7 Best Practices for Aligning Sales and Marketing

Amanda Sleger on September 05, 2023

In the dynamic landscape of digital business, the necessity for synergy between sales and marketing teams has become a cornerstone of success. No longer can your team operate in silos, only painting their part of the picture. Sales and marketing now have to come together and coordinate their efforts to create a seamless, enjoyable customer experience.

In this article, I chat with Amanda Sleger, Director of Sales and Marketing, all about aligning your sales and marketing teams, the challenges that come with that task and how to get your teams on the same page.

Understanding Sales and Marketing Alignment

Picture this: A marketing team spends two months preparing for a new campaign. They create a customer journey map, a messaging strategy and a roadmap for which tactics they’ll use and when. They craft copy and assets that create a narrative around their company’s product, showcasing unique features, benefits and a rock solid value proposition.

The campaign launches and it’s a huge success! The marketing team is meeting all their KPIs and leads are consistently rolling in and going to the sales team.

Sales, however, was not part of the marketing team’s preparations or execution for this hugely successful campaign. So when leads make it onto their calendars and into their Zoom meetings, they’re hearing a different story. Your sales team is using a different narrative, different messaging, different value propositions and now potential customers are confused.

This isn’t the same brand they met in your marketing material. Which version of your message is true?

A disjointed approach to sales and marketing, like this one, not only confuses prospects but also dilutes your brand identity. It makes it hard for people to develop a relationship with your brand and thus trust your brand to solve their problem.

However, when the two departments work together, their efforts amplify each other, creating a compelling narrative across the customer journey that captures attention, builds trust and encourages conversions.

How Alignment Impacts Success

There’s no shortage of rewards for businesses who put dedicated effort into aligning their teams.

A shared understanding of target audiences, objectives, and market trends leads to more precise targeting, resulting in increased conversion rates. It also ensures a seamless transition from lead generation to the final sale, streamlining the entire customer journey.

The cohesive brand messaging that arises from this alignment cultivates a sense of trust and authenticity, setting the stage for enduring customer relationships and sustained business growth.

In short, Amanda names these three major benefits of aligning your two teams:

  1. Shorter lead to customer time.
  2. Higher overall conversion rates, which means more revenue.
  3. Better content and customer experience.

With these things at the finish line, alignment is a no-brainer.

Challenges in Achieving Alignment

As you can imagine, creating a perfectly synergistic sales and marketing machine isn’t easy. That’s why some companies fall short in their efforts even when they’re aware of the importance.

Amanda notes three challenges, in particular, that most businesses face when aligning their teams:

  • Lack of communication. “Communication and collaboration is often the biggest hurdle in marketing and sales alignment,” Amanda says. The two teams tend to operate with different objectives, terminologies and goals in mind, making it difficult to find common ground. For example, marketing is typically focused on lead generation and sales is focused on conversion. The trick is that each of these activities lead to the same result — a new customer — so they have to be aligned to create a consistent customer experience. Bridging this gap requires open lines of communication, shared objectives, and a clear understanding of each team’s role in the customer journey.
  • Different goals and priorities. Amanda notes that timelines are another key challenge when aligning your teams. Marketing might be working on a long-term campaign focused on building brand awareness and solidifying the brand identity, but sales needs to meet their quarterly quotas and wants to close ten deals this week. “It’s critical to balance each team’s priorities, timelines and objectives to create a unified strategy that will address your business’s short and long-term goals.”
  • Misalignment of messaging and targeting. This is the most critical error that occurs when your teams aren’t aligned. If your marketing team is bringing in leads that fit one buyer persona but your sales team is trying to sell to a different customer profile, you won’t see many tally marks in your closed/won column. It’s imperative that your sales and marketing teams are aligning in who they’re selling to, what narrative they’re using and what the value of your product or service is. This creates a single marketing message that’s carried on past the sales handoff to create a cohesive experience and build trust.

Addressing these three challenges and planning ways to overcome them is critical as you work to align to your two teams. When planned well, your marketing strategy can act as a sales enablement tool that sets up your salespeople for success and boosts your win rate.

Now let’s dive into some practical ways to make that happen.

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Sales and Marketing Alignment Best Practices

There are numerous ways to get your sales reps and marketing department on the same page so they’re hitting on your target audience’s pain points and presenting a single solution. The following are six that Amanda finds most impactful in any business.

#1 Establishing a Shared Vision and Goals

The first step to aligning your teams is to create a shared vision and goals. “You have to bring your sales and marketing team members together so they can discuss each of their roles in the buying process and create common goals,” Amanda says.

She recommends each team come to this meeting prepared with a few basic pieces of information. For marketing:

  • How are people finding your brand? (Lead sources, organic traffic, website pages, etc.) This will help uncover what’s driving people to seek out your business.
  • What content are users consuming and converting on? This shows what your most valuable content marketing assets are and gives you insights into what problems your customers are facing.

For sales teams:

  • What education are you doing during the sales process that marketing can help with? This might be creating white papers and blogs to educate prospects or developing a lead-scoring system to vet marketing qualified leads (MQLs) before they go to sales.
  • What problems or obstacles are recurring in the sales process for your target market?
  • Why do people say no?

“A bonus exercise the two teams can do is bring in the customer success team and talk to customers about their experience,” Amanda adds. “What are typical issues that come up post-purchase? Are there any major disappointments post-sale that’s hurting your customer retention rates? This is a simple way to get right to the heart of what your customers need from you. You’d be surprised how often the problems you’re facing have a really easy fix.”

#2 Defining KPIs

The next step to reaching your shared objectives is to establish key performance indicators (KPIs). These are metrics that each team can track, respectively, to show their progress toward your goal.

“The most important thing to look at is conversion rates,” Amanda says. “Look at visitor to lead and lead to customer conversion rates because they show if your marketing and sales messaging is aligned.”

She notes that you need to keep an eye on if the lead is getting what they’re expecting (or better) in each step of the process. This creates buy-in to your brand, which builds trust and eventually leads to a sale.

#3 Improving Communication and Collaboration

“Like I mentioned before, communication is mission critical when aligning these two departments,” Amanda says. “Think of it as one revenue department. Have regular meetings where teams can collaborate and keep open communication at all times.”

I know what you’re thinking — easier said than done. But with the help of technology, sharing information is much easier.

If you work in HubSpot, you can share access to certain reporting dashboards so all revenue team members can see progress toward goals and how their efforts are contributing.

“You should also share the value of leads coming in from your marketing side,” Amanda adds. “This helps you decide if your marketing is bringing in prospective customers that could become SQLs (sales qualified leads) or if you’re missing the mark a little bit.”

#4 Implementing a Lead Management Process

That brings us to the next alignment best practice: implementing a process for lead management. It’s important that your teams agree on what is a qualified lead. Without alignment here, you’ll really struggle to focus your efforts on an ideal customer.

To do this, Amanda suggests a two-step approach:

  • Identify which team owns specific lead stages.
  • Review the buyer’s journey and identify gaps in content or nurturing materials that guide prospects through the sales cycle.

After you have these two parts of the process mapped out, you need to create a way to collaborate and report on those leads.

“It helps to establish a feedback loop within your organization so sales and marketing can continually monitor lead quality,” Amanda notes. “You can use shared HubSpot dashboards for continual monitoring and regular meetings for big picture updates or to troubleshoot.”

#5 Aligning Messaging and Content

We can’t say it enough: Your messaging has to be aligned across sales and marketing departments. Without a consistent message, you’ll struggle to solidify your brand identity, build trust with your target audience and (most importantly) realize revenue growth.

The first part of this is to have both teams collaborate on creating your buyer personas or ICP, then creating a customer journey map that outlines each step your different audience segments will take before purchasing. From there, you can build a unified messaging strategy that will address your customer’s pain points and position your brand as the solution.

“You see messaging strategies applied to things like web copy and blogs a lot,” Amanda notes, “but it’s important to include it in sales materials and conversations too. Anything your sales team sends to a potential client, and even the way they talk about your brand on sales calls, should align with your messaging strategy so you’re creating that cohesive experience.”

#6 Utilizing Data and Analytics

As you align your activities, you also need to align your reporting. When you utilize data from marketing and sales campaigns, findings should be shared and analyzed across teams for better insights.

“It’s important to leverage your analytics to measure alignment impact and optimize strategies,” Amanda says.

You can do this even if the two teams are looking at different metrics. For example, say your business is consistently falling below your monthly revenue goals. Is it because you don’t have enough leads or because your sales team is struggling to close deals?

The marketing team can look at how many leads they’re generating and sales can pull how many of those leads are converting to customers. This will give you your lead to sale conversion rate (LCR), which you can use to determine how many leads you need to generate each month to gain the sales you need to reach your revenue goals.

“Businesses should also take the time to periodically review their customer journey map and the conversion rates throughout it,” Amanda says. “This will help you detect shifts in your audience before they become a problem, making you more agile in your sales and marketing efforts.”

#7 Continuous Evaluation and Improvement

Finally, Amanda recommends regularly reviewing performance across both teams and adjusting your marketing and sales strategies according to the data you gather.

“It’s wise to do this quarterly,” she explains. “That gives you enough time to be impacted by efforts but not so much time that effort is wasted on ineffective work.”

As you review performance, you should also seek feedback from your sales and marketing teams so you can offer ongoing support and refinement of processes. Amanda notes a few good ways to do this include:

  • Ongoing efforts to optimize processes at both the leadership and production levels.
  • When a big lead closes, identify which marketing efforts went into converting it and how sales felt about the lead throughout the sales process.
  • When a big deal is lost, do the same.

Refine and Align

Now you understand the importance of aligning your sales and marketing teams and how to do it like a pro. Use these principles in all of your marketing and sales efforts — from account-based marketing (ABM) campaigns to webinar promotion and more — to ensure that your brand message rings loud and clear with your target audience.

If you’re having trouble accomplishing alignment on your own or want a hand finding the right technology, give us a call. We use HubSpot to help businesses align their teams, set and reach goals and boost their overall performance.

Amanda Sleger
Amanda Sleger
Amanda dreams of a world where everyone can be found on Google and the leads flow easily. Dream big, right? She is working to make this a reality by helping companies envision what clear messaging and a strong digital presence can do for them. And then after a virtual handshake (a.k.a. a signed contract), introducing them to the Lone Fir Creative gurus that will start them on their journey to lead-abundance.

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