How You Can Help Align Sales and Marketing

By Madison Taylor
September 13, 2019
two flowers touching

Sales and marketing are both cogs in the same machine — they’re both trying to draw in leads, convert them to customers, close sales, and increase revenue. Unfortunately, sales and marketing have a tendency to butt heads.

As the story goes, sales team members don’t like marketers because they deliver leads that the sales team can’t easily or effectively convert, while marketers don’t like sales teams because they don’t make enough effort to convert the leads that the marketers worked so hard to find.

The solution is so simple that it’s amazing that more companies haven’t embraced it: open and constant communication. Sales and marketing alignment — also called “smarketing” — is a close relationship between the sales and marketing teams.

It’s effective, too. A recent study from Marketo and Reachforce found that businesses are 67% better at closing deals when sales and marketing work together. And according to Hubspot, companies see 36% higher customer retention and 38% higher sales win rates when smarketing policies are instituted.

So how do you implement smarketing policies and techniques in your company? And how do you make sure they’re helping take your revenues to the next level?

1. Start with Leadership

Ideas are all well and good, but they have to be executed by people — and if those people aren’t all-in on your new smarketing policies, they won’t work. If your Sales Director is dismissive about the contributions of the marketing team, that attitude will be reflected by the rest of the team. If the CMO thinks the sales team won’t get on board with lead-building initiatives, the marketing team will follow suit.

2. Focus on Communication First

The easiest solution is communication from leadership and between teams — and we mean meeting in person, frequently and regularly. Lack of communication from leadership can cost you both time and money when marketing and sales teams aren’t pursuing the same goals in the same way.

You might even consider having the two teams sit together in your office — the joking, casual conversation, and general camaraderie will help them see eye-to-eye on professional goals, too.

3. Build an SLA

SLA stands for “service-level agreement” — it’s a written agreement between the sales and marketing teams that lays out exactly what the roles and commitments of the two teams are to each other.

The marketing team commits to deliver a certain number, type, and quality of leads to the sales team in order to help them hit their quotas. This might include specifications about where the leads come from, how much information is packaged with them, and certain contact preferences or details about what kind of products they’re interested in.

The sales team, for their part, promises to follow up on those leads in a certain way, a certain number of times, and with a specific approach in order to make sure that marketing’s efforts are generating a positive ROI.

4. Share Any and All Feedback

As a part of your SLA, both teams agree to provide feedback to each other. Plans will need to be constantly adjusted in response to the success of both marketing and sales. If marketing simply can’t find enough of the leads they need for a reasonable cost, they might need to cast a wider net. And if sales team members notice that certain leads are more or less difficult to convert, they might ask marketing to pursue different avenues.

5. Focus on Quantifiable Goals

To generate an SLA, you’ll need to answer a few key questions:

  • How many leads does your sales team need to meet revenue goals?
  • Is marketing generating all of those leads, or are some of them coming from the sales team itself?
  • Of the leads that marketing is responsible for, how much nurturing will they need to do?
  • What is your sales team’s time worth? How much time and effort should they put into converting a lead before moving on?
  • 6. Think in Terms of Real Dollars

Sort your recent customers by the channel or campaign that brought them in, then make a note of the revenue they’ve generated. That will give you a number for the average amount of revenue generated per customer by channel, and from there, you can determine how many leads you need from each channel to meet revenue goals.

Take costs into account as well. You’re paying your salespeople and marketers salaries, in addition to software costs, incentives, bonuses, ad spend, and lots of other expenses that you need to keep track of. Spend too much time converting a lead and you’ll be spending more than you’re bringing in. Work that limitation into your written SLA.

7. Track and Measure Everything

Like we mentioned before, plans change. Markets, customers, channels, and goals will all shift, and your marketing and sales teams will need to keep up. But you can’t make useful, meaningful changes to your SLA or campaigns unless you know what’s working, and you can’t tell what’s working unless you have some numbers to look at.

First, you need quantifiable results.

  • What does a warm lead look like? What about a cold lead? How do you know when to quit on a lead?
  • How many times should sales teams follow up? Does that number differ depending on the size of the lead or the channel it came from?
  • What are the measures of success and failure?

8. Follow Up on your Data

Measure and track your initiatives and generate reports on what’s working and what isn’t. Double down on the ones that are successful, and don’t be afraid to ditch strategies that aren’t working — even if they seemed like good ideas at the time.

9. Share Data With Everyone

Finally, share all your data between sales and marketing teams. You’ll need a CRM (customer relationship management) tool that lets you track and manage sales, as well as the marketing channels and leads that brought in those sales to begin with.

Sharing data can only help — both departments will have the most actionable information on what’s effective, what’s not, and where to make changes. You might even consider physically mingling the two teams in your office. After all, cooperation isn’t just about the work. It helps if people actually get along, too.

10. Get Started Now!

There’s no time like the present. If you haven’t already, now’s the time to take a close, honest look at your sales and marketing alignment. Don’t just assume that everything is going well because your numbers are meeting expectations — there’s always room for improvement.

Start laying out a plan to build a bridge between the two departments, starting with managers so they can encourage alignment from the top down. Building a cohesive smarketing plan won’t be easy — it’ll take time, persistence, and constant communication — but the result is well worth the effort. Get to it!