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Sales and Marketing not getting along? That's a ubiquitous tale nowadays. In some cases, the conflict gets so bad it turns into a never-ending blame game to justify stunted performance.

Ironically, the conflict between those two crucial departments can be the very reason for the substandard performance.

Of course, that doesn't have to be the case. Everybody knows that. No company management is unaware of the risks brought about by an inability to cooperate. Yet, when the undesirable becomes a reality, many fail to find an effective solution, or even give it proper consideration.

This article will help you prevent that. Although every company's conflict requires a unique solution, this guide will help you zero in on the specific issue.

Ultimately, we'll talk about the "smarketing" (a portmanteau of "sales" and "marketing") and how you can use it to align your sales and marketing processes.

Understanding the Sales and Marketing Alignment Gap

The key to finding an effective solution to the division between Sales and Marketing is to understand what's causing the conflict in the first place. To do that, answer the following questions to identify whether the issue is inherent to the team structure.

Are the KPIs unified?

Most companies set different and somewhat unrelated KPIs for the sales and marketing teams. That lack of alignment creates the impression that the two departments have nothing to do with each other's work, which results in disconnected efforts.

To better understand the Sales and Marketing alignment issue, think of an instance when the marketing team's main KPI is generating leads. The preferred goal is to nurture Marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) and convert them to Sales leads. Next, the sales team takes those leads and tries to convert them into paying customers. Then, for various reasons, things fall apart and the conversion doesn't happen. As a consequence, the sales team doesn't generate enough sales to meet its KPIs for the month.

Having one team generate one result separately and then having the other take over is not a good formula for optimal cooperation. It will always result in fragmented work that doesn't invite communication between the two teams.

To battle such fragmentation, create one general goal that the two teams are responsible for together. Don't just ask for leads from the marketing team and look for sales from the sales team.

An excellent unified KPI for a software company would be number of new paying users.

Also, you don't have to drop traditional KPIs such as leads and sales—just choose a KPI that reflects the desired end result so that the marketing team doesn't aim only to meet the required lead count and stop. Likewise, the sales team, in turn, will put the right amount of effort into closing a sale instead of quickly dismissing the lead when things don't go as smoothly as expected.

Is one team aware of the other's challenges?

Solid communication between the two teams without a middleman is a must. Otherwise, issues start to pile up and snowball.

To avoid those issues, the sales and marketing teams should hold regular meetings. Following an Agile methodology framework is one option for effectively solving the communication problem.

Agile revolves around the idea of sprints—which are, essentially, short-term objectives. To keep track of progress, the teams have two types of meetings: standups that occur every day, and retrospectives that take place at specified periods.

Standups help Sales and Marketing stay updated about the other team's current tasks and progress. Retrospectives create an opportunity for the two teams to identify challenges and strategize a solution together.

Those meetings increase the awareness of the current state of efforts and develop a sense of accountability for Sales' and Marketing's combined progress.

Is there an effective feedback channel?

Now that you've established regular communication between the two teams, it's time to ensure a healthy and constructive feedback system is in place so Marketing and Sales can openly communicate what doesn't work for them.

To start, set up a training course for your team on how to constructively express negative feedback and avoid conflicts. In addition, create a document based on the training and include it in your onboarding program for new team members.

You can also set up lead review meetings so that Sales evaluates the leads it has received during a specified period. The process should entail reviewing the quality of the leads, needs and challenges in relation to the leads, and what helped close the deal or what went wrong. A thorough approach to lead analysis gives an opportunity to discover specifically what works and what doesn't.

Is there an equitable incentive system?

It's common for companies to have bonus structures for the sales team that don't extend to the marketing team. As a result, Sales is motivated to close sales to receive its bonuses, whereas Marketing gets no rewards for generating those profitable leads.

An effective solution is to create an equitable incentive system for both teams: Reward the marketing team, too, for leads that successfully convert into paying customers. When a lead hits a milestone, e.g., brings in a fixed amount of profit, the marketing team can get a bonus.

That is just one of the many possible ways you can build equitable incentives.

Closing the Gap

Once you solve the ongoing issues, it's time to take a step back and look at your company's overall infrastructure. The goal is to ensure that it supports and stimulates healthy collaboration between Sales and Marketing.

You do so by using the smarketing framework.

Adopting 'Smarketing'

If you are familiar with inbound marketing, you've likely already heard about smarketing. Its objective is to create strong alignment between the sales and marketing functions to accelerate growth.

B2B organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing operations achieve a 20% annual growth rate, recent reports show.

The smarketing framework originated in the late 2000s. Marketing software provider HubSpot coined the term "smarketing" and helped to popularize it.

Later, the growing popularity of inbound marketing boosted the adoption of the framework and significantly increased its use around the globe.

We've already covered some of the fundamentals of the smarketing framework in the previous sections of this article. There are five steps you need to take to turn your Sales and Marketing into a smarketing team:

  1. Create a consistent Sales and Marketing meeting schedule.
  2. If possible, sit sales and marketing teams in the same space.
  3. Set common goals and define responsibilities in a service-level agreement (SLA).
  4. Create unified terminology and reporting.
  5. Review data consistently and make it about finding ways to increase revenue and profit.

Let's go over some of the points we haven't already discussed, such as sitting both teams in the same room, which is a great way to invite more communication between the two teams organically. They might even start casually brainstorming and sharing ideas.

Being in the same room naturally increases the awareness between the two departments so that standup meetings are more efficient. It also helps to allow the marketing team to eavesdrop on sales calls.

Moving on to the next point: a service-level agreement (SLA) clearly defines the responsibilities of each team in a written and signed form. You can take it even further by defining the roles and responsibilities of each team member. What's helpful about an SLA is that everyone has to sign off on it, so everyone must agree.

And the final point: have both Sales and Marketing focus on increasing revenue and profit. Whenever you review performance data, put the main focus on revenue generation. That means approaching each data with the question, "How did this help us increase revenue and profits? What's the ROI?"

For example, impressions are higher during this month, great, but how does that affect income month? Even if you are focusing on increasing brand awareness, keep ROI in mind.

To summarize and answer the question in the title of this article: sales and marketing teams should cooperate and not compete. Competition inside a team is likely to be counterproductive and might cause divisions within the company.

Now you know what steps to take to avoid the issue in your own company and ensure that its infrastructure supports and nurtures Sales and Marketing alignment.

More Resources on Sales and Marketing Alignment

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

Align Marketing and Sales to Simplify B2B Buying | MarketingProfs Webinar

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

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Compete or Cooperate: What Should Marketing and Sales Teams Do?

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image of Sirarpi Sahakyan

Sirarpi Sahakyan is the director of marketing at PMG360, a B2B online media company.

LinkedIn: Sirapi Sahakyan