Table of Contents
What is Sales Alignment?
Sales alignment refers to the strategic coordination between sales and various departments within an organization, most notably with marketing teams, to ensure they are working towards common goals and objectives. It’s crucial for improving efficiency, enhancing communication, and driving overall business growth.
Key aspects of sales alignment include:
- Shared frameworks, goals, and objectives
- Integrated, cross-departmental strategies
- Companywide input into GTM strategies
- Communication and collaboration
- Data sharing and analytics
- Technology and tools
- Performance metrics
Aligning sales with other teams is not just about improving the relationship between sales and marketing; it’s about creating a cohesive strategy that encompasses product development, customer service, and other departments to ensure the organization is moving efficiently towards its business objectives.
- Sales and marketing alignment
- Revenue alignment
- RevOps alignment
Importance of Sales Alignment with Marketing
By using a shared framework of goals and strategies and backing it with continuous communication and data sharing, sales and marketing teams can work together seamlessly toward achieving success.
Sales alignment is only becoming more important, as the modern B2B customer journey often involves multiple marketing touchpoints before, during, and after contact with someone from the sales team.
On average, buyers are 57% to 70% of the way through the decision-making process by the time they talk to sales. Gartner research reveals three-quarters of buyers prefer a rep-free buying experience. And 76% expect personalization based on their needs and preferences.
What this means for the B2B companies of today: marketing collateral has to double as a sales tool, and different types of content need to be available for buyers at every stage of the sales funnel. And there needs to be a seamless handoff between marketing-qualified leads and the sales team.
In practice, the only way to accomplish that is to create a bidirectional flow of information between sales and marketing. Sales tells marketing what current prospects are asking for and how they respond to current content, and marketing enables sales with the right material at the right time.
That’s what sales alignment is all about.
Benefits of Sales Alignment
Companies able to successfully facilitate alignment between sales and marketing can 3x their revenue. Alignment with product and customer service/success teams can further improve efficiency and drive revenue growth.
Well-aligned companies have a much easier time bringing new prospects into the pipeline, nurturing them, and eventually converting them into long-term customers. For sales, marketing, and product teams individually, the benefits are undeniable.
Benefits for Sales
As shown by Garnter’s abovementioned research, customer journeys primarily take place virtually (read: without sales involvement).
When an organization is tightly aligned, marketers guide potential customers through the early stages of the buying process to prepare them for engagement further down the line. After closing a deal, marketing efforts shift to adding value through tips, knowledge, and community involvement.
In other words, marketing supports sales by:
- Educating buyers before they’re ready to initiate contact with sales
- Nurturing qualified leads and weeding out those who aren’t a good fit
- Giving sales reps competitive intel
- Seamlessly handing off marketing leads to sales reps
- Influencing the market, brand perception, and buyer expectations
- Consistently engaging customers
For those yet to be customers, these actions ensure your organization is top of mind when the time to buy comes. By sharing valuable content with your existing customer base, your marketing team also improves customer retention rates and reduces time to value.
Benefits for Marketing
In the limited time sales reps have with their customers, they can only make use of a fraction of your company’s available material. But salespeople add a critical (human) element to your sales process. Since they’re the ones meeting and speaking with customers on the daily, they offer a wealth of critical insights into product functionality, operational efficiency, and true buyer needs.
That’s a big deal. Because, according to data from the American Marketing Association, as much 90% of B2B marketing content goes unused while 87% of buyers say it has a moderate or major impact on vendor selection.
Sales alignment closes the gap between marketing content that’s useful and marketing content you publish by:
- Validating or invalidating marketing strategies
- Describing how customers use your product in practice
- Pinpointing exact real-world applications
- Identifying content gaps based on sales cycle inefficiencies
- Providing insights into market dynamics and customer health
Benefits for Product
Product development teams are normally left out of the discussion when sales alignment strategies are created. But including them in the mix introduces a wealth of benefits that promote product-market fit and customer satisfaction.
Many companies already have a process for gathering user feedback, but the same cannot be said when it comes to input from sales. Having direct access to the voice of the customer enables product teams to:
- Build more tailored products that meet and exceed customer needs
- Create better product documentation and messaging for sales reps
- Develop a framework for how to talk about updates or new releases with prospects and customers
This results in increased product adoption, higher satisfaction rates, and reduced churn. Sales alignment also helps product teams get ahead of feature requests, which cuts down on product development cycle times and cautions management about potential issues before they arise.
What Causes Sales-Marketing Misalignment?
Really, there are dozens of reasons your sales and marketing teams might be misaligned. Truth is, misalignment is common; Harvard Business Review studied 500 employees across 12 organizations and found that, while 82% believed their company was aligned, analysis of written explanations around their comapny’s strategies showed only 23% were aligned at all.
Here’s a look at some of the most likely causes of misalignment within your company:
C-Suite Progress and Compensation Structures
A significant disconnect occurs when CMOs’ goals are tied directly to revenue and profit, but this incentive doesn’t trickle down effectively to the rest of the marketing team. If execs have revenue goals the rest of your marketing department doesn’t care about, they’re going to be less sales-driven.
Risk Aversion and Different Perspectives
Marketers often have a risk-averse nature compared to sales teams, which are typically more quota and transaction-driven. This fundamental difference in approach and mindset can lead to challenges in fostering effective collaboration and understanding between the two departments.
Nearsighted vs. Farsighted Goals
Salespeople are inherently driven by short-term goals. They have to be — their success is tied to conversations and transactions. Marketers are strategic and analytical, since they build authority incrementally.
Data Silos and Access Barriers
Both marketing and sales teams frequently struggle with data silos, where crucial customer and operational data are confined within departmental boundaries. This hinders the free flow of information required for cohesive strategy development and execution. It also leads to misinformed decisions and strategies that aren’t in line with the company’s overall goals.
Silos in Strategic Planning
Often, marketing and sales departments plan their strategies in isolation without sufficient involvement or insight from the other. This lack of integrated planning can result in divergent goals and efforts, diluting the effectiveness of both departments in driving the organization forward.
Misunderstanding and Lack of Empathy
A mutual lack of understanding about the challenges and KPIs of the other department often exacerbates misalignment. Without empathy and appreciation for the unique pressures each team faces, it’s challenging to foster a collaborative environment conducive to shared success.
Divergence in KPIs
When marketing and sales teams do not align on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), it becomes difficult to measure success in a unified manner. This frequently leads to conflicts over what constitutes success and can skew efforts away from shared business objectives.
How to Successfully Align Sales and Marketing
Successfully achieving sales alignment requires more than just setting KPIs, holding a few meetings, and letting things run their course. You have to take an active role in monitoring, adjusting and evaluating the strategies your teams implement. And you have to facilitate a culture of collaboration and accountability across departments.
Here are the steps you need to take to achieve sales and marketing alignment:
1. Jointly define the customer persona and journey.
Sales and marketing should collaborate to create a detailed customer persona that encompasses demographic details, pain points, and buying behavior. A shared understanding ensures both teams target the same audience with a unified approach.
Your marketing team can focus on publishing the right top-of-funnel content and running campaigns that bring new prospects into the funnel. They can also publish guides, comparison pages, and product/service pages that help customers further along in the sales pipeline.
Sales reps who understand the buyer journey from a marketing standpoint will have a better idea of which content to share with leads and opportunities. They’ll also find it easier to implement lead scoring, so they’ll know which accounts are most likely to convert (i.e., which ones to prioritize).
2. Designate team members to receive and qualify marketing leads.
Have newer or more junior sales reps start out with lead qualification before they start with outbound. Designate specific points of contact in sales responsible for following up on marketing-generated leads.
Your qualifying reps can help close the loop between the two teams and provide feedback on lead quality, all while ensuring a smooth transition and fast response times (responses within 5 minutes increase conversion chances by 400%). Plus, they’ll learn your sales qualification framework.
3. Make content creation a collaborative effort.
Of course, your sales team isn’t going to write a landing page or design an email drip campaign. What they can do is contribute data and insights that inform the creation of marketing assets.
Data from inside sales reps or customer-facing employees can provide valuable information like:
- Top causes for reaching out to sales
- What they’re are most concerned about
- Their most common objections
- Content they mention not being able to find
- Feedback on actual product/service usage and performance
They can also give your marketing team insights into which types of customers you might be missing in your targeting. You might even be able to address customer commentary (or even take their words verbatim) in your copy.
On the other hand, marketing can also provide resources to salespeople that will make their job easier, like templates, case studies, and testimonials from satisfied customers.
4. Use CRM to improve cross-functional collaboration.
Obviously, you’re already using a CRM. But does it align create silos or break them down?
In many cases, you’ll find that the two departments have developed a habit of inputting data into different systems. This can create confusion or lead to discrepancies in reporting.
To avoid this, you need to implement a system that allows both teams access to the same data. But more than just having shared access, you need to have a system that can tie interactions across departments together.
Integrate CRM with your CPQ, billing, marketing automation, and customer success solutions. That way, all departments can get a clear picture of each customer.
5. Implement KPIs that underscore alignment.
While sales and marketing have different immediate objectives, there are plenty of ways you can determine the overall impact of each sales and marketing touchpoint in a conversion. There are also ways to measure your alignment overall.
- Use the MQL:SQL ratio to gauge lead quality.
- Calculate the average sales cycle length for lead sources.
- Measure the conversion percentage on sales-qualified leads.
- Set up custom revenue attribution to measure the ROI of your marketing collateral.
Do this in addition to tracking each department’s KPIs. That way, each team will understand how their work affects the other and how they contribute to overall business goals.
6. Create feedback loops for continuous improvement.
Establish mechanisms for regular feedback between sales and marketing. This could involve:
- Sales providing insights on lead quality and customer feedback
- Marketing sharing campaign performance data and market insights
- Jointly reviewing sales and marketing KPIs
- Conducting occasional group meetings to discuss progress, challenges, and opportunities for improvement
- Setting up a Slack channel specifically for shared information
This ongoing exchange of information enables both teams to continuously refine their strategies and tactics for better alignment and improved results.
How Revenue Operations Helps Align Sales and Marketing
Revenue operations (RevOps) is a team of professionals from your sales, marketing, and customer success departments that’s dedicated to optimizing the interdepartmental processes and systems that drive revenue.
The benefits of implementing RevOps are manifold:
- Companies that implement RevOps grow revenue 3x faster than those that don’t.
- They also see a 10% to 20% increase in sales productivity.
- You can increase your win rate by ~38% and improve customer retention by 36% after aligning sales and marketing through RevOps.
One of the key aspects of RevOps is its focus on improving operational efficiency across the entire customer lifecycle, from lead generation to renewal events.
Let’s say you have a prospect that’s engaged with marketing content, filled out a form requesting more information, and has been contacted by sales. After the first qualification call, they browse the site a few more times over the next week before sitting for a demo. By the time they close, they’ve looked at dozens of pages and spent hours on your site.
With a RevOps function, all of these touchpoints would be tracked and leveraged to create a more personalized, consistent customer experience. With RevOps software, they’ll also have a single source of truth for all their customer data.
People Also Ask
What is an example of sales alignment?
An example of sales alignment is when the marketing team generates leads with targeted content and then hands them over to a member of the sales team, who, thanks to marketing, has insights and follow-up strategies tailored to those leads’ interests and behaviors.
What are the metrics for sales and marketing alignment?
Metrics for sales and marketing alignment include lead conversion rates, the percentage of leads accepted by sales, marketing-generated revenue, sales cycle length, and customer acquisition cost.