Let’s Talk About Marketing and Sales Alignment

Sales and marketing alignment exists, but not as broadly as it should. It is not strategic enough to rise to the level of executive conversations. Neither sales leaders nor marketing leaders are pulling aside their colleagues and kicking off alignment projects. It is just not a mission-critical priority.

How do we get leaders thinking and talking about building more collaboration between sales and marketing? Show them how it can make a difference in their results. Every executive leader watches a dashboard and has numbers they need to meet. Tying new initiatives to those targets helps them gain visibility. When sales and marketing operate in silos, that limits each team from achieving its goals.

CMOs need more leads

Ask any CMO if they want to generate more leads. Do they want an increase in the volume of leads at the top of the funnel? This increase demonstrates a growing affinity with the vendor’s solution. Marketing organizations are tracking this number, so yes, they want more leads. They just need to know how.

Oh wait, what if the CMO is more enlightened than that and they are more interested in generating more quality leads, not just more leads. Well, this is a marketing org that is tasked with generating a specific number of marketing qualified leads or MQLs. It is a key number in their demand funnel and in many traditional marketing organizations, the place where marketing measurement stops. They too, are interested in learning how to increase the volume of MQLs.

CSOs want more revenue

We don’t even have to ask the Chief Sales Officer if they want more pipeline and more opportunities. That is the best indicator of meeting their sales number. And again, we know they want revenue. Give them a way to exceed their revenue targets for the quarter and they will pay attention.

Sales teams can impact marketing

At the most basic level, the marketing team is responsible for identifying potential customers and making them aware of the vendor. Sales leaders can help define what their best customers look like to help marketing target the more likely buyers, thereby generating more leads. This can be done in an informal process or by creating an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) with quantitative and qualitative data. The important part is that it is done by sales and marketing teams together. The functional leaders can encourage this collaboration.

Remember the CMO who wanted better quality leads? Sales can help here too. Marketing is responsible for determining how the organization describes itself and how its solution addresses the challenges of potential customers. Marketing knows how to do this at a broad, persona level, while the sales team has experience discussing those challenges with individual buyers. They know what’s relevant and what makes a difference in closing sales. Sharing these insights helps marketing deliver more compelling messaging, which connects with better quality prospects. When marketing is speaking the language of the buyers, it results in more MQLs.

Marketing teams can impact sales

When the sales and marketing teams come together to identify the customers to pursue, they should also define the qualification criteria for each stage of the funnel. A marketing qualified lead is frequently the loosest in terms of criteria and usually is based on engagement with content. A sales qualified lead meets basic firmographic and technographic criteria and results in a scheduled sales meeting. And an opportunity has the strictest criteria of all.

It is important for sales teams to have a say in what qualifies a lead. Almost two-thirds (64%) of B2B sales reps were more likely to follow up on a marketing-supplied lead if the qualification criteria had been agreed upon by sales, according to a Gartner survey of 1215 B2B sellers. Sales ownership in the process drives more action, but also identifies prospects more likely to become customers. Following up on better qualified leads gets sales more meetings and more opportunities.

There are lots of reasons why sales and marketing alignment does not occur in organizations, but leaders need to understand that it can make a difference. It can have measurable impact in driving real results for both marketing and sales. This starts with the CSO and the CMO coming together to talk about it.

This post originally appeared on the Gartner Blog Network.

Jeffrey L Cohen

Jeffrey L Cohen