Complete Guide to Sales and Marketing Alignment (2024)

Notice a growing rift between your salespeople and marketers? The right time is now for their collaboration. 

The hard truth: Over $1 trillion is lost yearly due to misalignment between sales and marketing teams in the US alone. 

But did you know when these two functions work hand in hand with a common goal in mind, they help boost productivity, double lead nurturing, increase customer loyalty, and ultimately drive faster profits?

The following guide breaks down everything about sales and marketing alignment–the what, the why, and the how. 

What does sales and marketing alignment mean?

Aligning sales and marketing, aka smarketing, refers to the collaboration and coordination between sales and marketing teams working towards achieving a common revenue-based goal as a cohesive department. 

Smarketing enables both teams to operate harmoniously by sharing communication, workflows, strategy, goals, and objectives. 

By working together, well-aligned teams eliminate gaps, boost sales effectiveness, and generate profits more efficiently.  

For example, aligning sales campaigns and the content calendar to achieve the same bottom-line revenue-based goal – increase conversion of inbound qualified sales leads month-on-month. In this case, your content marketing strategy would focus on bottom of the funnel content like competitor comparisons, case studies or middle of the funnel content like industry-specific research papers, whitepapers, etc that only your ideal customer persona would be interested in. 

Sales and marketing alignment benefits for growing businesses

Sales and marketing teams are two sides of a coin that must work together to drive business growth. 

Here’s everything you can look forward to by aligning teams and letting them work in tandem:

1. Better communication 

Communication gaps between your salespeople and marketers lead to growing friction and chaos. 

Smarketing bridges this gap by opening up collaborative communication channels, such as shared documents, using a single messaging app, scheduling regular meetings, and organizing feedback loops. 

2. Improves customer experience 

Potential customers love smooth transitions between a brand’s marketing efforts and sales interactions. 

Proper alignment ensures the messaging is consistent across all marketing and sales touchpoints, so customers feel they are interacting with a single entity that understands their preferences. 

As a result, prospects and customers pay you in return with trust and loyalty. 

3. Boosts revenue 

Shared critical business goals and strategies, frictionless communication, and targeted messaging are a few of the many changes aligned sales and marketing teams bring to the table.

The result? Better profits by working together to nurture leads, engage visitors, and convert qualified leads into paying customers within a fixed time frame.

4. Stronger data-driven insights 

Two previously detached teams can get a comprehensive view of the customer journey stages when they start sharing data and analyzing it for hidden insights. 

They can look through insights, such as customer buying patterns, influences, current trends impacting customer engagement, conversion rates, and so on. This way, sales and marketing can collaborate to generate data-backed customer engagement and lead generation strategies.

Before we get into the “how” of sales and marketing alignment, let’s understand misalignment’s impact so you’re wary of its consequences. 

Signs of sales and marketing misalignment

Every business is prone to misalignment between sales and marketing. However, the degree to which misalignment occurs needs to be addressed and controlled. 

Below are some potential symptoms of sales and marketing misalignment you must identify and proactively respond to: 

1. Mismatched ideal customer profiles (ICPs)

If your salespeople and marketers have different definitions for your targeted ICPs, it won’t be long before you notice dropped KPIs. 

Mismatched customer profiles can cause a drop in sales performance and morale since sales teams’ efficiency depends on the quality of leads marketers provide. 

2. Weakening lead quality

Weakening lead quality is another symptom of misaligned teams–mainly due to dwindling sales and marketing collaboration. 

This also indicates a mismatch between what the marketing team considers qualified leads (MQLs) and what sales teams consider lucrative prospects. 

3. Longer sales cycles

Sales cycles getting longer than anticipated? Your sales team struggling to convert MQLs may indicate a potential misalignment between sales and marketing. 

4. Lack of use of marketing material in sales 

The marketing team constantly curates content, publishes videos, and organizes webinars to attract leads. So, salespeople not using these latest materials in their sales calls with prospects could indicate misalignment. 

The process: Sales and marketing alignment steps and best practices 

Below are a few step-wise strategies to ensure a frictionless and profitable relationship between your sales and marketing teams.

1. Let your sales and marketing teams create ICP together  

Your marketers are experts at gripping customer engagement and acting on trends. From social media to SEO and emails–they’ve done it all.

But they fall behind in understanding real-time one-on-one prospect relationships. They’ve never interacted with prospects directly and may not fully relate to customer pain points or challenges. 

On the other hand, sales have had full-blown conversations with prospects and know what challenges your product or service can or can’t solve. 

So allow them to bring both their expertise and research to the table and work together to flesh out and refine ICPs so there’s no chance of misalignment.

2. Define common goals and metrics 

A common goal makes way for collaborative efforts between both teams and avoids misfires at any sales funnel stage.

Common metrics-based goals your teams can agree on includes:

  • Generating quality leads based on ICPs and lead scoring.
  • Shortening sales cycles.
  • Increasing revenue over a fixed period.
  • Boosting brand awareness.
  • Increasing conversions through engaging content. 

3. Take a marketing first approach 

Taking the “marketing first” approach to sales is a proven formula for successful conversion and lower misfires, and there’s a solid reason why. 

Considering both your teams agree on the ICP, marketers can start warming up potential leads instead of directly pushing them down the sales interactions rabbit hole. 

Warm marketing-qualified leads have a higher conversion rate as they are well-nurtured beforehand.

4. Document content gaps along a prospect’s journey 

Your sales reps may find that existing blog content does not cover prospects’ specific pain points discussed over sales calls, or your marketing team may miss adding the latest video testimonials in their sales pitch. 

So to avoid such content gaps from hampering a prospect’s onward journey, your sales and marketing teams can allot some time to go through everything each team has created, including sales presentations, whitepapers, blogs, case studies, eBooks, and other relevant material.

Also, both teams can map out content that’s most useful for each stage of the buyer’s journey. For example, specific case studies in the consideration stage, a personalized product demo for the decision stage, and so on.

5. Keep track of every customer interaction had with your company 

Tracking conversations is key to avoiding critical information slipping through the cracks. It eliminates possible friction for the customer and lets sales close deals faster.

Your sales and marketing teams could use CRM software, email analytics tools, and other automation tools to track customer interactions. 

For example, marketers could track and update which email newsletters customers have subscribed to and which webinars or demos they’ve attended. Similarly, salespeople can track response times, call durations, specific actions that indicate a prospect’s readiness, etc.

6. Implement shared technical tools 

Sales and marketing alignment is not limited to communication alone. It should also align both the teams’ workflows. Lead generation, metrics tracking, analytics, and reporting are some tools both teams have in common.

So it’s best to implement the same tools across sales and marketing to ensure a single source of truth. This way, you avoid data overlap and misconceptions along the buyer’s journey. 

Here are more examples of shared technical tools:

  • A lead scoring system
  • Growth tracker
  • CRM
  • Market research and analytics tool
  • Metrics tracking tool

7. Establish customer-centric language

Marketers and salespeople may use different languages and have different measures of success. For example, “increase in page views” and “high blog traffic” are your marketers’ way of agreeing on a campaign’s success. 

Meanwhile, success could be a measure of revenue for a sales rep. 

But to align teams, it’s key for both teams to speak the same language and share a customer-centric goal with a singular desire to solve a customer’s problem. 

For example, marketers must create email campaigns by considering the end user – are they willing to receive this email? How would this help them? Etc. Meanwhile, a sales rep dialing a prospect must solve the prospect’s problem first and not just make the conversation about closing the deal.

8. Get your teams talking again and again 

Weak communication is a major reason behind misalignment. Although communication may seem like a no-brainer, but in reality, it’s easy for teams to fall off the communication hook as time passes. 

Here are some ideas to get both your teams talking frequently:

  • Schedule weekly joint KPI meetings: Have both your teams discuss over weekly meetings how far they’ve come in achieving their joint KPIs. Doing so keeps them accountable and productive. Weekly meetings are also great to share and work on feedback.
  • Interdepartmental checks and balances: Give out “checks and balances” for both teams by letting each department review the other’s content and progress. For instance, your sales team reviews blog posts or marketing campaigns to ensure they contain the right messaging.
  • Eliminate negative competition: Pitting departments against each other in a KPI race will only hamper business performance and strain healthy relationships. Instead, focus on positive, light-hearted competition, such as awarding top individual performers in every cycle. 

9. Offer joint training and development opportunities for both teams 

Joint training and learning opportunities can help both teams be aware of their roles and responsibilities. It can also help bring them on the same page and view each other as a unified department. 

You could work out training based on the previously discussed steps, such as using technical tools, improving communication skills, tracking KPIs and growth, and documenting customer journeys.

Wrapping up

Sales and marketing alignment is not a linear path but an ongoing process needing mutual and consistent cooperation from both teams and company stakeholders.

But siloed departments, teams’ resistance to change, and lack of a customer-centric mindset get in the way of achieving your goals. Maybe that’s why most startups state misalignment between sales and marketing as their top reasons for failure. 

At Kanagawa, we help you align sales and marketing teams and efforts and build a unified, well-fueled system to drive your business growth. 

Get in touch with our experts to know more!