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5 Signs Your Sales and Marketing Teams are Out of Alignment

Posted by Jason Zimmermann

February 27, 2015

Here’s a definition of trouble: According to a survey recently conducted by HubSpot, only 5% of salespeople think marketers are actually giving them good leads. At the same time, 59% of marketers admit to not having any type of agreement with sales that outlines mutual expectations and responsibilities.

Chances are you have worked (or are working) in a company where the sales and marketing teams could have responded to the survey questions in much the same way, where there’s a sharp division between sales and marketing. Maybe you’ve seen salespeople walking through the office like jocks in high school saying things like, “We’re the only ones that bring in any actual money around here!” While the marketers, obviously the nerds in this scenario, are probably saying something along the lines of “Those sales guys never use the tools, never share the content we’ve created for them!”

Marketing and sales ought to be two teams that function together as one, that work seamlessly, fluidly, efficiently, and most of all, productively.

Here are five tell-tale signs that your sales and marketing teams are working more against each other than toward the same goal—and what you can do about it.

Sign 1: No one Knows Who They’re Targeting

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If you’ve learned anything about inbound marketing, you know that you can’t move a muscle without determining who your target personas are. Yes, personas, plural. Because most businesses have products and services designed to fit more than one target. Target personas are fictitious characters you’ve created from actual data, vivid (sometimes even visual) descriptions of the real people for whom your marketing team should be creating content—and of course, who your salespeople want to do business with.

These are your ideal customers, the people who are most likely to need and want what you sell, be able to pay for it, and be easiest convince to purchase it. Take the trouble to identify these target personas. Do the research, study the data, ask the questions, listen to your salespeople, listen to your prospects and customers. Get this right and everything else will go better. Some companies give these personas actual names (Sally, George, etc.) to facilitate communication and focus internally. It helps bring marketing and sales into alignment.

Sign 2: Sales is Not Part of the Content Process

content-marketing

Your sales team probably thinks they have better things to do than writing blog posts. Like selling, for example. And they’re not entirely wrong about that. But what they should have time for is creating new content ideas and adding as much information as they can to the content development process.

Your salespeople are the ones that are in the field, talking with prospects, determining needs, seeing what works, and more importantly, seeing what doesn’t. Why wouldn’t marketing want to pick every salesperson’s brain for content ideas? And why wouldn’t every salesperson love to have that kind of input and influence?

Your marketers should typically be the ones that actually create the content. But aim for alignment in the content process. Call a content meeting or ask sales to review some outlined ideas to ensure they’re finely tuned to the target persona’s interests, needs, and concerns. You’ll get better content and your sales team will have a sense of ownership in the content that’s created.

Sign 3: Sales and Marketing Don’t Have Quotas

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Of course, your salespeople have revenue quotas, and marketing probably has some sort of metrics they strive to achieve, but in most organizations marketing and sales don’t have unified, coordinated goals that drive their work.

Work backward to create these goals. How many opportunities does the sales team need each month? How many sales-qualified leads (SQLs) do they need to produce that many opportunities? How many marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) does it take to be able to deliver that number of SQLs to the sales team? How many not-yet-qualified leads does the marketing team need in order to generate enough MQLs? How much content, how much premium content, and how much content sharing is needed to generate those leads?

Start with the numbers you think are right, and tweak them until they really are right. You’ll be astonished at having coordinated goals drives performance and accountability.

Sign 4: There’s No Feedback Loop About Performance

Feedback_and_expectations_-_third_puppy_blog

Without a feedback loop, people feel like they’re working in the dark, literally blind to the effect they’re having. It’s not only isolating and dispiriting, the absence of information disables people who want to get better at what they’re doing. Sales and marketing teams need a constant flow of information about what the other is doing, but due to the natural sequence, where the work moves through marketing and then over to sales, the information that is most likely not getting to people who need it is sales successes and frustrations not finding their way back to marketing.

You can fix this. Communicate the performance of your team in ways that fit your organizational structure. Perhaps you’ll schedule a weekly sales and marketing meeting, or you’ll send out periodic emails. Regardless of how you decide to accomplish it, make sure the information is circulating. Build the feedback into existing processes, so it will keep happening. You’ll also see a lot more recognition for jobs well done!

Sign 5: There’s no Official Agreement Between Sales and Marketing

war-between-sales-and-marketing

We’re referring here to something very specific: It’s called a Sales and Marketing Service Level Agreement, or SLA. This goes beyond the metrics in Sign 3. It is truly an official agreement, a document both teams will negotiate and agree on, defining who does what and when and how well they do it. As soon as you start to work on this, you’ll realize how many issues there are to resolve between sales and marketing.

Let both sides bring every concern, question, and grievance to the meeting(s) at which the SLA is developed. Get it all in writing. Creating a formal document like this conveys the seriousness of this process and reinforces to both teams that they are being held accountable to the standards in the agreement. Here’s more information on how to create a Service Level Agreement.


Have your marketing and sales teams been out of alignment? How many of these five signs does your organization show? Now you know what to do.

20 Key Sales & Marketing Metrics Spreadsheet

Topics: sales and marketing alignment

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