In many organisations, sales and marketing alignment often feels elusive. Teams don't play nicely together, and we frequently see some naughty blaming behaviours coming out when sales targets are not met. “We’re not getting enough leads,” or “the leads you’re sending are not qualified,” and “you’re not following up the leads we’re sending you,” are all common battle cries of these warring factions.

Somewhat scarily, an estimated $1 trillion is lost each year due to sales and marketing misalignment, with less aligned organisations seeing a 7% decrease in revenue.  

For efficient business growth to occur, marketing and sales teams need to work together - they need to be aligned with a common goal, and have some kind of agreement about where one function’s work ends and the other’s begins. This is what we call sales and marketing alignment, and it can actually increase annual revenue by 20%.

Pretty compelling, right? Well, you’ll be happy to hear that the main drivers of alignment sit at your very fingertips below.

1. Communicate and collaborate

In essence, marketing and sales should be different sides of the same coin, working towards the same end goal: closing sales and generating revenue. However, in reality, the two departments are judged on different metrics and KPIs, which motivates each division to simply check-off what is expected of them within their own function. There is no real incentive to work more closely together in this situation, and therefore no opportunity to increase performance by the (massive) 20% referenced above.

The keys to true sales and marketing alignment is establishing common, measurable goals and clarifying what is expected from each team. This is how everyone becomes aware of their role in delivering to the goal, and also becomes accountable for specifics. We capture this information in an all-powerful sales and marketing SLA.

An SLA should include:

  • Joint SMART goals: These will illustrate what the team is working towards together, creating joint accountability (e.g. close 5 customers or close $150k revenue by April next year; secure 50 marketing-qualified leads per calendar month by January next year).
  • Marketing qualified lead (MQL) and sales qualified lead (SQL) definitions: It is crucial to outline the behavioural and demographic lead criteria that define an MQL and an SQL. An MQL, for example, might be a hand-raiser who fits the buying profile and has expressed interest in the kind of content (e.g. downloading buying checklists or visiting pricing pages, which suggests they are buyer-ready). However for them to be considered sales-qualified, they may need to additionally perform some kind of action, such as requesting a proposal or a free-trial from a sales person. Agreeing and documenting these criteria equips marketing with the information they need to pass on the right leads, and gives sales the certainty that the prospects are ready to talk.
  • Lead handovers: Determine what will push a lead from marketing’s camp to sales – this could be a certain lead score. Then decide on how the processes is implemented. For instance, you could automate the process, but then assign actions for sales and marketing to update each other on progress. Document the process from start to finish so sales opportunities don’t fall between the cracks.
  • Sales process. Detail the process the sales team needs to initiate once they’re handed a MQL. Include the deal stages, the essential tasks they need to complete, and the timing between them.
  • Agreed KPIs. From your SMART goals, develop Key Performance Indicators for both sales and marketing. This will give each team something actionable to work towards. For your marketing team, KPIs could include the number of MQLs the marketing team delivers monthly, or conversion rates of visitors. For the sales team, look at setting target metrics, such as getting the lead to customer conversion rate to 5:1.

2. Systemise and visualise

The next step to sales and marketing alignment is making your marketing and sales processes visible to both teams. This is where your technology comes in.

In a recent post we discussed the benefits of integrating your CRM and marketing automation tools. To recap:

  • Marketing automation tools track both the behavioural and demographic indicators that make an MQL. You can set up lead-scoring and workflows that show which buying stage leads are at, as well as how demographically compatible they are to the target buyer's profile. Once a lead reaches a certain lead score or buying stage, sales can receive an alert to action the lead, as well as see which content the lead has shown interest in.
  • Meanwhile, CRM software manages a business' contacts and analyses the interactions that take place over the course of the relationship. Once a lead becomes marketing qualified, sales can get an alert (via email or CRM system) to run the lead through the sales process. If the CRM is set up correctly, both marketing and sales can follow the lead as they progress through each of the deal stages and finally to close. A workflow can also be set up that moves the customer to the customer stage in the marketing automation system too, thus preventing any irrelevant, embarrassing communications.

Integrating these systems is the key to alignment because it makes everything visible, creating clarity around who is doing what — collaboration and communication heaven!

3. Integrate or disintegrate

By integrating marketing automation and CRM systems, your teams can:

  • Easily sync leads from your marketing automation tool to your CRM database.
  • See the entire buyer’s journey.
  • See how many and how fast prospects are moving.
  • Conduct full-funnel reporting and ROI measurement.
  • Easily assign follow-up actions.
  • Analyse customer feedback to revise content and campaigns (this allows marketers to boost retention and acquisition).
  • Access historical data to learn more about a lead (this helps your sales team offer personalised service and negotiate more effectively).

These make it possible for your two teams to:

  • Focus on the important stuff — rather than boring, time-consuming admin.
  • Easily find the information they need.
  • See every single interaction a customer has with the company, which increases the customer experience by reducing the likelihood of double-up.
  • Identify what is and what isn’t working so they can work as a unified unit to resolve it.
  • Assign individual accountability — so fingers aren’t pointed needlessly.

And there we have it; sales and marketing alignment.

We should reiterate that technology is not wholly responsible for alignment. The increased communication and transparency that the system provides will help to form an aligned team, but it will not do the work for you. It’s essential that you first develop a strategy. If you haven’t established common goals, or an SLA agreement, for you team to work towards technology will not produce the alignment you seek.

Think of technology as the vehicle that helps you to scale your strategy to keep both your sales and marketing teams accountable and focused.

In regards to aligning your teams, knowing where to start can be a tricky. If you need a hand kicking things off, we specialise in developing outcome-focused strategies and setting up integrated marketing automation systems.

Brand chemistry is a b2b marketing agency winning your customers' hearts and minds through inbound, brand, content, lead generation and digital strategy. Our marketing specialists achieve stellar results with the latest lead generation techniques.

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