Answering the Elusive Question: How to Align Sales and Marketing Teams

By Cuebiq Marketing Team / 6 minutes

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Originally posted by Forbes on 12/4 here.

You’ve heard it a million times before: It’s essential to align sales and marketing. But how do you actually go about doing that?

Having worked in marketing for almost 15 years and experienced some of these challenges myself, I’ve put together five key steps to align these interdependent teams. Not only will these tips help reduce inter-team friction, but they will ensure that sales and marketing organizations are able to work together seamlessly to drive the maximum revenue possible.

1. Align on goals.

First and foremost, both sales and marketing teams need to be on the same page with the goals they’re striving toward. Historically, sales measured success based on revenue, and marketing on click-through rates and leads. That in itself is a recipe for misalignment.

When both organizations work toward one goal, revenue generation, it becomes easier to align and work toward the same objective. Strategic business approaches, such as account-based marketing, have been catalysts for sales and marketing alignment — by design, they encourage marketing and sales organizations to work together to identify target accounts, craft campaigns, and move each account through the pipeline.

Once you have alignment on the big picture, you’ll want to start delving deeper so that both marketing and sales playbooks are clearly aligned. This will be essential to turn your joint vision into a day-to-day reality. After all, the devil is in the detail. Aligning on expectations, success metrics, and definitions will be critical. For example, if sales and marketing do not have agreed-upon ideal customer profile (ICP) and sales qualified lead (SQL) definitions, you will run into confusion, unmet expectations, and, ultimately, missed revenue targets.

It’s also important that sales and marketing agree on how to achieve those goals. On a foundational level, this means they need to align on the customer journey and full-funnel structure, as well as have a comprehensive understanding of how the merged sales and marketing funnels will operate. This is paramount to ensure that the customer’s entire experience with the brand will be seamless.

2. Identify dependencies between teams.

In mapping out how they plan to achieve these goals, sales and marketing teams need to identify specifically how they will depend on one another and how they will hold each other accountable. They need to determine a plan to carry out those dependencies, setting realistic expectations and projected timelines for repeat deliverables.

Let’s consider SQLs again, for example. If a marketing team promises it will be able to deliver a certain number of SQLs to sales every month, but this number is higher than realistic, the sales team might miss its goals because it was depending on unrealistic expectations.

3. Develop concrete processes.

Once dependencies are established, sales and marketing teams need to create specific processes to execute them. Perhaps most important is to create a seamless, technically sound process for handing off leads, which will ensure consistency in lead delivery and quality.

With interconnected processes in place, sales and marketing can minimize potential friction that might arise otherwise. One of the biggest issues with misaligned sales and marketing teams is when both teams have their own processes for doing things — but they don’t know each other’s processes.

4. Communicate clearly and conscientiously.

When carrying out these processes, it’s crucial that sales and marketing teams communicate clearly and consistently. From a business standpoint, this is necessary to avoid redundant communications to the customer and also to ensure no prospect gets lost in the funnel. For example, if a marketing team sends out a nurture email to a prospect, it’s important that the sales team has that email on record so as not to send the prospect duplicate content.

Strong communication helps sales and marketing teams function together like a well-oiled machine. It’s best if both teams are conscientious in their communication — truly listening to requests, checking their egos and being generous in helping one another.

5. Create a functioning feedback loop.

Finally, there needs to be a functioning feedback loop that promotes consistent improvement to the marketing and sales cycles. All parties must be able to communicate what’s working and what’s not in order to create an optimal lead flow from first exposure to close. For example, I have seen great success when the sales organization shares feedback with the marketing team as to the quality of the SQLs, so that marketing can consistently iterate and improve on its process for capturing and curating these leads.

What’s more, since marketing and sales tactics have changed dramatically in recent years, it’s important to develop a feedback loop so that these organizations can adapt to changing environments as needed.

While aligning sales and marketing teams might sound like a daunting challenge from the outside, I promise it can be done successfully and not only bring excellent results for the organization, but also foster great relationships and make the work environment a more fun and welcoming place. At Cuebiq, I’m very lucky to work with an amazing sales team; something we have found highly successful is to constantly look for ways to improve alignment so that we can achieve the best possible outcome.

Ultimately, it’s getting started that’s the hardest part of alignment. From there, it will only get better.


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About the Author

Cuebiq Marketing Team

The Cuebiq Marketing team is a group of data-driven marketers with a focus on strategy and a flair for the creative! Our team is broken down into Growth and Product Marketing departments, and we work on everything from running the Cuebiq website, to developing thought leadership content, to sales enablement and pipeline generation.