Sales and marketing alignment means different things to different people.

The obvious goal is to get marketing and sales teams to agree on what constitutes qualified leads and form a relatively friction-free relationship in which everyone speaks the same language; however, the unfortunate reality is that intricacies specific to each effort require dedicated attention, and expected contention between the two divisions can prevent or delay progress.

What often occurs is that the sales team complains that the marketing team isn't generating enough leads, while the marketing team complains that the sales team doesn't follow up with the leads or put in enough effort to qualify them.

Sales teams usually require a little motivation to be more proactive. Although marketing teams must be responsive to the nuances of the sales team's current efforts, it is the job of the marketing team to influence and educate the sales team with insights regarding the business.

Ideally, the sales team would be excited to meet with the marketing team, simply because of the promise and benefit of researched target market perceptions and solid industry foresight.

How can marketing teams influence, educate, and encourage sales teams? How do you align such disparate yet parallel objectives as sales and marketing?

1. Get the priorities right: Alignment starts with a revenue goal

Both the sales and the marketing teams need to be focused on a common goal—revenue.

Your organization must ask what percentage of your revenue you are targeting as coming from base accounts as opposed to new relationships. Some companies are structured so that 80% of their revenue comes from base accounts and 20% comes from new accounts, whereas the reverse might be the case for other companies.

It's important for everyone, Sales and Marketing alike, to understand where the targets are.

2. Dig deeper: Break down your prospects by persona

Once you understand where the targets are, you can segment further. Are you targeting executives? Management level? Operational level? Each of those segments must be planned and approached differently to ensure effectiveness. What are the deals that are going to be offered to each segment? Only after understanding your segmented targets and your strategy to pursue those targets can you determine the mutual support needed from the sales and marketing teams.

3. Understand that the sales team generates the revenue for everyone in the company—and that they are the face of the company

Sales teams know what it's like to tangle with prospects and customers day in and day out. They have deep experience with customer relationships. Although marketing teams should help sales teams focus on representing the larger organization, much can be learned from the sales team regarding personal relationship-building—and customer-base insight.

4. Salespeople must trust that marketers are seeking to move the business forward

The marketing team may think "bigger picture," but their efforts are for the benefit of the company. Sales teams should willingly engage in training on marketing initiatives, and regularly pitch their ideas for sales support, product demos, and the overall customer experience.

5. Utilize Marketing to create awareness

It is costly to use the sales team to create awareness and generate interest—which is the marketing team's role. If the business you are targeting is not aware of your products and solutions, it's going to be hard to sell anything. When the customer is aware of his or her potential need for your products or services, then his or her interest grows.

6. Utilize Sales to create preference

Salespeople are most effective at creating preference and driving customers to action. You want to be your customer's preferred choice. This is where Sales and Marketing work together to create valued differentiation—your unique business value. Once you have established your company as being the preferred choice, the next step is action, and it's the sales team's job to help the customer make a decision, or recommendation, or place an order.

7. Marketing needs Sales to share the realities from the buyers

Marketing professionals and sales professionals view the world differently. Marketing often thinks high-level, big-picture... and forgets to think about the importance of relationship-building.

It's hard to understand the realities of the buyer-seller relationship without experiencing it. For that reason, smart marketing teams will ask for input from Sales on tactical planning, enabling salespeople to be more proactive while the marketing organization becomes responsive to the needs of the field.

8. A friction-free dynamic between Marketing and Sales is unrealistic

Friction will exist between the sales and marketing functions, but being respectful of the different perspectives and goals will be tremendously helpful for making sure the entire process is relatively smooth.

Learning from each other about what each group or job role needs will contribute to more productive and efficient outcomes for the company overall.

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How to Align Your Company's Sales and Marketing Efforts in Eight Steps

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image of Matt Close

Matt Close is EVP of sales at the TAS Group, which provides smart sales transformation in the cloud and on mobile devices. With an extensive background leading sales organizations globally, Matt heads a team of sales professionals across North America and EMEA for the TAS Group.


image of Maureen Blandford

Maureen Blandford is CMO of the TAS Group, which provides smart sales transformation in the cloud and on mobile devices. Previously, she was founder and CEO of sales enablement consultancy MindTime Group and CEO of the media/communications firm ManaVision.