The Thing About Sales and Marketing Alignment

By all accounts, sales and marketing alignment seems to be the biggest thing to hit sales teams since the advent of CRM software. After all, connecting the teams that touch the customer makes sense when trying to increase sales.

And yet, I’m here to tell you that sales and marketing alignment is not the only thing you should be thinking about when you’re looking to improve your team’s sales performance. Instead, as a sales leader, you should be thinking about how you’ll align your people first before trying to align across teams.

As with many things here at Minsilo, we recommend taking an integrated approach. Since alignment is a strategic matter, you need to be thinking about developing an alignment strategy that addresses both your sales team’s internal alignment and the alignment between sales, marketing, CX, and other customer-facing teams.

What is sales and marketing alignment?

Sales and marketing alignment is a form of cross-functional alignment, which focuses on connecting and coordinating the goals, priorities, and incentives that your sales and marketing teams have. The result is higher sales, less customer churn, and increased profitability.

When is the right time to start thinking about aligning sales and marketing?

Now.

While you should first focus on aligning your sales team internally, now is the right time to start thinking about how you’ll manage alignment between sales and other revenue-related functions within your company.

The reason why it’s important to consider both internal team alignment with cross-functional alignment is that they often play into each other. You should start by considering which behaviors to incentivize and reward in your alignment strategy, and think about what is needed from a holistic perspective, including cross-functional considerations.

Example: fixing an anti-collaborative sales team

Your current sales team is having trouble closing deals. You know that if your sales team became more collaborative, they could work together to close bigger and better deals. You have some salespeople who work on finding new leads, while others work to close deals.

Unfortunately, the people you have working in lead generation aren’t receiving any feedback from the deal closers. As a result, your lead generation team is not getting valuable information to help them better source and qualify new sales leads, resulting in fewer deals overall and more dead-end leads.

Since your sales team is not working in a cohesive manner, adding marketing to the mix will only intensify the discontinuity between members of your sales organization. While it can make sense to involve marketing in the mix — after all, they too would like to know what is causing you to win or lose deals — you are better off first identifying why your sales team is internally misaligned.

After careful review, you may find that your closing team does not share responsibility for the same KPIs as your prospecting team. Your prospecting team is compensated on the number of new leads successfully contacted, but not the outcome (sales) of those relationships. Meanwhile, your closing team is paid only on the number of deals they close.

You could do so much better, but your prospecting team has no incentive to fix its lackluster sales qualification process, while your closing team has no reason to help the prospecting team with a better qualification process.

By focusing on aligning your sales team first, before adding marketing into the mix, you might consider changing priorities for each team. You decide to add a new KPI that is jointly shared by both your prospecting and closing teams:

Close rate (%) of sales qualified leads

By making your entire sales team accountable to this new KPI, and explicitly educating them on the merits of improving the qualifying process, you create an opportunity for your team to be better disciplined in its sales process. In turn, you create a new opportunity to sell more because your team is not wasting time and effort on poorly converting leads.

Why you shouldn’t start by aligning sales and marketing

Cross-functional alignment should only come after the individual teams are aligned. Adding an additional layer of complexity will only make the job of getting your people aligned harder. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t consider other teams during the process of aligning your sales team, but rather that it should be done as a discrete step after right-tracking your own team.

How to align your sales team internally

There are a few ways to align your sales teams internally. Here are a few of my favorites.

  1. Align your incentives — salespeople are traditionally paid on commission, but it doesn’t have to be this way. You may benefit from instead tracking compensation to a different metric — or set of metrics. Not aligning your compensation structure to your intended outcomes is a surefire way of setting up your team for success (or worse).
  2. Align your systemsuse a tool like Minsilo to connect the work your salespeople are doing to the big picture. Make it easy for them to not only see the revenue impact that they have but also help them to understand what the broader business and strategic impact they have looks like.
  3. Align your people — sales should be a collaborative effort. Sure, healthy competition is often a net positive, but you don’t want to turn competition into people actively sabotaging each other. Practices like setting goals and creating RACI charts can help to create a shared sense of ownership over long-term strategic goals, while delegated KPI targets that your salespeople check in on a regular cadence can help keep salespeople on track for their quota.

Revenue Ops: the Future of Sales

Revenue Operations is a rapidly growing field that is focused on aligning all of the revenue activities within an organization (namely, sales, marketing, and customer success). As Patrick Campbell, CEO of Profitwell notes:

Revenue operations, or RevOps for short, is the combining and aligning of sales and revenue goals throughout marketing, sales, and success teams within a business. With these three teams working together, a business is able to optimize its sales funnel, collect more high-quality leads, and make more money. – Patrick Campbell

We think that RevOps will slowly replace all of the discrete activities within an organization, by bringing them together under one umbrella. Soon, salespeople will be writing marketing copy (thought leadership) in certain markets. Marketers will spend more time thinking about how they can support salespeople. Customer success will find new opportunities to sell to customers.

Technology is really fueling this shift. Company-wide tools like Minsilo make it possible to see the distinct activities that each team is doing and to form cross-functional teams. Minsilo serves as a single source of truth about strategy, allowing your individual teams to work together towards a common set of goals and KPIs.

There are also RevOps specific tools, such as Clari, that help leaders get more visibility into their revenue activities (instead of this information sitting siloed in sales, marketing, and support-specific tools).

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Ryan Leaf

Ryan is the founder of Minsilo. He is passionate about autonomous teams, the future of work, and organizational alignment. In his free time, Ryan enjoys traveling, exploring cities, and learning to fly.