A tale as old as time: marketing & sales. Who’s the one to stay in your business strategy at all times? Who’s the one contributing to the pipeline the most?
We all know the memes. You must’ve seen at least a couple in your LinkedIn feed.
And this constant rivalry and misinterpretation make you confused. You get stuck with the “either/or” mindset when it comes to marketing and sales.
In reality, this couple is so co-dependent that you’ll never be able to prioritize one of them to win. It’s the mix of both that kicks off your growth strategy.
If you don’t believe us, trust the data. Here are a few stats to set you in the right mood:
- 56% of companies that align marketing and sales meet their revenue goals, with an additional 19% beating their targets.
- Companies that embrace sales & marketing alignment can triple their revenue.
- Marketing & sales alignment strategies can lead to a 58% increase in customer retention.
So, what’s standing in the way of aligning sales and marketing, and what strategies should we adopt to break the pattern? Let’s find out.
First, what does it actually mean to align sales and marketing teams?
No matter your team’s approaches, the end goal is always the same: securing revenue through customer acquisition and retention.
While both marketing and sales keep this goal in mind, they use different metrics and tools to measure their contribution to the pipeline.
And that’s where the mayhem begins. Sales teams prioritize revenue-oriented metrics like monthly revenue or average deal size, and marketing builds its strategy around qualified leads and fit rates.
With different success metrics in mind, the teams lose the sense of cooperation and interdependence they actually have.
Sales & Marketing alignment is the process of introducing shared goals and vision for both teams to improve communication, performance, customer satisfaction rate, and, eventually, revenue.
On paper, aligning your sales and marketing is your golden ticket to success. In reality, bringing together teams with different visions and operational frameworks is a real brain teaser.
Lack of communication
The most obvious obstacle that has ruined a lot of deals is poor communication within the team. Your marketing team outlines a strategy to attract leads and raise interest in your product. Your sales team uses content and communication to convert the leads into won deals.
At first, it might seem that each of them contributes to bringing high-value accounts to the pipeline.
The problem? They’re working to approach different audiences.
As a result, we’re going back to our misaligned roots: the marketing-qualified leads aren’t fit to make a purchase, and sales are incapable of following up on an MQL.
The definition of a lead varies from one team to another, creating plenty of problems in closing a deal.
Sales and marketing teams are often driven by Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), and Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs). While the first one meets the surface criteria of a prospect showing interest in brand messaging or marketing campaigns, the SQLs are focused on the later discovery stages, including meeting the ICP criteria and the prospect’s readiness to buy.
Eventually, it’s a no-brainer to figure out why marketing and sales can’t find common ground. While sales are wasting time on opportunities that don’t meet their initial criteria, marketers feel that sales reps don’t work hard enough to leverage an MQL’s interest in the product.
Holding onto old playbooks
If your marketing team is still driven by low-intent KPIs like website traffic, the number of e-book downloads, or click-through rate – congrats, we might have figured out your core problem. You’re playing by the old marketing playbook that has no value for your sales and your company in general.
Imagine the scenario where your marketing team passes on the list of MQLs to the sales team. These prospects have shared their contact information to download an e-book or a guide to find some valuable information for themselves.
Predictably, by the time sales reach out, the lead will have zero information about your product and little to no intention to actually buy something from you.
The sales are annoyed for wasting their time on leads who were never qualified in the first place, while the marketing team doesn’t understand what went wrong (the KPIs set for their team are met, and they’re continuously getting leads). In fact, no one is exactly at fault here. Except for the management that failed to set the proper expectations for both.
As a result, the two teams that should have contributed to your revenue the most are stalling your growth: marketing gets the illusion of success from chasing vanity metrics, while sales have fewer qualified opportunities to work with.
Poor role definition
Since growing businesses are notorious for cutting their marketing budgets after the slightest mention of an economic challenge, the sales teams have become something of a versatile solution to bring clients in.
But it’s time for a reality check: the SDRs aren’t supposed to educate the audience, talk about your company, and raise brand awareness among prospects.
Their job is to establish a long-term partnership with the client who:
- Already knows the information about the company
- Meets the qualification criteria
- Is in the market and ready to buy
How do your clients get there? Through the brand messaging provided by marketing.
You can’t make any of the teams switch their responsibilities. You can’t eliminate either.
To build a successful strategy, you need symbiosis. Luckily, we know a few tips on how it can be encouraged.
Communicate. A lot. Constantly, to be honest.
Communication is what everyone’s talking about today (pun intended), but companies still fail to adopt a collaboration framework within the team.
While the sales team emphasizes short-term revenue goals and quotas, and marketing is working toward far-reaching objectives, you can ensure they’re on the same page by introducing monthly or fortnightly sync-up meetings.
What should marketing/sales sync-ups include?
- Discussion of the sales team’s results. It’s important to make sure the marketing team provides enough resources and leads for sales to meet the monthly or quarterly goals
- Discussion of customer feedback. Sharing customer insights with the marketing team will help them align their messaging with the client’s pain points and expectations, making the qualification and conversion process easier in the long run.
- Sharing marketing & sales materials. The data shows that 51% of marketers consider their communication with sales ineffective, whereas 53% of sales reps feel little to no marketing support. Misalignment to such a frightening extent will eventually lead to sales and marketing working with different brand messaging and outdated information. Regular sync-ups allow the company to create a shared deck of materials and brand messaging to operate with.
Here’s a good agenda example to guide you through your first meetings.
Set clear roadmaps and expectations.
Does your marketing team know how many clients sales reps need to sign to meet the quota? Does your sales team have any idea of what channels and messaging tactics contribute to the pipeline the most?
And most importantly: does anyone on your team know where you all are headed in the foreseeable future?
If the answers to these questions are negative, you’re in the deep water here.
The way out? Creating a strategy and detailed roadmap to let your sales and marketing teams know exactly what to reach for in order to meet the overarching business goal: revenue and sustainable growth.
Once your team is familiar with the strategy and the Ideal Customer Profile they’re targeting to execute this strategy, it’s way easier for them to actually align their expectations.
When both marketing and sales are working towards a common goal of growing X revenue and closing Y deals to meet this objective, chances are they will collaborate more to move further from vanity metrics like the number of website visits and demo calls to something that actually matters: the number of high-value accounts brought to your pipeline.
Coordinate content. Together.
Content marketing, whether it’s social media posts, testimonials, or case studies, is one of the most powerful tools to attract, educate, and qualify your prospect.
Marketers should ask the sales team what topics, pain points, and questions come up most frequently during the conversation. With this information at hand, the marketing strategy can shift its focus from the product to the consumer, communicating the unique value and deflating their confusion.
When it comes to sales reps, the team should pay attention to marketing strategies and messaging to use both educational and promotional content during communication with a client.
At the end of the day, this whole B2B story is about your customer. And aligning your messaging and content to make the buyer’s journey smooth is the minimum program to follow if you want to close a deal.
Share the most important objective there is: revenue.
If you still don’t consider marketing to be the revenue department, you’re implicitly contributing to the whole “misalignment” bit here.
Attracting leads, increasing brand awareness, and producing quality content are the objectives your marketing team meets while moving toward the underlying goal of your business: making money and increasing sales velocity.
Let’s focus on the last one for a bit. To know exactly how long it takes to move the customer through the pipeline and bring you profit, you need to focus on four key metrics:
- Closed-win rate
- Average contract value
- Number of qualified opportunities
- Average sales cycle length
Since all these aspects equally contribute to the quality of your pipeline, we can make one (and kind of obvious) conclusion: there’s no department that matters the most. It’s only the combination of the two that yields actual results for your team.
Let’s wrap it up…
The “sales vs. marketing” debate has gotten old. It’s no longer funny (most of the time, at least), it’s no longer relevant, and it’s straight up dangerous for your business if you want to level up your performance.
Does it mean marketing and sales should consolidate and work as a single unit? Definitely not. People confuse these terms way too much already.
What they should do, however, is align their objectives and operations to work toward a common goal: granting higher revenue and increasing authority in the market.
And it’s never a good option to prioritize any of these processes because they seemingly bring actual dollars to your pipeline (yes, we’re talking about sales supremacy here). It’s vital to grow both teams to witness actual results.
In case you have any questions about creating a working marketing strategy, check out our latest article on the first steps to improving your B2B marketing game.