By Carly Bauer, Marketing Coordinator at Heinz Marketing

I will just say it now, here at the beginning. Aligned teams work more effectively and perform better! It is obvious to see and it logically makes sense, but it is not always sought out and it isn’t easy to achieve either. 

Sales and Marketing Alignment History

In the past, there has often been a division between sales and marketing. Segmented from one another, marketing would work the top of the funnel and sales would work the bottom. Once a lead was ready for sales, it would be handed off and in many cases, never hear from marketing again.

Yet surprisingly, people often use the terms “marketing” and selling” interchangeably, and when it comes to small businesses you will often see both functions performed by the same person or department. But as companies grow, the two begin to grow apart into two distinct roles and functions performed by two separate teams.

As responsibilities and roles become more detailed and complex, having separation is good but too much separation leads to miscommunication and misalignment. There are no common goals or direction.

What is Sales and Marketing Alignment?

Before we can understand sales and marketing alignment, it’s good to know what sales and marketing individually entail.

In general, marketing takes care of all the activities and resources needed to reach out and persuade target customers, including messaging, advertising, branding, pricing, customer research, social media campaigns, email campaigns and newsletters, PR, event management and other activities.  When it comes to sales, they cover everything you do to close the deal and bring in the revenue. This includes direct customer engagement and relationship building via in-person one-to-one meetings or through video chat, cold calls and sales proposals.

Sales and marketing alignment is a shared system of communication, strategy, accountability, and goals that enable marketing and sales teams to operate as a unified organization. Working together, aligned teams can deliver high-impact marketing activities, boost sales effectiveness, and ultimately grow revenue.

What Does Sales Do For Marketing?

Sales’ responsibility is to sell, obviously, but that doesn’t mean they don’t support marketing. Due to their proximity to customers, salespeople can offer a wealth of insights into buyer needs, operational efficiency, and product capabilities. An aligned sales team should close the feedback loop by sharing:

  • Real-world solution applications
  • Market dynamics
  • Customer health
  • Product efficiency
  • Content validity

With this intel, sales helps keep marketing up-to-date on buyer pain points and needs so they can better execute marketing initiatives.

What Does Marketing Do For Sales?

In an aligned organization, marketers guide buyers through the early stages of the buyer’s journey, preparing potential customers for engagement with sellers later on. Even after a deal is closed, organizations will continue to market to customers in order to deliver additional value. Often in a misaligned company, we will see this initial trade off from marketer to seller when the customer is ready and that is the end of it. There is no follow-up from or loop back to the marketing team to provide knowledge and insight on additional products that may be beneficial as a business grows.

In order to support sales, marketing must:

  • Educate buyers
  • Nurture and qualify leads
  • Provide competitive intel
  • Influence the market
  • Consistently engage customers

Through these actions, marketing supports sales by ensuring buyers are educated, interested and engaged – and more likely to start or continue doing business with an organization.

What Problems Can Sales and Marketing Alignment Solve

Misalignment and efficiency do not work together, with one you cannot have the other. Here are some common areas of friction between sales and marketing teams that can be resolved through sales and marketing alignment.

Under-utilization of Sales Content

It is a well-known and unfortunately an accepted fact that a fair portion of marketing content goes unused by sales. Marketing creates, develops, and delivers assets to the sales team with little to no input from sellers themselves. Poor alignment is a consistent contributor to this under-utilization, and as a result content doesn’t meet sales needs.

With alignment, marketers have access to customer insight through their salespeople, allowing them to create content that better addresses seller needs effectively. This results in greater adoption of marketing content and materials, reducing the number of wasted hours and one-off requests.

Weak Customer Data

There is a labyrinth-like tangle of customer data out there, originating from a variety of sources and much of it doesn’t give deep enough insights into your customers needs, buying experience, and history.

Strong alignment between sales and marketing can help uncover hidden trends and piece together more in-depth customer insights, allowing teams to form a centralized source of information and technology that serves both sales and marketing in an equally integrated and insightful way.

Inadequate Lead Handoffs

Marketing may generate hundreds of MQLs at an event but sales may decide to pursue recycled opportunities instead, believing that marketing leads are not qualified enough. This lead handoff can easily become a point of tension between sales and marketing teams. But by agreeing to how leads are scored and how fast sales should act on them, both teams can operate more efficiently with less waste and buyers get a more timely response.

Inaccurate Representation of ROI

Working completely separate makes it hard to calculate and visualize ROI. How can marketing measure and show that an asset was beneficial to a deal? Inefficiencies in a company cannot be accurately portrayed, making it difficult to understand where investment of time, resources or energy is needed.

When it comes to alignment between sales and marketing, credit is given when it is due. This alleviates tensions between the two teams when they feel that one is not pulling their adequate weight in bringing in revenue by providing a more transparent view of how investments are impacting the bottom line.

Stagnant Growth

Sales peak and deals are easy to make when new products launch or campaigns initiate growth, but eventually growth plateaus. Alignment is key to reignite the go-to-market engine when buyers aren’t biting.

Having a closed-loop feedback between sales and marketing empowers leaders on both sides to look into market environment and buyer behavior, new opportunities and adjusting strategies to initiate buyer growth effectively again.

Alignment For The Win

A successful organization doesn’t exist entirely with sales or with marketing. For a greater marketing conversion, you need an efficient sales program. For efficient and more predictable sales, you need a solid marketing program. When sales and marketing teams work towards a common goal, and are looking at the same data and insights, everyone understands who they’re targeting, how they’re engaging, how often they’re engaging, and are making sure messaging resonates with potential customer pain points. From this alignment between sales and marketing teams, strategy plans become more effective, companies observe an increase in revenue as a whole, while sales teams observe shorter sales cycles, and marketing observes improved conversion rates.

What has been your experience with sales and marketing alignment? Let us know!