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How do your sales and marketing department get along? Do they work well together, teaming up to turn leads into customers? Or are they inclined to work in silos, simply passing the customer through the business, focused on fulfilling what they perceive to be ‘their role’ in the company?

Many organizations find themselves with the latter situation. For the most part, that’s how it has always been. Marketing brings in leads, sales converts, and never the twain shall meet. And where’s the harm in that, you might wonder. Why do they need to work together any more closely than sales works with accounting? Hasn’t everyone got enough to do without worrying what other departments are up to? If everyone just did their jobs, the company would run smoothly, wouldn’t it?

As usual the answer is not black and white. It’s true that plenty of businesses are successful with marketing and sales departments each doing their own thing, calling on each other when in need and otherwise largely ignoring each other. But success is relative, and the evidence suggests that those organizations with closely aligned sales and marketing departments achieve significantly better results than those without.

Let’s take a look at why that is.

Marketing is the first stop on the customer journey

Back in the day, the customer probably wouldn’t have had much contact with marketing. Buyers may have been drawn to a business through advertising and good PR, but the customer’s relationship was almost exclusively with the salesperson. With the advent of social media, all that has changed. Now, every company has to be prepared for the customer relationship to begin online – usually with marketing. It’s not enough for the salespeople to be trained in relationship building; marketing has become a customer-facing position and shares the responsibility of delivering a good customer experience.

Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make it's the stories you tell

‘Customer experience’ is another one of those phrases you’ll see splashed all over the internet. That’s because we have entered an age of customer-centric selling, which basically means you build a sale around the buyer and not around the product. In order to earn customer trust, you need to deliver a consistent (and positive!) customer experience right from initial awareness all the way to conversion and beyond. This is much easier to do when sales and marketing are aligned. The two departments need to operate in partnership to first decide what kind of customer experience they aim to offer and then to act on that intention in a unified way. When marketing is advertising one kind of customer experience and sales is delivering another, that’s a surefire way to erode customer trust and lose opportunities.

Organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing functions enjoy 36% higher customer retention rates

Marketing Professionals

Brand perception

The customer needs a uniform impression of what your business is, but so do you. If marketing and sales are essentially selling different brands, there’s no way you can possibly achieve your business’ full potential. Sales and marketing need to be aligned on:

Your brand is what other people say about you when you aren't in the room

Lead qualification

Marketing’s main job is to bring in leads for sales to follow up. And one of the main causes of discord between the two departments is lead qualification – marketing blames sales for not following up on leads, while sales says that the leads are no good. In order to resolve these disputes, sales and marketing need to agree on what makes a sales-ready lead. This includes identifying and agreeing:

On this basis, the readiness of leads should be relatively straightforward. However, it’s also important to remember that marketing is no longer just responsible for bringing leads to sales, they must also nurture those leads and continue working with sales after hand-off to provide content for every stage of the buying journey.

...89 per cent of CMOs expect to be responsible for customer experience by 2020 according to our research. And with marketing taking on more responsibility for revenue, and a greater, long-term customer focus, marketing and sales are now a marriage, not a Tinder date.

Chris Connell, Marketo APAC senior marketing director

Lead nurturing

There are two core aspects to lead nurturing that depend on an aligned sales and marketing relationship. The first is ensuring that marketing is handing over leads at the right time. Wait too long and the customer will simply go elsewhere. The second is that sales is returning not-ready leads back to marketing for further nurturing. You see, it’s not the linear system it once was – these days it’s more of a loop.

Lead nurturing is another example of where the customer relationship is as much marketing’s responsibility as sales, since a lead could be in the nurturing phase for some time, during which most of the communication will come from marketing.

79% of marketing leads never convert into sales. This is often due to a lack of lead nurturing


Content creation

Traditionally, marketing has been entirely responsible for content creation. Speaking plainly, that’s crazy. Salespeople need to engage in the process of content creation if that content is going to serve them well.

Business awareness and evolution

You might think that marketing has the better hold on where the business is going, since there’s a lot of long-term strategy in the work that they do. But no one is in a better position to tell you where your business is than your salespeople – or, more accurately, your customers. Salespeople get to speak to customers all the time. They get to hear first hand impressions of where your business fits into the market and where it should be going. They are privy to inside information on the customer’s challenges, what the need is, how that need is currently being met and the gaps that are available for your business to fill. All this intelligence needs to be fed back to marketing to drive strategy and to help evolve your product/service offering in line with customer demand. When sales and marketing aren’t aligned, a huge opportunity for business development is being missed.

B2B organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing operations achieve 24% faster three-year revenue growth and 27% faster three-year profit growth


Social selling skills

Marketing has been employing social media to reach customers for many years. Social media marketing has grown into a key role within organizations of all types as it is the most direct way to reach and often interact with leads.

More recently, salespeople have also been utilizing social media for selling. Social selling – and social listening – is a great way for salespeople to start building relationships with customers earlier in the buying process. But it would be ill-advised for salespeople to build their online presence without any input from marketing. As mentioned above, a unified, consistent customer experience is really important to winning customer trust, and that’s especially true where both departments are occupying the same social space.

In a recent Twitter poll we discovered that 48% of our followers use social media a their primary source of lead generation.

Social selling

In addition, marketing has the experience to help salespeople develop their social media presence in the right way – to be visible and add value with great content and well-timed input. It would be crazy to pass up that kind of help.

Unified goals

One dream, one soul, one prize, one goal

It’s a Kind of Magic, Queen, 1986

Freddie Mercury could well have been singing about sales and marketing alignment. He probably was*. The fact is, sales and marketing do have a shared goal – they are both working to grow the business. But all too often the targets against which their performance is judged don’t really reflect this goal. They’re disassociated from the overall business development strategy.

It might be worth having an SLA (service level agreement) for your sales and marketing teams. An SLA is an agreement between a service provider and customer that, as the name would suggest, guarantees a certain level of service. You probably already have one in place for your customers, but there are benefits to bringing an SLA in-house. Making a two-way commitment between sales and marketing could bring about all kinds of benefits.

In essence, a shared goal is what unifies a team. And what you really want is for your sales and marketing departments to start acting as one team. That way, as Freddie put it, ‘that rage that lasts a thousand years will soon be done’.

When sales and marketing sync, companies are up to 67% better at closing deals

Marketo’s 2013 Sales and Marketing Alignment Study

Better working relationships = happier people

Finally, any friction between sales and marketing is not healthy. Petty sniping doesn’t make for a happy workplace, and people don’t stay in unhappy workplaces. Likewise, no one likes to feel frustrated or hindered, as though the work they’re doing is being undermined by someone else, or like they’re unable to achieve their goals because of a lack of support.

A strong, closely aligned relationship between sales and marketing makes for a happier office environment where people can stay and thrive together.

Marketing and Sales alignment is an abstraction until grounded with clear goals, specific metrics, and continuous refinement.

Atri Chatterjee, CMO at Act-On Software

How do we achieve sales and marketing alignment?

Let’s be honest, sales and marketing alignment isn’t just going to happen by asking nicely. If the two departments are used to working in silos, a lot of work is going to be required to break those down and facilitate a new, joint working structure. Here are a few suggestions for what that new structure could look like:

Companies with good smarketing practices in place generated 208% more revenue from marketing efforts.


*Freddie Mercury almost certainly was not singing about sales and marketing alignment. Though that is a kind of magic.