Are your sales and marketing functions aligned? If the answer is no, then you might be surprised to learn that you’re in the majority. In their latest State of Sales report, HubSpot reported that, while recognising its paramount importance and impact on revenue, only 30% of sales professionals feel that their sales and marketing teams are strongly aligned. So, what is holding businesses back from closing the gap?
The historical divide between sales and marketing, once considered an organisational norm, is now recognised as a barrier to unlocking the full potential of businesses.
From differing goals and metrics to communication breakdowns that can negatively impact the flow of valuable information, the journey toward “smarketing” (Sales+Marketing) is not without obstacles, and it is often listed by our clients (both B2C and B2B) as one of their key challenges. However, the rewards for overcoming these obstacles are substantial.
Today, we dig deeper into the sales and marketing alignment, unravelling the issues that arise when these functions operate in silos and shedding light on the transformative benefits of a seamlessly integrated approach.
A well-aligned sales and marketing strategy is not just effective collaboration but a strategic imperative that brings tangible results. From increased revenue streams and shortened sales cycles to an enriched customer experience, the benefits of alignment extend far beyond the boardroom, affecting every area of organisational success.
What is marketing and sales alignment?
Aligning marketing and sales involves creating shared strategies and strengthening communication between the two teams to grow effectiveness and revenue. This can translate to establishing new internal processes, joint targets, or even integrating the two departments.
Understanding the disconnect
Before moving on to why alignment is so important, it’s essential to take a look at why the disconnect exists in the first place and how this is rooted in a series of factors that have shaped the dynamics of these critical business functions. How many of the following challenges is your organisation still facing today?
Divergent metrics and objectives
Traditionally, organisations have had separate sales and marketing functions to specialise in different aspects of the business process, leading to distinct goals and metrics. Once primarily focused on brand awareness and market share, marketing success, particularly in the last 15 years or so, has been measured by easier-to-track digital marketing metrics. On the other hand, sales have always been primarily concerned with revenue generation, customer acquisition, and conversion rates. This difference in KPIs has created a gap in understanding success metrics.
Sales dominance in decision-making
In many organisations, the sales team has historically held more decision-making power. Sounds familiar? Marketing is often viewed as a support function rather than an equal partner in driving business strategy. At the same time, marketing decisions are frequently made without sufficient input from the marketing team, leading to strategies that might not align with the broader market or target audience.
Evolution of buyer behaviour
The way customers research, evaluate, and make purchasing decisions has evolved significantly, with almost 60% of marketers finding it hard to anticipate customer behaviour in the current fast-changing landscape. However, we do know that digital-first sales are here to stay, and, as such, customers now expect a seamless transition between marketing touchpoints and the sales process, making it imperative for both functions to align strategies for a cohesive customer experience.
Julie Reid, our Strategy Director, shared: “Every year it seems the percentage of buyers who have already done the majority of their research on a product or service before they ever engage with the sales team is going up. When done correctly, marketing can move prospects through the early stages of the funnel and prime the sales conversation. It adds value to customers along the way and makes it easier for the sales team to convert. It’s a win-win.”
Sales and marketing alignment benefits and opportunities
Although we understand that taking the first steps towards “smarketing” may feel daunting, there is much to be gained by being more strategic and getting the two departments to work in sync.
Here are some of the critical benefits of sales and marketing alignment and why they should matter to your organisation.
Improved lead quality and increased revenue
Alignment ensures that marketing delivers leads that are more likely to convert. This results in higher conversion rates and increased revenue for the organisation. At the same time, the sales team can better understand and capitalise on the leads generated by marketing, leading to a more efficient sales process and faster revenue generation.
Enhanced customer experience
Aligned sales and marketing teams provide a consistent message across all customer touchpoints, creating a seamless and positive customer experience. An omni-channel approach, which should include marketing, sales and support, allows for a deeper understanding of customer needs and preferences, enabling a personalised and targeted approach.
Shorter sales cycles
Better-aligned teams facilitate a smooth handoff of leads from marketing to sales, reducing delays and ensuring that prospects receive timely and relevant information. A cohesive sales and marketing strategy shortens the overall sales cycle by providing a unified and streamlined customer journey from awareness to purchase.
Better marketing ROI
Pulling in the same direction allows for sharing of insights and data between sales and marketing, enabling both teams to make more informed decisions. With a better understanding of what works in the sales process, marketing can optimise its strategies and allocate resources more effectively, leading to a higher return on investment.
Adaptability to market changes
Aligned teams are better positioned to adapt quickly to changes in the market, customer behaviour, or industry trends, ensuring the organisation remains competitive. Sales and marketing collaboration also facilitates the sharing of market insights, allowing both teams to respond proactively to shifts in the business environment.
Enhanced reporting and analytics
Aligned teams can integrate their data, providing a more comprehensive view of the customer journey and allowing for more accurate reporting and analytics. Organisations can more easily measure the impact of marketing efforts on sales outcomes and vice versa, leading to better-informed strategic decisions.
Strategies for sales and marketing alignment
So, how can you get started? Aligning sales and marketing requires a combination of strategic planning, effective communication, and collaboration. It doesn’t happen overnight, but the sooner you act, the sooner you can say goodbye to duplicate effort, missed opportunities and customer frustration.
Let’s look at six key strategies that will help you fix the disconnect.
Schedule joint planning and strategy sessions
Start by bringing sales and marketing teams together for joint planning sessions and collaboratively develop a cohesive sales and marketing strategy that guides both departments in their daily activities, helping them clarify shared objectives and how to achieve them.
Establish shared targets and KPIs that support each other
Real alignment is about heading in the same direction – from attracting prospects to closing deals. This means that while it remains essential to monitor a range of metrics to understand what is working and what is not, sales and marketing need shared goals and KPIs to be measured up against.
Have a deep understanding of your customers
Both sales and marketing are responsible for attracting and nurturing leads, and one thing both teams need to be extremely clear about is the target audience and buyer personas. The best personas are crafted from a mixture of customer research and customer insights. Ensure that both sales and marketing teams share ownership of personas and deeply understand the characteristics, needs, and pain points of the ideal customer and how this translates into day-to-day activity. Keeping lines of communication open around this topic is extremely important.
Utilise the right technology and tools
Implement integrated technology solutions that allow seamless data sharing between sales and marketing platforms. Leverage your CRM system to track customer interactions and ensure both teams can access up-to-date information.
You can enhance your CRM system by opting for the marketing modules or by connecting to other marketing platforms to achieve automation. You don’t need to start with complete marketing automation right away but you can begin by integrating your email marketing provider into your CRM and expand from there. You can then feed all data back into your ads platform using offline conversion tracking to marry up online and offline activities.
Implement lead scoring and nurturing
Develop a shared lead scoring system aligning with sales and marketing criteria. Implement lead nurturing programs that transition leads smoothly from marketing to sales, providing the right content at each stage of the buyer’s journey.
Establish feedback loops
Finally, it’s important to remember that marketing and sales collaboration is never “done”. Schedule regular meetings to discuss new strategies, review current sales and marketing campaigns’ results, and learn more about each team’s processes. Develop feedback mechanisms that allow sales to provide input on lead quality and customer feedback to marketing. Regularly review and analyse performance metrics to identify areas for improvement and optimisation.
Our Sales Director, Kier Humphreys, said: “This isn’t a case of an agency telling brands what to do from our incredibly high horse. For once.
Every business, including us, faces the same issues, but the simple solution is collaboration and a commercial focus. While historically working in parallel, Hallam’s sales and marketing teams now fall under the same management and work toward a single target – net new business growth.
Before anyone panics and thinks “What about the brand?”, that single target is the overarching thing we’re striving to deliver, with sales and marketing responsible for different parts of it. Marketing builds mental availability with our target brands and ensures we are distinctive enough to be part of their shortlisting process when they come to market. Sales nurtures them from establishing business opportunities to delivering a growth-focused solution that Hallam’s teams can execute. It’s all part of the same strategy, though, and both teams work together on creating that and executing it – finding the right brands, delivering them a consistent and distinctive version of Hallam, and then helping to solve their problems, which, luckily, also drives profitable growth for the agency.”
When teams work together, outcomes improve
While it’s essential to acknowledge that both sales and marketing face unique pressures and challenges, it’s clear that organisations whose departments work in sync are much more effective.
As a business, it is imperative to proactively take steps towards “smarketing”. Establish shared goals, create a culture of open communication, and leverage technology to integrate your teams. Encourage cross-functional collaboration, celebrate joint successes, and lead by example. By fostering alignment, you not only enhance the efficiency of your teams but also contribute significantly to your organisation’s overall success and growth.
We love problem-solving and helping businesses lay the foundation for future success. Get in touch for more guidance on how to help your sales and marketing teams take their relationship to the next level.