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What to Do When Marketing and Sales Are Not Aligned

by Amanda Sellers . January 30, 2020
According to HubSpot, companies with good smarketing practices see 38% higher sales win rates.

Your company has an extraordinary marketing department and a robust sales team. Yet, there is a disconnect between the clever marketing and mediocre sales conversion rates. Additionally, there is division and tension between the sales and marketing departments.

If you think this disconnection is a problem unique to your business, think again. This disconnect between sales and marketing happens more often than you may think. It is likely happening at some level in many organizations right now.

Does your marketing team blame the sales department for not closing sales? Does your sales team blame the marketing department for giving them poor-quality leads?

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If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, your marketing and sales departments aren’t aligned.

What Is Sales and Marketing Alignment?

It is important for your sales and marketing teams to be in alignment with each other. Alignment is when sales and marketing teams are working and striving together for the same goals. When there is alignment, the marketing qualified leads from the marketing department are seamlessly handed off to the sales team and become sales qualified leads that convert.

Benefits of Sales and Marketing Working Together

The marketing team is responsible for the top of the conversion funnel. The sales team handles converting the leads at the bottom of the funnel. When there is alignment between sales and marketing, leads are more effectively and efficiently nurtured.

Below are some of the benefits of when the sales and marketing teams work together:

  • Increased motivation
  • No mixed messaging
  • Shorter sales cycles
  • More accountability
  • Increased unity and trust
  • More frequent meetings between departments
  • Marketing and sales are on the same page
  • Improved company image and trustworthiness

Signs That This Is Not Happening

Sales and marketing department alignment between sales and marketing moves leads through the buyer's journey quicker. This results in more conversions at lower prices for the company.

How do you know if alignment is absent between sales and marketing? Here are some signs of misalignment:

  • There is no accountability
  • There’s complacency and a false sense of harmony
  • There are mixed messages between sales and marketing
  • Sales and marketing aren’t aware of what each other is doing
  • There is distrust between the sales and marketing departments
  • There aren’t any meetings between sales and marketing departments
  • The sales cycle is longer than necessary with delays
  • Both sales and marketing departments learn apart from each other

What to Do When Marketing and Sales Are Not Aligned

If there is a lack of alignment between your marketing and sales teams, don’t worry. Here are some strategies to try to bring the departments into alignment:

1. Set unified expectations for qualified leads

Create guidelines for what leads are high-quality marketing qualified leads. Once the marketing department knows when a lead is qualified enough to hand over to the sales team, it spares your sales department from wasting time and effort on poor-quality leads that will most likely not convert.

A good way to establish these marketing qualified lead criteria is by creating buyer personas. Buyer personas are fictional people that are composites of a collection of traits and characteristics of your targeted audience. When the sales and marketing departments "know" who their ideal customers are, there needs to be a set of unified expectations on how to best engage with them.

2. Create a sales follow-up process

Have a process and set of expectations in place concerning how the sales team is to follow-up with the leads they get from the marketing department. Some things to include in this process are: how often follow-up should occur, a timeline in which to follow up and criteria for who is a good lead to follow-up on. This follow-up process will appease the marketing team as well as the sales team.

3. Nurture leads through the funnel

Many salespeople fail to continue engaging and interacting with customers after the sale. As far as they're concerned, they got the customer to do what they wanted and there is no longer a reason to nurture the relationship. This is a big mistake. Have a process and set of expectations in place on how the sales team is to follow-up with the leads they get from the marketing department, from when they are introduced to the lead to after the sale. Some things to include in this process are: how often follow-up should occur, a timeline in which to follow up, and criteria for who is a good lead to follow-up on.

The hand-off of a marketing qualified lead to a sales qualified lead needs to be seamless. One of the best ways to do this is to continually present the customers with appropriate content marketing collateral.

Leads at the top of the funnel don’t know much about your organization. They need to know that they can trust your company. E-books, guides, and blog posts are great ways to catch people’s attention and draw them in. The content should draw the customers onto the middle of the funnel. Here, templates and webinars can be very effective. Finally, at the end of the funnel, consultations and demonstrations by the sales team can “seal the deal.”

4. Utilize sales enablement tools

Sales enablement tools allow for an easier hand-off between the marketing and sales departments on the buyer’s journey funnel. These platforms help the sales department convert the marketing qualified leads it receives. Case studies, email automation, direct messaging and sales enablement tools like Hubspot and Zendesk are examples of sales enablement tools and software you may want to consider.

5. Create a clean hand-off between marketing and sales

The greatest tension between marketing and sales comes when a marketing qualified lead is handed over to the sales department and becomes a sales qualified lead.

At this point, marketers blame the sales department for not closing sales while the sales department blames the marketing department for not giving them quality leads.

Meet with both your sales and marketing teams to establish a uniform hand-off procedure that includes expectations and guidelines that determine the quality of lead data. As a part of this data, it is a good idea to include how you will measure the number of leads who are transferred from the marketing team to the sales team.

6. Sales and marketing need to be a part of the same customer journey

In many organizations, the sales and marketing teams operate in two different silos, with different customer journeys. Throughout each of the two journeys, different data is collected on customers. This results in a fragmented customer journey that confuses and frustrates the potential customer as well as both the marketing and sales departments.

Aligned marketing and sales teams use CRM software, marketing automation software, email marketing software, and analytics to bridge the gap between the marketing and sales funnels to create a singular customer journey. When both teams collect the same data, they create consistent messaging and more fluid lead nurturing through the funnel.

7. Use marketing throughout the funnel

While marketing and sales ideally work together to bring leads through the funnel to complete the buyer’s journey, it can be easy for both departments to only focus on their part of the buyer’s journey process.

The marketing department works to bring about awareness of a company’s brand, products, and services and build relationships with marketing qualified leads. The sales department gets these leads that now have a relationship with the company and are thinking of doing business with them. The salesperson's job is to persuade the lead to convert.

Many would say these two distinct responsibilities need different tactics and different approaches. Yet, the sales department would have an easier time “closing the deal” on sales qualified leads when they maintain the same positive relationships with the prospect established by the marketing team. Customers are more willing to engage with the interesting and useful content and tactics of marketing rather than the pushy ways of the salespeople. It would be wise for the sales department to take a play out of the marketing department’s playbook when it comes to relationship building.

8. Use common KPIs

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) help the marketing and sales departments strive to achieve their respective goals and expectations put on them.

The marketing and sales teams have different metrics on how their performance is doing. The marketing team’s success is measured by the level of brand awareness they created. The performance of the sales department is based on the number of sales.

Having common KPIs help the marketing and sales teams unite under common metrics and goals. These, in turn, lead to a more efficient and effective customer journey.

9. Keep marketing messages consistent

A reason marketing and sales aren’t aligned is that they both operate in silos, independent of each other. Since they don’t know what the other is doing, mixed messaging is inevitable. The marketing team will call a product one thing and the sales team will call it another.

This mismatched messaging will confuse leads, make your company look incompetent and disrupt a crucial hand-off between sales and marketing.

10. Make sure both marketing and sales focus on retention

Marketers know it is easier and cheaper for their company to keep current customers and clients than it is to attract new leads. At the same time, the sales team often ends the relationship with customers after they convert and make a purchase. This misalignment can further increase the tension between sales and marketing.

Creating a content strategy for both sales and marketing to nurture leads even after they completed the buyer’s journey is key to retaining loyal customers. When customers feel valued even after they do business with a company, they are more likely to remain engaged with the company and make future purchases.

When the marketing and sales teams aren’t aligned, the progress of the leads through the funnel becomes disrupted and disjointed. The crucial hand-off of a marketing qualified lead to a sales qualified lead is bumpy and full of mixed, sometimes contradictory messaging. The sales and marketing teams will continue operating in separate silos while furthering the tension. Your leads and customers will be confused doubt your brand’s expertise, knowledge and authority.

On the other hand, alignment between the sales and marketing teams offers many benefits to the customers, the marketers and sales departments, and the company overall. Alignment breaks down the tension and separateness of the two departments and rallies them around common goals, expectations, procedures and KPIs. When there is unity, the lead travels more quickly through the sales and marketing funnels. Your company will also look more competent and gain the trust of customers.

If the marketing and sales departments aren’t aligned, there are ways to unify them and get them both onto the same page. The earlier you get this crucial alignment down, the greater you can enjoy the benefits it offers such as more customers and revenue, and the shorter customer journeys.

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