How to Increase Sales and Marketing Alignment

Posted by Josh Paul on May 6, 2020 11:43:51 AM
Josh Paul

The tension between your sales team and your marketing team is one of the most written about or discussed slow-burning feuds on earth.

For some businesses, it is right up there with:

  • Hamilton and Burr
  • Montagues and Capulets
  • Hatfields and McCoys

While both teams share a mutual goal of creating revenue for the company, their separate processes and deliverables can make their partnership a living nightmare.

As marketers provide more leads through digital tactics and other mass marketing channels, your sales and marketing teams' ability to understand each other and work together becomes increasingly critical to your company’s growth. This is called sales and marketing alignment (also known as “smarketing”). 

FREE DOWNLOAD: 9 Mistakes People Make When Trying to Increase Sales Using the HubSpot CRM

Sales and marketing alignment is the foundational and ongoing optimization of the sales and marketing team’s metrics, processes, and quality assurance practices to improve both revenue performance and the customer experience.

Sales and marketing alignment is often approached with a meeting between the two teams, where they agree on a SLA (service level agreement) for their relationship. Most SLAs assert that marketing agrees to produce a number of quality leads and sales is going to follow a specified process to close those leads. 

sales and marketing alignment

Unfortunately, these SLAs are sometimes misplaced or forgotten about once the meeting is over. Marketing goes back to doing things their way and sales returns to their own approach. 

Meanwhile, the tension between your teams simmers. As leads are generated, marketing sees that they're not being worked. Sales is frustrated because marketing is on their back. And both teams feel they’re doing the best they can with their current process. 

Why Is Sales and Marketing Alignment Important? 

Your sales and marketing team’s alignment is critical to your top-line growth. When your marketing department delivers quality leads to your sales team, it enables the sales team to close more leads and increase revenue. 

So what is the best way to ensure that these two departments follow the same playbook? 

We’ll share three key principles for truly effective sales and marketing alignment.


Definitions Are Key for Sales and Marketing Alignment

The first secret to sales and marketing alignment is definitions. Both teams need company-wide, agreed-upon definitions for all applicable elements of your lead management framework. Important definitions may include:

  1. What does it mean to be a lead? 
  2. What is an MQL? 
  3. What is an SQL? 

When formulating these definitions you’re not simply stating what the marketing department came up with, but more specifically, defining what both teams need to be on the same page. For example:

  1. When does a lead become a deal? 
  2. What is the criteria to move to the second deal stage? 
  3. What is the criteria to move to negotiation? 
  4. When does a lead become a closed deal? Is it when it's booked or when it's paid?

These definitions are incredibly important because they will help guide your leads through the sales process.

Clear and concise definitions provide a lead management framework so that sales people know which steps to take for each and every lead - regardless of the lead source, product, or phase of the sales process.  

Each step will manifest itself in your CRM’s data so that you know that you're tracking towards creating an opportunity and eventually - a customer. Having well-thought-out, clear lead management definitions is the foundational step in creating lasting alignment between your sales and marketing departments.

Why Simplicity Is Critical to Sales and Marketing Alignment

The second secret to aligning your sales and marketing departments relates to how your sales reps track and execute your sales process. Every company needs a playbook that salespeople follow to work leads, turn them into opportunities, and convert into revenue. 

If your sales process (all necessary steps and the data needed to enter/track leads in the CRM) is clunky and complicated, your sales team is not going to follow it. 

Your process has to be smooth and fluid. Most importantly, your sales process has to be simple

According to HubSpot Research, sales reps only spend one-third of their time selling! 

So what are they doing with the rest of their day? They are entering data, scheduling follow-up calls, and completing other CRM admin tasks that cost them time (and your company money). 

When it comes to CRM adoption, a seller-centric approach will always garner more consistent CRM usage than a management-centric approach.  The former approach makes your CRM user-friendly, shows your sales team that you value their time, and showcases the CRM as a tool to help them succeed.

If you present the CRM as a micro-management tool to track your sales team’s every move and require pages of data entry after every sales call, they will simply go through the motions to avoid a reprimand and never fully understand its sales capabilities (and potential!).

The easier it is for your sales team to follow your process, the easier it will be for them to keep the data clean and up-to-date. This will make it simple for them to work leads and move those leads through the process. 

Clean data gives your executive and sales leadership teams the information they need to make decisions for the company. Reliable CRM data also provides the marketing team with clear visibility that their leads are being worked and eventually closed.

Are Your Sales and Marketing Teams Jointly Accountable?

The final key to aligning your sales and marketing teams is accountability. And of course, we’re referring to both teams being accountable. 

Accountability doesn't have to be solely judged by management. Each team’s performance and process adoption is visible in your sales and marketing data. Start by highlighting a shared set of metrics that everybody follows. 

Your process can show whether or not everybody is living up to what they promised to do in your service level agreement. A single set of metrics that holds everybody accountable starts with having data you can trust in your CRM system. Being confident in your sales data starts with your CRM adoption program.

Sales and Marketing Alignment Takeaway

Sales and marketing alignment is not a lone meeting and a single document. It is a living, breathing process that needs to be constantly built upon. 

Successful smarketing starts with clear, agreed-upon definitions. From there, you need to support your sales team by giving them a simple sales and CRM process to follow in order to work leads and successfully turn them into opportunities and sales.

Finally, you need a single set of metrics that keeps everybody accountable. Shared accountability will help to validate assumptions and troubleshoot issues before the tension between the sales and marketing department gets out of control.

New call-to-action

Topics: Productivity, Sales, CRM Adoption, Customer Experience, Sales Process