For sales and marketing teams, setting goals is not just a habitual exercise—it’s a foundation for how these teams will execute in the next month, quarter, and year. If you feel that your sales or marketing team is continually struggling to set goals that you can reach (or even exceed), it might be that the goals your sales and marketing teams have set aren’t aligned with each other.

Without coordination between sales and marketing, your teams are working in silos to achieve different things. Marketing might be focused on long-term goals centered on building brand awareness, growing market share, and nurturing leads. Meanwhile, sales has set short-term goals meant to reach quotas, develop the pipeline, and close opportunities quickly.

Setting goals that aren’t aligned creates disappointment and misunderstanding between the teams—which usually leads to failure to reach team goals and accomplish the company’s overarching goals. When 30 to 40 percent of business revenue is spent on sales and marketing, creating alignment means creating efficiency and optimization of that spend.

Think of the relationship between sales and marketing as the relationship between a baseball pitcher and catcher: They need each other to work together and achieve success—and without either of them, the team is incomplete.

Sales and Marketing Collectively Setting Goals

What does it look like when sales and marketing work together to set goals?

  • They seek to understand each other’s priorities so they can set goals that complement each other. Both teams win when marketing helps sales close deals by providing the materials that prospective buyers want. This concept of sales enablement is an emerging need: Only 37 percent of marketers and 16 percent of sales teams felt it was a top priority in 2018.
  • They have a mutual understanding and agreement of lead stages. Both teams should have a say in what qualifies someone as a marketing qualified lead (MQL) or a sales qualified lead. When marketing sets an MQL definition without talking to sales, it can create problems—without sales input, a lead considered marketing qualified may not actually be qualified enough for the sales team to move forward with the selling process. Marketing then feels that sales is ignoring their leads, and sales feels that marketing is not providing the right type of leads.
  • They both set the customer as the priority and work with each other to build goals with the customer in mind. Because the sales team talks with customers regularly, they are the best source of critical information about what content or materials qualified leads need. The marketing team can review the sales funnel to identify areas where prospects are stalling or falling out. A look into the funnel allows marketing to find areas that they can address with better messaging, content, pricing, or other tactics.
  • They develop a service level agreement (SLA) between the two teams. An SLA is a great way to ensure that marketing brings leads to sales in a timely manner, that sales has enough time to follow up, and that marketing knows the tactics to execute if a lead needs further nurturing. This agreement serves as a playbook that keeps both teams accountable to their responsibilities.

A Collective Discussion on Goal Setting

Once you have sales and marketing in agreement that their goals should work in tandem, what steps do you take to actually set those goals?

First, you’ll need to bring both sales and marketing into the same room to have a transparent conversation about goals and initiatives. It’s important in this meeting to give equal time to both teams so that the meeting is not perceived as a marketing-driven meeting that sales is simply invited to, or vice versa. The objective of this meeting is for sales and marketing to work together to develop aligned goals and not play the blame game.

Next, discuss these goals in a SMART context. The SMART goal framework is well-known: The goals are set with specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based criteria. Sometimes, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the upcoming initiatives and lose sight of the attainable and realistic characteristics of a goal. That’s why it’s crucial to have sales and marketing communicate and collaborate; each team can provide a check to the other on whether the goal is attainable.

Another useful framework to set goals is FAST, which was recently researched by the MIT Sloan Management Review and has been used by companies such as Google, Intel, and Anheuser-Busch InBev. Goals that are FAST are frequently discussed, ambitious, specific, and transparent. In the context of goal setting for sales and marketing, discussion and transparency are key. Consistent discussion helps create a feedback loop for what is working and what is not. Being transparent about your goals helps coordinate across teams to reduce redundancies and inefficiencies.

Setting Sales and Marketing Goals

Finally, it’s time to set those goals. What factors should your team—whether you’re in marketing or sales—consider when determining which goals to set?

  • What do you want your team to accomplish this year, and why is it important?
  • What initiatives can your team work on to accomplish these goals?
  • What is stopping you from completing these initiatives? Will you need additional resources, information, data, analytics, or something else?
  • How can the other team help you achieve this goal?

Let’s say a marketing goal is to increase the conversion rate from lead to marketing qualified leads by 5 percent in the next quarter. This goal is important for the team because it will provide opportunities for revenue growth while helping build the company’s long-term brand awareness.

Initiatives to support this goal could include conversion rate optimization of the website, building a paid search strategy, or developing new bottom-of-the-funnel content.

Where are the potential roadblocks to executing these initiatives? Maybe the marketing team isn’t sure how visitors are referred to the website, maybe they need help validating industry trends, or maybe they don’t have visibility into where prospects are disengaging with sales at the bottom of the funnel.

To help marketing achieve its goal—which in turn will help the sales team gain more leads—sales can provide insight into the conversations they have with customers. The reps can share what customers are talking about, what they are worried about, what kinds of resources they’re already asking for, and how they found out about the company. The same process can then occur for sales goals; the sales leaders decide the priorities they will work on and where marketing can help support those goals.

With sales and marketing alignment, your company not only increases its chances to turn leads into business, but also creates a cooperation among the teams that allows each team’s efforts to flourish together.