As a CMO or marketing leader, you know that driving revenue is the ultimate goal of your marketing efforts. However, it can feel like an uphill battle to get sales and marketing alignment and generate quality leads that turn into revenue.
In this article, I'll break down the main reasons marketing and sales are often misaligned, the focus areas CMOs need to pay the most attention to achieve alignment, and my five tried-and-tested strategies that drive sales and marketing alignment.
5 reasons marketing and sales are misaligned
After working with hundreds of B2B companies over the past decade, I've noticed 5 key reasons that lead to misalignment between sales and marketing teams, resulting in stalled pipelines:
1: The wrong incentives
Marketing is incentivized on lead generation volume, not quality of leads. Too often, marketing teams celebrate generating a high quantity of leads without regard for whether those leads actually convert to sales. For peak alignment, marketing KPIs should include both volume metrics (like lead count) as well as downstream conversion metrics (like sales accepted leads, marketing qualified leads, opportunities created, and marketing-influenced revenue). Make sure marketing is rewarded not just for sheer lead volume, but for driving leads that progress through the funnel.
2: Not understanding the customer well enough
You can't create truly resonant messaging without intimately knowing your target customer segments. Build out detailed buyer personas that outline the roles, responsibilities, motivations, and pain points for each audience you want to reach. Map messaging to each persona's needs and challenges. Content should speak directly to the perspectives of your ideal customers.
3: Targeting prospects ineffectively
It's easy to waste budget targeting prospects in places that are either too expensive or simply don't work. Align with sales on business and revenue goals, then map those back to define where you need to reach prospects and expected engagement benchmarks for each channel. Continuously evaluate channel efficacy to optimize spend on customer acquisition. Make sure you are fishing for prospects where they are active, and that the cost to acquire them matches their overall value.
4: Misaligned sales team priorities
Often sales teams spend too much time prospecting rather than working and nurturing highly qualified opps. Marketing should focus on top-of-funnel prospecting marketing campaigns to generate interest. Sales should prioritize outreach to qualified prospects showing explicit interest or intent signals, as this is proven to increase prospect-to-meeting conversion dramatically. Keep sales focused on advancing hot leads, while marketing brings in and nurtures new prospects, and provides support on the hot leads with tactics that will help sales get things over the line.
5: Unclear value prop and brand credibility issues
Prospects need to quickly grasp what your key differentiators are and why they should trust you to deliver concrete outcomes for their business. Invest in sharpening your positioning and elevating your brand credibility to maximize conversion. Make sure messaging and collateral clearly convey your unique value and establish thought leadership authority.
5 areas to focus on to supercharge marketing and sales alignment
Beyond addressing these foundational issues, there are 5 key areas CMOs should focus on to supercharge marketing and sales alignment:
1: Establish shared goals
Make sure marketing and sales teams have visibility into broader business goals as well as each other's departmental goals. This context enables them to work in sync to hit targets. Create joint objectives around pipeline generation, lead velocity, and revenue creation.
2: Agree on definitions
Clearly define your sales stages, qualification criteria, and lead definitions upfront between departments to prevent miscommunication. Document this in a shared handbook that becomes the single source of truth. Make sure everyone is on the same page.
3: Formalize workflows
Codify the lead handoff process, prioritization rules, and SLA expectations between teams to ensure hot leads don't slip through the cracks and both sides uphold their ends of the bargain. Use technology like marketing automation and CRM to build scalable processes.
4: Implement ongoing tracking
Put reporting dashboards in place to continuously monitor funnel metrics, lead progression, and conversion rates across stages. Review jointly to identify optimization opportunities.
5: Encourage cross-pollination
Building relationships and empathy across teams is key. Enable job shadowing, rotate cross-functional team members, hold regular joint meetings to foster mutual understanding.
With a strong foundation built on aligned goals, customer knowledge, transparent processes, and open communication channels, your marketing and sales teams will be set up to accelerate opportunity progression and ultimately revenue growth
5 strategies that drive marketing and sales alignment
As marketing leader, here are 5 key strategies I recommend to drive greater marketing and sales alignment:
1: Incentivize marketing on pipeline and revenue creation, not just lead volume
Make sure a portion of marketing goals and compensation is tied to downstream sales outcomes.
2: Invest in customer research and detailed buyer personas
Build a shared understanding of your ideal customers to inform effective targeting and messaging.
3: Map programs to the sales funnel
Look at each stage of the customer journey and how marketing can influence progression through email, content, and campaigns.
4: Establish a regular cadence for joint funnel reviews
Marketing and sales leaders should meet bi-weekly to assess funnel health as a team.
5: Create cross-functional teams for campaign or initiative launches
Bring marketing and sales team members together for end-to-end planning and execution.
Driving alignment requires both organizational alignment and personal alignment. On the org side, make sure teams have shared goals, definitions, and processes. But also invest in relationship-building across departments through job shadowing, rotations, and frequent touchpoints.
The more marketing and sales operate as a cohesive revenue engine, the faster opportunities will progress from leads to customers. As CMO, you play a key role in bringing these functions into harmony. By making it a priority and dedicating leadership focus, you can unlock exponential gains in pipeline velocity, deal sizes, and customer lifetime value. But it requires rolling up your sleeves to align the gears of go-to-market - no easy feat, but an investment that pays back tenfold.
Vlad has plenty of insights to share on turning your sales and marketing teams into cohesive revenue engines.
Don't miss the opportunity to learn more: on November 8th, Vlad is giving an unmissable talk on the "7 reasons why B2B brands struggle to get marketing ROI" at the CMO Summit.