Sales and marketing departments are closely related and ultimately have the same goal: closing more business. Even so, it’s more common than not to see the two teams unintentionally working against each other rather than hand-in-hand.

Research shows that businesses thrive when marketing and sales departments’ efforts complement and support each other. Well-aligned teams achieve more revenue growth from marketing tactics, higher sales win rates, and higher customer retention. This growth comes from more than just sales and marketing alignment — it comes from strategic sales and marketing alignment.

Without a stellar marketing strategy focused on driving qualified leads for your business, your sales team will have difficulty closing. And without a stellar sales strategy focused on generating revenue, the qualified leads that marketing generates won’t be converted into customers. By aligning these two strategies, businesses can build a dynamic duo, with each department playing to the other’s strengths.

Aligning strategies starts with shared goals and evolves into mutually agreed-upon incentives, campaigns that target the same audience, and common (or related) metrics. Throughout the process, marketing teams will benefit from deeper customer insights and a better understanding of what motivated customers to buy, while sales teams will benefit from more effective lead generation activities and higher-quality leads who are more educated on your industry and services and are, therefore, primed for sales conversations.

In short: Strong marketing supports strong sales, which is key to driving productivity, supporting long-term growth, and ultimately closing more business. So how do you get your company to that point? By bridging the gap between sales and marketing teams and aligning their efforts.

Establishing Shared Goals

When aligning sales and marketing teams, a great place to begin is to put your teams’ goals under a microscope.

Determining shared goals requires a collaborative approach that considers the sales and marketing teams’ strengths and objectives. So it’s essential to take the time to understand each team’s individual objectives and how they contribute to the organization’s overall goals.

To start, it can be helpful to bring together representatives from both the sales and marketing teams to identify areas where their goals overlap or complement each other. This can be done through brainstorming sessions or other collaborative exercises that encourage open communication and information sharing. It’s important to ensure all goals for both teams align with the organization’s overall strategy. This means considering factors such as market trends, customer needs, and the competitive landscape and using this information to further inform the development of sales and marketing’s shared goals.

Once the sales and marketing teams’ goals are solidified to complement each other and work toward the company’s goals, it’s time to align the two teams on a practical level.

Practical Steps for to Achieve Sales and Marketing Alignment

Determining the shared goals that the sales and marketing teams should align on is just the beginning of well-aligned sales and marketing teams. It takes just as much strategizing and intentionality to actively apply, analyze, and optimize sales and marketing alignment best practices in each department’s workflows and incentives to maximize success. Here are a few practical steps to get started:

1. Streamline and align metrics and tracking.

Both marketing and sales need to remain focused on delivering value to prospective customers by providing them with an experience that is both seamless and tailored to them as they transition from engaging with marketing materials to talking with the sales team. But nearly all sales and marketing professionals struggle to align because their respective tools need to be better integrated across teams.

Implementing strategies for measuring and tracking aligned metrics ensures teams continue to work in tandem toward shared goals. With a unified, connected system of metrics, teams can easily see what others are doing and how their efforts are impacting the business as a whole, and they can identify areas for improvement and make quick course corrections as needed.

2. Align financial incentives.

Aligning incentives is the foundation of fostering alignment between the sales and marketing departments. If the two teams have two different ideas of how to achieve a common goal, they will end up working in different directions.

Setting incentives across departments should create an environment that rewards collaboration and shared success. While marketing and sales are different departments, they should be celebrating together and, at the same time, looking for opportunities to improve because their goals are aligned. When the incentives of both teams are aligned efficiently, it leverages their collective expertise to achieve common goals. Although marketing creates demand and generates leads and salespeople manage pipelines and close deals, both must remember that they are targeting the same audience with the same shared goal: generating new business for the company.

For example, if the marketing team’s incentives are based solely on the level of new website traffic generated, it can lead them to prioritize driving new visitors without considering whether they are actually qualified leads. This approach might not increase new sales leads at all (or result in very low numbers) if the tactics used aren’t focused on generating qualified traffic. So while the marketing team is celebrating, salespeople are frustrated because they aren’t getting the qualified leads they need to be successful and close sales. But with an aligned sales incentive strategy and marketing incentive strategy, marketing teams can shift their focus toward getting the right traffic instead of just more traffic.

Aligning financial incentives could include key performance indicators based on customer engagement, lead quality, and revenue goals that both teams share in achieving. To achieve sales and marketing alignment, department leaders must encourage marketers to consider their objectives holistically, ensure they are prioritizing targeting visitors who are more likely to convert into qualified leads, and empower salespeople to focus on converting qualified leads into customers. When the sales and marketing teams work together like this and, as a result, achieve the aligned goals you’ve set, their compensation (i.e., commission) should reflect that.

When everyone is financially incentivized to reach the same goals, it fosters a culture of collaboration rather than competition, resulting in better outcomes for both teams and more efficient use of company resources.

3. Align under one leader.

In an ideal scenario, organizations don’t need both a head of sales and a head of marketing. Instead, they can combine these positions by hiring a chief revenue officer or a chief growth officer.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to all organizations. But at the very least, if two different leaders exist, it’s highly recommended that they report to the same person and collaborate often. This can help leadership align the goals of both teams and ensure departmental and companywide efforts and resources are not being duplicated.

4. Determine cross-department meeting cadence and feedback.

It’s crucial to create standards for cross-department meeting cadence and feedback. These standards should include when meetings should occur (weekly check-ins, monthly brainstorming sessions, or quarterly strategy sessions) and discussion topics (such as new ideas or KPIs).

Setting up regular meetings can optimize communication between teams and identify any potential problems early on so they can be addressed before they become significant issues. Similarly, brainstorming sessions can help identify opportunities for increased revenue and creative ways both teams can work toward closing deals faster. But for now, the main objective is to set the standard. Agree on the topics and meeting schedules and stick to them to maintain consistent communication.

5. Keep lines of communication flowing.

To achieve sales and marketing alignment, ongoing communication and collaboration are essential. The sales team should have a way to let the marketing team know if they need specific pieces of content. Likewise, the marketing team should have a process to determine the priority level of the requested pieces of content and seamlessly communicate that back to the sales team.

Teams that don’t have these methods in place have no way to practically align themselves toward the same goal, which can lead to situations where it’s a complete political game in which certain salespeople can convince marketers to drop everything and create what they need. That environment is not suitable for long-term strategy or team dynamics, as it causes tension and prevents progress toward sales and marketing alignment.

Keeping a transparent feedback loop helps promote understanding between both departments by recognizing each team’s contributions toward organizational success — which can make all the difference in driving growth instead of competing against each other or having delays due to miscommunication or misinformation.

The importance of sales and marketing alignment should not be overlooked as a critical component in your organization’s strategy. When sales and marketing align, the result is strength and growth. Determining shared goals, aligning incentives, connecting data systems, and creating a culture of communication and collaboration will help achieve an effective relationship between sales and marketing. By ensuring both departments are working together and leveraging both teams’ skills and expertise, companies can achieve their goals and gain a competitive edge in their industry.

Kelsey Raymond

Kelsey Raymond is the co-founder and CEO of Influence & Co., a full-service content marketing firm that specializes in helping companies strategize, create, publish, and distribute content that accomplishes their goals. Influence & Co.’s clients range from venture-backed startups to Fortune 500 brands.

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