I like to think of marketing and sales like the leads in a buddy cop movie. Sales is the grizzled veteran of the force who keeps reiterating that they are “too old for this” every time some misadventure begins. And marketing is the hot-headed rookie with a chip on his shoulder looking to show everyone that they have what it takes to become the department’s first bow-legged sergeant or something. There’s a lot of potential for a pretty compelling story if the two of you get along, but let’s imagine a movie where it doesn’t. In this movie, the two have no chemistry or mutual respect. They let most of the criminals get away due to lack of communication and they don’t make jokes throughout the film. And worst of all, they don’t end the movie with a frozen image of them jumping in the air, locking into a perfect high-five before the credits roll. Nobody would like to see that kind of dysfunction in film, just like nobody wants to see that same kind of misalignment between sales and marketing in business. This is why staying in the know when it comes to your business is crucial. Here we’ll cover the key signs of sales and marketing misalignment and look at some of the best ways to help remedy it.
<h2>Signs of Marketing and Sales Misalignment</h2> Your marketing department only cares about MQLs. You don't have consistent cross-departmental timings to address planned campaigns and results. Your marketers never ask, "What can I do to make the sales process easier for you?" Your sales department creates and uses its own sales content exclusively.
1. Your marketing department only cares about MQLs.
According to Troy arias, Marketing Operations Manager at Daxko, Marketing departments often prioritize the wrong KPIs for optimal sales and marketing alignment. He says, “If your marketing team is focused solely on one MQL metric, it is a huge barrier to cross-department alignment.” MQLs (or Marketing Qualified Leads) are often hailed as a gold standard for measuring the performance of marketing teams, but that mindset isn’t fair to sales departments. A sales team is not judged on its ability to receive leads, but on its ability to convert those leads into customers. The success of a sales team is measured by closed bookings, above all else, and there is a considerable gap between those two KPIs in the context of most sales channels. Once an MQL is passed, you have to transition to SQL, consider yourself an opportunity, and receive a proposal before closing. Image source: HubSpot That creates a huge discrepancy in departmental goals, one that burdens sales more than marketing. If your marketing department is only concerned with generating MQL and not with closed bookings, you will not be responsible for producing mediocre leads. In this case, it may be helpful for your marketing department to set a revenue goal, based on closed bookings, to ensure that your marketers take your sales team into account when evaluating leads and go the extra mile to stay on the same page.
2. You don’t have consistent cross-departmental timings to address planned campaigns and results.
Communication is key when it comes to aligning your sales and marketing efforts. If you want your teams to be on the same page, you can’t keep them isolated. They have to meaningfully interact with each other on a consistent basis. Your sales team should be able to discuss the results you are getting from the leads your marketing is broadcasting. And both of you need to understand each other’s respective plans and strategies when it comes to messaging. Also, if you are planning specific campaigns, both departments need to know what to expect from each other. Ultimately, you must maintain a mutual understanding between departments. Failure to do so can create a gap that can lead to wayward marketing efforts and tension between your sales and marketing teams.
3. Your marketers never ask, “What can I do to make the sales process easier for you?”
Sometimes a little consideration and legitimate interest can help smooth over some disagreements and misalignments between the sales and marketing departments. One way to do this is for your teams to actively look for ways to improve or speed up your sales process and pipeline. Marketers are in control of the early stages of any marketing effort, so often the onus is on them to initiate discussions on how to improve the process. If your marketing team takes a second to better understand how your sales team is handling the MQLs you broadcast, you may be able to adjust your efforts to help make the sales process a little more seamless. From there, your teams can start an active and constructive dialogue about what they want or expect from each other. At the very least, it shows that your marketing team wants to listen to your sales team and keep both departments working as a cohesive unit.
4. Your sales department creates and uses its own sales content exclusively.
Marketing teams are often tasked with creating content to support sales efforts, including case studies, presentations, and single-page pages. That type of assurance, known as sales content, is different from marketing content. When the marketing content is more general and attracts attention, the sales content is more specific and brand specific. That said, the term “sales” in “sales content” is a bit misleading – marketing departments often play a role in creating that type of guarantee. And if your marketing team has no place in that process, your departments are probably not on the same page. Marketers are generally better equipped to create content – that’s a big part of what they do – so if your sales department is monopolizing that role, it could mean there is some tension or lack of communication between teams.
Three ways to fix a misalignment
1. Encourage the teams to listen to each other.
If you want your sales and marketing efforts to align, your teams need to listen to each other and, as cheesy as it sounds, really listen to each other. Both departments must have a complete understanding of your sales process. If they don’t, neither of them can make the kind of reasonable and practical recommendations necessary to improve each department’s role in it. Both sales and marketing need to consider each other’s perspective – listen and learn until you can thoroughly explain both sides of your entire sales process. Doing so may at least partially remedy any of the points listed above. If your teams are willing and able to legitimately listen to each other, they can develop the empathy, knowledge, collaboration skills, and strategic vision necessary to bring departments together.
2. Drive consistency in expectations, data, and technology.
One of the most important parts of successfully aligning marketing and sales is promoting and maintaining consistency. You need to ensure that your teams are operating with an understanding of the same end goals, starting from a baseline of the same information. That point begs the question, “How do you keep things this cohesive?” Well, you can start by keeping the lines of constant contact open, supplemented by frequent cross-departmental meetings and briefings. As I mentioned earlier, it is important to have routine synchronizations between sales and marketing to keep both teams on the same page in terms of overall goals and daily operations. It is also important that both sales and marketing have access to the same data as a point of reference for their mutual and individual efforts. Help the marketing department see how their work is affecting sales and vice versa. That kind of visibility can come from a mutual access technology, such as a CRM covering both sales and marketing.
3. Consider the opinion of your sales team in content marketing.
There’s a great chance that your content marketing efforts are more bloated than necessary. You may be keeping and promoting content that doesn’t really help your sales reps. You want to produce content that enriches the professional lives of your clients. Provide them with information that educates and intrigues them, and that often requires an intimate understanding of the interests and desires of your potential customers; sellers can provide you with that information. Your job is to understand what motivates your prospects and customers, so if you want your marketing department to produce solid content that your sales team can leverage, it’s important to involve a few marketers in your content creation process. By doing so, you allow your salespeople to steer your topic in the right direction, providing them with leads who know they have a vested interest in your offering, fostering cross-departmental collaboration, and giving both departments a stake in each other’s operations.
Marketing and sales alignment is a must for businesses
You might be wondering, “Is sales and marketing alignment really that important? Does my company really need to make an effort to make sure those departments are in sync?” The answer is “Absolutely! Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes! Yes, again!” Marketing and sales alignment is just as important as this article does. It hurts your business across the board if you don’t understand it, and it doesn’t just affect one of your departments. It undermines the effectiveness of your marketing and sales efforts as a whole. A study of Forrester found that 43% of CEOs believed misalignment had cost them sales. If you want to get the most out of any of your teams, you need to make sure they are on the same page and in constant contact. There are certain tips and tricks you can use to get there, all of which are backed by one fundamental strategy: creating an environment that encourages openness and collaboration. You need your sales and marketing departments to constantly interact and learn from each other. If you can facilitate that kind of environment in your office, you will put yourself in the best possible position to have a consistent and fluid exchange of ideas and strategies between departments to get as much of both teams as possible. Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2014 and has been updated for completeness.