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Sales & Marketing Alignment: 3 Ways to Close the Gap


Sales and Marketing Alignment resized 600AG Salesworks is pleased to bring you a guest post from Janelle Johnson, Director of Demand Generation at Act-On Software. 

For sales and marketing teams, reaching across the aisle can be a foreign concept. In some cases, that’s putting it mildly.

To be sure, there are salespeople and marketers who comfortably co-exist. Sometimes they even eat lunch together.

But the prevailing opinion is firmly entrenched: Sales and marketing just don’t get along. Don’t understand each other. Don’t cooperate. Aren’t aligned. And, as a consequence, campaign ROI often suffers.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact …

Sales and marketing alignment is completely possible.

It just takes a little shift in perspective.

Finding common ground

Although it often feels like it, the sales and marketing divide isn’t actually that wide. Both camps have several responsibilities in common. Here are five of them:

  • They both are focused on customers (prospective, new, and returning)
  • They both have quotas to meet
  • They both have success metrics to deliver
  • They both must design campaigns that contribute to company goals
  • They both are accountable for driving revenue

The sales/marketing disconnect has less to do with the types of responsibilities and more (some would say everything) to do with the types of deliverables associated with those responsibilities – including how each deliverable maps to job incentives and rewards.

Combine that with a “siloed teams” business model, increased workloads, and compressed timelines… and voila! Disconnection City.

Expanding each side’s myopic view is key to sales and marketing alignment, which, in turn, is key to achieving new levels of success for both.

So without further ado, here are:

Three things both sides must understand

1. The numbers matter.

Metrics are where the rubber hits the road, so it’s incumbent on sales and marketing to learn and embrace what’s important for success. (Knowing math helps, too.)

For example:

  • How many leads does sales need to reach quota each month?
  • What’s the lead conversion rate through the pipeline?
  • How many leads does marketing need to deliver to the top of the funnel?
  • How many nurture touches are needed to qualify a lead?
  • How many leads ultimately convert to closed sales?

By understanding the numbers, both sides have an opportunity to really understand and appreciate what’s required for success.

2. Collaboration is not evil.

This is not to suggest that sales and marketing should begin living in each other’s pockets. But it IS suggesting that they should figure out how to regularly and consistently share key information that sheds light on the big picture. 

Here are some ideas:

  • Have representation in key meetings (e.g., a sales person joins key marketing meetings, and vice versa).
  • Have marketers listen to (or attend) a live sales call.
  • Consider doing “Campaign Alerts” or weekly “Field Notes” to ensure everyone is in the loop on critical information.
  • Share calendars, forecasts and timelines.
  • Work together on campaigns (especially the multi-touch, robust ones), ensuring sales and marketing roles are defined to work in concert.
  • Sit next to each other. Be close enough to hear the day-to-day talk tracks and conversations the other team is having. It’s an informal way to incrementally connect more dots.

Planned and consistent collaboration gives everyone the opportunity to gain valuable insights - including best practices, feedback on campaigns, information on wins and losses, and who needs what and when – which ultimately helps both sides achieve their strategic and tactical goals.

3. Be flexible.

Urgency. Priority. 11th hour changes. They’re the laws of the jungle for both sales and marketing. When they crop up (and they always will), one side’s needs will often need to be delayed or even sacrificed in order to ensure a larger success.

The ability to accept and roll with dynamic change is a hallmark of sales and marketing alignment.

Here are a few ways both sides can practice their give-and-take skills:

  • Proactively address issues together. Be honest in discussing and addressing leads, campaigns, and metrics to get in front of potential snafus.
  • Embrace each other’s approach to customer messaging … then choose the path that will deliver the best results. This means marketing can’t always have perfectly constructed and branded emails, nor can sales always have brief CTA-driven dispatches. Let the data be your guide.
  • Understand how leads are – and should be – prioritized. For example, marketing wants sales to be responsive to all leads, and sales wants to focus on the “right” leads. A flexible approach by both sides will ensure the right leads are being contacted with the right message at the right time.

Better alignment yields better results

In the end, both sales and marketing teams share the same goal: revenue. It’s easier – and far more productive – to achieve shared goals by working together. Cooperating. Aligning.

At Act-On, our sales and marketing teams have achieved alignment, thanks to a supportive business model and culture, and a robust marketing automation platform. As a proof point (and shameless plug), our sales and marketing teams have never missed their numbers. Alignment is a big part of that.

Janelle is responsible for everything from email marketing, webinars and content creation to lead generation and nurturing. She is a key player in the development of all processes for lead and pipeline cultivation and maturation, and driving tight alignment between the sales and marketing teams. Janelle has been named to SLMA’s “20 Women to Watch” list as well as the “50 Most Influential People in Sales Lead Management.” Follow her on Twitter: @janelle_johnson.



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