Sales and Marketing Alignment: 8 Proven Strategies to Increase Collaboration and Drive Revenue
Is your sales team disqualifying a large percentage of your MQLs? Or maybe they are struggling to find relevant content to move potential customers through the buying process.
These are signs you need to improve your sales and marketing alignment.
In a LinkedIn survey, over 97 percent of sales and marketing professionals report issues with alignment.
If it’s so common, why fix a misalignment?
Common goals and integration of workflows of these two departments can improve your organization’s productivity, drive higher conversion rates, and positively impact your bottom line. What’s not to love?
Before we dig into strategies, let’s start with the basics.
What Is Sales And Marketing Alignment?
Sales and marketing alignment (also known as ‘smarketing’) integrates workflows, goals and KPIs, messaging, and overall strategy between sales and marketing team members.
When these two departments work collaboratively, it creates a seamless customer journey, improves sales and marketing ROI, and drives higher revenue.
For marketing, sales can offer invaluable customer insights to inform their campaigns. On the other hand, marketing can create content to educate prospects, nurture the leads through the early stage of the buying process, and qualify them.
Smarketing can start with agreeing on a common lead scoring criterion, then using a tool such as Close to implement this criterion and filter high-priority leads.
But wait a second…
What Happens When Sales And Marketing Aren’t Aligned?
When these two departments are misaligned, you may face some business problems. Here are a few:
Your Customer Experience Will Be Subpar
Marketing and sales not being on the same page can result in inconsistent, confusing, or repetitive communication with your audience. It can damage your brand and lead to a negative customer experience. For seamless marketing to sales handoff, you need smarketing.
You Get Low-Quality Leads
If your marketing team is unaware of your customers' pain points, needs, and challenges, they will struggle to create your ideal customer profile. Their lead generation efforts can attract subpar leads, wasting time and money.
Your Sales Productivity Is Hampered
If your team makes a lot of sales calls but reaches prospects that aren’t fit to buy, it affects your employees’ efficiency, effectiveness, and even satisfaction. Further, the content your marketing team creates will not resonate with prospects. As a result, salespeople will struggle to find relevant marketing collateral to send prospects.
Difficulty Attributing Revenue
If your sales and marketing are working in silos, they will have different ideas of “success.” The CMO may want to focus on campaigns that bring in more MQLs, but the Head of Sales will want to focus on what brings more SQLs.
You want both teams to be data-driven, but they must rely on a single source of data truth. Ultimately you want to reach your revenue goals, so revenue attribution is key to demonstrating the clear value of your sales and marketing strategy.
8 Strategies to Align Your Sales And Marketing Teams
For a better alignment between sales and marketing, here are ten strategies you can leverage:
1. Get Executive Buy-in To Drive Company-Wide Adoption
First things first: you need stakeholder buy-in for marketing and sales alignment to be successful. For this, you need to show how harmful the misalignment is for your company–and we’re not just talking about a few extra meetings that don’t bring value.
Take stock of numbers like:
- The percentage of marketing leads (MQLs) that sales follow up with: If this percentage is low, it could mean marketing isn’t generating enough high quality leads or that sales isn’t following up with enough leads. Both cases signal a lack of alignment.
- The percentage of MQLs that result in opportunities: If MQLs are not turning into opportunities despite a high follow-up frequency, it indicates poor quality leads.
- The average number of touchpoints for a prospect to convert: If it takes too long to convert a prospect, there’s probably inconsistent messaging between marketing and sales. You can also attribute such a conversion delay to slow follow-ups by sales. Either way, you need to investigate and better align the two departments.
Make a business case for closing the gap between sales and marketing based on the trends you notice. Once key sales, marketing, and business leaders are onboard and willing to participate in the alignment, proceed to the next strategy.
2. Outline Shared Goals, Terms, and KPIs
One of the biggest challenges in aligning sales and marketing is that both teams measure success differently. Sales is all about closed deals or contract renewals, but marketing celebrates lead quantity, social media growth, improvement in brand awareness, etc.
Indeed in many organizations, these two departments do not have a shared definition of a lead. The result is a gap in marketing and sales goals:
Here’s how shared goals can unite both teams:
- Both departments get together to define a marketing-qualified lead (MQL), and a sales-qualified lead (SQL.)
- Leaders in both departments agree upon a lead score threshold at which a lead should be passed by marketing to sales. Below that score, the marketing team needs to execute lead nurturing campaigns.
- They lead to common metrics or KPIs that ultimately lead to revenue growth (revenue attribution, anyone?)
Quality leads will ultimately build a healthy sales pipeline. So, consider making SQLs the main performance indicator. This way, marketing will start to look at the quality of the MQLs — not the quantity.
3. Establish Service Level Agreements
A service level agreement is a formal contract to establish expectations of what marketing and sales will do for each other. It outlines the responsibilities of each department and how they should execute tasks during each phase of the revenue cycle.
For instance, marketing can be held accountable for generating qualified leads and opportunities. At the same time, sales can be held responsible for following up with a set percentage of leads within a certain time. Such an agreement helps emphasize checks and balances.
4. Schedule Regular Cross-Functional Meetings
Do you know one-third of B2B sales and marketing teams don’t have a standing meeting? No wonder communication is one of the biggest challenges to aligning sales and marketing.
Here are a few ways to improve communication between sales and marketing teams:
Schedule Regular Interdepartmental Meetings
Holding regular meetings is an effective way for sales and marketing leaders to align both teams and solve problems together.
Sales can benefit from reporting honestly on challenges or successes. They can share insights from their conversations with prospects. Marketing can benefit from getting feedback on their initiatives and identifying campaigns that prospects are most resonating with!
Especially if you work in a high-paced environment, it’s invaluable to have a regular meeting schedule. Here are two cadences you can consider:
- Weekly meetings - In such meetings, you can discuss how sales is doing with their quota and goals. The marketing team can get feedback on their content, share their campaign progress, etc.
- Monthly meetings - Once every month or quarter, both teams can review how they are faring against their SLA, evaluate success based on agreed upon KPIs, discuss issues, and make any necessary improvements.
At the marketing agency where I work, the sales and marketing departments are a part of the “growth team” that meets every Tuesday. It’s deemed the most important meeting for each one of us. We discuss the campaigns of our respective departments and brainstorm on our current challenges.
Encourage Other Smarketing Meetings
Besides regular meetings, the leadership should encourage individual team members to meet occasionally as and when required. Here are three instances to consider:
- Onboarding meetings: For every new member of the two teams, onboarding should establish how sales and marketing in your company are aligned and support each other. It should set the tone for a collaborative working environment.
- One-on-one meetings: To build rapport, provide feedback on each other’s initiatives, and better communication, occasional peer-to-peer meetings are super helpful. Here’s a template by Hypercontext you can use for conducting them.
- Wins/Losses reviews: Every quarter, the sales department can meet marketing to share their top wins and losses. They can also provide insights on the kind of content marketing that drove high-quality leads and content that’s attracting poor ones.
Marketing can inform sales of their top campaigns and the brand messaging they are following (which we’ll talk more about later). The goal is to keep up with the current needs and pain points of prospects and customers.
5. Create Open Lines Of Communication
In addition to meetings, improve communication with centralized company channels, such as Slack and email, for both teams to communicate regularly. You want to make it easy for the two teams to collaborate, track the progress of each other’s projects, and share interesting information and ideas.
You can also organize company events, lunches, and informal activities to improve team connection. Ultimately you want both teams to communicate honestly and have an open feedback loop.
6. Ensure Consistency In Your Messaging
Even after sales and marketing meet and agree on metrics, you can still mess up alignment if messaging doesn’t match. How so? Say an SDR offers a higher rate than you mentioned on your blog or social media profile. That’s a good way to end up with ticked-off customers. You want to stay consistent with your promotional offers, pricing, and specifications.
Disjointed messaging creates a subpar brand experience–and hampers your win rates. Both sales and marketing should understand and reinforce your product’s value proposition. If there are any changes to your business strategy, communicate them on your team-wide Slack or other communication channels.
7. Get Both Departments To Agree On Your Ideal Customers
In account-based marketing, an ideal customer profile (or a buyer persona in a B2C or B2B environment) outlines the characteristics of the perfect customer for your product.
It’s useful for sales, marketing, and product departments to understand customer needs, behaviors, and pain points. Here are the attributes it may contain:
Now you don’t want your teams to target different types of customers with their initiatives. Smarketing involves collaborating and agreeing on an ideal customer profile (ICP). Once you have a documented ICP, both sales and marketing can focus on resonating with and persuading this kind of prospect.
8. Create Marketing Assets That (Genuinely) Help With Sales Enablement
Even before talking to a salesperson, a prospect is more than halfway through their buying journey. Sure, marketing teams create blog content, focus on SEO, and other lead-generation campaigns to drive interest in their services and products.
However, content marketing needs more input from sales on the types of content and topics prospects care about. If case studies are useful for sales enablement to move a prospect further down the sales funnel, then the marketing team must create more of them.
Unfortunately, much of the content created by marketing teams remains unused by sales reps. Here are a few ways to fix that:
- Let your sales team suggest new content ideas — at least every quarter. If there’s an urgent need for a content piece, request marketing to prioritize the subject in the content calendar.
- Request a company-wide announcement of the new content that marketing pushes out. It could be an announcement message on your Slack channel, a verbal update on your weekly calls, a mention in your internal company newsletter, etc.
- Encourage your marketing team members to shadow sales calls. While time-consuming, the exercise can provide customer insights for marketing initiatives and new content ideas. Marketing can also suggest improvements to sales call scripts.
Sales and Marketing Alignment is Better for Customers and Revenue
Independent sales and marketing teams can drive revenue. But a cohesive sales and marketing unit can improve customer experience, shorten your sales cycle, and drive higher profits. It’s time you leverage the strategies we shared to bring your teams together.
Teams with sales and marketing alignment use effective platforms Close CRM to stay organized. It records all your communication with your prospects in a single place and integrates with your favorite tools to provide a seamless experience for your team.
Get started for free. No credit card required. ⬇️