Your Year in Review: 3 Questions to Assess Sales & Marketing Alignment

Learn which questions you should ask to solve any lingering sales and marketing alignment problems.

December 21, 2016

  • sales-marketing-alignment

In an evolving sales environment where more purchasing decisions are made entirely online, the relationship between sales, marketing, and the buyer continues to shift—and slow-adopting companies continue to fall behind.

As the year comes to a close, take a moment to carefully consider the alignment of your sales and marketing teams. Are they working together in perfect harmony? Or are they creating inefficiencies by stepping on one another’s toes? For most businesses, the answer lies somewhere in between.

Fortunately, by taking a moment to answer these three critical questions, you can ensure that your teams operate ever more seamlessly in 2017 and beyond.

1. Are Your Teams Collaborating to Meet Shared Goals?

Though their roles are different, sales and marketing teams share the same ultimate goal: to grow revenue by serving customers. If this is true, then why is it so common for the two teams to work at cross-purposes? The answer lies in the difference between larger strategic goals and smaller tactical objectives.

“The biggest [alignment] challenges tend to be that both groups are extremely busy and can get caught up in their own short-term goals,” shares Debbie Farese, Director of Marketing at Hubspot, in LinkedIn’s Sales and Marketing eBook. “Marketing’s most direct goals tend to be generating leads, while for sales, it is to close customers.”

The problem with short-term goals is that the bigger picture gets lost in the shuffle. For example, marketers may direct all of their energy toward garnering a large quantity of leads, then deliver leads that don’t match sales reps’ needs.

To avoid this, sales and marketing must meet together to establish common goals, then maintain consistent communication to ensure that those goals are being met.

Leaders should consider developing a sales-marketing service level agreement (SLA) that codifies the relationship, creating accountability through agreed-upon benchmarks and measurable performance metrics. That way, there won’t be any question which goals matter—and whether both sides are holding up their end of the bargain.

2. Have You Identified Your Target Buyer?

Before sales and marketing teams can work meaningfully toward their shared goals, they must agree on a clear, mutual understanding of their target audience. Even if communication is perfect and both teams are chipping away at the same goals, that energy can be misdirected if they don’t aim at identical audience segments.

Sales and marketing may disagree about their target buyers for a variety of reasons. Perhaps marketing is working from an outdated concept of the company’s audience that hasn’t evolved with recent changes and trends. Or marketing may rely on broad buyer profiles that don’t provide enough context to zero in on specific segments.

It may sound like these are problems only for marketing—but the onus is also on sales to communicate effectively, especially when it comes to transferring qualified leads.

Communication is the most important element here, but proper research is important, too. One way for both teams to learn more about their buyers, including their motivations and buying patterns, is to meet them where they already hang out.

In today’s digital world, this might be a blog, a forum, or a relevant industry group on LinkedIn. To foster alignment, marketers and sales reps should work together to harness these channels, not only to find their buyers, but also to better understand their needs and desires.

3. How Consistent Is Your Messaging?

Most marketers and sales reps already know that consistent messaging is critical. In fact, it’s an absolute necessity when dealing with leads and prospects. However, though sales may be consistent in its own messaging, for example, their communication often contrasts with the messages coming from marketing. That’s a problem for the buyer, who will end up confused or put off by that dissonance.

As with identifying audience segments, this again often a problem of communication. In fact, targeting and messaging are inextricably linked: only after you’ve identified the right buyer can you reach them with specific, tailored communications that land at the right place and time. If sales and marketing work together to find the ideal buyer first, their messaging will be both more effective and more consistent across channels.

If your sales and marketing teams are already working toward mutual goals, with a shared target buyer and consistent messaging, then you’re in great shape. If not, don’t worry—there’s no better time to improve your sales and marketing alignment, and by doing so now, you’ll ensure that your teams remain ahead of the curve in the long term.

To learn more about achieving true alignment across your teams, download our free eBook Solving Sales and Marketing Alignment.