Sales and marketing alignment: leaders talk about it. They say it’s what they want. They notice when it’s not happening. But they don’t always offer a clear explanation of what sales and marketing alignment really is.
For most of the teams we talk to, this is a major problem. It’s the reason that the goal of harmonious cooperation between these two departments remains elusive for so many organizations. Nobody knows for sure what alignment between sales and marketing looks like. They just have a gut feeling that they know when it isn’t happening.
Sales/Marketing Alignment: What Is It?
Here’s our definition of sales and marketing alignment.
Sales and marketing alignment is a shared understanding and agreement on target markets, ideal customer profiles, messaging, value propositions, and definitions of marketing-qualified leads and sales-qualified leads. It includes close collaboration and coordination between teams to ensure a seamless buyer experience from lead generation, to qualifying, to retaining clients, with smooth handoffs between each.
True alignment requires shared responsibility to drive business growth, feedback loops, and continuous refinement of strategies to adjust to the market.
By aligning sales and marketing efforts, organizations can benefit from increased efficiency, improved lead quality, higher conversion rates, better customer targeting, fewer wasted efforts, and ultimately, increased revenue. And the test of whether sales and marketing are aligned looks like this: people from both teams choose, based on their personal experience, to use the CRM as a tool for moving revenue opportunities forward.
If no one needs to be talked into using the CRM, if everyone is using it optimally as a collaborative tool, you’re in alignment. If you’re a sales leader, and you would bet your paycheck that your team would use the CRM optimally even if you forgot, for some reason, to mention the CRM for a whole month, then sales and marketing are in alignment. If you wouldn’t make that bet (and most of the sales leaders we talk to wouldn’t), then sales and marketing are not in alignment.
The reason we want sales and marketing to be on the same page — the reason sales and marketing alignment is a good thing — is twofold:
- Being on the same page accelerates growth.
- Being on the same page improves the customer experience.
Those are two sides of the same coin, of course.
If alignment is not what’s happening at your organization, then you’re not only missing out on opportunities but also diminishing the experience you deliver to customers.
The Seven Traits of Sales and Marketing Alignment
It’s time to get specific.
This is what happens when sales and marketing are aligned:
- Salespeople know exactly what needs to happen next and when it needs to happen whenever they get a lead from marketing. There’s no confusion. In most cases, the sales team acts promptly to connect with the person and uses the right messaging.
- Salespeople feel a sense of shared responsibility and shared ownership with the marketing team when it comes to pursuing and qualifying leads.
- In addition, salespeople share feedback directly and appropriately with the marketing team when they have questions, concerns, or ideas – in a way that supports and strengthens the relationship.
That’s the sales perspective. What about from the marketing side? Well, from that team’s perspective, when these two groups are in full alignment…
- The people in marketing know that time is a precious commodity for salespeople — so they don’t overburden salespeople with data entry or administrative work that could be done by someone else. They constantly look for ways to streamline the CRM experience.
- What’s more, people in marketing have that same feeling of shared ownership when it comes to moving opportunities forward. They work constructively with the sales team. There is no sense of “us vs. them.” The two teams are accountable to each other.
- Whenever they have a question, concern, or idea that relates to the sales team, the people in marketing share what’s on their mind appropriately, in a way that makes the partnership between these two departments deeper and stronger.
Here’s one more important piece of evidence that the sales and marketing teams are in full alignment with each other:
- These teams set aside time on their calendar for regularly scheduled department-to-department meetings. More on this in a moment.
That’s seven key traits. Set aside, for the moment, whether you believe any of the above is likely or possible in your world. Just ask yourself: How many of those seven team traits describe what is currently happening in your organization?
Once you know that number, keep reading.
What Sales/Marketing Alignment Doesn’t Look Like
Now let’s consider what it looks like when these two teams aren’t in sync.
- Salespeople say things like “The leads we get from marketing are garbage.” Sometimes they use even more colorful language.
- Salespeople say things like, “I just don’t have time to do all the stuff they’re asking me to do on the CRM.” They resent the time spent populating the CRM and believe the CRM is a micro-managing tool that does not benefit them.
- Salespeople skip steps when using the CRM or populate it at a bare-minimum level; some may even stop using the CRM entirely, or use it only when importing information about leads they have developed outside the CRM. (This tends to make their pipelines look better than they really are, but that’s a separate discussion.)
- People in marketing complain that salespeople are either not using the CRM, or are not using it as it is meant to be used.
- People in marketing say things like, “Salespeople don’t follow through on the leads we give them.” They may point to contact made too late, contact made with an inappropriate message, or contact not made at all.
- People in marketing say things like, “Salespeople only work their own leads.”
- Neither team meets regularly with the other. As a result, communication is sporadic or even dysfunctional. And accountability suffers.
Step aside for a moment from the question of whether any of the things people might be saying about each other are accurate.
Just ask yourself: “How many of the seven things I just read are happening right now in my organization?”
What Was Your Score?
If all seven of the traits of sales/marketing alignment show up in your world on a consistent basis… if zero of the traits of an organization that is out of alignment in terms of sales and marketing collaboration showed up in the simple assessment you just did… congratulations. Your organization has sales and marketing departments that are fully aligned.
On the other hand, if you regularly experience even one of the traits that connect to sales and marketing being out of alignment, you may want to reach out to us. And by the way, if that’s where you are, you’re not alone.
Many sales leaders and marketing leaders we talk to tell us that the signals in their organization point to these teams being out of alignment.
If that is your situation, too, the question is: What are you going to do about that? A good place to start would be regularly scheduled meetings between sales and marketing. We can help by facilitating some of those meetings.
According to data from HubSpot, organizations that create a close relationship between sales and marketing closed 38% more deals than organizations that do not, and generate double the revenue. If those are the kinds of results you would like your organization to deliver, we can help you motivate your sales team to embrace the CRM system – and create accountability in both directions for sales and marketing. Contact us to learn more.