According to data from LinkedIn, 90 percent of sales and marketing professionals believe their strategy, processes, content, and culture are not aligned.
From our experience, that number isn’t hard to believe at all.
And it’s really frustrating to see because organizations that don’t align marketing and sales miss out on so much potential:
So how do you get your marketing & sales teams in sync? Here are some tactics you can start implementing today to improve marketing-sales alignment.
What is marketing-sales alignment?
The best way to think about marketing-sales alignment is this:
Ultimately, Marketing and Sales aren’t two separate teams. They’re one team: the Revenue team.
At the end of the day, Marketing and Sales have the same goal. They simply use different tools and tactics to get there.
Marketing-sales alignment is just an intentional, strategic agreement to work with – not against – each other. There are a number of ways this can take shape, depending on the organization:
- Share common goals, priorities, & KPIs
- Use marketing tactics (e.g. buyer personas, automation) to improve sales effectiveness
- Use sales tactics (e.g. one-to-one connections, qualifying questions, pipeline automation) to improve marketing effectiveness
- Create a common lead-to-opportunity pipeline where qualification and handoff happen smoothly
- Engage in joint training sessions to help everyone improve and expand their skill sets
Because every organization is different, how to prioritize and apply these tactics will depend on your specific needs and your team structure. However, no matter which approach you take, the key is to focus on building cohesion and unity among your revenue generators.
Why does marketing-sales alignment matter?
We all know that Marketing and Sales don’t always get along. They have their territories and AORs and may not like it when the other steps on their toes.
However, this tension is detrimental to an organization’s ability to grow. Here are some stats to prove it:
- 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)
- 55% greater increase in customer satisfaction rates for companies that align sales and marketing objectives (The Aberdeen Group)
- Companies have generated up to 208% more revenue after aligning sales and marketing (Wheelhouse Advisors)
- Marketing-sales alignment leads to 36% higher customer retention rates and 38% more sales conversions (MarketingProfs)
Why does marketing-sales alignment lead to these results? Some of the key benefits of marketing-sales alignment include the following:
Big vs. small picture
Generally, marketers look at large-scale audiences, and salespeople focus on individual prospects. Both are important for effective revenue generation. If you lose sight of the individual prospect, you’re going to start to seem out of touch. But if you focus only on a handful of people, you won’t be able to scale.
Data vs. anecdote
What do your customers want? This is a key question that every organization wants to answer, and marketers and salespeople generally use different approaches to arrive at one. Marketers rely on data, which reveals big-picture trends. Salespeople rely on individual anecdotes, which can reveal key information that may get lost in the data.
Focus your efforts
When you have Marketing and Sales working in tandem, each of them can focus their efforts on the same industries, verticals, and segments. For example, Marketing can create content that they deploy through paid ads, social media, and email. Sales can then see who engages with that content and follow up with personalized messages.
If they convert, Marketing gets attributed revenue. Sales gets warm leads. It’s a win-win for everyone!
Improve the customer experience
Marketing-sales alignment also results in a seamless experience for prospects and customers as they move from one stage of the buyer’s journey to another. You don’t want them to hear one message from marketing materials and another from a salesperson—that is jarring and reduces their trust in your organization.
How to measure marketing-sales alignment (or lack thereof)
So how do you know whether your marketing and sales practices are aligned (or misaligned)? What are some of the metrics you should be tracking?
Here are a few I’d recommend:
- Follow-up rate for marketing leads. If your reps don’t follow up on hot leads, it either means they’re not taking Marketing’s efforts seriously, or Marketing is doing a poor job attracting potential buyers.
- Use of marketing content in sales. If your marketing team is creating content that speaks to customers’ pain points and underlying needs, then salespeople naturally will want to use it. If not, then either the content is bad, or salespeople need to be educated on its value.
- Marketing lead-to-opportunity conversion rate. If salespeople are following up on marketing leads but nothing’s happening with them, usually that means that Marketing doesn’t understand a) what constitutes a quality lead, or b) hasn’t aligned their messaging with Sales.
- Average number of touches to convert marketing leads into customers. If marketing leads take a lot of effort to convert, the odds are Marketing doesn’t fully understand the ideal buyer profile.
Another thing to keep in mind: if you’re having vastly disproportionate success or failure in one team versus the other, then that’s a big misalignment red flag. If one team is dropping the ball, that’s the real opportunity you’re missing out on.
How to improve marketing-sales alignment in your organization
Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty: how do you improve marketing-sales alignment within your own organization? Here are six steps that will get you on the right track.
1. Get buy-in at all levels
Before everyone gets aligned, you need to get buy-in—from C-suite to marketing and sales leadership, to the salespeople on the ground.
The best way to do this is to communicate the value: how will marketing-sales alignment help them be more successful? You can reference the info shared above to help you make that case.
2. Maintain clear, open communication
Alignment doesn’t happen by accident. You need to clearly and proactively maintain open lines of communication so everyone stays on the same page:
- What does the marketing team need from the sales team?
- What does the sales team need from the marketing team?
- From start to finish, what does the standard sales cycle look like?
- What does our ideal customer profile look like for each product?
- What does a bad lead look like?
- Which content and campaigns tend to attract the most high-quality leads?
- What can each team do better?
This approach also allows you to quickly identify gaps and get ahead of any problems.
3. Share and translate respective goals
One of the reasons marketing and sales teams so often misalign is that they have separate goals and success metrics. The best way to combat this is to create shared goals.
For instance, hold Marketing accountable for the revenue they drive (not just the value of the opportunities). They’ll quickly take an interest in sales enablement.
For Sales, hold them accountable for what they do with Marketing leads. Even if they’re bad leads, they should follow up with them and then communicate the issues so that they can be fixed.
4. Establish service-level agreements (SLAs)
Now for this next tip, keep in mind that different organizations have different levels of formality. Whether a formal, contract-style service-level agreement (SLA) is right for you depends a lot on your culture, team size, and the current state of relations between your marketing and sales teams.
However, one thing is the same for all organizations: set clear expectations for both teams.
An SLA should define the common goals for Marketing and Sales and include key deliverables:
- Marketing goals can include leads generated, qualified leads generated, opportunities created, and revenue produced.
- Sales goals can include follow-up time, frequency, and the percentage of leads that the sales team is expected to follow up with
SLAs can help establish mutual accountability and start to build trust with everyone.
5. Coordinate content marketing with sales
This is one that’s often overlooked but very important. Marketers often generate content without asking the key question: will this provide value to our target buyers? Or, is this something a buyer is even interested in?
That’s where salespeople can help. After all, they’re on the front lines with customers every day. Often, they can provide a gut check on content, provide potential topics, and, most importantly, share real-life questions prospects ask during the buying process—which can lead to some great topic ideas.
Additionally, salespeople with an active presence on social media can help promote key content and support your marketing efforts.
6. Invest in technology that supports alignment
Finally, it’s important to have the tools and technology in place to enable marketing-sales alignment. This is even more critical in a post-COVID, remote environment.
Some examples of these technologies include:
- Integrated marketing & sales CRMs
- Marketing automation tools
- Sales automation tools
- Conversation intelligence
- Asset management platforms
The more technology you have to align your team and the more ingrained that technology is in their workflows, the more aligned everyone will become.
Final thoughts: moving forward in unison
At the end of the day, Marketing and Sales aren’t separate teams. They’re one team: the revenue team. Get them aligned so you can manage and move forward together!