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Lead Nurturing and Marketing Automation: 15 Key Questions Answered (Question 1)

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Editor's note: This first article of a series focusing on lead nurturing asks and answers, "How do you achieve alignment between Marketing and Sales?" The series will cover 15 questions that are top of mind for companies.

Question 1: How do you achieve alignment between Marketing and Sales?

The essential question that the various stakeholders often ask themselves is this: Will I be better off collaborating or going it alone?

If you believe your company can better achieve its goals via collaboration and alignment, then you can achieve that alignment by first offering proof that it's worth the time, and then showing how alignment is easily achieved.

First, show them the problem

Give specific examples of where alignment issues in BOTH Sales and Marketing are potentially costing revenue. For example show how your definition of terms differ and how  applications differ, show that communication is missing, and so on. Ask, What would happen if you shared a bowler*?

Show them the win

According to a 2010 report by Aberdeen Research, companies that are "best-in-class" at aligning Marketing and Sales had 20% average growth in annual revenue vs. a 4% decline in "laggard" organizations. Moreover, in many best-in-class organizations, Sales and Marketing organizations tend to both report to a single person who responsible for both lead generation and closing business.

Show them how it works:

  • Share. "Best-in-class" sales and marketing organizations share goals, applications, and processes that allow them to stay in alignment at every stage of every sale, from first contact to closed sale. According to Aberdeen, this usually implies that Marketing uses both customer relationship management system as well as the normal marketing technologies.
  • Define terms. Socrates and the "best-in-class" agree that wisdom begins with definition of terms: What is an ideal client? What is a response? A qualified lead? An opportunity? What are the stages in the sales process?
  • Stay aligned. Weekly meetings and regular reference to the agreed-upon definitions is essential to keeping the alignment on track and productive. Sometimes, changing situations, niche markets, and competitive actions require adjustment to the definitions.
  • Encourage a shared perspective. A shared bowler that shows total Marketing and Sales activity is the final piece of the puzzle. At a glance, everyone can quickly see whether progress is being made, where it's being made, and where adjustments might be considered. A bowler shared by both Marketing and Sales will drive one perspective of how well Marketing and Sales are performing against the metrics that drive company revenue.

Is there a possible win?

Gain agreement from both Sales and Marketing stakeholders about the expected impact of alignment. Is the expected gain going to be worth the effort?

If either party feels that creating and maintaining alignment is "not worth the effort" or they "have better things to do," then the initiative will fail. There must be a mutual agreement—and excitement—about creating and maintaining alignment. Both groups must feel strongly that alignment is going to make their lives a lot easier and better in the long run.

Take action

Create an action plan for the next year with specific tasks, owners, and due dates. Make just one person accountable for each action step, but assign somebody from Sales and Marketing, each, to be responsible to support achievement of the action step.

Finally, get senior leadership buy-in

Expose the plan to the next major layer of management and ask not only that they give their blessing but also that they be held accountable at some date in the future. Without this step, the risk of failure is dramatically higher. Buy-in gives the program's senior level support—both finance and time—and also provide clarity about the consequences of failure. If everyone is serious about the goal of alignment, this step is a no-brainer.

Here's a tool you can use

Marketing and Sales Alignment Questions: Getting in synch with Sales begins with gaining some common ground. And that means agreeing on certain definitions, objectives, and goals. The 18 questions in this guide are all open-ended and intended to help you pave the way toward a greater alignment with Sales, and ultimately far more success with your marketing efforts.

*A bowler, or a KPI bowler, is a form for inputting key performance indicators; so named because it resembles a bowling score sheet.

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Sid Smith is lead copywriter and marketing automation specialist for Albertson Performance Group. Sid has written on topics ranging from flex circuits to motherhood, but gets a real kick out of putting together the puzzle pieces of complex marketing automation strategies. Reach him via

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