer information is getting from point A to point B. One major frustration from business leaders everywhere is attribution—is the money spent on marketing making a difference? Should we hire more salespeople? What’s influencing revenue the most?

Without reliable data, marketing can’t prove its value, and sales misses big opportunities.

To fix this issue, marketing and sales need to work together to identify the best way to use their CRM, marketing automation platform and more. Again, this relates to defining different audiences and lifecycle stages, but goes even further in that you know your role in the ecosystem. This ensures that marketing gets credit where credit is due, and that sales has all the information they need to close a deal.

Alignment is an on-going process. Embrace it.

When two teams are working across departments, across the building or across an ocean, there will be issues from time to time. But they don’t have to be permanent. Instead, work with each other, build empathy, communicate and clearly define who you’re targeting and what qualifies leads to move down the funnel, and you’ll start building trust—and revenue—between the two departments.