Company growth is a lot like playing a game of telephone. The larger your group, the more convoluted and tangled the original story gets. And the more your company grows (both in revenue and people), the more disconnected teams become, making it harder to collaborate cross-functionally. That said, growth doesn’t just touch your headcount or ROI, it impacts your customer experience too.
In this article, we’ll define sales and marketing alignment and illustrate how (and why) it’s important. Plus, we’ll include some tips and tricks to help you successfully align your sales teams and marketing teams — or at least corral them into a similar trajectory, making both marketing and sales strategies more effective and efficient.
What is sales and marketing alignment?
Today’s customer has high expectations — of design, products, services, and overall experience— and for good reason too. They have to wade through countless options, products and services in order to find the right one that best fits their wants and needs. So it makes sense for them to maintain a rigid sense of discernibility and heavily weigh the pros and cons of companies they choose to do business with.
For companies large and small, the thought of this can be utterly daunting. After all, there’s only so much you control you can have.
But that’s where sales and marketing alignment comes into play.
For all intents and purposes, sales and marketing alignment can be loosely defined as when marketing and sales teams share goals and work together to generate revenue.
While marketing and sales will still have distinct roles, aligning around the same goal ensures marketing and sales are communicating, guiding each other's strategy and ultimately being more efficient.
Why is sales and marketing alignment important?
Aside from storing grain or water, silos aren’t good for much. Ultimately, silos prevent your sales and marketing teams from working together to achieve common goals — i.e. growing company revenue.
However, on a smaller scale, silos not only bottleneck workflows, but it hampers sales cycles, strategic goals become muddy, and sales teams aren’t able to make the most of the marketing leads, so your marketing team’s efforts get passed by the wayside and are underutilized.
At this point, it probably goes without saying that none of this is ideal.
Sales and marketing alignment helps prevent this. 87% of sales and marketing leaders say collaboration between sales and marketing enables critical business growth, and 90% agree that when initiatives and messaging are aligned the customer experience is improved.
And in order to align your sales and marketing teams, there are a few small steps you need to take and processes worth implementing to ensure both teams are on the same page and working effectively.
Sales alignment = Aligned marketing
We know that there are only so many hours in a day, so we’re going to give it to you straight: transparent and consistent communication is the key to ensuring a successful sales and inbound marketing alignment strategy.
That said, there are a few foundational steps necessary to help facilitate effective communication and boost alignment. Consider these first three points as your starting blocks. Once sales and marketing are aligned on the following, you can get started on the nitty-gritty.
Start by aligning the following:
Sales and marketing goals — Sales and marketing have similar goals. However, the difference lies within the time it takes to achieve these goals. For example, sales teams are driven by meeting a monthly (or quarterly) quota, which requires fast-paced flexibility and readiness at a moment’s notice. Marketing goals are less frenetic in nature. They wind up being more long-term and methodical in comparison to their sales counterparts. To achieve a happy medium between sales and marketing, you’ll want to identify overlap in goals and make specific goals surrounding that overlap to ensure success.
Sales and marketing roles — Sales and marketing cannot be siloed into their roles: there has to be common ground between the two departments. Sales need to stretch and flex the leads that marketing supplies. Whereas marketing needs to equip sales with easy-to-use resources or content collateral that empowers them to push through quotas quickly and easily.
Software and process crossover — Different processes and software work better for sales, and the same goes for marketing. Where you can, bridge the gap between the two by using the same processes and technology.
Determine the lead qualification and follow-up process — Marketing and sales should have a clearly defined process for how marketing-produced leads are qualified and distributed to the sales team to be nurtured and converted. Sales and marketing managers should agree on lead scoring criteria and designate which sales reps are responsible for following up with marketing generated leads. Formalizing this in a written service level agreement (SLA) will help keep both teams aligned.
Business segments and personas — Having defined buyer personas and target segments is critical to sales alignment. By identifying which industries, job titles and demographics make up your target market, your marketing team will know what content to create and your sales team will know how to organize their teams and develop email tracks to reach those segments.
Tips and tricks to successfully align sales and marketing
Now that we’ve tackled the high-level information needed to help you get the ball rolling, let’s dive into the details.
Have the initial conversation — This is the moment to establish and chat about your common ground, inbound marketing goals, and so forth. Be sure to lay everything out on the table, identify overlap, identify potential weak spots, and establish processes to help prevent those weak spots from becoming a problem.
Set up a recurring, weekly alignment meeting — Regardless of how much time you and your coworkers take to conduct the meeting, use this time to talk about hiccups, project progress, and other updates. Doing so helps you and other team members reduce the chances of duplicating work and ensures you all stay on the same page.
Attend each other’s key meetings — The more informed, the better. It might be tedious and seem unimportant, but it can provide insight into future projects and reinforce the bond between teams.
Implement a content request process — Sales enablement content is where marketing and sales wind up overlapping the most. A content request and production process can help ensure goals are met, cut down on duplicate work, and reduce the workload on creative teams, so everyone wins.
Build and leverage templates — To prevent bottlenecks from popping up, create pre-designed and customizable templates for sales or marketing to utilize. That way, both sales and marketing can keep cranking away at larger goals and projects — without dropping the ball on important yet small day-to-day tasks.
Organize resources in one location — Store sales enablement assets in one easy-to-find location. Assets can range from templates, one-pagers, and other sales collateral, to brand guidelines and locked images.
Create a content funnel — In an ideal world, you should be able to connect the dots between multiple pieces of content and create a content funnel. When aligning inbound marketing efforts and sales goals, be sure you are creating content for every stage of the funnel that tells a consistent story that develops as a lead moves through the funnel.
Keep communication channels open — As time goes on, sales and marketing alignment will need to evolve and grow to reflect the goals of your company. Be sure to maintain an open line of communication between departments to promote and facilitate the growth needed to lock in maximum success.
The impact of sales enablement on content — and vice versa
At this point, you’ve probably noticed that content is an overarching theme within this article. In order for sales and marketing alignment to be effective in practice (and not just theory), your content production also needs to be in alignment, on-brand, and consistent as well.
After all, content is a powerful tool for both sales and marketing teams. But unfortunately, it’s easy for one team (be it sales or marketing) to dictate what content gets produced, when it gets completed, and how it gets done. Instead of permitting this to happen, banish content production and sales enablement bottlenecks with Lucidpress. Lucidpress is an easy-to-use, brand templating platform that empowers anyone to create on-brand content. In turn, sales teams can quickly create the sales enablement content they need to close deals, while your creative team can focus on large-scale inbound marketing efforts. So, everyone wins.