Maximize Your Growth by Aligning Sales and Marketing

By: Kyle Chandler and Adam Esposito  | 04/08/2020


Turns out, alignment matters. And not just to your auto mechanic.

When sales and marketing aren’t aligned, you can lose opportunities to convert leads into customers. This disconnect can also lead to wasted time and resources. The reality is, when sales and marketing aren’t in sync, both suffer and, ultimately, so will the business.

However, when the two sides work as one, good things can and often will happen. According to LinkedIn, 78% of the salespeople and marketers surveyed said that collaboration (between the two teams) leads to improved customer retention. Another 54% said this kind of synergy boosts financial performance.

The problem is, many organizations don’t recognize the misalignment until customer relationships suffer, opportunities are missed and revenue is lost. If this scenario seems familiar, it’s time to meet the alignment challenge head-on. But before you do, it’s important to see how you got here in the first place.

Seeing the Signs

The following are six signs that your sales and marketing teams aren’t working in harmony. While all of them may not apply to your organization’s teams, chances are that at least a couple do.

Sign #1: There’s more conflict than collaboration.

Consider these all-too-common reasons for missed opportunities:

  • Sales waited too long to follow up with marketing’s leads, and as a result, the prospects never moved through the sales funnel.
  • Marketing didn’t provide sales with highly qualified leads, so sales didn’t pursue them further.

The key to successful collaboration is to make sure both teams have the same expectations and are equally accountable for meeting them. Whether it’s lead-scoring, prospect nurturing, level of service, growth or availability to one another, both teams need to be not only on a level playing field but also playing by the same rules.

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Sign #2: No one speaks the same language.

Let’s say sales manager Bob defines a prospect as a highly qualified lead (HQL) when they’ve met three of his qualification standards. Meanwhile, content marketer Sara defines a prospect as an HQL when they’ve just met three of her qualification standards. This could mean the two teams are communicating with potential customers differently at various stages of the sales funnel. Their contradictory actions can lead to confused customers and, ultimately, lost sales.

Sign #3: Information exists in separate databases.

If sales and marketing each maintain separate databases, it’s going to be difficult to stay on the same page. Teams need to align on a single source of truth, using a customer data platform (CDP) or a customer relationship management (CRM) system as the record for customer data. These empower you to consolidate, or possibly eliminate, multiple point solutions. They can accept and manipulate data from multiple sources, including your CMS and marketing automation platforms.

Sign #4: The two teams rarely meet together.

Each team might meet regularly to stay on the same page — the question is whether sales and marketing meet together. Ideally, both teams should get together as a group weekly and communicate regularly via email, Slack or videoconferencing. Celebrate wins, acknowledge lessons and plan what’s next — together.

Sign #5: They don’t share the same vision.

At the end of the day, sales and marketing have one mission — to drive revenue. To accomplish that, both teams need to share the same philosophies and organizational vision. Those who learn, test, measure and evaluate together often win together.

Sign #6: They haven’t planned how to work together.

When sales and marketing don’t have a documented process for nurturing and handing off leads, that business will miss opportunities to grow. Conversely, when the two teams think and act as one unit, they can nurture leads throughout the sales funnel to drive conversion and ultimately revenue growth.

Aligning Your Two Teams

Fortunately, it takes just a few steps to turn things around.

Define common terms.

According to a Marketo study, only 44% of the companies surveyed said their sales and marketing teams define a qualified lead the same way. The first step toward aligning goals is having both sides agree on what makes a lead qualified. Start by sharing each other’s criteria for evaluating prospects. This requires defining terms like “MQL” and “SQL.” Once there’s a consensus, document the criteria and share it with everyone. This will help optimize your lead-nurturing efforts.

Set common goals.

Once teams have landed on a lead’s criteria, it’s time to establish shared goals. Because marketers and sales teams have their eyes on different metrics and KPIs, it’s important to think about the sales funnel as a single process rather than two. To get on the same page, sales and marketing must have a holistic view of the lead-nurturing process.

For many businesses, a typical sales funnel is divided into three distinct phases: top, middle and bottom. A lead at the top of the funnel is aware of your product or service — but not ready to buy. A middle-of-the-funnel lead has displayed an intention to buy and has engaged with your content, perhaps by opening an email, downloading a guide or perusing your website. Those at the bottom of the funnel are close to becoming a customer.

Master the art of lead scoring.

This method of ranking leads based on their sales-readiness is essential to making sure your organization is aligned. It’s paramount to score leads based on the interest they show in your business, their current place in the buying cycle and their demographic fit.

Put the right structure and people in place.

You can’t have a strong alignment without an effective structure. This means having clearly defined roles in marketing and sales so you can move leads through the pipeline efficiently and effectively.

On the marketing side, you’ll want people well versed in each of demand generation, product marketing and content marketing.

On the sales side, many businesses have sales development representatives, who work closely with marketing to bridge the gap between sales and marketing. Focused on outbound prospecting, they can further streamline the lead-qualification process and ensure the handoff goes smoothly. Another key role is the sales account executive. These are the closers who focus their attention on converting the most qualified leads.

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Be there for one another.

Marketers tend to focus more on the top of the funnel, while sales reps pay more attention to the bottom. As buyers learn more about your business, it’s important that the sales team is equipped with the right information to guide these potential customers toward the product, service or experience they want. Marketing can help by creating the kinds of content that add value to your relationship with leads. Without it, sales won’t be able to harvest the “fruit.”

Better Together

Sales and marketing alignment is more than a buzzword. It’s the path to more seamless communication between you and your customers — and across your company. And that may just make this year’s company picnic a lot more fun.

To discover how Hileman Group can help you nurture your leads throughout the sales funnel, contact us.


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