How to Align Sales and Marketing for Results (Not Just Harmony)

Alison Savery
Alison Savery



SMarketing is the alignment and connection between sales and marketing. Since Sales and Marketing work closely together in most organizations, it’s often typical for these two revenue generating groups to be in conflict with one another. The typical battle looks like this: Sales complains that Marketing isn’t generating enough quality leads, and Marketing criticizes Sales for not working their leads hard enough. But if you improve SMarketing at your company, you’ll spend less time bickering and more time closing business. This is how you can get the most out of your SMarketing efforts -- in harmony and revenue.

Promote and Support Sales and Marketing Communication

The first step to get Sales and Marketing to collaborate is promoting constant and open communication. Encourage the sales team to give feedback on lead quality each month. This process will help marketers better understand which types of leads are most likely to close so they can generate better quality leads. Just be sure to back this up with data (more on that later).

You should also encourage marketers to sit in on sales calls and help close deals when called upon so everyone understands the value of each marketing generated lead. This action will make Sales and Marketing feel like they are fighting the same battle. Everyone in the organization should buy into this notion of alignment; the sales and marketing executives at your company should be meeting regularly to discuss the SMarketing strategy and communicate it to the rest of their teams.

Finally, try scheduling a weekly SMarketing meeting to rally sales and marketing and celebrate their efforts as a joint group. Here are some examples of motivating SMarketing topics:

  • SMarketing wins: Be sure to celebrate big wins from both Sales and Marketing like creative upsells, customers you won over a competitor, and company coverage in important publications.
  • New product features: Have your product marketers share new product features with Sales to make them more knowledgeable about the product and stay up to date on the changes you're making.
  • Lead flow and sales waterfall: Track both teams' progress month to date, and share the results to ensure you both teams hit their numbers. Learn how to build a lead waterfall graph in this article.
  • Final thought: Close the meeting with a motivating final thought that will keep both teams positive and inspired.

Measure and Hold Teams Accountable

Once you get the communication process going between Sales and Marketing, keep it moving in the right direction. In addition to working collaboratively, the teams should be encouraged to discuss any misalignment or frustrations in a constructive manner. One way to keep opinions valid is to make everyone support their claims with data. The tracking and discussion of these two critical data points help keep Sales and Marketing accountable for SMarketing success.

  • Lead flow: Be sure that Marketing is measured on the volume and quality of leads they hand off to sales. The quantity and quality of leads for which Marketing is accountable should grow month over month in order for the business to grow.
  • Percent of leads worked and close rates: The percent of leads worked will measure your sales organization's productivity related to the leads Marketing provides. Sales should be working leads at a high and steady rate so the marketing team's hard work isn't for naught. As Sales works their leads, the close rates from lead to customer should also remain steady. If the worked rates and close rates decline, it may be an indicator of poor lead quality or lack of sufficient team members to handle the lead volume.

If Sales thinks the lead flow was light in the past month, give them the numbers from months prior so the discussion is based on data, not feelings. If Marketing thinks Sales isn’t working their leads, get lead data that shows the percentage of leads worked in a given month. All of this data will keep Sales and Marketing data-driven and accountable for their efforts while validating or disproving feelings and opinions.

Create a SMarketing Agreement

One of the best ways to hold your Marketing and Sales teams accountable is through a Service Level Agreement (SLA). In an SLA, the level of service is defined and agreed upon by both parties; in this case, the SLA is the agreement that Marketing will deliver a certain number of leads at a certain quality for Sales each month, and that Sales will work a certain number of leads the Marketing generates each month. This SLA can be tracked throughout the month so both Marketing and Sales can track their progress. Once the SLA is in place, Marketing is responsible for delivering and Sales has nothing to complain about if Marketing is meeting or exceeding the SLA goals. Be sure to consider the following when setting up your SLA.

  • When you create the SLA, be sure it's in terms that are easy for both teams to understand. A points based SLA is typical, but the value of a point may not be understood by the entire team. Think about converting your SLA into dollar values so that it will better resonate with your organization.
  • Consider both the quality and quantity of the leads you deliver in the SLA. Higher quality leads -- leads that are more likely to convert or close -- should have a higher point or dollar value than low quality leads. 
  • Once you've established the SLA, allow yourself some time to test it out before promoting it to the larger organization. You may need to make adjustments to your SLA once it's implemented.

Integrate Your Sales and Marketing Software

As mentioned earlier, data can be the “truth glue” that holds your SMarketing efforts together. It keeps both sides honest with one another and solves for any conflict that may arise between the two teams. The best way to generate data between Sales and Marketing is to integrate your sales and marketing software. This integration benefits both sides with valuable data to improve their results. By integrating two systems such as HubSpot and Salesforce, you can see the entire lifecycle of visitor to a customer. With this closed-loop integration, Sales is able to track the online behaviors of their leads to make what would have been a cold call into a warm call. And Marketing can get a better understanding of where their best leads come from, meaning which types of leads will most likely convert into paying customers. Marketing can then better allocate their time and resources to maximize their ROI effectively. 

How is your SMarketing relationship? What do you do to keep it harmonious, and what problems are you still experiencing?

Image credit: dakini

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