Is your company spending thousands of dollars on demand generation? Are you continuing to spend handsomely without seeing the ROI you expected?

Are Sales and Marketing at each other's throat, pointing fingers and blaming one another for the breakdown that they can't quite identify somewhere between demand gen and sales? It's a harsh reality, but apparently a very common problem: Roughly 90% of companies say their sales and marketing teams are not aligned. Of those, nearly 40% say that disconnect prevents them from effectively closing deals.

In fact, Sales and Marketing misalignment not only saps marketing ROI but also slows pipeline growth, drags down conversion rates, and contributes to slow growth—or even loss—in revenue.

The good news: with only 10% of organizations aligned, there's plenty of room for improvement so you can gain on your competition.

Here are six steps to bring Sales and Marketing together, starting with an open, focused, and data-informed conversation.

1. Define your ideal-customer profile (ICP) jointly. One of the biggest reasons for misalignment is that Marketing and Sales have their own ideas about whom they should be targeting.

Clear the air with a frank, open conversation about who are the people that make the best prospects and customers, what drives them, and what titles convert faster or better, and together reach an understanding about who makes up their buying committees.

2. Dig into your best-customer data. To make the ICP conversation easier, rather than going on gut feeling or instinct take a look at your current best customers. Identify the characteristics and demographics they have in common: Do they all attend the same conferences? Use the same products other than yours? Or maybe they all have very similar skill sets—even if they don't have similar titles?

Basing your ICP on hard data rather than a hunch provides validation of who truly are your best customers, so that you can use that profile go find more people who fit the description.

3. Recognize that individuals matter. Because so many databases and platforms focus on helping marketers and salespeople find the right companies to target, it's easy to get caught up in blindly following that path. But, the reality is that companies don't buy—people do. Just because a company may not fit the typical customer profile should not automatically disqualify it as a lead. Find a solution that targets customers at the individual level, and use that accuracy to home in on individual buyers, not just the companies they work for.

4. Identify lead stages. While you're working on nailing down particulars, establish some definitions that everyone can agree on. What exactly defines a lead, a qualified lead, a Sales-qualified or Sales-accepted lead?

Agreeing on the terminology and the specs that move a lead through the funnel eliminates the problem of bad leads that come to Sales too early—or at all, if they shouldn't be there.

Starting with the basics of lead stages, or adopting a lead methodology such as SiriusDecisions' Demand Waterfall, can establish those standards and improve alignment.

5. Establish agreed-upon SLAs. Service-level agreements aren't just for the technical software folks. Sales and marketing teams must establish a lead process or protocol if they are to properly measure effectiveness, spot problems quickly, and correct them: What's the next step after a lead is generated or qualified? What does each team do to engage the lead either manually or with marketing automation? Who follows-up and in what timeframe?

An agreed-upon protocol eliminates the feeling that someone dropped the ball, and it ensures leads move efficiently through the process to close faster.

6. Wash, rinse, repeat. Once you've established a data-backed ICP, standards for lead definition, and a measurable process, you then can refine the system as you go. Ensure you have full data tracking and evaluation in place. That way, you can more easily see what works best in targeting, timing, messaging, and more, for continuous improvement of both the process and alignment and to end the Sales and Marketing standoff. Now you're working together to effectively grow the pipeline.

Aside from finally getting Sales and Marketing to take off the gloves and stop playing the blame game, proper alignment can have a positive impact on business success, spurring annual growth by 20% among best-in-class organizations. When it fails, it can drag your company down the drain with as much as a 4% decline in revenue.

Follow those six simple steps to position your company among the elite 10% that have tightly aligned sales and marketing teams and are driving stellar growth.

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Six Simple Steps for Aligning Sales and Marketing to Boost Conversions and Fill Your Pipeline

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image of Damon Waldron

Damon Waldron is director of demand generation at Leadspace, provider of a social-powered B2B demand gen solution.

LinkedIn: Damon Waldron