Aligning Sales and Marketing: Everything You Need to Know

Is aligning your sales and marketing teams the answer to increasing revenue? Learn how to drive better results by getting your teams on the same page.

Is aligning your sales and marketing teams the answer to increasing revenue? Having a cohesive combined effort with these key components of any business can help ensure more successful campaigns.

This, in turn, can contribute to greater interest in your products and services, more leads and potentially higher revenues in the long term. Learn how to drive better results by getting your teams on the same page with our article.

In this sales and marketing alignment guide, you’ll discover:

 

What is sales and marketing alignment?

Sales and marketing alignment is potentially the largest opportunity for improving business performance today. When marketing and sales teams unite around a single revenue cycle, they dramatically improve marketing return on:

  • Investment (ROI)
  • Sales productivity
  • Top-line growth

Sales and marketing misalignment is extremely common. Companies with divided sales and marketing teams that function separately are putting themselves at a disadvantage. Both your marketing and sales teams have the same goal of driving sales and revenue, so it is crucial to keep them in sync.

The silos between sales and marketing departments are a long-standing issue throughout every industry. The problem with misaligned sales and marketing teams is inefficiency. Imagine a marketing team creating content with no clear objective for sales or conversions.

When it comes to the inefficiencies of poor sales/marketing alignment, the stats speak volumes:

  • 60 to 70% of B2B content is never used because the subject topics are irrelevant to the buyer audience (Content Marketing Institute).
  • 79% of marketing leads never convert due to a failure to nurture consumer connections (HubSpot).

If both teams were on the same page, all that work would be less likely to go to waste.

 

The benefits of aligning sales and marketing.

When sales and marketing align, revenue increases, the sales cycle shortens, and conversion rates improve along with forecast accuracy.

One method of aligning sales and marketing is sales enablement. Sales enablement helps companies:

  • Deliver a better buyer experience
  • Create alignment between sales and marketing teams
  • Empower their representatives to be more efficient and productive

Industry leaders in sales and marketing have started to regard sales enablement as the new standard of doing business. With the ever-changing B2B sales and marketing funnel, silos are being thrown out in exchange for cross-functional teams working together, and for good reason.

The buying behavior of today’s B2B customer has evolved so much that marketing must support sales through each stage of the sales cycle in order to nurture leads every step of the way. 

As selling situations grow more complex, with an average of 6.8 stakeholders involved in any one deal, sales teams are relying on high-quality, marketing-produced content to help them tell the story that resonates and closes deals (Harvard Business Review).

 

“One way to build trust between marketing and sales is to make them accountable for the same company goal — revenue.”

— Mike Lieberman, Co-founder and CEO, Square 2 Marketing

Common problems that aligning sales and marketing can solve.

Today’s complex buying cycle introduces new challenges for marketing and sales alike. However, when sales and marketing align, many of those problems can be resolved.

 

Problem

Solution

The sales team isn’t doing anything with the leads I’m sending them.

According to research from Marketo and ReachForce, sales ignores up to 80% of marketing leads, instead spending half their time on unproductive prospecting. Since sales has prospects to recycle, they’ll spend their time focused on older leads if marketing isn’t providing another option.

If sales and marketing take the time to align on goals, lead definition, and handoff process, both teams will spend their time more effectively on promising leads.

I need to align my marketing strategy with our sales strategy.

Sales and marketing alignment is vital for both organizational success and boosting morale. In order to sync up, sales and marketing teams should schedule regular meetings to keep track of shared goals and communicate freely about workflow, obstacles, and wins.

Ensuring both teams have a voice when setting strategies and planning content will be most impactful at each stage in the buying process.

I need to simplify my workflows.

Sales and marketing alignment unifies leadership and combines shared goals and targeted buyer personas. It can also simplify workflows by sharing tools.

Instead of marketing logging into one system and sales into another, both teams can use the same dashboards and tools, including customer engagement platforms.

I need to increase revenue and show a clear marketing ROI.

It can be difficult to show the true value of your marketing program without a direct response or purchase to measure. This is especially true for B2B marketers focused on lead generation programs with long, complex sales cycles.

In order to demonstrate a clear marketing ROI, you must be able to track and measure impact in an integrated fashion, across all sales and marketing systems.

My sales team is relying on me to help them to shorten the sales cycle and go to market faster.

The way the B2B sales and buying process has evolved has resulted in a more complex buying cycle and a massive shift in customer relationships. Buyers are choosing to delay interactions with sales and tend to ignore traditional tactics, such as outbound phone calls and emails.

To meet customers where they are, sales and marketing professionals must work together to shorten the intricate new type of sales cycle. This includes syncing segmentation, targeting, content development, contact strategy, nurturing, engagement, closing, and customer support.

  

Learn more about the benefits and path forward to marketing and sales alignment with our eBook Jumpstart Revenue Growth with Sales and Marketing Alignment.

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Components of sales and marketing alignment.

In order to have a truly coordinated sales and marketing team, everything must sync up, including goals, roles, systems, and technology.

You should look to align:

Goals.

Marketing projects are often long term, including setting a foundation with strong branding and generating qualified leads. Marketers look at metrics and focus on increasing brand recognition, as well as scoring and nurturing leads for the long haul.

Salespeople, on the other hand, are looking to meet quotas, solve problems for prospects, or be the personal touch that someone is looking for. They want to know what the marketing team can do for them now, so they can make the sale today. 

Roles.

Often, sales and marketing departments view their respective roles in the revenue generation process quite differently. Sales worries about meeting quarterly goals, while marketing believes they are the only ones thinking strategically.

Sales wonders why they have to generate their own leads, while marketing complains that sales ignores everything marketing generates. Coming to a common understanding of roles can help to remedy these inconsistencies.

Systems and technology.

Powerful account-based marketing (ABM) and marketing automation tools enable one-to-one conversations with prospects instead of just one talking to many. For maximum benefits, marketing must ensure the methodology, process, and terminology used to support these efforts is in alignment and collaboration with sales. 

Learn more about what sales and marketing alignment can offer in our webinar: Sales and Marketing Alignment Tips.

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ROI of a successful sales and marketing alignment program.

When sales and marketing align, your company optimizes their marketing and sales cycles as a whole, resulting in reduced costs and an increase in growth.

Sales and marketing alignment can lead to:

  

Learn more about how sales and marketing alignment contributes to the bottom line in our on-demand webinar How Sales & Marketing Can Drive Better Pipeline Conversions—Together.

How to align sales and marketing in your business.

Sales and marketing alignment take a bit of planning to put into place, but once you get on the right track, you’ll ensure success in the long run.

Step 1: Define common terms.

The first step in achieving sales and marketing alignment is for both teams to agree on the definition of common terms. It sounds simple but it’s actually relatively rare across organizations.

According to CSO Insights, only 44% of companies have formally agreed on the definition of a qualified lead between sales and marketing. 

Step 2: Define the goals and strategy together.

Next, sales and marketing need to clarify three keys: lead scoring, lead generation metrics, and service level agreements (SLAs).

  • Lead scoring. Lead scoring is a methodology for ranking leads in order to determine their sales-readiness. Leads are scored based on the interest they show in your business, their current position in the buying cycle, and their fit in regard to your company. Lead scoring is essential to strengthening your revenue cycle, but it is only effective if sales and marketing come together to define the scorecard.
  • Lead generation metrics. A marketing qualified lead (MQL) is a prospect that the marketing team has worked with and is considered a good potential buyer. A sales accepted lead (SAL) is a lead that the sales team acknowledges and is committed to act upon. While a sales qualified lead (SQL) is a prospect that the sales team believes is almost ready to buy. When both teams come together to outline what, specifically, qualifies a lead as an MQL, SAL, or SQL, both teams are poised for greater efficiency.
  • Service level agreements (SLAs). Service level agreements need to be outlined for each phase of the revenue cycle. As these systems become automated, everyone performs at a higher level. Getting these systems in place also provides some documentation, so marketing can demonstrate how someone became an MQL, and sales has a record of their contact with that person.

Step 3: Create joint KPIs.

Once you’ve formalized key metrics on lead scoring, lead generation and service level agreements, it’s time to create KPIs.

Key Performance Indicators are clear, concrete benchmarks designed to help you measure your progress towards an objective. A KPI for sales and marketing alignment could include a percentage increase of lead generation within a certain timeframe, or an uptick in deals closed.

You can also create overarching OKRs (objectives and key results) which will help both your sales and marketing teams align their work to a common goal.

Step 4: Replace the sales funnel with a revenue cycle.

The traditional sales funnel modeled a process whereby a large audience was sorted down to leads, then prospects, and finally clients. Today, this simplistic strategy keeps marketing in one silo and sales in another, in a market where they need each other to deliver the personalized attention that prospects expect. 

Step 5: Structure your team.

Next to establish a clear remit for your sales and marketing teams. Confused or blurred responsibilities can lead to conflict between different functions. A major part of marketing and sales alignment is to carve out clear, separate roles.

  • Marketing. Demand generation leads, product marketers and content marketers are all roles that belong within the marketing function. These roles are focused at the top end of the funnel, focusing on building awareness.
  • Sales. Sales teams look at the bottom end of the funnel to convert leads into customers. Some examples might include inbound or outbound sales executives.

Account executives and sales development representatives (SDRs) are on a third team, separate from marketing and sales, and they have one exclusive focus. This is to review, contact, and qualify marketing-generated leads and deliver them to sales account execs. 

These roles are often key to holding sales and marketing functions together, focusing on the key business needs, rather than the granular or departmental tasks.

Step 6: Combine your workflows, strategies and communication.

After allocating different roles and responsibilities, it’s time to combine your day-to-day activities. Whether you’re creating collaborative project teams or creating a joint Slack group, it’s important to be on the same page. Even if you’re not working directly with each other on a given task, you’ll need to understand how each marketing activity feeds into sales objectives, and vice versa.

Step 7: Unite your external messaging.

With siloed marketing and sales teams, different terminology can develop. A customer-facing marketing term for a product, isn’t always favored by the sales team. Make sure that any differences in terminology are ironed out, as this helps provide a consistent marketing approach for your customers.

Step 8: Move forward in unison.

When marketing and sales can move beyond their differences and align to work in tandem, they have the ability to increase the revenue cycle, while cutting costs at the same time.

 

Frequently asked questions about sales and marketing alignment.

What is the definition of marketing and sales alignment?

To align sales and marketing is to create shared goals, strategy and communication between sales and marketing teams. This could include merging the two teams into one department, or integrating workflows and objectives.

Why is it important to align sales and marketing?

Aligning your sales and marketing can create a more effective internal operation, eliminating crossover and friction between sales and marketing teams. It also provides a more consistent customer experience at all stages of the sales funnel.

How do you coordinate sales and marketing?

There are many ways to coordinate sales and marketing. Even small touches like regular meet-ups, unified internal comms channels and team email aliases can help. But for longer-term success, it’s important to created shared goals and KPIs, as well as coordinated reporting and campaigns.

Learn more about how to implement or improve your sales and marketing alignment with our Digital Marketing Bootcamp: Sales and Marketing Alignment.