The collaboration of sales and marketing departments is becoming imperative for businesses of any size. A survey conducted by Demand Metric revealed that 80% of respondents with highly integrated sales and marketing systems achieved their revenue goals, compared to only 36% of those without integration. What’s more, highly-aligned organizations achieve an average revenue growth of 20%, whereas poorly-aligned organizations experience a 4% decline, according to the Aberdeen Group. Despite these statistics, a separate study done by Forrester reports that only 8% of companies have tight alignment between their sales and marketing departments.

Before attempting to align your sales and marketing departments, it’s important to recognize that they each uphold a different business philosophy. Marketing places a focus on the needs and wants of target consumers. Organizations with an especially strong marketing orientation may even detect the needs and wants of consumers before competitors are able to. Sales, on the other hand, pushes offerings out to consumers with aggressive tactics. Strategies are often price-focused. Nevertheless, both entities share a common goal of increasing revenue for their organization.

Some preliminary steps must be taken to begin aligning sales and marketing departments. First and foremost, both parties must have a willingness to work together. Next, there needs to be agreement upon organizational goals and expectations, writes Lisa Cannon in a post from the Marketing Action Blog. She urges for a conversation between both departments so that there is a mutual understanding of objectives. If there is resistance, try to emphasize the value that will be generated when both teams cooperate with each other. Educate both departments by having them listen in on each others’ meetings or observing workday tasks. You could also arrange a time for both departments to get together outside of work to help foster camaraderie amongst employees.

After taking these initial steps, Cannon advises that it is essential for there to be universal knowledge of who the target buyer is. This is critical for both sales and marketing functions, as the two parties should be targeting the same personas. Following this step, Cannon explains that a definition of what a qualified lead is needs to exist. Have both teams reach a decision about what qualifies a good lead so as to prevent dispute down the road. Both sides should also agree upon when a marketing lead is ready to be passed along to sales. Additionally, a discussion needs to happen about what the sales team will do with the leads they receive.

Next in the alignment process comes metrics. Results should be measured based on predetermined goals that are either cross-departmental or organizational. Tracking metrics creates accountability and ensures that both parties are meeting their commitments. Cannon recommends developing service-level agreements (SLAs), which are written and signed documents about performance metrics that sales and marketing teams will deliver. She also advocates for regular meetings between the two departments to review metrics and SLA compliance, as well as to provide feedback to each other. Types of feedback that should be administered include lead quality, content quality, and integration progress.

Another important factor to consider during the alignment process is how both departments will manage current and potential customers. Sales force automation is made up of the tools, techniques, and technologies that businesses use to make their sales operations as efficient as possible. This includes back-end systems that manage data to be used in the sales process, such as customer lists, lead details, product catalogs, configuration guides, pricing, and territory assignments. It is also comprised of mobile solutions that make this data available to field sales representatives so they can utilize it in their sales activities. Cannon writes that, ideally, organizations would leverage automation technology to segment customer groups and make tracking and reporting on metrics easier.

Although it may seem like a daunting task, sales and marketing alignment is crucial for any company looking to meet or exceed their revenue goals in today’s business world. In order for alignment to be successful, both departments must establish and stick to a common language for describing their activities. The two parties should also have visibility into the other department’s efforts, according to Tania Rohan, Marketing Communications Specialist at Bulldog Solutions. Keep these steps in mind when beginning the alignment process; doing so will help prevent headaches in the future.