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Sales and Marketing Alignment: Collaborate or Die Trying

Jan 23, 2022

Sales and Marketing Alignment Recommendations

#1: Definitions are your friend.

Sales and marketing alignment begins with shared definitions. Would you believe only 45% of businesses have a company-wide definition of a sales-ready lead? Unfortunately, that is the case according to a recent Hubspot survey.

At a minimum make sure sales and marketing define funnel stages, target market segments, and your buyers’ sales process. Also, agree on how you are going to track and measure conversions from one funnel stage to the next. And revisit definitions annually to make sure they’re still relevant.

#2: Agree on a single view of the truth.

Data is a great equalizer. Sharing facts takes the emotions out of the blame game and holds people accountable. Embrace quality data that’s combined with intelligence and analysis from both sales and marketing.

A shared sales and marketing dashboard is vital because it enables your organization to understand the velocity and shape of the sales pipeline and make real-time adjustments if you see opportunities or roadblocks.

#3: Partner with the sales team on how to deploy and use content effectively.

61% of marketers think their sales tools and content are being used in the right way. But the catch is, only 28% of salespeople agree. There’s a big disconnect when it comes to content creation and use.

It’s most effective when marketing understands how sales are using content, when sales understand how customers are using content, and finally when marketing understands how customers are using content to close the loop.

#4: Use and share technology, but only after doing the hard work.

84% of best-in-class organizations empower marketing with access to their CRM. Marketing automation capabilities such as lead generation, lead scoring, and nurturing are important drivers of marketing and sales alignment.

Marketers – don’t let the sales department hide conversion metrics or lost deal data from you. And sales – request to see marketing program plans, spend, competitive analysis, and corrective actions. Transparency is key.

#5: Appoint sales AND marketing departmental leaders.

We really like separate departmental leaders with equal power that both report to a CEO who strongly believes in the power of sales AND marketing. It’s more common to see both departments reporting to the same person, a VP Sales & Marketing for example, but this scenario only succeeds in rare cases and usually involves an exceptional leader that has held both sales and marketing roles. If that person is really good, she’s usually the CEO.

More often, a dual marketing-sales leader has a bias towards sales OR marketing. Even if they try, they cannot be objective. If your company can only support one person, try to hire one that has equal belief in sales and marketing.

#6: Engage sales when building personas.

Persona definition is critical to developing marketing messages that resonate with your target audience. Too often, marketing defines personas in a silo and then they gather dust on a server. Salespeople have the most visibility and insights into how your customers and prospects think, behave, and respond to marketing and sales materials.

When building personas, engage your sales team. They will be more than willing to talk about their experiences and share what’s working and what’s not. Don’t stop at persona development. Keep the communication open and run your messaging concepts and collateral by the sales team. They will make sure it resonates with your targets and should be excited to use the new materials.

#7: Give quotas to sales AND marketing.

Sales quotas are a common measure of sales team success and work well to motivate salespeople and keep the company geared towards financial growth. While conversion quotas alone work well for sales, marketing needs a different set of metrics. Holding marketing accountable for revenue conversions is indeed one required element, but we believe marketing needs additional success metrics as well.

Giving marketing reasonable quotas and targets is very doable if you properly defined your sales funnel. Run the numbers to see how many marketing qualified leads you need to generate enough sales qualified leads, opportunities, and closed deals to support your revenue goals. Hold marketing accountable for generating the right number of marketing qualified leads, and hold sales accountable for converting those leads into customers. Well-defined sales and marketing quotas – and respect for each – will lead to mutual accountability.

Take a look at Revenue Disruption by Marketo’s CEO Phil Fernandez if you haven’t read it. It has some great advice on how to set expectations for sales and marketing along with recommendations for defining your custom funnel.

#8: Trust your agencies.

Unless you have full trust and transparency with outsource marketing agencies helping you with PR, lead generation, or content, you’re not going to get optimal results. If you need exclusivity in a market sector or product category to feel completely comfortable, mention that from the outset of your sales engagement with agencies.

Don’t be afraid to air your “dirty laundry” under non-disclosure. If we know what’s truly going on and where the challenges lie, we can team with you to address them.

#9: Bond.

Have beers, or coffee, or chocolate together. Do a March Madness bracket together. Go out to lunch or dinner. Informal team building outside of work gives a new perspective and appreciation for each other as individuals. I love the sales and marketing interactions I often see at HIMSS because everyone on the team HAS to come together to make that show floor and dinner meetings a success. But this alignment has to happen more than once or twice per year.

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