6 Ways to Align Sales and Marketing

Sales and Marketing are integral to the success of a company. As salespeople like to say, “nothing happens until a sale is made.” Marketing, however, is part of the backbone that makes selling a product or service possible. If working well and in tandem with sales teams, a solid and focused marketing strategy can take businesses to the next level. This sales and marketing duo is integral to lead and revenue generation, and should have an aligned focus. Below are six of the best ways that sales and marketing can work together to drive business growth and make for a productive, positive workplace.

1. Align goals

Sales and marketing may oftentimes forget they are orbiting the same sun—however, both ultimately want the same thing—to grow the business and increase constructive exposure. The disconnect stems from a fundamental flaw between two departments that must work together. That is, different objectives on how to get there. But successful organizations that synergize the sales and marketing relationship work together to align their goals. A 2011 Aberdeen study found that “highly aligned organizations achieved an average of 32% annual revenue growth – while less well-aligned companies reported an average 7% decline in revenue.” That’s why sales and marketing alignment is so important today. Similar goals, resources, vocabulary, and business processes are just a few important aspects that can help streamline communication and help the success of both departments.

2. Define the relationship (ex: Create an SLA)

Sales and marketing should work together to achieve their goals. One effective way to ensure a healthy sales and marketing relationship is to establish a Service Level Agreement (SLA). Internal SLAs are becoming more and more common for sales and marketing, because they work so well. Think of it like this: For a sales team to succeed, they need baseline results (like lead generation) from marketing just like marketing needs the sales team to perform effectively for marketing strategies. Parts of the agreement could include:

  • Marketing agrees on a certain quality and volume of prospects for sales on a weekly or monthly basis, so sales can agree on a certain number of working pipeline leads, sales, and follow-ups in tandem with the agreement.
  • Clear, to the point language. This isn’t political legislation. Make the agreement short and transparent, so everyone knows his or her responsibilities.
  • An explanation. Why and how these numbers were determined, and what the agreement aims to achieve.
  • Test a couple SLAs out before deciding the right one. If it is the first time an SLA is made in collaboration with sales and marketing, it’s highly unlikely the ideal solution will be worked out on the first try.

3. Use the same or colluding tools

Far too often we see marketing and sales using different application tools, performance assessments, and/or quality metrics. When marketing takes the time to utilize a lead rating system, but sales never uses it, that’s a waste of resources. On the flip side, if sales doesn’t communicate feedback they get from their customers on marketing’s performance, opportunity is being wasted to grow each department. Work together to find out what works, needs to change, and what doesn’t work—and throw out the latter. Not to mention this will likely maximize your ROI and while decreasing capital expenses.

4. Optimize and promote communication

This is a basic necessity for inter-departmental success, and it’s nothing complicated. If you’re in an office, being in close proximity can show immediate benefits in collaboration. Meetings and feedback with sales and marketing can also make sure everyone is on the same page. Brief immersion periods, so that sales and marketing can see what each other actually do, can also help with reducing tension and increasing understanding of what each team has to work with. This could also include the marketing team helping close sales deals, so that the importance of marketing generated leads is understood. It can also be empowering to show what each department uses from the other.

5. Understand and share each other’s resources

Being on the same page in terms of value proposition and communication style can be important for customer experience consistency. Companies that have a space to use and share similar resources (think the aptly named Microsoft Sharepoint) see more compatible marketing and sales strategies because they are using the same material to draw from. Having a spot for both sales and marketing material creates the best of both worlds and maintains a unified strategy.

6. Create Trust

Teams can’t work together without mutually respecting the validity of what each other says. As mentioned earlier, an SLA is an important tool to increase collaboration and essentially contractually obligates the other to uphold metric baselines, but furthering trust levels is also important for an ideal sales and marketing relationship. One way to do this is by including sales and marketing in each other’s processes. For example, have sales help marketing in content creation, or marketing field FAQs from customers. This fosters transparency and a healthy reliance on the other team.

So what’s the alternative to aligned sales and marketing? Some of the most common issues that come to mind are lost revenue, departmental frustration, inconsistency in external messages, and companies generally not achieving their full growth potential. Hopefully this list can help align two of the most important departments in a business that can exponentially benefit your company moving forward.

Written by Collin Lea

Collin is a senior at the University of Washington Foster School of Business, where he’s focusing on Information Systems and pursuing the Sales Certificate. In his spare time, Collin enjoys the Pacific Northwest outdoors (he’s lived there his whole life) and golf, rain or shine.


Published May 27, 2015 by Luke Severn.
Categories: Marketing Minute, Sales