Skip to main content

How to Improve Marketing and Sales Alignment

Published Date: Thursday, Jun 15, 2023
Last Updated on: Wednesday, Sep 13, 2023

Too often, sales and marketing can feel like they’re dancing to different beats – totally disjointed.

They step on each other’s toes, they battle for worth, and they can’t – or won’t – get in sync. 

But, if there’s been one upshot from the “Age of the Customer,” it’s that aligned teams exceed expectations. Research shows that businesses with aligned marketing and sales are up to 67% more efficient at closing deals, while highly aligned companies are 15% more profitable overall.

The good news is it’s never too late to turn the tide. For those truly dedicated to a cross-departmental future, these proven tactics will help you get your departments working like a well-oiled machine – rather than oil and water.

Why are marketing and sales misaligned?

Sales and marketing misalignment is not a new challenge. It’s born from an older understanding of the demand gen model, and a time when marketing’s influence in the funnel was overwhelmingly underplayed. Misalignment – in the more traditional sense – was kickstarted by the old-school field sales cliché: the “Wolf of Wall Street”-esque cigar-toting salesman who closed every deal over golf and dinner – unburdened by a “marketing team” whispering in his ear. 

Now, that traveling salesman can still knock on the door – but the homeowner is already out shopping. The customer acquisition model is almost entirely digital, and buyers expect to be sold to in a way that follows suit. The final handshake between customer and seller still happens, but marketing’s influence is pivotal in driving the deal through the pipeline toward close. It’s essentially about setting up easy MQLs for the seller to convert. When you rely that heavily on another vested party, conflict is inevitable – especially when your commission is on the line.

Create unified buyer documentation

There is zero value in siloed audience identification. It is essential that sales and marketing teams collaborate to target the same type of lead; otherwise, their efforts are a waste of time and resources. Miscommunication over – or even abandoning – the outlined ideal customer profile (ICP) or buyer persona can have a severe impact on the top of the funnel, touching everything from lead generation to quota attainment. 

Both teams need to feel involved in the buyer identification process – but not for the sake of morale or “team spirit.” Different schools of thought bring different values and conversations. Insight from both sides is always relevant in this discussion.

Don’t undervalue marketing data

Marketing data has a place in the ICP identification process. Insight into keyword searches, SEO and buyer intent data solidifies reach, messaging, tonality and targeted advertising processes, whereas sales will have concise data on deals won, what worked on similar accounts, and how customers have moved through the pipeline previously.

Dismantle pride and prevent wandering

Combined, marketing and sales metrics create holistic and sought-after data that accounts for the entire customer journey. This “fuller picture” shouldn’t be swept under the rug for the sake of pride. Collaboration also ensures consistent focus. Salespeople have been known to start at an outlined persona and then wander in chase of quota or commission. This leaves both parties firing in completely different directions.

Keep marketing collateral targeted and branded

Cooperation means that marketing collateral like socials, whitepapers, website resources and case studies back up the sales process from the start, being created with a sense of passion and pride – rather than begrudgingly.

Share goals and expectations early

Confident marketing and sales alignment nearly always begins with setting the tracks for success between both teams. Without an agreed idea for what success looks like and how it can be measured, there’s really no identity for business goals. 

Fostering better collaboration ensures that both parties are held accountable to the same outcomes. The only way to achieve that is to satisfy both sides with shared objectives from the onset. Neither team has a greater purpose in the pipeline – they’re both equally accountable and valuable. Setting expectations early and collaboratively will ensure both teams are pulling in the same direction with the same core targets in mind.

Sales and marketing leaders are known for having blinders toward their own operations. Of course, both teams will have sector-specific micro KPIs that don’t align – that’s unavoidable. There’s value in understanding the other party’s unique delivery metrics to solve strategy shortcomings, and to understand why they may be doing something differently to achieve the overarching goal. It’s worth establishing weekly (or more frequent) touchpoints to keep the entire sales and marketing team in the loop.

Communicate effectively

You can’t expect to align a sales and marketing operation without good communication. That’s the bottom line. It won’t happen. This starts with working from the same centralized points: Shared documentation, shared buyer personas, one reporting sheet and one goal. You simply can’t afford to keep key reporting data and collateral concealed from another vested department. 

Feedback, results and goals should fall under one umbrella. Otherwise, people take personal agendas over combined targets, which are far easier to achieve when teams are aligned. Having shared, centralized assets also boosts transparency across your business, with data to identify pitfalls, understand how they arise, and resolve them without creating conflict. 

That’s not to say conflict should be outlawed. Friction between teams can be uncomfortable, but it’s necessary in order to grow. Complacency and acceptance of failing processes dulls your competitive edge.

Embrace conflict

Accountability, transparency and honesty are too often labeled as “blame culture.” Businesses discourage conflict early for fear of internal politics and high turnover. In reality, there’s nothing wrong with conflict – it just needs to be carried out in a constructive way.

In the case of sales and marketing alignment, failures very rarely fall at the feet of a single individual. If a deal does fall through, both sides have their part to play. If one team’s work isn’t being done to the set standard, it’s equally the other team’s job to recognize this and hold them to account. This should not be seen as adversarial.

Effective conversation allows leaders to diagnose strategy pains early and give feedback without bitterness or gossip. Difficult conversations shouldn’t be snubbed for the sake of respect or acceptance; they should be embraced with an approach that is constructive, respectful and helps both departments move forward – instead of plateauing.

Trust your team to do their job

While there’s a clear advantage to combining the efforts of your sales team and marketing, the lines shouldn’t blur too closely. Salespeople and marketers hold their titles for a reason.

No one department should lead the show. No one is “in charge” – it’s entirely collective. If one sector is given authority over the other this can be patronizing. Neither sales nor marketing has greater weight in the pipeline. It’s about creating collaboration, not opposition.

However, it’s equally important that your team shares their insights. If sales reps require knowledge and data from marketing, openly offer it. There’s no reason to hide information from either side for personal pride. Build a culture that dismantles competitiveness between departments. We’re not competing, we’re working together.

Salespeople and marketers shouldn’t assume that the information they’re concealing is irreplaceable either. It isn’t. What is irreplaceable is the ability to offer insight across your business on a focused level.

Align for success

It’s sales & marketing, NOT sales vs. marketing. The long-fought competition is outdated – it simply doesn’t lead to growth in the same way that working in alignment does. Marketing will never be able to overthrow sales and sales will never be able to dislodge marketing. These sectors need to work together confidently to unlock the full potential of a brand’s growth.

The marketing world is forever evolving. Its role in the sales pipeline increases on a daily basis, but that doesn’t mean it threatens the sales sector. Marketing will never be able to solve that final piece of the puzzle – but what it can do is shred the time the lead generation process takes and supply high-quality warm leads – ready to be wined, dined and closed. Both sales and marketing need to recognize this in order to establish any stable partnership.

The reality is: Sales relies on marketing as much as marketing relies on sales. Alignment fails when organizations fail to embrace this culture.