sales and marketing team alignment

What if you only got 20% of your paycheck each month? What if your car only used 20% of the gas after you filled it up? What if your phone only used percent of its battery? Sounds absurd, right? Ok, here’s a serious question – what if sales only prospected into 20% of the leads marketing gave them?

According to research by Reachforce, sales ignores as much as 80% of the leads that marketing passes to them. If that’s not a problem, I don’t know what is.

If there was one golden rule to Account Based Everything, it would be this: Silos don’t work in an account based world. They lead to inefficiencies, broken systems and problems at every level. The pioneers of account based approaches have all come to the same conclusion: it works best in companies where all the revenue-generating disciplines are closely aligned.

The True Cost of Misaligment

Teams that work in isolation are the ones that miss opportunities, duplicate efforts, waste insights, drop the ball during handoffs, and inhibit every important metric, from deal velocity to close rates.

In contrast, teams that work together in coordinated Account Based Everything programs that target key accounts are dramatically and measurably more efficient and effective. According to a Marketo ebook, alignment sales and marketing results in 208% more value and 108% less friction in the sales process.

There has been a lot of talk about aligning sales and marketing, but it’s easier said than done. In my experience, I’ve heard a lot of executive leaders talk about getting their sales and marketing teams on the same page, but have rarely seen organizations pull it off with the skill and execution of a master. Some are all talk; others believe they’ve achieved alignment, but the numbers and actions speak for themselves.

4 Warning Signs You Have Misalignment

Here are some signs that you still need work on aligning your entire organization:

  1. Marketing talks about leads while sales talks about accounts. For the longest time, marketing has been focused on leads. The traditional demand generation model with a big focus on inbound required it. It was about casting a wide enough net and reeling in as many fish as possible. However, marketing hands deals off to an Account Executive, not a Lead Executive. And, at the end of the day, you close accounts, not leads. At Engagio, one of the most effective things we’ve done to gain alignment is banishing the Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) metric and implementing a Marketing Qualified Account (MQA) metric.
  2. Sales and marketing sit in opposite corners of the office. If management feels the need to separate the two departments because they can’t get along, you have a problem – even if there’s an SLA in place. If each team talks down about the other behind their backs, it’s time to bring in the marriage counselor. Here’s another thought – even if sales and marketing “get along” on separate sides of the office, if they can operate without having to talk to each other, you’re doing it wrong. It would be like if the wide receiver on your football team never talked to your running back. The run game is much different than the pass game, but if you want to be a real threat on offense, both need to be working together.
  3. Marketing doesn’t have revenue responsibility. Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing, articulates, “It’s time for marketers to embrace revenue responsibility. You can’t buy a beer with an MQL. What really matters to the organization is the closed deal. ” He goes on to say, “To change [marketers’] objectives, change their compensation. If the sales team at the end of the month and the end of the quarter is grinding it out to hit their number but the marketing team’s at the bar celebrating because they hit their retweet goal, then something’s misaligned.” Well said, Matt.
  4. Sales has no idea what marketing does all day, and marketing has no idea what sales does all day. When this happens, communication breaks down, processes break and trust disappears. In their book Aligned to Achieve, Tracy Eiler and Andrea Austin explain, “Alignment takes a good deal of understanding each other’s roles, challenges, and actions. Both sales and marketing rely on the other for high performance.”

There’s No “I” in Account Based

Marketing can’t execute an effective Account Based program without the help of sales, and sales can’t execute without marketing. We’re not looking for a hero. If Marketing embraces ABM without a deep alignment with Sales, you get isolated tactics like, ad retargeting and fancy mailers or field events that Sales doesn’t care about or participate in.

To really engage with a target account, the human touch is essential: someone needs to pick up the phone, send a personal email, or make a real connection on social channels. Only then can the ABM tactics make an impact.

Similarly, ABSD without support from Marketing leads to a bunch of junior reps generating their own accounts and writing their own emails– then doubling the volume to try to improve performance, usually at the cost of quality.

Finally, account based approaches in isolation results in Account Executives wasting their time prospecting without any support or leverage. That’s expensive and inefficient. What works is integration. That’s the heart of any account based strategy.

“ABM is a strategic business initiative. If it’s only sponsored by Marketing, it becomes a campaign.”

Jeff Sands ITSMA

7 Critical Elements to Aligning Your Sales and Marketing Teams

On the account based journey, complete alignment is the goal. But the important thing is to always make progress towards it. You can’t stop your revenue machine, hold everything and wait until you’ve achieved perfect alignment, so get going now.

Here are seven ways you can begin to get organizational alignment.

    1. Start with an alignment workshop – sit down together and discuss the account based strategy and why you need to change the way you work. Have your marketers look at your sales metrics and your sales team look at your marketing metrics. I mean really give them unfettered access to all the numbers and they’ll see for themselves the disconnect. If you, as a sales or marketing leader, are embarrassed to do this, I hope you can see the need for change.
    2. Come up with clear and consistent definitions – make sure you’re all aiming for the right deals. Give both sales and marketing a seat at the table when defining your target accounts. You should be able to show anyone on your team an account, and everybody separately comes to the same conclusion of whether or not it’s an MQA and exactly what stage they’re at in the pipeline.
    3. Orient your teams around a common objective – agree on key metrics and Service Level Agreements (SLAs). Agree on your objectives, activities, what metrics you’ll track, and what commitments you’ll make to each other. Give marketing revenue responsibility!
    4. Build a foundation – implement an account-centric data infrastructure, including things like lead-to-account matching. You must also know your pipeline metrics. For example, in order to get the pipeline you need, x% of that needs to come from marketing. You can even drill down with data models to determine what you need from each marketing program. Both sales and marketing teams can come to the table knowing exactly what is needed from a numbers perspective to hit their revenue goals.
    5. Meet regularly – review processes, metrics, and progress. At Engagio, our sales and marketing teams meet weekly. I’ve even seen teams do bi-weekly scrums/standups. Then, every quarter, executive leaders from each team should review progress and make small adjustments to things like the SLA or metrics.
    6. Use common data and technology platforms – There are many great tools and technologies in the Account Based Everything market map that will help your team implement and execute an account based program effective and efficiently.
    7. Avoid silos – if marketing and sales are using different tools to accomplish similar goals (e.g. sending emails to target accounts), you should worry. Integrated systems help encourage aligned departments.

If you’re still having a tough time imagining what it would be like for sales and marketing to work together, here’s one scenario. Marketing can help their sales counterparts understand an industry and gain insight for breaking into their target accounts. They can further help gain a better understanding of particular accounts and the key buyers at the table. Marketing can follow them on social channels, set up listening tools like or BuzzSumo, and help engage influencers at the right times. Marketing is also skilled at paying attention to trigger events that could cause a target account to actively seek a solution. Sales can then give marketing feedback on specific language and messaging that resonates with the different buyers to help them craft more effective content. If the silos are down, this information easily flows between the teams and deals close quicker and with more ease.

Think this whole alignment thing could become a reality at your company? Good! Next steps: read the Clear and Complete Guide to Account Based Sales Development for more alignment tactics. Then, send it to your counterpart in sales or marketing. Now you’ve got something awesome in common – you’re welcome.