5 signs your marketing and sales teams aren’t aligned

In recent years, achieving sales and marketing alignment has been top of mind for leading marketers and sellers.

Why? Because sales and marketing alignment has been proven to drive business objectives. From higher sales win rates to shorter buying cycles, sales and marketing alignment has been well worth the effort for many organizations.

Indeed, companies with strong alignment show a 20% average increase in annual revenue, compared to a measly 4% average growth rate for companies with unaligned sales and marketing teams. And, for best-in-class organizations, marketing contributes to 47% of the forecasted pipeline – as opposed to just 5% in unaligned orgs.

If we know why sales and marketing alignment matters, then why are so many marketing and sales teams out of sync?

Simple: Communication. Sales and marketing work at opposite ends of the funnel – and finding time to decide on mutual priorities often falls to the wayside. In fact, 49% of sales reps and marketers identify communication as their biggest challenge.

What’s more, the failure to establish lines of communication is often compounded by differences in key success metrics. While sales might be compensated for booked annual recurring revenue (ARR), marketing is often measured solely by the total volume of leads or opportunities generated.

The result? Misaligned marketing and sales teams are leaving money – and lots of it – on the table.

Luckily, we can help.

5 signs and solutions for sales and marketing misalignment

Worried your sales and marketing teams aren’t on the same page? Here are 5 red flags to look out for, and what you can do to stay ahead.

1. Sales doesn’t listen to marketing about positioning or strategy

No one talks to prospective customers more than sales reps. They are on the front line every day, listening to the needs and pain points of prospects. With this first hand experience, it can be difficult for senior reps to take cues from the marketing team on how to speak about and position the product when they are coming in unilaterally. When marketing is influencing how Sales is going to talk about the product, it needs to be collaborative.

Solution: Bring Sales into discussions on marketing changes from the beginning to create a two way flow of information. Whenever marketing is planning a shift in strategy or positioning that will affect sales pipelines (hint: this is almost all the time) they should meet with reps at all levels of the sales organization to get first-hand input. Running a preliminary plan by the sales leader should be enough to know who needs to be involved, and at what level. Once the input has been collected, changes become a decision that both departments feel ownership of, rather than a unilateral change.

2. Sales burns through fresh MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads) like they are going out of style

Just like Lucy, if your inbound SDR team is receiving a lot of undifferentiated leads, they may not have time to work them all properly. This can be especially true if your team uses a mix of channels such as chat, email and phone, to acquire customers. If an overzealous rep doesn’t fully trust the quality of leads, they could be disqualifying them too early for not being ready to buy on the spot. When MQLs aren’t getting worked thoroughly, marketing’s contribution is devalued as sales isn’t wringing out the full potential. This results in lucrative opportunities being passed over instead of being nurtured. Inbound SDRs need to be farmers, not foragers.

Solution: Whichever lead distribution method you’re using, sales managers should be on the lookout for reps that are touching way more leads than others. Check out the number of leads opened, owned or touched by reps that converted to get the real scoop. On the surface, they may look like they are burning the midnight oil, but some unsupervised sellers may try and tear through leads and only work those that are 100% ready to buy. If one rep is logging noticeably more activities than other reps, it may be too good to be true. Again, ensuring that Marketing and Sales are on the same page for success metrics will help here.

3. Sales doesn’t use the collateral marketing creates for them

Often the marketing team will be responsible for creating content resources for sales in startups and mid-market companies. This can be anything from decks and white papers to video tutorials and webinars. However, if sales doesn’t trust marketing or if their strategies aren’t in sync, sales tends to ignore the content that’s made for them. If things are really bad – they might totally ignore marketing and branding guidelines and create their own collateral.

Solution: Unsurprisingly, the easiest solution to this issue is for marketing to involve sales when making these resources. Sellers are much more likely to feel attached to collateral they have direct involvement in creating. If possible, allow some room for personalization of sales decks by reps. No one wants to feel limited, especially when there is money on the line. Let reps make some decisions about what to send and the specifics of the document.

4. Sales won’t listen to junior members of the marketing team

Marketing teams can skew younger than other departments, with junior members joining fresh out of college. Many marketing roles are execution driven and intuitive to pick up. It’s possible for young hires to play a role in planning and executing campaigns early in their career. However, in sales, where everyone’s value is measured and out in the open, it may not be easy to see where younger marketing team members fit in. Some reps may have trouble coming to grips with a junior team member defining strategy and calling shots on sales enablement initiatives. If your sales team won’t listen to everyone on the marketing team, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to execute any campaigns. Even those confident and cocky “kids” running your social advertising programs can have a massive impact on leads… they need to be listened to.

Solution: Sales leaders should emphasize that marketing is a machine or a system. They should reiterate that all marketing activities have been approved by a senior team member such as the CMO or VP. The marketing machine needs all of the cogs working in-sync in order to succeed. Leaders should speak of marketing efforts as a cohesive activity, rather than a team of individual contributors. This can be contradictory to sales teams where everyone is completely accountable for their own metrics. If marketing is perceived as one big well-oiled machine, it becomes easier to see how each member contributes.

5. Sales doesn’t ask Marketing for help… at all.

Successful companies collaborate. As Jason Lemkin reflected, “Your VP Sales and VP Marketing should be joined at the hip.” If sales isn’t coming to marketing and asking for new collateral, it could be a signal they think marketing can’t execute or they don’t trust them to follow through. When you suspect this is the case, dig deeper in your 1:1s with your reps about how’d they liked to work with marketing.

Solution: Align Sales and Marketing across the same goals and commitments. Sales is directly impacted financially if deals don’t come through – whereas most marketing teams are salaried. If their projects fall short, it rarely hits their wallet directly. The urgency that salespeople feel to hit their targets sometimes isn’t felt as heavily by a marketing team. Motivation and buy-in needs to come from somewhere else. Several organizations have seen success after implementing a cross-department commitment strategy. This can be a monthly meeting, a shared dashboard or a collaborative action plan to hit quarterly goals. By mutually committing to results, marketing is held accountable, and sales can feel confident in coming to them for assistance. Asking for help could have gotten Lucy out of a very sticky situation…

If you see any of these signs of distrust, it means your bottom line is in danger. By striving to build a culture where sales and marketing work together, you’ll have a thriving, healthy pipeline. And, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love that?

This post was first published on May 4, 2016. It was last updated on October 9, 2017. 

image via LongitudeLatitude