Sales Alignment 101: How to Make Sure Sales and Marketing Are on the Same Page

For your company to thrive, it’s crucial for your sales and marketing teams to be aligned. Solid sales alignment is a key driver of revenue. Yet, it’s common for these departments to work in siloes or even to have separate goals. Fostering common ground and a commitment to the same goals is essential for success. 

When you understand what it takes to align sales and marketing and implement steps to bring them together, you can lead your company to greatness.

A focus on sales alignment means understanding why it’s important as well as why it’s challenging. With that information, you can nurture communication and implement tools that will help keep marketing and sales in sync. Improve your understanding of sales alignment with this detailed guide.

What is sales alignment?

Sales alignment is the relationship between the marketing team and the sales team. Teams that are in sync are in a better position to close sales and boost revenue and profit. Teams that are not in sync may work at cross purposes and blame each other for missing goals. The health of the relationship between sales and marketing is one of the biggest predictors of a company’s success.

Sales and marketing teams aligned in goals

Sales and marketing teams must be aligned in goals, priorities, the buyer experience, systems and processes, content, communication, key performance indicators and overall strategies.

With good alignment, both teams better understand the buyer and buyer journey. The better marketing is, the more effective and efficient sales can be. Marketing helps position the sales team to succeed by providing tools, information and knowledge, and the sales team gives marketing insight into buyers and their needs so they can create appropriate campaigns and materials. 

Take a closer look into the partnership between sales and marketing.

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Why is sales alignment important?

When the sales and marketing teams are aligned, you’ll likely see improvements in sales productivity, revenue growth and return on investment. Here are some of the factors that can contribute to those increases:

  • A more efficient funnel. With good sales alignment, you bring buyers into your funnel and get them through it at a much higher rate. You’ll be in a better position to reduce the sales cycle and increase conversion rates.
  • A better buyer experience. Forbes reports that 43% of B2B marketing decision-makers say that not having the right content at the right time for a customer has cost them sales. With good alignment, the marketing and sales teams can provide buyers with the materials they need—information, people, demos, pricing and referrals—to make their purchasing decision.
  • More solid leads. When the marketing and the sales teams agree on qualified leads, the sales team can follow up with prospects appropriately without having to sort through leads that aren’t likely to convert.
  • A boost in morale. When people in marketing and sales respect each other and understand what each team brings to the table, they are more satisfied with their jobs and more committed to the company.
  • A cohesive brand perception. When marketers and salespeople are unified behind the same message and materials, prospective buyers and stakeholders more clearly understand the brand.
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Why is sales alignment challenging?

Challenges with sales alignment

Mismatches and poor communication between sales and marketing can make it difficult for these teams to be in sync. It’s not a question of the size of the company. Small companies can have poor alignment, while large companies can have strong alignment. Here are some areas where problems can crop up:

  • Aligning goals. While both teams may aim toward the same big-picture goal—boosting revenue—their other goals might not line up. Marketing goals are often long-term, strategic and focused on branding, name recognition and other factors that can take quarters or even years. Sales goals are typically monthly or quarterly. So, the teams may not have the same sense of urgency or immediacy around their goals.
  • Viewing the buyer’s journey. The marketing team is often involved in the buyer’s journey throughout the funnel, while the sales team is only involved at the end. Or marketing may be responsible for the buyers’ journey up to a certain point until they hand it over to sales.
  • Defining a qualified lead. The marketing team may blame the sales team for not following up on leads, while the sales team may blame the marketing team for supplying what they consider poor, or unqualified, leads. Plus, people on the sales team may prefer different leads. For example, a seasoned salesperson with plenty of prospects in the pipeline may want only hot leads, while a new salesperson may want lots of leads.
  • Measuring metrics. Sales metrics usually are straightforward—they are measured by revenue. But marketing metrics can be trickier. Do likes and shares lead to revenue? If so, how much? If website traffic is up, how does that impact your bottom line? Many things happen between buyers and sellers, and it’s hard to attribute how much each interaction influenced the final sale. And measuring marketing’s impact on revenue can appear to be taking credit away from sales if it’s not done correctly. For example, maybe marketing created a webinar that drew in a prospect, and sales built the relationship that closed the deal. How do you credit that sale?
  • Rewarding success. If marketers are rewarded based on the number of leads generated, they will be motivated to generate more leads even if they are lower quality. If salespeople are compensated based on volume, they may offer discounts to close sales even though that could cut into profits.

When marketing and sales aren’t aligned, you might see finger-pointing, especially at the end of the month or quarter. Gain a deeper understanding of the challenges of sales alignment.

How can you build and maintain sales alignment?

One of the most valuable things you can do to align sales and marketing is to ensure those two teams are talking to each other. With ongoing touchpoints, regular communication, and the ability to make changes together, your company can bring these teams in sync. Sales and marketing teams need to trust and respect each other and treat each other as peers. To make that happen, invite salespeople to your marketing content planning sessions and sit in on sales training sessions. Listen in on sales calls or shadow a salesperson for a day periodically. When you spend time with your sales team, you’ll also spend more time with your buyers, so you’ll understand them better, and you will be able to create more targeted sales tools. Make sure both teams agree on terminology, measurements, responsibilities and goals. For example, what characteristics does the buyer persona have? What does a qualified lead look like? What key performance indicators are you tracking? What tasks is each team responsible for? What does the sales cycle look like? Measuring the number of leads the sales team follows up on and the number that convert can give you insight into the quality of leads. And measuring the number of times a member of either team communicates with a prospect can show you how well the teams are aligned—a smaller number is a sign of better alignment. These are some additional strategies that can help foster sales alignment:
  • Ask salespeople what keeps them from selling more, and then ask them to prioritize that list. Many companies find that one or two things on the list are relatively easy to fix.
  • When you add to your marketing team, look for people with sales or customer-facing experience—they may be in a better position to engage with the sales team.
  • Consider tying some of the compensation for the marketing team to revenue.
  • Share workflows, objectives, tools, systems and platforms.
  • Meet regularly. A quick, daily check-in might be beneficial.
  • Share customer feedback.
  • Be open about which metrics you are measuring and why. Share them.
  • Interview buyers and prospects at the end of the cycle to uncover areas where they ran into stumbling blocks during the process. (Check out this list of questions to ask.)
  • Make ongoing changes as you see what’s working and what’s not.
Looking for more information on evaluating and improving your company’s sales process? Read up on how to reengineer your sales process.
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When you understand sales alignment, you can take the necessary steps to bring your sales and marketing teams together and focus on a common goal. Deepen your knowledge of the value of sales alignment and the challenges you need to overcome. Register for Pragmatic Institute’s Launch course today.

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