Sales and marketing alignment

How Sales And Marketing Alignment Will Save Your Business

Alex and I had an argument the other day. I say that like he was involved in the decision to have that argument, but he wasn’t. I started it.

What we were arguing about isn’t important. My point is this:

We’d been arguing for almost an hour before it dawned on us that we both had the same viewpoint. We’d both been so busy trying to stress our individual points that we’d failed to notice that we were on the same side. Has that ever happened to you?

Now, after everything had been resolved, I went back to what I was actually supposed to be doing at that time, which was writing this blog post.

I was only a few lines in to my initial note-taking when it dawned on me… sales teams and marketing teams have the same problem that Alex and I had just had.

Hear me out.

The Age-Old Battle Between Sales and Marketing

Sales and Marketing Alignment

The battle between sales and marketing has become so prevalent in business that it’s become a cliché. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It may not be at ‘Saving Private Ryan’ level of epicness as far as fights go, but it’s a biggie nonetheless.

But… it’s also really stupid.

I mean, at a fundamental level, don’t sales and marketing have the same goal?

Sales teams and marketing teams are both trying to grow and to maintain a business. At a base level, that is literally their job.

The way they do that is by working to win customers. Both of them.

They may do that at different stages of the pipeline, using different tactics and with different mini-goals along the way. The endgame, however, is the same.

For both.

But marketing and sales hate each other.

Why is There a Huge Disconnect Between Sales and Marketing?

In short, it’s because they each think the other is doing a bad job.

Somewhere along the lines, there has been a massive disconnect between sales and marketing. So, where did that come from?

In recent years the world has changed a lot for both departments. The internet has created a whole new landscape, and the average buyer has shifted their behaviour monumentally.

Sales and marketing have both done their best to adjust, but they’ve largely done this without talking to each other.

First, let’s consider marketing:

How Has the Marketing Landscape Changed in Recent Years?

For starters, I don’t think it’s controversial to say that social media has exploded. There are SO many different places to be online, and brands need to be seen at the party.

So much of modern marketing is focused on being present in and on this ever-expanding list of social channels. Everything is about ‘brand awareness’. If you’re not at the party, no one knows or cares about what you have to offer, or even who you are.

Now, brand awareness is great, but it’s notoriously hard to track from an ROI perspective. That means marketing departments often seem to be pretty light on targets and KPIs, so it can be hard to tell how much of what a marketing team is doing is actually paying off.

Gary Vaynerchuk didn’t mince his words in a recent video when he said the following:

“Marketers; you’re full of shit and you’re fluffy.”


But he does have a point.

From a sales person’s perspective, I can see how marketers do quite often appear to be full of shit. Sales people live and breathe targets and KPIs.

If you’re a salesperson, no one wants to hear about how you’re ‘warming up’ your customers, or how the content you’re providing is creating trust and loyalty that might one day result in a sale… or might not.

All your boss cares about is your numbers.

But the landscape has changed for salespeople too.

How Has the Sales Landscape Changed in Recent Years?

Recent CMI and LinkedIn research on B2B prospective buyers found the following:

  • 92% of B2B buyers start with an information search
  • 53% of B2B buyers find that researching online is superior to interacting with a salesperson
  • 75% of B2B buyers depend on social networks to learn about different vendors
  • 90% of B2B buyers won’t take a cold call

Yeesh. So, sales isn’t the same game it once was.

What the above research tells us is that it can’t be the sales team’s job to generate leads, or to warm them up. People don’t want to hear a squeak from a sales person until they’re pretty much ready to buy.

Because of that, you’d think that sales would be best pals with the marketing team, whose job it is to do that bit for them.

But this is where the problem lies: creating decent leads is what sales teams think marketing is failing at. They think the leads being sent their way aren’t ready at best, or completely useless at worst.

The following quote from CMI shows the divide between sales and marketing it in all its starkness:

‘Fingers point. Blame is assigned. Marketing claims “we are generating more leads than sales can handle.” Sales responds with “marketing’s leads aren’t worth our valuable time.”‘

A great article on Martech Advisor also stated:

“52% of marketers say that they provide salespeople with their best quality leads, but only 8% of salespeople agree leads passed on through marketing are high quality.”
Is Sales or Marketing to Blame When Revenue is Down?

Screw Private Ryan, this is starting to get tenser than the Cold War.

So. Who’s right? Sales or marketing?

The truth is this:

Sometimes a specific problem is the fault of one over the other, but most times both sides carry the blame.

The real issue is that sales and marketing teams are often disastrously misaligned.

They have different terminology, different targets, they measure different metrics. They often have completely opposing views about who they’re targeting, and about what makes a good lead.

If that rings true about your own sales and marketing teams, then you need to take action if you want to see revenue growth.

Seriously, look at what you’re missing out on if you don’t (data collated by Martech Advisor in this great article):

  • Organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing functions enjoy 36% higher customer retention rates (MarketingProfs)
  • Aligned sales and marketing teams have 38% higher sales win rates (MarketingProfs)
  • Companies with strong sales and marketing alignment achieve a 20% annual growth rate (Aberdeen Group)

The God-honest truth is that sales and marketing need to start singing off the same hymn sheet.

Sure, it’s comforting to have someone to blame when sales are low and revenue is down, but how much does it really matter whose fault it is if sales and marketing are both failing?


Whose Job is it to Align Sales and Marketing Teams?

How do you align your sales and marketing teams?

Are you the owner of your business? Or maybe you’re a sales and marketing director?

Then it’s your job.

Lucky you.

You can’t expect your sales and marketing teams to all-of-a-sudden start working together if the culture of your company forces the opposite.

The battle between the two departments is often played off as a running joke, but, when we’re talking about growing revenue and profit, the divide is no laughing matter.

So, now that I’ve wiped the smiles off everyone’s faces and created a nice sombre atmosphere, let’s address the billion dollar question:

How Do You Align Your Sales and Marketing Teams?

An IDC study showed that sales and marketing misalignment costs businesses 10% or more revenue per year.

What’s 10% of your annual revenue?

Can you afford to lose that?

What would it look like if you upped your revenue by 10%?

Pretty good?

So, let’s get to grips with sales and marketing alignment.

To create alignment, your sales and marketing teams need to work in unison. Here’s how to do that:

Steps to Take to Align Your Sales and Marketing Teams:

How to align your sales and marketing departments

1. Make Sure Sales and Marketing Measure the Same Metrics and Share Incentives

Decide what metrics to measure, and stick to them. Not just sales. Marketing too. Sales and marketing both need to understand about Customer Acquisition Cost.

Can your marketing team currently answer the following question:

For every pound you spend on marketing, how much revenue is generated?

If they don’t know, they’re not measuring properly.

The technology exists nowadays to measure every single step of a potential buyer’s journey. Automation makes it easy. Make sure you’re using the right tools.

Shared incentives will help your teams realise they’re on the same side, and that they’re working towards a common goal. When you’re figuring out which metrics to measure, try to work a shared incentive scheme in there.

2. Encourage Sales and Marketing to Understand Each Other’s Strategies

Your sales and marketing teams are going to need to be in the same room occasionally if they’re going to be aligned with one another. Make sure you give them the time and ability to make that happen.

Allow marketing to lay out its plans to the sales team, gather feedback, and share goals and targets for their campaigns. That way, there won’t be any question marks from sales regarding the relevance of what marketing are up to.

On the flipside, make sure that the sales team shares its own strategies with marketing. What do they consider to be a good lead? Are marketing currently sending leads through too early, too late, or not at all? Having a grumble about the marketing department is all well and good, but improvement won’t happen until sales has the opportunity to tell marketing what it needs to do differently.

3. Make Sure Sales and Marketing Have a Single View of the Ideal Customer

If your marketing team is worth its salt, they will have already established their ideal customer persona(s).

However, have you checked that this matches up to what the sales team believes is the ideal customer for your product?

If your marketing team is drawing Person A into the funnel, nurturing them, and sending them through to a sales team who really want Person B to come out the other side, then both teams are going to end up frustrated and disappointed.

Sit the key members of your team down together and make sure they have a clearly established view of their ideal customer, because it needs to be the same person for both departments.

4. Create a Singular Customer Journey Spanning Both Sales and Marketing

CMI found that marketing and sales professionals often have fundamentally different views of the customer journey process. That’s a problem because – to the customer at least – it’s all one journey.

Marketing people talk about funnels and filters. Sales people talk about gates. The important thing to remember is that these are all metaphors.

Sales and marketing can and should develop a single process for the customer journey.

If there’s a disconnect between your sales and marketing teams’ view of the customer journey, things won’t gel, sales won’t come through, and there’ll have been a lot of expense and effort wasted on both sides of the table.

You can make sure your customer’s journey is streamlined by doing the following:

5. Make Sales and Marketing Collaborate on Content Marketing

CMI research has shown that as much as 80% of marketing content goes unused by sales.

Sometimes that’s because the content is wrong or irrelevant. Sometimes it’s because the sales team doesn’t understand the content marketing strategy (or even know the content exists in the first place).

In either case, it’s bad.

Content marketing is how leads get warmed up. Content marketing is how prospects are educated, advised and reassured so that they can move on to make the decision to buy.

The customer journey doesn’t exist without it.

In the same CMI research, 97% of people agreed that revenue has the potential to increase when content marketing and sales work together.

So make them work together.

Remember that your sales team consists of the people who actually speak to your customers. They know them better than anyone. They know their pain points, what questions they have, and their reservations about your product. Make sure they have the means to share their insight with the marketing team so that they can build their content marketing strategy around it.

The results could be phenomenal.

To Conclude…

It seems like a long time ago that I was talking about my argument with Alex. But I hope you sort of see now how I got from Point A to Point B on this one.

Now I really, really hate to admit when I’m wrong, but there’s no escaping the fact that most of the fault surrounding that argument was on me. Instead of starting a fight, I should have first laid out what it was that I actually wanted. I should have stated what my end-goal was, and what I needed Alex to do to help me get there.

Too much time is wasted through people arguing when they should be working together.

It’s the same deal for sales and marketing.

It’s your job to be your sales and marketing departments’ marriage counsellor.

Don’t ever let them forget that they’re on the same team.

Leadfreak live and breathe sales and marketing alignment through our automated sales funnels. We can help you to implement all of the above, we can do it fast, and we can do it effectively. Book a call today to find out more. We love talking about this stuff.

About the Author


Emma is the Editorial Director at Leadfreak. Her mission is to design, create, and publish the content that turns our clients into credible experts. To do this it needs to resonate with target audiences whilst being engaging and informative.

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