Let’s face it, the relationship between Sales and Marketing has long been a source of friction in the workplace. But guess what? Besides the friction, their misalignment is hurting your bottom line.

SiriusDecisions, a leading global B2B research and advisory firm, demonstrated that “highly aligned B2B organizations achieve 19 percent faster revenue growth and 15 percent higher profitability.”

Highly aligned organizations achieve 19% faster revenue growth & 15 % higher profitability Click To Tweet

But often, Sales and Marketing teams have different priorities. Different priorities drive different outcomes. Sales is held accountable to achieve a monthly revenue number and Marketing is held accountable for lead generation and measured by the number of leads per month.

Shifting realities

The relationship between Sales and Marketing is getting increasingly harder to define Click To Tweet

Traditionally, Marketing used to be only accountable for driving awareness and interest. But as digital technology arms the buyer with more opinion-shaping information like reviews, social media, content, forums, marketing is taking a bigger piece of the pie and more responsibility for the sales funnel.

Today, Marketing supports the buyer’s online journey through consideration, intent, and evaluation.

Steve Patrizi’s Sales Funnel


Only once the buyer is in the evaluation stage does sales takes the lead and drives the opportunity to close.

The CEB/Google research and the subsequent white paper released in 2012 showed that the buyer is already almost 60 – 70% through their sales journey before connecting with the sales team. That’s a shift!


While the percentages differ by industry, and funnel position, as we move forward into 2017 we can safely assume this number will only increase as the digital technology infiltrates more of our day-to-day life.

So if marketing has developed the digital assets and footprint needed to take a prospect to evaluation, then all is good, right? Yes, but… this is not an easy task.

The landscape is far more complicated for a marketer today. We need to consider Google (with constantly changing its algorithms) for search, marketing automation tools, and database management. All this and not to mention creating the content needed to fuel the systems. A daunting task for the constrained marketing teams we find in small and medium-sized businesses.

The implications of “agree to disagree”

Here’s a familiar scenario I run across often: the Sales team doesn’t make their number and it turns out that they didn’t have enough leads. When you dig deeper you determine that they didn’t have enough opportunities, which implies the Marketing team didn’t give them enough GOOD leads.

Meanwhile, the Marketing team is frustrated. The leads they provided were good, but Marketing feels the Sales team haven’t done their job. They didn’t connect with the lead the needed 6-7 times to drive the engagement. 

So the story goes on and a dark side emerges: a negative environment is caused by animosity between the Sales and Marketing teams. This spirals into silent wars, more misalignment and this ultimately impact your bottom line.

How to gain an ‘alignment edge’

Alignment starts with the leadership team

While the impact of a misaligned relationship between sales and marketing can be huge, the solution is is within reach. Agreement on fundamentals and joint sales and marketing meetings.

The fundamentals

Before anything can improve, the leadership team needs to agree on the key fundamentals of the business and not just on the obvious elements such as mission, vision, and values; but also including target markets, ideal customer, why we will win, and unique selling proposition. Should there be disagreement, the CEO needs to step in and make the final call. 

As the accountability cascades down to the Sales and Marketing teams, the process needs to include a clear and formal agreement on what defines a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) and the number of leads needed to deliver the revenue plan.

Here are a few best practices for Sales and Marketing Alignment I like to follow:

  1. Clear and objective measurements set and explicitly agreed upon for all MQL attributes
  2. MQL definition based on an ideal customer profile. Some examples of customer qualities include:
    • Industry or SIC code
    • Firmographics (revenue, # of employees, # of locations)
    • Job titles
    • Demonstrated interest with either a marketing automation score or they have completed an activity (ex. downloaded a research report from your site)
    • An inbound phone call with a caller wanting to speak with a representative
  3. Top line weekly meetings to review funnel metrics, possible funnel leaks, and assess program investments
  4. In-depth, quarterly business reviews to analyze the program, gain market insights, identify strategic and tactical opportunities for improvement

Building the relationship between sales and marketing

high-performance-teamWith the fundamentals nailed down, the next step is to involve both Sales and Marketing teams in key strategic meetings. I’ve experienced that when everyone has the same information, and objective, they usually arrive at the same conclusion.

When the Sales and Marketing teams are aligned on an objective MQL definition, the Marketing team can then focus its attention on forecasting MQLs based on their activities and executing programs effectively. This has a knock-on effect.

With consistent and frequent communication between the teams, a kind of professional empathy starts to emerge and people begin to internalize, recognize, and understand the challenges and opportunities of the other team. This dialogue drives continuous improvement and the sorely needed collaboration in a constantly changing landscape.

Professional empathy starts to emerge when people begin to internalize and understand the challenges and opportunities of the other team.

When you recognize that the misalignment between Sales and Marketing isn’t just some random ‘office reality’ but instead something that can be corrected — and then optimized — you see just how much your business was missing and how much opportunity there for improvement and growth.

How do you achieve a strong relationship between Sales and Marketing? I’d love to hear about your experiences and tried-and-true tips.

photo credit featured image: jdhancock.com

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Karen Hayward is a results-oriented marketing, sales, and operations executive with a proven track record for building and executing strategic programs that accelerate revenue. She is passionate about the need to follow the voice of the customer and is able to operationalize customer insights to effect product positioning, sales enablement, and lead generation programs. Karen is a pioneer in the cloud computing industry, having worked with SaaS companies since re-locating to the US in 2000.