So much is written and said about Marketing and Sales alignment, with thought leaders recommending that Marketing do this, or Sales do that. At the heart of the conversation is how to get Sales and Marketing to see eye-to-eye.

But in my opinion, Marketing and Sales alignment isn’t about meeting each other’s gaze; the goal should be to share a common focal point. To achieve true Marketing and Sales harmony, both departments need to turn their focus outside the company entirely -- to the customer!

Data shows that Sales and Marketing alignment impacts the funnel at almost every stage -- conversion rates, win rates, lifetime value, and even attrition. While not enough research has been conducted around how alignment affects customer advocacy, I strongly suspect that a positive correlation can be found there as well.

Think about what that means. Digitally-enabled modern buyers have a choice and a voice. If they’re unhappy with their vendor, they have a plethora of social platforms to sound off on. Not to mention that potential buyers trust these sorts of peer reviews far more than they do any marketing collateral your company publishes.

But those same customers also make their voices heard when they’re happy. Consider that referrals have the highest customer conversion rate of any lead source type and generally close at higher margins. Customer advocates are incredibly powerful, and if more tightly aligning Marketing and Sales can get you more, it’s a no-brainer.

When I think about Marketing and Sales alignment, I start with the “why,” and then move on to the “what” and the “how.” 

  • Why: Organizations with tightly coupled Marketing and Sales functions have higher lead acceptance and conversion rates. Less friction = more money. It’s that simple.
  • What: The customer, above all else. Both Marketing and Sales need to be customer-centered, customer-centric, and customer-obsessed.
  • How: Study the customer journey and formulate a shared set of processes around it.

With these guidelines in mind, here are some specific action items for each function:


  • Learn more about the sales process to be able to provide content relevant to specific paths and points.
  • Seek input from salespeople about what content they think would be most helpful to buyers.
  • Build, nurture, and collaborate with a community of customer advocates.


  • Learn how to network with potential customers on the social web instead of over cocktails or golf.
  • Study the buyer’s journey, and understand how you can help (not sell) at each stage.
  • Be where your buyers are and interact with them. You are what you tweet -- get involved and show that you’re trustworthy and knowledgeable about industry issues.

Above all, a shared focus on the customer requires a shift in the definition of success for both Marketing and Sales. Yes, lead generation and revenue goals won’t -- and shouldn’t -- go away. But what’s more important than generating a certain amount of leads or closing a certain amount of business? Customer success.

I used to revel in crushing my number as a sales rep. But over time, watching my customers get promoted, receive industry recognition, or win awards brought me even greater joy. Their success was my success, and I firmly believe Sales and Marketing functions need to adopt this motto if they hope to be truly aligned.

Instead of nitpicking Sales for dropping the ball here, or Marketing for slacking in this area, concentrate on making your customers successful. Striving together toward a shared goal can create more natural harmony than any other alignment initiative. 

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Originally published Mar 25, 2015 9:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017


Sales and Marketing Alignment