There’s a lot to be said for the age-old rift between marketing and sales teams. We’ve all heard it. Marketing feels like sales doesn’t follow up with their leads. Sales thinks marketing isn’t sending good leads. Everyone is firing on all cylinders, but no one feels like they’re getting anywhere. If you find yourself in this place, don’t despair.

The Long Game

With the rapid adoption of marketing automation platforms, talk in the board room of traditional buying cycles and sales pipelines has been interchanged with discussions on lead nurturing, customer life cycle journeys and revenue models. If you thought these concepts were a fad, believe me, they aren’t going anywhere. As marketers, we’ve got a long game ahead of us. The driver of this demand is most certainly the expectation that marketing and sales teams alike need to be predicting revenue results—not just reporting on results retroactively like we’ve always done.


Rather than allowing this new challenge to make the chasm between marketing and sales larger, there’s a change afoot in the C-suite being led by a new generation of marketing technologists who are using their arsenal of automation tools to get the most efficient use of a quote-carrying sales person’s time. When your sales and marketing teams are aligned, the entire organization wins.

While your organization may have unique rules, these three business rules are a must have as the foundation for sales and marketing alignment.

Rule 1. Sales and marketing must agree on which demographic attributes and behavior activity need to be included on prospect records.

Deciding what’s important to include on your lead records can be very subjective, depending on which stakeholders you ask. I once worked with a sales director who didn’t consider a lead qualified unless it had 15 different demographic line items on the record including the company’s website. Even if the prospect came out of a highly qualified nurture program and showed BANT, he had the sales team reject any lead that didn’t have the URL populated. A qualified prospect or not, the website URL is where he drew the line, “because I said so.”

Don’t be the “because-I-said-so” guy. When using marketing automation, which has many data enrichment options available, really focus on what is absolutely important. Consult with your stakeholders to figure out:

  • What fields need to be on every form?
  • Which fields are required to pass along on the lead record?
  • What information do you need to immediately qualify? What can you enrich later?
  • Is it the job of your nurture programs to get qualification questions answered? Or are you relying on your sales development team to do the research?
  • What behavioral actions indicate real buying signals?

Your answers to these questions likely will, and should change over time, so it’s a good idea to revisit them regularly.

Rule 2. Sales must share the realities and insights they learn from buyers with marketing on a regular basis.

Filling in the knowledge gap between sales and marketing isn’t always an easy thing to do. While we as marketers tend to think of the bigger picture, it’s often the sales team that interface with prospects and clients on a daily basis to learn more about their needs.

Once a month or so, get marketing and sales stakeholders together and invite a few of your sales reps for feedback. You’ll want to use this time to review what is or isn’t working with the current lead scoring and lead qualification threshold. Some of the more productive insights can come from discussing:

  • What words do the best prospects use? The least qualified?
  • Are there any new, previously unidentified challenges or use cases are you seeing come up in the sales process?
  • What gets you excited to call someone back?
  • What topics or resources get prospects excited to call you back?
  • Who is buying these days?
  • What kinds of people seem likely to buy, but aren’t ready?
  • What roles or buyer personas do you definitely not want to speak to?
  • How do you feel about the quality of leads from our webinars? Website? Social channels?

A regular sharing of this knowledge is key to evaluating the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and their relationship to sales success.

Rule 3. Clean data is everyone’s responsibility.

Data is the blessing and the curse of marketing automation, and closing the loop on everything you do is necessary for analytics and tracking. When done right it can yield amazingly valuable insights using very specific and granular data points. When done wrong, you get none of the beautifully crafted dashboards and insight with all of the downsides of messy CRMs.

Closing the loop on many of the automation workflows and programs relies on everyone agreeing upon and adhering to best practices for keeping data clean.

Often times with automation, workflows are triggered from changing data values within fields. If the sales team is not updating those fields, or populating them with alternate or incorrect values, automation won’t be triggered. Making sure that each and every person on the sales team understands exactly what CRM fields are a “must update” is central to making your sales and marketing teams work together as one large demand center.

These new processes will likely require documentation, detailed demonstrations, and regular training updates to make sure that both marketing and sales are keeping the data clean so that all of your marketing technologies can capture and act on it accordingly.

Slow and Steady

Alignment between sales and marketing teams doesn’t happen overnight. Get yourself started by thinking through these items and creating a service agreement between sales and marketing to formalize these rules within your organization. Get this right and you’ll be well on the way toward creating a solid foundation to scale your marketing and sales programs in a way that benefits everyone.

For more guidance on aligning your sales and marketing teams around marketing automation and other best practices, download the 2015 B2B Marketing Advisory.