One of the most well-known issues in business is the lack of alignment between sales and marketing. In fact, some companies have even begun to merge their sales and marketing teams. Both teams must work together but struggle to communicate and often lose respect for one another. Sales may blame marketing for poor lead quality, while marketing blames sales for not following up on marketing-qualified leads from their latest campaign. Ultimately, both teams are responsible for building a strong pipeline. So how do you avoid these issues or fix them if they exist? I say it’s all about avoiding judgment and tapping into your natural curiosity with the following sales and marketing alignment best practices.
Instead of applying an “us vs. them” mentality or staying in your lane, get curious and ask questions to help the two teams come together to build empathy and understanding. Relationship building is crucial—after all, these two teams ultimately share a common goal. What might this look like in practice? You may ask:
- What are your goals? How can I support your achievements?
- What is our definition of a lead?
- How many leads will marketing deliver to sales each month?
- How many times will sales contact each lead that marketing delivers?
- How many status reports will sales share with marketing each month to inform lead quality?
- How long is the lead lifecycle, from first touch to purchase?
- When should a lead pass from marketing to sales or vice versa?
- When does it become a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)?
- When does it become a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) or Sales Accepted Lead (SAL)?
- How many stages do we have? Do we need them all? Are they clearly defined?
- Do we have any leads that we agree are “good” leads? What can we learn from those? Which activities/attributes do they have in common?‘
- How might we collaborate on opportunities?
And remember, when asking your questions, to practice active listening: Listen to understand, not just wait your turn to speak.
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“Be curious, not judgmental”
One of my favorite television shows is Ted Lasso. On that show, the titular character has a great scene where he shares an anecdote about his personal motto, which is, “Be curious, not judgmental.” Ted follows these words even when someone actively works against him. He seeks to understand them, so he can learn what motivates them and why they act the way they do. He balances the team’s overarching goals while connecting with each team member, from the executives at the top, down to the support staff. Due to his consistency, compassion, and genuine interest, he wins over his detractors, one by one.If you want to break down the walls within your organization, you’ll find that having courageous conversations and encouraging curiosity within your teams will result in high performance. Getting to know the people on the other side and what’s important to them will help everyone show up better. If you genuinely endeavor to help everyone achieve their goals while building toward mutually shared team objectives, you will find success. You can learn more about how psychological safety and courage help create high-performing teams in the Fearless Teaming module on Trailhead.
Create a long-term plan for your new alignment
Good intentions don’t lead to successful results without a plan! If you want to implement your sales and marketing alignment, make sure you do the following:
Gain executive support: Leadership is required—it’s not a “nice to have.” You’ll want to be prepared and persuasive. Check out these great tips for effectively communicating with execs.
Connect your teams: It’s not just about sales and marketing. For example, don’t forget about service teams. Collaborating across departments will open communication and allow for even more customer-centric innovation.
Standardize and measure: Define what a lead is and which key performance indicators (KPIs) are reliable indicators of qualification. Make sure your sales operations lead is using best practices.
Follow the data: Tie sales back to marketing. Ensure your teams are driving sales with operational excellence.
Communicate consistently: Sales and marketing should have a regular cadence to set, validate, and revise goals.
Discover resources for Salesblazers and Moment Marketers
Watch Salesforce+: Check out How to Integrate Sales and Marketing featuring Steve Hornyak, CCO and executive director at BrightDrop.
“The Trailblazer Blog” is an independent blog and has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise approved by Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. or Apple Inc.
Ted Lasso is a trademark of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
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