Sales and Marketing Alignment: A Complete Guide to Smarketing

Laura Caveney
19th November 2021

Sales and marketing alignment is the holy grail for businesses, and it’s no wonder why. With it, teams work more effectively together and produce better results. We share all you need to know on what it is and how you too can achieve smarketing.

Aligning your sales and marketing team takes time and a lot of patience. But done right, you can reap the rewards. According to Linkedin, 87% of sales and marketing leaders say collaboration between sales and marketing enables critical business growth.

So how do you make smarketing a thing? In this guide, we’re going to tell you exactly how to achieve – and maintain – sales and marketing alignment in your business. 

As Krista Neher, CEO at Boot Camp Digital said, “The key to success is understanding that sales and marketing are complementary – not competitive. Strong marketing supports sales teams.”

In this guide we’ll be discussing:

Let’s dig in.

What is sales and marketing alignment?

Sales and marketing alignment, also known as smarketing, is the goal of enabling your sales and marketing teams to work with better communication, transparency and collaboration in order to achieve greater efficiency.

The ultimate end goal of smarketing is to get higher quality leads to enable high-profit sales at an increased rate. Basically, more revenue.

Historically, sales and marketing teams have worked in a silo and developed independently. This means teams sit in different offices, use different technologies and have different goals.

The aim of sales and marketing alignment is to break down these barriers. According to MarketingProfs, sales and marketing alignment can result in 38% higher sales win rates.

Why sales and marketing alignment is important

Sales and marketing alignment is potentially the biggest opportunity to grow your business. When your sales and marketing team unite, they’re supporting more drive towards goals like return on investment and revenue.

Let’s explore some of the ways that sales and marketing alignment can impact your business.  

Sales teams getting low-quality leads

Are your sales team complaining about low-quality leads?

With sales and marketing working in a silo, it’s often the case that leads created by marketing are thrown over the fence to sales, never to be seen again. Many marketers, particularly those working in B2B, suffer from data disconnect.

They can track the volume of leads they’re generating. But more often than not, they struggle to understand where those leads are coming from, and which leads go on to become revenue. It’s that disconnect that makes creating high-quality leads hard.

Thankfully, with smarketing, you can all work off the same hymn sheet. Marketing attribution tools allow marketing to report back on revenue, not leads and optimise their efforts for what drives high-quality leads.

Sales team not picking up new leads

According to Reachforce, sales reps ignore up to 50% of marketing leads and instead spend time on prospecting their own leads. That’s enough to make your head spin.

But the reality is, is your sales team being supported to understand what marketing is doing to drive new leads? And, how are they being made aware of new leads in their list? By working in silo, sales might be missing out on vital lead information. And, if your marketing team has historically been dropping off leads that aren’t good quality, why would your sales team be keen to pick them up?

Sales and marketing alignment will allow you to get both teams to share a common goal and work together to achieve it.

Simplify your workflows

We bet your sales team uses one piece of software, while your marketing uses another? And don’t get us started on reporting!

Marketing likely reports on leads, while sales reports on revenue?

Smarketing allows you to both work in the same piece of tech and share insights. The reality is, your sales team needs marketing to help drive leads but marketing needs sales for valuable insight on customers.

Shorten sales cycle

The B2B buying process has evolved resulting in a much more complex buying cycle and a massive shift in customer relationships. Buyers are purposefully choosing to delay interactions with sales and often ignore traditional tactics like phone calls and emails.

In order to share the message your customers want, where they want it, sales and marketing professionals must work together. New tactics in smarketing include segmentation, targeting, content development, nurturing, content engagement and customer support.

Related: How to speed up the sales cycle

Increase revenue through marketing and show ROI

All of the problems we’ve mentioned so far impact your reporting. Even if your teams do sit in meetings together, your marketing teams KPIs will be very different to your sales team. In fact, the reporting is so separate, it makes us wonder if this isn’t the cause of all the other problems.

Aligning your sales and marketing means reporting on revenue. Sure, you can still report on separate KPIs like lead generation or vanity metrics to get an idea of the potential of your marketing. To highlight ROI across the whole funnel, from marketing to sales, your teams need to understand how their work is directly impacting the other.

🚀 Pro Tip

Not sure how you can report on revenue when you’re managing conversions like phone calls, live chat and form fills? We show you how we track every lead, every interaction and attribute closed revenue back to marketing.

 

Why is sales and marketing alignment hard?

Communication in business is hard. Many companies hire internal communication professionals to manage the task properly. And with sales and marketing sitting separately, it’s no surprise that communication between teams is hard.

Sales are often incentivised by commission. It’s how they make their salary. So they want leads that are going to turn into revenue. And when a marketer passes over a boatload of leads they’ve had no view of, you can understand why getting their buy-in to pursue them can be hard.

Marketers meanwhile, just want to tick their goal of driving leads. They can’t view the lead quality, so instead they throw money and time into lead generation tactics that might not necessarily be driving future revenue.

So you can see where the disconnect is. But how can you align your two teams?

Well, we have some tips and tricks that we’ve used internally, and seen used across other businesses, we thought we would share.

Key sales and marketing alignment statistics

If you’re not sure sales and marketing alignment is for you, then there are some key statistics to take note of:

We surveyed marketing and sales professionals.

From this survey, we found that 93% of businesses say they use sales and marketing alignment on a day-to-day basis. 

We also found that 98% of businesses think sales and marketing alignment improves business performance. 

What is needed to achieve sales and marketing alignment? We asked our experts. We found that 85% of businesses believe having the same goals and KPIs allows you to achieve sales and marketing alignment. 

48% said having the same processes and 45% recommended the same tools.

How to align sales and marketing in your business

Looking for best practices when it comes to aligning your sales and marketing teams? We have a few key tips to get smarketing instilled in your business.

1. Choose the right software

2. Invest in strong leadership 

3. Check-in regularly 

4. Work together to drive quality leads 

5. Open your feedback loop 

6. Motivate your team 

7. Set shared goals 

8. Report on revenue

9. Create content for whole funnel

8. Use sales insights from closed sales

9. Understand what each team wants

Choose the right software

45% of marketers and sales professionals agreed that having the same tools helps you achieve sales and marketing alignment. 

Creating a clear process from marketing to sales can help you streamline your sales funnel. 

Joshua Wood, CEO at Bloc agreed, “Choose your software wisely and keep things as simple as possible. Companies that overcomplicate the processes and set up won’t ever achieve true alignment.”

🚀 Pro Tip 

We advise investing in an attribution tool that can allow your sales and marketing teams to read off the same sheet. It’ll allow your teams to report on revenue. Read our pick of the top marketing attribution tools

Invest in strong leadership 

Ideally, your leadership team will be well-invested into alignment which means you can onboard new members quickly and it can be driven from the top. 

If you’re hiring new sales or marketing colleagues, get them integrated into smarketing as soon as possible.

While some of the existing team might be more difficult to convert, having a really strong onboarding process for new recruits means more advocates for you to get it to work.

Matt Lally, Founder at TheGiftYak agreed, “Leadership is what aligns sales and marketing. Without it, no tool or KPI can save the program.”

Check-in regularly 

Of course, if your team implements marketing attribution, then your marketing team will get a good idea of sales. However, you still should have a presence at regular sales meetings and check-in with one another. 

Understanding your sales team and their current problems will allow you to identify possible solutions from the marketing team. Perhaps they’re wasting a lot of time with manual emails that you could take over with automation?

Or maybe they want to hit a big list of old leads but don’t know where to start? Your marketing team could help create a segmented email cadence to drive warmer leads for sales to pick up.

Brian Robben, President at Robben Media LLC added, “Make this a weekly and monthly habit to track your sales and marketing numbers. This way you can see if it’s out of alignment or aligned, and make adjustments.”

Work together to drive quality leads

Noelle Fauver, Director of Inseev Interactive said, “It’s important that sales teams are spending their team with qualified leads, you may have 100 leads but if they don’t have the budget or you aren’t the right solution, the leads are null. Make sure sales and marketing teams align on what the ideal client looks like and ensure that the marketing team is executing on campaigns that will meet these parameters. Regularly assess your sales team close rates and determine what is preventing a higher close rate, make implementations across both sales and marketing teams to combat this.”

 

Open your feedback loop

You need to have open communication between sales and marketing to enable better working, better processes and better results. 

Rich Pusateri, Content Marketing Manager at Postal  added, “As long as each department is working towards the same goals, or goals that feed each other, there will be alignment. However, having an open feedback loop is key to achieving these goals. For instance, whenever a prospect or customer asks for a piece of content that doesn’t exist, there needs to be an easy way to put in a new enablement request for marketing. Everything sales hears should feed a content marketing strategy. On the flip side, marketing needs to ensure that sales is using the defined brand tone/messaging from the top of the funnel in their prospecting efforts. The specific processes, tools, and org structure that fuel this feedback loop matter—but not as much as the feedback loop running on a flywheel effect.”

Zack Flathmann, Marketing Director at TacMed Solutions agreed adding, “The sales and marketing teams need to be driving toward the same goal with the same coordinated messaging. For us, it’s important that sales is always aware of what our marketing communications plan is for the month, quarter and year.

“Likewise, for our marketing team, it is important to understand if the sales team has any strategic accounts they are targeting where we can create hyper-targeted messaging and advertising to.”

Motivate your team 

Perry Zheng, CEO at Cash Flow Portal suggested motivating your teams. “To achieve sales and marketing alignment, you have to start by motivating everyone on your team – from the CEO to the most junior sales rep – to better understand the financial value of the work they do.

“Then, you have to clearly define how each role contributes toward achieving a company’s financial goals. The important thing in alignment is not to think in terms of tactical initiatives, but to anticipate the broad trends in your industry and how your business strategy can capitalize upon these.”


Set shared goals

The best way to align sales and marketing is to have them striving for the same overall goal. Of course, they might have different personal KPIs or team KPIs, but ultimately they should all work together to drive new customers, not new leads.

Ian Sells, CEO and co-founder of RebateKey said, “To best align your marketing and sales, it is necessary to create the same KPIs and goals.

“Having shared goals allows both teams to work and strategise together, providing a more holistic approach towards marketing. Having shared goals allow for an agreement in the buyer’s persona and how the buyer’s journey looks like. This ensures that the transition from marketing to sales is seamless, preventing mismatched messages from one part of the funnel to another (causing customer confusion and losing their trust). 

“Having shared goals also means that teams track joint KPIs together using the same tools, which ensures accuracy and efficiency in data processing and analytics.”

Susan Thompson, Digital Marketing Manager at Topp Casino Bonus agreed, adding, “Historically, sales and marketing function with different key performance indicators (KPIs) and, therefore, different goals. Most goals are separate — Sales may be focused on monthly revenue while Marketing hones in on website traffic.

“A good marketing strategy prioritises shared goals, too. There are a few KPIs — like conversion rate and lead value — that both teams can measure and influence. Identify these KPIs for your sales and marketing teams can work towards.”

Report on revenue

How can marketers report on revenue? Marketing attribution. This is the single most important way to implement sales and marketing alignment. 

✏️ Note 

Tools like Ruler Analytics allow your marketers to track their leads across full buyer journeys and understand which leads are converting into sales. By switching your reporting, you can ensure your teams are both working to drive more revenue.

Ryan Jones, SEO Specialist at Land of Rugs said, “One of the best things I say to clients, colleagues, friends and employers is that the best way to achieve true sales and marketing alignment is to ensure your marketing team are working towards sales KPIs.

“It’s all well and good ranking for brilliant keywords, bringing in thousands of people to your website organically, but it’s absolutely useless if you’re not making sales. Communicate with your sales team so they can tell you which pages generate the most leads, and work with them to improve the performances of these pages that will drive revenue.

Share lead generation findings

If you integrate your website, CRM and marketing tools with a marketing attribution tool like Ruler, your marketers will get oversight on how their work is influencing new leads and new sales.

But, your sales team will still be the best place to go to for insight into what makes your customers tick. They speak to leads and customers about their pain points. Use that insight to drive your marketing.

Mayank Batavia, Head of Marketing and Partnerships at QuickEmailVerification added, “Sales teams are close to the customer. Hence, they should share customer intel with marketing teams. That would, in turn, help marketing teams sharpen customer persona and improve marketing processes.

“Most importantly, sales teams should ‘listen’ to the language customers use to articulate their challenges and share this information with marketing teams. That would help marketing teams use the exact language in their marketing communications and establish a stronger connection with prospects.”

🚀 Pro Tip

Not sure how to track and qualify your leads? Download our guide to lead generation and tracking to learn more. 

Create content for the whole funnel

For each stage of the buyer’s journey, you want to be hitting your potential customers with relevant content. Without clear communication, your marketing team might be spending a lot of time writing SEO blogs, but not enough time writing strong case studies.

By speaking to your sales team and devising content across the entire customer journey, you’re missing out potential opportunities for new content.

And don’t forget the sales collateral! You can’t have really strong web content to pull a lead in and then try to win them over with a sales deck you’ve had lying around for years.

Pull your marketing and sales team together to create strong sales collateral that can be used to convert leads.

Attila Colaci, Performance Marketing Manager at Hatchhouse added, “Start by looking into the consumer’s behaviour flow, starting from awareness to returning customers and mapping out processes for each core audience your business targets. With the general customer process mapped out, you can easily see where your marketing touchpoints are, and where customer support and customer retention activities need to be.

“Based on this, you can set KPIs for each team making sure everyone is working together towards the same goal: growing your business. However, to ensure that you have a clear overview of the value of each touchpoint and value of each client, you will need clear processes across your team, and a marketing attribution tool that ties all the data together.”

Jack Zmudzinski, Senior Marketing Specialist at StartNearshoring agreed, “A great place to start is the customer journey. Brainstorming together with your sales and marketing team makes for an amazing opportunity to align your goals, metrics and all of the stages of the funnel. Each stage should be intertwined with one another, as discussed with both departments, to provide the best, seamless experience for the entire journey. The best way to do that is by using CRM software. You get to keep all data in one place and share it with all team members.”

Use insights from closed customers

You hire your sales team for a reason. You want them to get to know your customers and sell your product to them. Use that insight. 

While your marketing team will understand a lot of the issues your potential customer has, nobody knows them better than sales.

Alex Williams, Sales & Marketing Coordinator at Find this Best agreed, adding, “One of the best ways to align your sales and marketing team is to analyse your customer feedback. I would advise you to gather this data through customer service calls to ensure customers’ demand and then offer products and services.

“When you cater to the needs of your customers, your sales automatically increase. Not only does customer feedback help you provide better products, but it improves your marketing as well.

“With effective feedback, you can make promotional campaigns that will boost sales effectiveness and revenue. Lastly, these findings can subsequently be used to select specific phrases for future marketing messages.”

Understand what each team wants

Each team and each colleague is going to have different KPIs. We accept that. But for true sales and marketing alignment, you need to understand what each team wants to achieve, and how they can work together to achieve it.

For example, your sales team wants to generate new sales. They probably also want to shorten the sales cycle to save them eight touchpoints with a lead each time before they convert.

How can marketing help? Well, they can create email marketing. Working together, they can create succinct workflows to allow leads to pass to and from marketing and sales as and when it’s necessary.

Wrapping up on sales and marketing alignment 

And there you have it, some simple ideas to help align your sales and marketing teams. 

Remember, the key is implementing the same tools and processes and aligning your goals. As we know, marketing struggles to report on revenue while sales specifically report on revenue. 

But revenue attribution is a valuable solution. When marketing teams are dealing with leads being picked up by the sales team, there is a huge amount of data being lost on both sides. 

Marketing can’t see where the lead has come from or how it progresses. Sales can’t see where the lead came from or provide further feedback on trends surrounding high and low-quality leads.

By implementing marketing attribution, you can close the data disconnect and give the right data, to the right people, in all of the right places.

Ruler Analytics supports marketers (and sales representatives) to better understand their leads and drive more, high-quality leads using data-driven insights. Find out how you can begin the process of aligning your sales and marketing through attribution by booking a demo with one of our very own sales reps!