If you’ve ever watched the movie ‘300’, you know the story of the Spartans who banded together with courage and conviction to repel the Persians, the most powerful army in the world at the time, from their land. You may also know other ‘against all odds’ stories, like how the American colonies resisted the mighty British Army and won the Revolutionary War. Or how Jesus and his 12 Apostles faced Roman persecution but turned the tide of history. 

In the world of startups, it’s grow or die. The statistics say that 70-90% of startups don’t make it past year five. Throughout my career, I have observed that the organizations that ultimately succeeded, as opposed to the ones that failed, did so because their sales and marketing teams remained aligned.

How is this type of alignment possible, and how can you leverage it to propel your business?

Functioning as One Team

In 2007, I had already left the military (one mission, one cause) and was in the process of seeing the startup I founded get acquired. It was by founding my own company that I discovered I had a passion for marketing and wanted to help other founders like me grow their companies. In my first marketing role, my then-CEO asked me to help recruit and lead the sales team and signed us all up for sales training from Sandler Sales Institute. For the next year, we marketed, sold, and onboarded customers, and the company doubled its size and revenues. 

This one-team approach seemed normal. I learned, however, over the following decades that this formative experience was unusual. Today, I’d like to offer you five factors I believe will help keep your sales, marketing, product, and customer success teams aligned.

Factor #1: Common Ground

Listen and understand the context of your teammate’s lives and careers. What values, experiences, and perspectives do you share? What aspects of your roles in the business are similar? As a marketer, I highlight to the salespeople that, in many ways, marketing is visual selling—only we sell with words and pictures.

Factor #2: Collaboration

Buy-in is essential to alignment. To achieve buy-in, everyone must feel that their voice is heard and valued. When your team feels they have a say in the decisions that affect them, they are more likely to stay committed in the long haul.

Factor #3: A Shared Cause and Vision

As Seth Godin often asks, “What is the change you seek to make?” Even if we can’t always agree, with a shared cause and vision for the future, we know we’re in this together.

A recent article from Strive, “Unity in the Workplace,” puts it this way, “When a company has strong and identifiable values, it creates unity amongst its employees. This is because everyone is on the same page, working towards the same goals. Employees feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves and are proud to be a part of the company. When employees are unified, they are more productive and engaged.”

Factor #4: A Shared Strategy

This often includes seeing the same facts and translating them in the same way so you can build a unified plan. From there, we know our part to play and how to hand off the baton successfully.

For example, I do an exercise asking the team questions such as, “’What is the company’s superpower?” and “What is the most valuable thing you do for your customers?” 

It’s interesting to hear the responses. In some companies, the answers are somewhat consistent. In others, not so much. After gathering the team’s perspective, I get the customers’ perspective to compare it against. This facilitates a discussion about what is true and then what to do about it.

Factor #5: Shared Accountability

Not all departmental goals are the same, but there are shared revenue goals that we all contribute to. Visibility is key here. It is essential to check up on your team regularly to make sure they are on the right track, and everyone is hitting those targets.

The Way Forward

Today, many companies are focused on ways to unify their sales and marketing teams. While only some companies are prepared to have the two teams work together under the same leader, there are many steps you can take to improve alignment between the functions and across your business.

By following the recommendations above, you can develop a more collaborative and productive team that is dedicated to achieving your company’s goals and passionate about the work they’re doing.

Aaron Hassen

Aaron Hassen is a well-respected marketing leader, strategist, and hands-on practitioner. In 2004, Aaron began his career by launching an online and print advertising service, which was acquired by a competitor four years later. For the next 18 years, Aaron led emerging B2B technology companies to 2X and 3X annual revenue growth. Today, Aaron runs AH Marketing, a full-service marketing strategy, demand generation and brand development agency for founders with little time or sufficient help to address their marketing challenges. With a proven track record of helping companies grow, Aaron is best described as a B2B founder’s best friend and secret weapon.

View all posts by Aaron Hassen