Bringing Sales and Marketing Together

Achieving Sales and Marketing alignment - very often listed as a key success factor by senior B2B executives - has been conclusively proven to deliver tremendous benefits to the organizations that have managed to accomplish it.

  • Aberdeen Group reports that highly aligned organizations managed to achieve an average 32% annual revenue growth over the past year compared to an average 7% decline for their less well-aligned competitors.
  • The effect holds true over the longer-term, as well: Sirius Decisions found that B2B organizations with tightly aligned Sales and Marketing operations achieved 24% faster three-year revenue growth and 27% faster three-year profit growth.

Yet according to a recent Corporate Executive Board study, 87% of the terms Sales and Marketing people use to describe each other are negative. 

With such a huge divide, how can we go about bringing these two groups closer together?  Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners offers what they suggest are the seven essential foundations for achieving Sales and Marketing alignment:

  1. Create one plan
  2. Manage one pipeline
  3. Agree ideal prospect profiles
  4. Define “sales ready leads”
  5. Establish service level agreements
  6. Set clear data quality standards
  7. Implement common measures

Further digging into the subject of service level agreements (SLA) shows us that this is where the rubber really hits the road. The first step to resolving any disagreement between Sales and Marketing is by making sure you are talking about the same thing and in the same language. Practicing a see no evil, hear no evil, talk no evil policy will hinder your Sales and Marketing alignment, setting you up for a negative environment for real revenue growth.

If you’ve implemented one plan, are managing one pipeline, have agreed on ideal prospect profiles, and you’ve defined what you mean by sales ready lead, you’ve got the foundation for very high levels of alignment between Marketing and Sales. These foundations can and should be complemented by a SLA - detailing both the Marketing goals (such as number of leads, number of qualified leads, or revenue pipeline) and the Sales activity (follow up with leads generated by Marketing) each team commits to in order to support the other.

Coming to an agreement based on concrete, numerical goals makes it much easier for these two traditionally opposing teams to work together. And the commitment to timely, structured feedback is every bit as important as the agreement to set standards of performance in the first place. These SLAs not only establish mutually agreed responsibilities and define consistent quality criteria, they also help to ensure that the functions get together to review progress and identify areas for improvement on a regular basis.

Ellie Mirman of HubSpot provides us with a 4 step approach to creating a Sales and Marketing SLA that includes:

  1. Calculating Marketing’s contribution – get Marketing to sign-up for a number!
  2. Calculating Sales’ contribution and commitment to timely follow-up
  3. Setting up Marketing reporting
  4. Setting up Sales reporting

The final step is to review these metrics on a daily basis to monitor your progress and make sure both Sales and Marketing have access to the reports for both teams' side of the SLA. This maintains accountability and transparency, and allows for the teams to address issues or congratulate each other based on the undeniable results.

Michael Turney


1 Comment

  • Christine Crandell said

    Great post, Michael. Sales and Marketing have challenged relationships because the teams have such differing skills, personalities, work styles, compensation models, etc. The lack of common understanding and perspectives contributes to this persistent conundrum.

    However, forcing these teams to 'work together' will equally be unsuccessful. New processes and work methods will be followed for awhile until old habits kick back in and everyone is right back to where they started.

    Part of fixing the alignment problem is not look it from a different perspective; an outside-in perspective. Putting the customer in the center of the relationship and aligning the teams to the customers' needs will prove more effective and sticky than other techniques.

    You may find these articles on the topic interesting reading.

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Tags: B2B, Best Practices, Strategy, Integration, ROI, Measurement