The division and conflict between marketing and sales is probably as old as the conflict between cats and dogs. In most organizations, sales and marketing just have a hard time getting along -- whether it be due to their divergent initiatives or their disparate personalities.
Still, these are two of the most crucial departments for an organization’s revenue cycle. The cost of sales and marketing misalignment come in the form of hours wasted producing content that no one wants or uses, marketing dollars spent sourcing leads that will never get followed up on, and opportunities that get stuck in the pipeline.
Here are five ways to get your sales and marketing departments on the same team.
1. Establish Guidelines for Lead Qualification Criteria
It is the classic struggle between sales and marketing.
The sales team is all like:
And then marketing is all like:
Hopefully your workplace is not as dysfunctional as the environment of Glengarry Glen Ross, but the point still stands -- one of the chief conflicts between marketing and sales is the definition of lead qualification. But it is not productive to stay in your silos and talk about lead quality behind each other’s backs.
In order to achieve sales and marketing alignment, you need to agree to what a qualified lead looks like. Start the conversation by creating your buyer personas.
Aligning sales and marketing around a buyer persona will allow your marketers to target the types of MQLs that sales can actually close and will allow sales to feel ownership over the leads that are getting sent to them.
But the most important part of this is that it creates a process for the constant two-way flow of information about leads- basically sales and marketing now have a way to collaborate on the lead qualification process which reduces tension, siloing, and conflict.
2. Create an SLA to set expectations
Sales and marketing alignment can’t just be about making good speeches about how we are in this together and singing Kumbaya by the camp fire.
You need to back up the relationship with concrete processes.
The most effective way to do that is for sales and marketing to collaborate with each other on building a service level agreement (SLA) to:
- Set expectations about when a lead is qualified enough to pass onto sales
- Set expectations about how quickly a lead needs to be followed up with after being identified as an SQL
You can build SLAs around other metrics as well, but it is usually best to keep it simple and direct. SLAs built around lead quality and followup address the two biggest sources of conflict between marketing and sales. It also sets a baseline for both marketing and sales to try to improve from.
3. Prioritize Sales Enablement
With the modern sales cycle looking more like a loopy roller coaster or an interconnected spiderweb than an actual cycle, sales teams need more and more support in order to do their jobs.
Bottom line: Customers want empathy, patience, and value first before getting a sales pitch. And marketing is in the exact right position to help sales people deliver that experience.
The most common place for sales and marketing to align is content. Great pieces of content not only attract great inbound customers, they also accelerate the deal cycle at scale.
If you are a marketing manager, reach out to your sales counterpart and start building a content process that includes content requests from Marketing. Take the information that salespeople are giving you and weaponize that into scalable messaging that can communicate and deliver value to leads.
This process should be built to ensure better segmentation, wider reach, and rigorous testing to bring new messaging to market faster and at scale.
Before you know it, both the quality of your content and the velocity of your deals will improve. Your sales and marketing alignment will be through the roof. And sales will finally feel like they have a partner to rely on:
4. Refer to Customer Feedback as Your Source of Truth
When conflict occurs between marketing and sales, it is usually not just a simple disagreement in policy and practice. Most times, it is a more fundamental disagreement in what the one source of truth is.
Marketing relies on the broad data of their at-scale activities. Sales points to their boots-on-the-ground experience talking to real in-market leads.
Neither of these are better than the other- rather those two sources are an imperfect measure of trying to gauge the same thing: customer preferences and disposition.
What are your customer’s pain points? What are their motivations? What job are they hiring your product to do?
Try asking your customers.
When sales and marketing have a disagreement over the market- look to customer feedback as your source of truth.
5. Reinvent the Customer Journey Together
Sorry, but when you are trying to build trust between two different departments that have historically been at odds, a lot of times it is actually necessary to re-invent the wheel.
Sorry again, that was creepy.
But the point is that when two departments have a dysfunctional relationship, this gives rise to dysfunctional processes. Things start getting done not because it is best for the customer experience, but because sometimes the path of least resistance means going up, over, or around a department that you don’t get along with.
These workarounds get ingrained in an organization and cannot be fixed with small changes. So marketing and sales people that want to break the gridlock, get aligned, and enter the dawn of a new era will need to build a new customer journey that passes seamlessly from marketing to sales in a single brand experience.
Starting from the attract stage at the start of the flywheel, right down through to the delight stage –- everything should be tied together as one experience. This will allow you and your team to track a prospect across the entire flywheel and to continuously optimize the flywheel until it is propelling your entire organization into the stratosphere.
When this new customer journey is built, it will be maintained by marketing on the technical side and by sales on the activity side. It will be a whole new world.
Sales and marketing misalignment is extremely common and a huge competitive disadvantage. Fundamental to change management will be your leadership -- your willingness to listen, be generous and work not just for the good of your company, but for the experience of your customers.
Updated January 2022