I like to think of marketing and sales as the leads in a buddy cop movie.
Sales is the grizzled veteran on the force who keeps reiterating that they’re “too old for this” whenever some zany misadventure gets started. And marketing is the hot-headed rookie with a chip on their shoulder looking to prove to everyone that they have what it takes to become the department’s first-ever bow-legged sergeant or something.
There’s a lot of potential for a pretty compelling story if the two of them get along, but let’s imagine a movie where they don’t.
In this film, the two have no chemistry nor mutual respect. They let most criminals get away due to lack of communication, and they don’t riff any back-and-forth wisecracks throughout the movie.
And worst of all, they don’t end the movie on a freeze-frame of them jumping in the air, locking into a perfect high-five before the credits roll.
No one would want to see that kind of dysfunction on film — just like no one wants to see that same kind of misalignment between sales and marketing in business. That’s why it’s crucial to stay on top of it when it comes to your company.
Here we’ll cover the key signs of marketing and sales misalignment and see some of the best ways to help remedy it.
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 solely focused on an MQL metric, it’s a huge barrier to alignment between departments.”
MQLs (or marketing qualified leads) are often hailed as a gold standard for measuring marketing teams’ performance, but that mentality isn’t fair to sales departments. A sales team isn’t judged by its ability to receive leads — it’s judged by its ability to convert those leads into customers.
A sales team’s success is measured by closed bookings, above all else — and there’s a sizable gap between those two KPIs in the context of most sales pipelines. Once an MQL is passed off, it has to transition to an SQL, be deemed an opportunity, and receive a proposal before closing.
That makes for a massive discrepancy in departmental goals — one that burdens sales more than marketing. If your marketing department only cares about generating MQLs and not closed bookings, it won’t be held accountable for producing mediocre leads.
In this case, it can help to have your marketing department set a revenue goal, based on closed bookings, to ensure that your marketers keep your sales team in mind when gauging leads and go the extra mile to stay on the same page.
2. You don’t have consistent interdepartmental syncs to address results and planned campaigns.
Communication is key when trying to align your sales and marketing efforts. If you want your teams to be on the same page, you can’t keep them siloed. They have to meaningfully interact with each other consistently.
Your sales team needs to be able to discuss the results it’s seeing from the leads marketing is passing along. And both have to understand each other’s respective plans and strategies when it comes to messaging. Additionally, if you’re planning specific campaigns, both departments need to know what to expect from each other.
Ultimately, you need to maintain a mutual understanding between departments. If you don’t, you might create a rift that can lead to wayward smarketing 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 thoughtfulness and legitimate interest can help smooth out some discord and misalignment between sales and marketing departments. One way to get there is for your teams to actively hash out ways to improve or expedite your company’s sales process and pipeline.
Marketers are in control of the first few stages of any smarketing efforts, so the onus is often 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 it passes along, it might be able to adjust its efforts to help make the sales process a bit smoother.
From there, your teams can start an active and constructive dialogue on what they want or expect from each other. At the very least, it shows that your marketing team wants to hear your sales team out 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, presentation decks, and one-pagers. That kind of collateral, known as sales content, is different from marketing content.
Where marketing content is more general and attention-grabbing, sales content is more pointed and brand-specific. That said, the term “sales” in “sales content” is a bit misleading — marketing departments often have a significant role in creating that kind of collateral. And if your marketing team has no place in that process, your departments probably aren’t 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 might mean there’s some tension or a lack of communication between teams.
Three Ways to Fix Poor Alignment
1. Encourage teams to listen to each other.
If you want your sales and marketing efforts to align, your teams need to listen to one another and — corny as this sounds — actually hear each other. Both departments need to have a comprehensive understanding of your sales process.
If they don’t, neither can make the kind of thoughtful, actionable recommendations needed to improve each department’s role in it. Sales and marketing both need to consider the other’s perspective — to listen and learn until they can thoroughly explain both sides of your sales process in full.
Doing so can at least partially remedy any of the points listed above. If your teams are willing and able to legitimately hear each other out, they can develop the empathy, knowledge, collaboration skills, and strategic vision necessary to bring the departments together.
2. Push for consistency in expectations, data, and technology.
One of the bigger parts of successfully aligning marketing and sales is promoting and sustaining consistency. You need to ensure that your teams are operating with an understanding of the same ultimate goals, from a baseline of the same information.
That point begs the question, “How do you keep things that cohesive?” Well, you can start by keeping lines of constant contact open — supplemented by frequent meetings and briefings between departments.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to have routine syncs between sales and marketing to keep both teams on the same page in terms of overall goals and day-to-day operations.
It’s also important that both sales and marketing have access to the same data as a reference point for their mutual and individual efforts. It helps a marketing department to see how its work is impacting sales and vice versa.
That kind of visibility can come from mutually accessible technology — like a CRM that covers both sales and marketing.
3. Consider your sales team’s input in content marketing.
There’s a solid chance that your content marketing efforts are more bloated than they need to be. You might be holding onto and promoting content that doesn’t actually help your sales reps.
You want to produce content that enriches your customers’ professional lives. Provide them with insight that educates and intrigues them, and that often takes an intimate understanding of your prospects’ interests and wants — salespeople can provide you with that information.
It’s their job to understand what makes your prospects and customers tick, so if you want your marketing department to produce solid content that your sales team can ultimately take advantage of, it’s important to involve some salespeople in your content creation process.
In doing so, you’re letting your salespeople steer your subject matter in the right direction, providing them with leads that they know have a personal interest in your offering, fostering interdepartmental collaboration, and giving both departments a stake in the other’s operations.
Marketing and Sales Alignment is a Must for Businesses
You might be wondering, “Is marketing and sales alignment really that important? Does my company actually need to go through the 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 every bit as important as this article makes it out to be. It hurts your business across the board if you don’t have a grasp on it, and it doesn’t just hit one of your departments.
It undermines the effectiveness of both your marketing and sales efforts as a whole. A study from Forrester found that 43% of CEOs believed that misalignment had cost them sales.
If you want to get the most out of either of your teams, you have to make sure they’re on the same page and in constant contact. There are certain tips and tricks you can employ to get there — all of which are underlaid by one fundamental strategy: creating an environment that encourages openness and collaboration.
You need to have your sales and marketing departments constantly interacting with and learning from each other. If you can facilitate that kind of environment in your office, you’ll put yourself in the best position possible to have a consistent, fluid interchange of ideas and strategies between departments to get as much as possible from both teams.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in June 2014 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.