For years, there has been a stereotype about friction between sales teams and marketing departments in many organizations. But, if you’re reading this article, you’ve definitely heard this before or experienced it in your own career.
Aligning your sales and marketing teams can help your organization be 67% more effective at closing deals —and it makes all the sense in the world. What's more, research estimates that, in the US, sales and marketing departments waste no less than $1 trillion due to miscoordination.
Shocking? We think it is.
This is because marketing and sales are both levers used to bring in revenue and drive growth for your organization, and they work on the same funnel. Yet, they often operate independently, leading to inefficiencies, or worse, conflict.
To bridge this gap, it's essential to align your sales and marketing teams and rally them toward a common goal.
Understanding sales and marketing alignment: Why it matters
Many companies often make the mistake of assuming that sales and marketing alignment can be achieved simply through combined team meetings. While regular meetings and syncing up regularly are important for teams to align, they only scratch the surface of the sales process and marketing functions. In fact, they can sometimes have a negative impact on sales productivity and velocity.
True alignment goes beyond meetings; it involves a shared understanding of each other's roles and responsibilities and how they contribute to the overall business goals and initiatives. It also requires creating a seamless communication channel to share data and insights between sales and marketing teams.
When done correctly, sales and marketing alignment can significantly improve your organization's efficiency and boost conversion rates. The reason behind this is simple: when marketing and sales are fully aligned, they can work together to iron out their differences. Marketing can provide sales enablement and qualified leads, while sales can offer genuine, impersonal feedback on lead quality and participate in marketing activities. This partnership reduces friction, drives better collaboration, and ultimately helps to close more deals.
Furthermore, when sales and marketing teams are aligned, they can create a consistent message that resonates with potential customers throughout the entire customer journey. They can also share data and information to support both teams in making more data-driven decisions, ultimately increasing win rates for everyone and helping the organization achieve its revenue goals.
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Key challenges in sales and marketing alignment
Marketing and sales should work in tandem. Where marketing attracts the right customer profiles, sales converts — boosting the bottom line. Where the sales team wins, the marketing can collect data and improve their campaigns. But the reality is far from being that straightforward.
In real-life scenarios, both sales and marketing teams are frequently disparate and disconnected, leading to a range of issues, such as:
- Lack of communication or miscommunication between teams
- Different goals and metrics for success lead to conflicting priorities
- Using separate processes and tools, which results in data silos and poor collaboration
- Focusing on short-term gains rather than long-term growth strategies
To achieve alignment, it's crucial to address these challenges head-on and work towards a common goal. Here are some of the most common (and stringent) issues in the way of full alignment between sales and marketing.
Poorly implemented automation
Automating sales and marketing processes can be a game-changer for many organizations, but it can also create a divide between teams — and alienate the customer.
When marketing and sales teams don't communicate and use the same tools, they risk creating automations that contradict each other or lead to a poor customer experience. For example, suppose both teams are using HubSpot to track communications and send messaging to prospects. In that case, these communications should be coordinated so that the prospect isn’t getting marketing collateral that directly contradicts what a sales rep discussed with them in a meeting two days ago.
To overcome this challenge, it's crucial to involve both teams in the automation process and ensure that workflows are consistent. This includes aligning lead scoring criteria, ensuring that marketing campaigns complement salespeople’s efforts, and agreeing on when and how to follow up with leads.
Different data sets
If automation is not done correctly or if the tools used are incompatible, data silos can occur, leading to misalignment in insights and approaches. It's essential to choose automation tools that integrate seamlessly with each other, allowing both teams to have access to the same source of truth.
Establishing processes and protocols for data sharing is crucial. And once you have that shared data, it should be reviewed regularly by both teams and kept up to date. This will help align strategies between sales and marketing and enable both teams to make informed decisions based on the same data set.
Seeing customers differently
Marketing tends to see customers in very broad, often demographic lines. Salespeople, on the other hand, have much more personal interaction with them. This can lead to misaligned buyer personas and inconsistent messaging, resulting in a confusing customer journey.
To overcome this challenge, it's crucial to involve both sales and marketing teams in creating and regularly reviewing buyer personas. This will ensure that both teams understand their target customers and how to best engage with them.
Parallel and siloed work
Sometimes, it seems like sales and marketing aren't even working towards the same goal —so much so that even the terms they use daily seem different. Where marketing is all about "funnels," sales is focused on "pipelines." And where marketing talks about "leads," sales is about "prospects."
To bridge this divide, it's crucial to establish a common language and terminology between sales and marketing teams. This will ensure that both teams are on the same page when discussing strategies, metrics, and goals. It will also help create better alignment in processes and workflows.
Proven strategies for developing sales and marketing alignment
Sales and marketing alignment might seem impossible, but it's not. By addressing the key challenges outlined and implementing proven strategies for better alignment, your organization can find a balance and reap the rewards — more efficient and sustainable growth.
Have regular communication and collaboration
The first step towards alignment is ensuring the sales and marketing teams communicate regularly and collaborate effectively. This includes setting up regular meetings to discuss goals, metrics, successes, and failures. It also involves creating a centralized point of communication for both teams so they have access to the same information and insights.
Ensure your teams are speaking the same language
We’ve said it before, but we can’t overstate the importance of these two teams speaking the same language. If sales and marketing teams are using different language, terminology and even data it can cause confusion, misalignment and even a decline in customer retention rates.
It's crucial to establish a common language and definitions for terms like leads, prospects, funnels, and pipelines. This will ensure that both teams have a shared understanding of their strategies and goals.
Create common processes
To achieve alignment, it's crucial to have common processes and workflows that both sales and marketing teams follow. This includes agreeing on lead scoring criteria, creating a unified customer journey, and establishing protocols for data sharing. By working together on these processes, both teams can better understand each other's roles and responsibilities in the customer journey.
Designate someone to qualify and accept leads
A common issue in sales and marketing alignment is the lack of responsibility for qualifying and accepting leads. You often hear the sales team complaining about getting bad or unqualified leads that they can’t close. Whether this criticism is justified or not, it’s worth proactively working with both teams to ensure good leads are flowing into the organization. This will ensure that both teams are accountable for their contributions to the customer journey and will avoid blame-throwing in case things don't go as planned.
Have uncomfortable conversations
Things may not always be easy or smooth between sales and marketing teams, but it's crucial to have uncomfortable conversations when they arise. Whether it's a disagreement over processes or metrics or a conflict of interest, addressing these issues head-on can help prevent bigger problems down the line.
Identify your target segments
To create a unified vision of customers, both sales and marketing teams must work together in identifying target segments. This includes analyzing data and insights from both teams to determine the most profitable and valuable customers. By involving both teams in this process, you can ensure that your strategies align with your target audience.
Run cross-departmental training sessions
Another effective strategy for developing sales and marketing alignment is to provide cross-departmental training sessions. Having shared learning objectives can foster a sense of teamwork and collaboration between departments.
Once training sessions are complete, having the teams work together to implement what they’ve learned will help continue the collaboration. Training is not a one-and-done activity; reinforcement and learning application are critical pieces that happen outside of the classroom.
Develop a sales enablement program
Having your marketing team work with sales enablement professionals is yet another way to increase collaboration between the two departments. While you want to have your sales enablement efforts be driven by the sellers’ needs, having marketing help develop messaging can be a huge boost to your program.
Be Consistent in Your Efforts
You can't expect to achieve sales and marketing alignment overnight. Developing a strong partnership between both teams takes consistent effort, communication, and collaboration. Ensure you regularly review and adjust your strategies as needed, and don't give up even if challenges arise.
Focus on short-term and long-term goals
Sales and marketing alignment isn't just about achieving immediate sales targets. It's also crucial to focus on long-term goals and objectives. This includes building a strong customer base, creating brand loyalty, and nurturing relationships for future business opportunities.
Metrics to evaluate sales and marketing alignment
Want to make sure you're on the right path with your alignment efforts?
You need to set goals and metrics to follow your unified journey —and here are some of the most important ones to consider:
The ultimate goal of both sales and marketing is to contribute to the organization's revenue. Tracking this metric shows how well both teams work towards this goal and whether their efforts align.
Sales cycle length
Measuring how long it takes for a lead to convert into a customer can help identify areas for improvement in the sales process. This also provides valuable insight into how well marketing efforts nurture leads and support the sales team.
Marketing qualified leads (MQLs)
MQLs are leads that have been identified as potential customers by the marketing team. By tracking this metric, you can see how well marketing efforts generate high-quality leads for the sales team.
MQL to SQL conversion rate
Tracking the conversion rate from MQLs to SQLs (sales-qualified leads) can help measure the effectiveness of both sales and marketing efforts. If potential customers are dropping off at the sales qualification process, its worth looking into and troubleshooting how marketing is qualifying leads and why they aren’t making it to the sales process. If leads are in fact making it through both the marketing and sales qualification process, but still not converting, that’s also a place to focus efforts on understanding and optimizing. .
Content marketing effectiveness
Another important metric to consider is how well marketing content supports the sales process. By tracking metrics such as content engagement rates, lead conversions from specific pieces of content, and customer feedback on content, you can see whether your content aligns with the needs and interests of potential customers.
Remember that you should also measure how relevant your content is for your ideal buyers. Is your content bringing in the right kind of interest — or are there any adjustments you can make to make it more aligned with your target audience? Does it influence customer acquisition? Be honest with these questions (they're part of the "uncomfortable conversations" mentioned earlier — and essential to marketing and sales alignment.)
End to 4th conversion rate
The end-to-end conversion rate measures the number of leads that convert into customers throughout their buyer journey. It considers all touchpoints and interactions with both sales and marketing efforts, providing a comprehensive overview of alignment between both teams.
Marking this metric as a common KPI (key performance indicator) for both teams can help foster a sense of shared responsibility and accountability toward achieving this shared goal.
The role of modern technology in facilitating alignment
Technology can help you bridge the gap between marketing and sales — and create a common ground for all your team members. The best sales tools can help you collaborate and communicate more effectively, automate tasks, track progress, and measure results.
Additionally, customer relationship management (CRM) software provides a centralized platform for both teams to access and update customer information, ensuring that all interactions are aligned and consistent.
Marketing automation software can also assist in creating personalized and targeted campaigns that align with the sales process and support lead nurturing efforts.
Last but not least, sales proposal software can help you ensure your messaging and narrative are consistent not just on marketing assets but also on proposals. For instance, with Qwilr, you can create sales proposals that are dynamic, interactive, and personalized — all while being easy to use for the sales team and the customer.
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Sales and marketing alignment frequently feels like a far-fetched pipe dream. For too long and in too many organizations, the sales and marketing teams have functioned separately in echo chambers with no feedback loops. As a result, businesses miss out on opportunities to drive better results and growth.
But it's not too late to change this narrative. As long as both teams are willing to put in the extra work and focus on the results, sales and marketing alignment is within reach. With the right tools, metrics, and mindset, your organization can reap the benefits of a unified sales and marketing strategy.
And when it does, you'll wonder why you didn't do this sooner.
About the author
Brendan Connaughton|Head of Growth Marketing
Brendan heads up growth marketing and demand generation at Qwilr, overseeing performance marketing, SEO, and lifecycle initiatives. Brendan has been instrumental in developing go-to-market functions for a number of high-growth startups and challenger brands.
Frequently asked questions
When you align sales and marketing, you can boost your conversion rate, increase your revenue, and help you build a loyal customer base. When sales and marketing are fully aligned, they can effectively support the customer journey from start to finish, leading to a better overall customer experience.
There are many elements that disrupt the alignment between sales and marketing. Common reasons are a poor understanding of what each team does (and doesn't do), no ownership of specific KPIs, and a lack of communication and collaboration. Identifying your organization's root cause is essential to overcome alignment challenges.
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