7 tips for aligning your sales and marketing strategy

Posted July 28, 2021

By Serena Miller

Editor, Sales Best Practices at Outreach

Every company wants to support initiatives that attract satisfied and loyal customers to the brand, but many struggle with the alignment of their sales and marketing strategy.

When conflicting goals or communication breakdowns get in the way, sales and marketing teams can become competitive, which can destroy your bottom line. Fortunately, you can address all these issues by re-calibrating the principles and processes that guide these two important teams.

What is Sales and Marketing Alignment?

Traditionally, sales and marketing teams have worked independently of one another in silos. Marketing focused on building materials that supported the buyer’s journey, while sales nurtured leads and closed deals.

Sales and marketing alignment, or smarketing, refers to sales and marketing teams that share resources and use streamlined processes to focus collectively on the larger, sustainable goal of efficiently increasing revenue. Wheelhouse Advisors says sales and marketing alignment can lead to 208 percent growth in marketing revenue. Realizing that goal requires optimizations to your overall business strategy, pathways for communication, and resource allocation. The Aberdeen Group’s study revealed that sales and marketing alignment can lead to a 32 percent increase in year-over-year revenue growth.

Common Problems Misaligned Sales and Marketing Teams Face

Regardless of the industry, misaligned sales and marketing teams can cause major problems. Here are five of the most prevalent challenges that a strategy for alignment can help you solve:

  1. Lack of understanding. Sales teams tend to believe that marketers don’t know their customers' real needs and questions. Marketing teams in turn assume that sales teams only understand their current customers and aren’t aware of the larger, ever-changing buyer market. Each team is right and wrong: They both have specific expertise and weaknesses. Creating opportunities for knowledge sharing increases everyone’s potential for success.
  2. Competition for funding. No organization has an unlimited budget. Sales and marketing often feel like they are vying for resources and recognition. Consequently, each team believes that their department is the more worthwhile investment, and that there can only be one winner.
  3. Use of separate systems. When teams store sales and marketing data in discrete systems, big problems occur. Departments handoff valuable information at a glacial pace. Teams ignore critical leads. Ultimately, the business loses opportunities for planning, upselling, and even pivoting.
  4. Different priorities. Do your two teams disagree on which products to promote or even who to sell them to? For example, does your marketing team prefer to bring in new leads, while your sales team focuses on building relationships with existing customers? Different priorities waste time and resources and create frustration for both your organization and your customers.
  5. Uncoordinated timing. Is marketing creating demand for a product that sales can’t currently fulfill? Are marketing’s campaigns missing out on seasonal fluctuations that only sales is aware of? Collaboration across teams ensures that you exceed customer needs and expectations at every step of their journey.

Do any of these pain points sound familiar? As challenging as they sound, you can resolve them with a thoughtful strategy that considers how each team can assist the other. 

To effectively bring your sales and marketing teams together:

  • Both the sales and marketing teams must have a shared vision, shared goals, and shared understanding of the KPIs needed to achieve them.
  • Both teams must have the resources to achieve their goals, from staff to software.
  • Both teams must employ effective feedback loops that drive informed processes.

Benefits of Sales and Marketing Alignment

When sales and marketing share structures, systems, and rewards, the entire business benefits. For example, sales and marketing alignment can improve staff engagement or eliminate revenue stagnation. Here are a few of the key benefits:

  • Greater cohesion between sales strategies and marketing strategies: Marketing and sales teams focus on critical, forward-thinking tasks that drive revenue or increase lead generation, among other goals.
  • Increased cooperation and resource sharing: When these two teams develop and implement shared metrics and good communication processes, budgeting becomes more flexible and less competitive. Productivity increases without additional investment.
  • Effective use of leads: With proper communication and shared systems, teams can effectively generate, nurture, and hand off valuable leads without losing information in the process.
  • More scalable playbooks: Alignment allows your sales and marketing teams to design and execute initiatives that increase revenue while increasing efficiency.

All these benefits lead to one important result: greater customer satisfaction. When your whole company is aligned on what really matters to your customers, you’ll see increases in your organization’s revenue and ROI. Thankfully, you have opportunities for alignment in almost every aspect of the sales and marketing process.

Examples of Successful Sales and Marketing Alignment

Implementing new processes can be stressful and time-consuming, but in the case of sales and marketing alignment, the outcome is always worth the effort. Here are two case studies where organizations achieved great results through alignment.

Shared Insights Across Teams

Zoom is a company that needs little to no introduction after massive adoption of their video conferencing software in 2020. Despite offering a user-friendly product, Zoom’s internal sales and marketing processes were anything but simple.

Before implementing Outreach, the sales and marketing teams at Zoom employed different sets of tools that did not communicate. These numerous (and sometimes conflicting) data sources made it difficult to share insights and create plans across teams. Manually tracking and relaying information wasted time and allowed valuable opportunities to go unnoticed. With Outreach, sales and marketing now track detailed metrics, craft targeted messaging to better reach customers, and identify which actions drive the strongest results.

Increased Communication; Reduced Manual Effort

DocuSign has more than 200 million users across 188 countries, with aggressive future growth goals. The international eSignature leader has a detailed sales process and significant market scale, requiring a partner that could streamline its outbound and account-focused efforts. Before Outreach, the DocuSign sales team used spreadsheets to track campaigns, plus Salesforce for follow-up tasks. In addition, reps had to update records manually, ensure a separate coordination process with the marketing team, and complete a seven-touch follow-up phone and email process.

With Outreach, DocuSign realized a huge improvement in sales effectiveness: The company saw an increase in each sales rep’s productivity by more than 30 minutes per day. This was accomplished by the elimination of manual tasks, automatic scheduling of follow-up tasks, and improved tracking throughout every step in the funnel. Outreach also made their CRM more effective and improved the alignment of the sales and marketing teams.

Best Practices for Sales and Marketing Alignment

Now that you understand the components and benefits of sales and marketing alignment, and have seen some examples, it’s time to start making specific plans for improving these important relationships at your organization. Here are seven actionable best practices to help you make the changes you want to see.

1. Focus on Your Customer First

Customer satisfaction should be the primary driver behind any action that either team takes. This high-level goal eliminates competition, tension, and the narrow focus on quotas or statistics that don’t describe the entire customer experience. Alignment happens naturally when both teams want to make customers happy at every stage of their buying journey. Prioritize the needs of customers, and your initiatives will naturally promote collaboration between your sales and marketing teams.

2. Define Each Step of Your Marketing and Sales Funnels

Each team has different responsibilities within the marketing and sales funnel. Marketing typically owns the activities at the top of the funnel, such as creating an overall marketing plan, building brand awareness, and generating leads. Sales manages the bottom of the funnel by executing the marketing plan and following up on leads. A funnel with defined steps eliminates confusion, highlights opportunities for collaboration, and ensures accountability.

3. Share Sales Feedback with Marketing

To build a powerful funnel, it’s essential that your sales team communicates the insights they gain from interacting with prospects back to the marketing team. This will lead to your buyers receiving the problem-solving information that they want and need at the right stage in the buying process. Time is precious on both sides, so make sharing these insights a priority and build efficient knowledge-sharing mechanisms.

4. Ensure Frequent, Disciplined Communication

It’s not enough to increase communication between your sales and marketing teams — all communication needs to be as structured as your sales feedback process. Schedule regular, predictable communication processes to both teams so everyone knows what to expect and when. Keeping your communication process consistent, disciplined, and organized will ensure alignment for both busy teams. Create an agenda, and devote time to discussing action items and next steps.

5. Integrate Your Sales and Marketing Metrics

Now that you have focused on the customer, defined your funnel steps, and improved your communication process, it’s time to establish integrated metrics for your sales and marketing teams. Common metrics that track both sales and marketing performance, as well as individual achievements, are essential.

This integration ensures that the sales and marketing teams share the responsibility of meeting revenue goals and improving processes. Teams may find opportunities to focus on lead quality over lead quantity, improve the lead hand-off process, or align content topics more closely with customer needs.

6. Align Rewards and Recognition

Most companies compensate sales teams for closing new deals, while marketing teams only receive recognition for the leads they get in the door. A successful sales and marketing strategy acknowledges that both teams add value at every step of the funnel. If you reward and recognize members of each team for every sale, you'll emphasize respect for the communal effort. Celebrating together leads to more intentional efforts to work as an aligned team.

7. Get Control of Your Content Management

Even if your teams have a shared focus and integrated goals, your processes will still be sloppy if your content management is. Good content management ensures that all members of the sales and marketing teams can easily find and use the right content for their unique customer communication needs.

Keeping your content organized, easy to access, and up to date will ensure consistent, relevant messaging and easy access to needed materials. Your marketing team does great work creating numerous resources — does your sales team know how to find and use them?

Align, Evolve, and Realize Strong Results

When sales and marketing teams are in rhythm, it’s revenue gold. But getting to a place of alignment has always been a bit of an elusive goal post. Now, there’s even greater stress on how sales and marketing teams’ coordinate–like operating in a remote, unpredictable environment while still needing to meet ambitious numbers.

It’s time for sales and marketing to make some bold moves from the front lines. So, what does that look like practically? How can sales and marketing leaders push their teams to create and maintain a buyer-aligned sales process and sales execution? Download our free guide: "Bringing Sales and Marketing in Alignment: 3 Key Considerations for Navigating the Way, Together." 


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