Recently I was asked to participate on a panel discussion on Sales and Marketing alignment. Here are some of the highlights from the Q&A…

Q) Why is alignment important?

Companies spend between 20-30% of revenues on Sales & Marketing. Here are some percentages from some large successful companies based on public records:

  • 53%
  • Constant Contact 38%
  • Marketo 66%
  • Tableau 53%
  • Microsoft 18%
  • Google 12%
  • Oracle 20%

If Sales and Marketing people aren’t pulling their oars in the same direction there is potential for a LOT of waste. Financially, waste means lower ROI on your Sales and Marketing investment. For instance, if Marketing is focused on mass acquisition of names and Sales is focused on closing deals…you’ve got potential for misalignment…and wasted resources.

How do you know if there is an issue at your company? Look for some common symptoms. Do you ever hear…

  • Sales say that “Marketing is generating too many irrelevant leads and not enough good quality leads”?
  • Marketing say that “Sales is not following up on all the leads that we’re generating”?

A recent study conducted by InsideView attempted to quantify this divide with a survey of approximately 1,000 sales and marketing professionals. Not surprisingly, Sales wants a larger quantity of high quality leads and Marketing wants better follow-up and greater rep diligence in CRM use.


Q) What are the root causes of misalignment? And how do you fix them?

1) Mis-aligned Goals. If Marketing is focused on lead generation and Sales is focused on bookings…you’ve located a source of a potential conflict. Instead, it is helpful to have both teams share a common goal like weighted pipeline. Both have influence over this goal and both teams are dependent upon the other for success. According to InsideView’s study, increasingly, more marketing teams are being measured by pipeline.


2) Broken Processes – this stems from an unclear understanding of ownership, handoffs, and service level agreements (SLA’s) between the Marketing and Sales departments. A good test is to ask both your Sales and Marketing teams how long Sales is expected to take to follow-up on a new lead? If there is wild disagreement between the two teams, there may be mis-matched expectations…and potential for conflict. To remedy this, map out your funnel and sales processes. Agree upon roles and responsibilities between Sales and Marketing and explicitly define each team’s service level agreements to the other. Handoffs, especially, should be crystal clear.

3) Unclear Funnel Definitions – PQL, MQL & SAL. There is no bigger source of tension between Sales and Marketing than having fuzziness around definitions of early funnel stages. Usually the biggest problem occurs around MQL’s, or “marketing qualified leads”. A leading indicator that there are problems afoot is when teams don’t use the term MQL, but instead refer to “leads”. Almost by definition the term “leads” has no definition. A lead to Marketing is rarely a lead to Sales. To remedy this, leaders from both teams need to come together and agree on a common definition. Often lead scoring holds the secret to harmonious resolution, where any lead above an agreed upon score threshold is deemed to be a MQL.

4) People & Culture – this refers to organizational silos between departments.  Look at your organization and ask if Sales and Marketing teams are isolated from each other – physically and socially. Ideally you’ld like everyone sitting close together, talking, sharing, and even socializing after work. This builds trust and trust facilitates open, honest communication – a critical ingredient for team alignment. It is important for Sales to be able to freely give positive and negative feedback on leads. This open communication helps both teams get better at generating sales.

Is there tension between your Sales and Marketing teams? Do you suspect that they’re not achieving their revenue potential?
We can help. Let’s talk!