How to Unite Marketing and Sales for Good

What makes a happy relationship tick?

According to psychological research, accepting influence from your partner and assuming positive intent are two of the most important habits needed to ensure long-term success.

The marketing and sales relationship is no different.

How to Unite Marketing and Sales for Good

In a survey of over 450 companies, organizations with tightly knit marketing and sales teams not only grew more revenue, they also generated almost 50 percent of those sales from marketing pipeline.

If the rest of us want to catch up, let’s start by assuming both teams have the best intentions. Then let’s acknowledge that the way things unfold in reality often gets in the way of coming together as one revenue-generating machine.

Here’s how to fix it:

Focus on the same market segment or accounts

One of the biggest drivers of misalignment between marketing and sales is different ideas around who to target.

Without a shared understanding of their ideal customer profile (ICP), marketers market to one audience while sales reps sell to another. 

The net result of their scattered efforts is less impact. Companies with collaborative marketing and sales teams achieved an average of 20 percent growth in annual revenue compared to a four percent decrease reported by everyone else.

To drive the kind of results that only come from being on the same page, sales and marketing need to arrive at a unified, objective definition of the customer.

To do that, your first step is defining success. Presumably, that means close rates—but it could also include customer retention.

Your next step is using data analysis to determine where the best opportunities for success live.

Based on these findings, marketing and sales can co-author a shared list of target accounts that lives in mutually accessible systems that both teams already use. 

Provide playbooks around prioritization

A wildly successful marketing campaign can sour quickly when sales isn’t prepared.

But most marketers aren’t thinking about the impact of an unexpected spike in pipeline when they’re launching campaigns. They’re hoping those campaigns will convert.

And they expect sales to close more deals given more pipe. When they don’t, they may blame the sales team for a variety of reasons. One common complaint is “sales isn’t personalizing their interactions enough.”

As marketers, we need to understand the lead volume we’re generating—and we need to ensure the sales team has clear marching orders around what to focus on when there’s a surplus of leads coming in.

This means standardizing the follow-up process by defining the expectations around follow-up activity. It also means ensuring the sales team has the processes and data needed to prioritize and personalize at scale. 

These playbooks will be less effective if they’re scattered across various documents and spreadsheets, so aim to put the pieces together in a central, shareable place.

Set mutual goals around business strategy and bonus structure

Most sales and marketing teams work toward different outcomes. Marketing’s chief goal is generating qualified leads, while sales is responsible for converting those leads into customers.

It makes sense in theory. In practice, having different goals, compensation models, and qualification definitions can create a divisive dynamic between teams where the blame game becomes common.

Unsurprisingly, the disconnect doesn’t do much to push the needle.

To fix it, marketing and sales leaders must work to create mutual goals around business strategy and compensation structure. Instead of basing a marketer’s bonus on MQLs, treat upper-funnel activity as “leading indicators” rather than successes on their own.

This doesn’t mean marketing should hyperfocus on closing and revenue. But it does mean they should define and frame pre-closing activities (MQL, opportunity creation, response to a program) in ways that help them predict the likelihood of success.

Given a shared and data-driven understanding of success and failure—and a renewed approach to incentives—marketing and sales can work hand-in-hand to close more deals and accurately forecast future activities and results.

Understand lead activity at the account level

Some sales folk get territorial about their account lists. It may not be conducive to collaboration, but their apprehension is understandable.

When misaligned with sales, marketing only views the funnel through pre-opportunity activities that don’t jive with the late-stage opportunities the sales team works.

This often shows up as “oops” moments, like engaging a “new lead” at a tradeshow who actually works at a company sales is already in conversations with.

When marketing engages with leads without context, they risk “undoing” the sales teams’ progress. At the minimum, they contribute to an uneven buyer’s experience.

Here’s the antidote:

  • Unite teams across one funnel, not just the marketing funnel
  • Invest in tech that works for everyone to align marketing touches with live sales data
  • Develop a full picture of an account and its buying committee, not just a “lead” or “contact”
  • Adjust messaging with dynamic targeting based on current sales stage
  • Meet (and communicate) on a regular basis
  • The need for ongoing communication may seem obvious, but that doesn’t stop some marketing and sales teams from limiting their interactions to meetings where they review results in retrospect.

This isn’t a productive way to work together. Instead of asking What did we do?, the conversation should answer the question What will we do?

It should also go beyond annual planning exercises. For organizations with alignment challenges, sales and marketing must communicate around:

  • Tactical planning: You’ll need a cohesive plan that works for both teams. What will we do?
  • Operational execution: You’ll need to devise a single, end-to-end process across both teams. How will we do it? 

Being proactive at this level ensures that marketing and sales can align their expectations and create detailed plans to support them.

Perhaps most importantly, it empowers them with the operational processes needed to execute in an intentional way across the entire customer lifecycle.


Want to learn even more about what makes marketers and sellers tick? Watch our latest webinar with TOPO to find out. 





About the Author

Katie Dunn, Demand Generation Manager

An event and demand gen marketing guru who drives all things demand at RollWorks.

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