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How marketing and sales can work better together

Published Aug 24 2023 6 minute read Last updated Aug 24 2023
marketing and sales alignment
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  • Sean Dougherty
    Written by Sean Dougherty

    A copywriter at Funnel, Sean has more than 15 years of experience working in branding and advertising (both agency and client side). He's also a professional voice actor.

Here you are, ready to bridge the gap between marketing and sales. Two departments that sometimes feel worlds apart. It's a common and challenging dynamic: the marketing team crafts the message, and the sales team closes the deals. But the synergy between the two often gets lost in translation.

Why does this dynamic matter? Because, when sales and marketing departments work together, qualified leads improve and revenue soars. You experience a cohesive approach that drives success.

In this guide, we'll explore six practical tips to enhance collaboration between your marketing and sales teams. Whether you're looking to refine existing processes or build new bridges, these insights are tailored for marketing professionals ready to unlock the full potential of a united front. Let's get started!

 

Why marketing and sales alignment matters

When sales and marketing teams are aligned, a well crafted message is supported by an informed sales team that can capture new business faster.

It's not a one-way relationship either. When working collaboratively, sales can provide real-world feedback to the marketing team about what messages do and don't work based on their conversations with various leads. 

Sales and marketing alignment also keeps the company ahead of competitors by ensuring that both departments have up-to-date information to strategize effectively.

The alignment between sales and marketing leads to better feedback, achieved goals, and increased revenue production. Businesses that foster this collaboration close more deals and realize higher revenue, emphasizing the importance of a united approach. Whether through regular communication, shared strategies, or informal team-building activities, collaboration between sales and marketing teams is a key driver of success.

 

6 practical tips for sales and marketing alignment

So, you obviously want your sales and marketing teams to work together. It can lead to extraordinary improvements in revenue growth and brand reputation. But how do you actually get the marketing teams and sales teams to, well, team up? While it can feel like a battle of competing wills, there are some ways to influence how marketing and sales work together.

Let's start with the following six tips.

1. Set common goals and KPIs

Why: Aligning on shared objectives ensures your sales and marketing teams work in the same direction. Without aligned goals, the sales process can function in ways that don't contribute to ongoing success. 

For example, a single member of the sales team might focus on nurturing a specific lead without collaborating with others. 

Why? Because they want the commission from converting that lead into a client. (Who doesn't want to earn more money, after all?) 

Setting common goals and KPIs highlights the importance of combining groups to create a unified sales and marketing team.

How: Collaboratively define clear and measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) reflecting both sales and marketing priorities. These numbers don't exist in vacuums either. They're always connected, because marketing performance generates leads while sales performance generates information that can help marketers target future clients. 

How you measure success will likely evolve over time. This quarter, you might want to focus on finding qualified leads you can nurture and convert the following quarter. As your target moves, you must adjust your KPIs.

Regularly review the progress together to discover insights and strategies that benefit everyone.

Related reading: 2023's top marketing KPIs explained

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2. Foster open communication and regular meetings

Why: An open dialogue helps teams understand each other's challenges, expectations, and needs, enabling a more collaborative work environment. 

You don't form bonds with people you never spend time with. Regular meetings "force" members of sales and marketing teams to get out of their bubbles and learn about each other. After a spending some time together, they will begin to find common ground that encourages them to continue aligning their efforts. 

How: Schedule regular cross-departmental meetings to discuss ongoing campaigns, leads, feedback, and strategies. How often you hold meetings will vary depending on your organization. At the very least, aim for one meeting per month. 

Additionally, encourage an open-door policy for informal communication. The sales team should feel comfortable sharing marketing ideas with the marketing team. And it goes both ways. The marketing team shouldn't feel that they can't give salespeople insights into nurturing leads more effectively.

3. Create collaborative content and campaign strategies

Why: Sales teams have direct insights into customer needs, because they speak to leads and customers daily. The marketing team has the expertise to craft messages that resonate with consumers and other businesses. Align sales and marketing functions to complement each other and get better results. Otherwise, you're denying marketers access to information they can use to make campaigns more effective.

How: Involve sales in content creation and marketing campaigns to ensure materials align with customer pain points and needs. Marketers know some of the challenges the company must overcome to convert potential customers, but they don't have daily input from leads and current clients. The sales team has a wealth of information that can lead to more effective marketing campaigns. Don't let those opportunities slip by!

Also, make sure everyone feels comfortable sharing insights and feedback freely. Naturally, marketing will use some ideas and dismiss others, and that's ok. Thank everyone for their contributions so they feel appreciated. 

Related reading: The better way to work with marketing data

4. Implement lead scoring and shared definitions

Why: Misalignment on what constitutes qualified marketing and sales leads can contribute to wasted efforts and missed opportunities. Lead scoring and shared definitions help create a harmonious approach where marketing operations and sales cycles align.

Clearly, you want to encourage free communication between sales and marketing teams. Ideally, you want them to focus on communicating helpful information. Otherwise, you could get bogged down in irrelevant observations that don't contribute to sales and marketing alignment.

Lead scoring and shared definitions will make it easier for employees to determine what information to prioritize.

How: Collaboratively develop a lead scoring system and agree on definitions for lead qualification. Ensure both teams understand and use the same criteria for evaluating prospects.

There is a tendency in some sales departments for individuals to develop their own scoring systems, which can happens frequently when salespeople work in isolation. 

When you clearly define lead scoring and terms, you encourage people to follow a process everyone can understand. As more team members adopt the lead scoring system and agree on definitions, you should see improved marketing function and more successful sales.

Related reading: How we navigate content marketing measurement

5. Emphasize data sharing and collaboration

Why: Shared access to data ensures that both teams have the information they need to make informed decisions. Break down data silos so sales and marketing teams can access information that shows how effectively their strategies work. Then, they can collaborate to find even better ways to target existing customers, new customers, and qualified leads.

How: Establish protocols for sharing and accessing data related to customer interactions, campaign results, and lead statuses. Informal collaboration is terrific, but you also want a formal process for sharing critical insights. That might involve generating data-driven reports, giving presentations during meetings, and sharing daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly KPIs.

Encourage transparency and collaboration in using data to guide strategies and decisions. Don't assume everyone knows how to use data-sharing tools. A little training can go a long way! If someone feels uncomfortable using a new tool, they might avoid it and keep following the old processes that don't include sharing ideas across teams.

Related reading: What does data democratization mean for marketers?

Collaboration now! How to build a harmonious marketing team 

6. Marketing and sales team-building activities

Why: Double the teams means double the fun! Okay, this one is a bit less serious. But it holds true that enjoying fun activities together can help break the ice and build connections. When sales teams and marketing teams know each other on a personal level, they're more likely to trust each other and collaborate on projects.

How: The next time you plan an after-work event for the marketing department, ask the sales teams to join the fun — and vice versa. 

Keep it simple. You don't need to run a triathlon together. Perhaps an evening of dinner and drinks is enough to get to know each other and begin important conversations that you will then continue the next day, week, and month.

Other ideas include:

  • Visiting an entertainment venue with bowling, laser tag, pool tables, and other games
  • Volunteering at a local nonprofit (you can build team camaraderie and give back to your community!)
  • Hosting a weekend BBQ with games, prizes, and fun for all families

Not sure what your teams will enjoy? Just ask them for suggestions! 

How Funnel approaches marketing and sales alignment

First, let's acknowledge a fundamental truth: marketing and sales alignment is an ongoing journey at Funnel, but it's one we're always working on. To get a sense of some of the strategies we employ, we spoke to Erik Hellstram, Funnel's vice president of sales in Europe. 

He echoed the earlier point that goal alignment is critical. 

"Marketing is often measured on leads whereas sales is measured on Sales or MRR" said Erik. "The trick here is to find metrics that overlap but that each department can still own. In our case, we both look at MRR from deals in the discovery stage of the pipeline."

Beyond goal alignment, planning plays an equally important role for alignment in Erik's view.

"Marketing and sales should do joint quarterly planning," he said. "What are the customer segments we want to target? What are the campaigns we want to launch? How do we coordinate that across content, product marketing, events and everyday customer conversations? How will we evaluate success?"

And above all, Erik works to avoid the "blame game," which marketing and sales teams can easily slip into. After all, when the sales process is smooth, people overlook some of the holes or inefficiencies. Once, things take a turn for the worse, though, the knives can come out. 

"Sales will say, 'The leads were not good quality.' And marketing will say, 'the leads were good, but sales just didn’t convert,'" said Erik. 

He recommends to continually track leading indicators holistically across marketing and sales, then setting joint sessions to address issues together. 

 

Alignment needs two things

In the end, it really comes down to two main things: shared goals and good communication. They aren't easy to achieve every day, but by making regular effort toward them, you can begin to bring your marketing and sales teams into alignment. 

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