8 Tips to Strongly Align Sales and Marketing Teams

Updated on :June 17, 2024
By :Briant Wells

The chasm that can exist between marketing and sales is best summarized with a KPI conundrum. What if marketing surpasses their MQL quarterly quota by 10% only to have sales come in under their new business sales goals by 5%, or vice versa? 

“The most hollow feeling in the world is to nail quarterly Marketing goals -- especially MQL’s -- and have sales miss quota. There is no celebration.”

-Inc 5000 CMO

While most businesses have a less exaggerated disconnect, it nonetheless underscores the divide between sales and marketing, and the lost revenue that falls through the cracks.  

For marketing leaders, one of the more hollow feelings is the realization that MQLs are only marketing leads that do not turn into sales opportunities. A study of 775,000 leads found that an average of 40% of marketing-generated leads are invalid, incomplete, or duplicates. If sales can’t trust marketing to at least get the contact data right, how can they trust any lead to be high-quality? 

After all, sales teams are perhaps measured most objectively with hard, quantifiable numbers; money either comes in or it doesn’t.  Did they close the X amount of deals each month/quarter/year? Yes or no, sales KPIs are as tangible as cash. 

Smart salespeople are astute pattern-matchers, making daily decisions to pursue prospects who are most likely to close. Like water, they go the route of least resistance, as do marketers who value website traffic and engagement above revenue goals. It’s no wonder a 2020 InsideView Report found that 54% of marketing, sales, and operations professionals predicted that sales operations and marketing operations would merge into a single revenue organization. The trends paint b2b organizations working at half speed because of marketing and sales misalignment: 

statistics on sales and marketing interactions

At its core, marketing exists to serve sales. When aligned, sales trusts marketing-generated leads to be quality, qualified leads. When this agreement is broken, distrust seeps in, pipelines dry up, and company revenues stagnate, or worse, dip into the red.  

How to Align Sales & Marketing Teams

So, how can business leaders align marketing and sales teams to create a better performing pipeline? Here are eight tips to strongly align sales and marketing teams. 

  1. Define and Agree on Buyer Personas and ICP

Go beyond “understanding the customer” and define both your company’s ideal customer profiles (ICP) and buyer personas. ICPs are most useful at the top of the funnel, where leads generation happens. This document should contain both an analysis of your existing customers and of your sales pipeline. 

Buyer personas, on the other hand, include elements of the ICP but also sentiments from your sales (about buyers), the buyers themselves, and prospects in the pipeline. The buyer persona document is used at all stages of the sales cycle. 

Buyer persona vs icp

When sales and marketing both buy into these two documents, sales and marketing synergy can begin to take root. Both profiles give your revenue-generating teams a shared reality of who a lead should be – role, seniority, industry, and company type, among others. 

Additional Marketing and Sales deliverables that come from co-defined and agreed upon ICPs include:

  1. Tighter qualification process at the lead stage;
  2. Persona-led web content creation;
  3. The ability to match sales cycles stages to persona needs;
  4. The creation of competitor battlecards; and
  5. Higher adoption of Account-Based Sales and Marketing principles.
  1. Build Trust

Trust is hard to quantify but easy to spot. It begins with both sales and marketing teams coming together and reinforcing the idea that we’re on the same team, trying to accomplish the same overarching goal: generate more revenue for the business. 

Unfortunately, trust between sales and marketing is much lower than we’d like to admit. It’s hard to quantify, but one tell-tale sign is when sales teams stop following up with leads too soon. Salespeople who trust leads provided by marketing trust the process. When trust is gone, lagging effort is soon to follow.  Such a cycle may follow these stages: 

  1. Leads passed forward to sales that are not qualified, resulting in waste-of-time meetings.
  2. Sales team members ignoring leads put forward by marketing, thus causing prospect lack of trust due to lack of communication. 
  3. The results are a vicious cycle where new leads and sources are created, but not maximized. The losers here are the prospects (missing out on a possible solution they’ve been looking for) and the company’s brand. 
  1. Dedicate Staff to Receive and Qualify Leads

Most fast-growth organizations use Inbound SDRs to maximize conversion rates on the company website. These specialized sales personnel should be highly trained in sales development best practices, conversational and chat marketing, as well as the phone channel. 

One of the traps that’s easy to fall into here is having your Inbound SDRs either be too lenient on qualification or too stringent. If too much qualification happens at the lead gen stage, potential buyers will drop off at high rates because the process feels rough. Too many qualification questions when someone shows interest is akin to trying to lightly rub your fingers with sandpaper; you can stomach it, but why? 

If the Inbound SDR is a catch-all, sales will be quick to dismiss these leads as no salesperson likes to hold back-to-back discovery calls with people who are clearly not interested in buying or don’t fit your company’s ICP. 

  1. Clean Contact Acquisition Data

Contact data decays at a minimum rate of 22.5% every year. With the high costs associated with contact data storage, either through licensing fees or per contact, organizations that don’t clean, enrich, and scrape their CRMs consistently face inefficiencies that could cost north of $20,000 for every $100,000 invested into contact acquisition. 

Companies take different routes to provide clean data for both sales and marketing. For instance, one of the fastest-growing publicly traded identity cloud companies augments their marketing and sales development teams with outsourced, human-curated contact data. Smaller startups and midmarket companies outsource CRM implementation to bridge the data decay issue separating sales and marketing. 

  1. Define Goals, Together

While not the biggest fan of the term “smarketing,” the real value in building an organization around this principle is the idea of shared goals. It’s critical for revenue growth that both sales and marketing leaders come together and define quarterly and annual goals that require a mutual buy-in. 

For example, if a sales goal is to increase new business revenue by 20% Quarter of Quarter, the Head of Sales and CMO should have clear KPIs to make the math work. Calculate various conversion rates to determine how marketing will increase the number of quality leads to enable sales to maintain the same opportunity to closed-won ratio. 

  1. Involve Sales in Marketing Activities, and Vice Versa 

We’ve already discussed how important it is for sales to trust leads from marketing. One surefire way to reinforce trust is to have both teams involved in each other’s activities. Invite sales to marketing meetings. Have content writers review discovery calls. Marketers should seek feedback on lead quality at least monthly, if not weekly. 

Activities like these create an atmosphere of collaboration, empathy, and camaraderie as teams realize everyone’s work contributes in meaningful ways. This promotes cross-team collaboration and ignites enthusiasm and alignment.  

  1. Implement a Sales Content Process

Sales cycles have become increasingly complex in the past decade, and all indications are that deals will become ever more nuanced. Buyers expect personalized experiences at each stage of the funnel. 

Sales enablement encompasses more than competitor battle cards or buyer personas. Marketing can do its part to close deals by having a productized system in place to greenlight, create, and deliver personalized sales collateral to help sales executives enable their buyers to make easier, more confident decisions. 

  1. Pump Each Other Up

Just like winning in sports, closing deals, and growing revenue is a team effort. Encourage your marketing teams to cheer on sales after big wins, and get sales to give kudos back to marketing when marketing-generated leads turn out to be gold. As the cliché goes, teamwork does make the dream work. 

Wrapping It All Together 

The steps outline a general path towards sales-marketing alignment. Like most paths, the journey shouldn't be overshadowed by the destination. Aligning teams is a constant process that requires deliberate action, constant adjustments, and reinforcement of trust. By practicing these 8 tips to get sales and marketing on the same page, complex organizations can standardize processes and communication aimed at larger company goals, rather than disjointed KPIs. 

If you follow these simple tips to align sales and marketing teams, you can achieve the desired results. Nevertheless, the top digital marketing companies can power your results further with their expertise! 

Briant Wells
Briant Wells

Briant Wells is the Marketing Manager at CIENCE Technologies, a leader in Orchestrated Outbound and b2b lead generation. He cuth is marketing chops as a campaign strategist and content writer on 200+ accounts. His passions include writing, reading literature, and surfing San Diego waves.

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