There's a long history of tension between Sales and Marketing, especially in B2B organizations.

Initially, it stemmed from skepticism from Sales that Marketing's work provided anything of measurable value. Things began to change as digital tools and strategies became more widespread, however.

Now, marketers can prove that their efforts have an impact. Demand generation and inbound marketing tactics such as digital ads, SEO, and email campaigns prove highly effective at getting prospects to sign up for product trials, download content, and even request meetings with salespeople.

Actionable, scalable strategies make it easy to demonstrate value.

Too much of a good thing?

Problem solved? Not quite.

Digital strategies have proven so effective at opening top-of-the-funnel opportunities that Marketing has become the sole source of new leads at many large companies. In those organizations, sales teams became entirely dependent on Marketing to start conversations with prospective customers. That's the current state of the relationship between Marketing and Sales at most companies, and it's become increasingly dysfunctional.

A decline in the efficacy of digital marketing techniques is a contributing factor in the flawed relationship. It's most noticeable in email-based demand gen programs. Anti-spam policies are more robust, and advanced mailbox management features make it easier to reject unsolicited emails. Even emails sent to warm contacts often fail to reach their targets.

Likewise, "form fatigue" coupled with increased privacy concerns is choking off a once valuable flow of advertising-driven marketing-qualified leads.

Who Needs Marketing?

Another factor is that Marketing has lost its stranglehold on the top of the funnel. It's been ousted by social data, which triggers a need for greater levels of personalization. Sales enablement platforms give salespeople the ability to serve collateral and other content directly to prospects with a high level of personalization, often bolstered with in-depth tracking analytics.

Thus, Sales is seizing ownership of the top of the funnel and generating its own leads. With that kind of technological firepower, who needs Marketing?

Well, Sales still does, of course. But it's not getting what it really needs from its counterparts on the marketing side.

Once Marketing hands off a qualified lead to the sales team, it's chalked up as a job done. That's a mistake. At that early stage in the sales process, there is so much more that Marketing can do.

Closer Sales and Marketing alignment and coordination throughout the funnel can lead to a better, more impactful sales engagement and much faster conversion.

Salespeople Gotta Sell!

That coordination is particularly relevant in cases where the engagement seems to be going nowhere after the initial connection. Salespeople's primary mandate is to sell, of course, and rightly so. If the prospect of conversion seems slim after initial contact, they want to move on to other opportunities.

In cases where the marketing team has invested significant time and resources in trying to build a relationship with a strategic account, the cost to the company is not just a lost sales opportunity, but also all the effort that went into qualifying that lead.

The misalignment of Sales and Marketing results in a scenario where an interested lead is lost, with no potential to continue the conversation. That's an outrageous inefficiency when you consider that Marketing has the ability, resources, and scale to step in and resume the conversation.

Double-Teaming—Up and Down the Funnel

In fact, Marketing and Sales should be talking to the same people at the same time through all stages in the funnel. Program scalability makes it possible for Marketing to speak to hundreds of thousands of people simultaneously. It should provide Marketing content connected to sales context at every stage.

The end game of Sales and Marketing alignment is this: The two departments must share the same funnel all the time. While salespeople are working to push the relationship through the funnel to conversion, Marketing should provide cover by serving contextually relevant ads at every stage.

Taking Sales and Marketing out of their individual silos and forcing them to work together in closer alignment can create additional opportunities.

Purchasing Decisions Are Group Activities

Buying is a team sport in the B2B world, and the bigger the company, the more people involved in the decision. Sales enablement platforms empower a salesperson to initiate a conversation at the top of the funnel, but if that conversation goes nowhere, the salesperson lacks the tools to reach other buying team members.

Marketing should be talking to everybody else on the buying team, and it has the tools to do so. It can deliver ads and other content to anyone on the team, not just those participating in active sales conversations.

The Numbers Tell the Story of Sales and Marketing Alignment

To bring us back to the original locus of the tension between Sales and Marketing and the biggest roadblock to better alignment: How does Sales know that Marketing's ads work?

We wanted to find out for ourselves, so we designed an experiment to test whether person-based ads (those focused on reaching individual people, not just accounts) boost sales development conversions to Sales. It analyzed whether clicks and engagements drove conversion rate and whether behavioral score influenced conversion rate.

The results speak volumes: There was a x2.4-fold conversion rate increase for those who clicked on an ad, and x3.9 for those who engaged (spent more than 30 seconds) on the landing page. Engagements double the chances of success. A 10+ behavioral score boosted conversion 2.7x, and the conversion rate can go to 10x for scores of 15+.

In our analysis, engagement score serves as a perfect proxy metric of success. That makes a strong argument for optimizing around score metrics to improve campaign performance.

And maybe, just maybe, it presents a path forward toward a more meaningful alignment between Sales and Marketing.

More Resources on Sales and Marketing Alignment

Sales and Marketing Alignment: MarketingProfs Training Course

The Power of 'Smarketing' (Marketing and Sales Alignment) [Infographic]

Five Ways to Improve Product Marketing and Sales Enablement Collaboration to Drive Revenue

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Can't We All Just Get Along? Why Sales and Marketing Need to Work Together

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image of Dmitri Lisitski

Dmitri Lisitski is the CEO and a co-founder of Influ2, a person-based marketing platform for B2B companies.

LinkedIn: Dmitri Lisitski