12 Little Things Marketers Can Do To Better Align with Sales

I get it – sales and marketing alignment is difficult. But it doesn’t have to be so difficult. I read this downright dreary depiction of sales and marketing alignment from Billy Cina and it got me thinking – there’s a lot more that marketers can do

And I can say that because I’m a marketer.

Like many things in life it’s the little things that can add up to making a huge difference. Gavin Rossdale said it’s the little things that kill, and on the flipside little things can also drive growth.

With that in mind these are 12 little (or maybe not so little) things marketers can do to better align with sales:

#1 - Talk to reps and share insights back with sales management

This is a great place to start for multiple reasons. Sales reps can give marketing good feedback on conversations they are having with customers, as well as insight on what’s working well and not working well related to specific types of leads or programs. 

In addition, speaking to reps put the marketer into a strong position to add value back to sales management. Aggregating rep feedback and then going back to sales management with “this is what we heard from your team, this is how we are incorporating it into our plans” helps ease some of the management load from sales management which they will appreciate and help build the relationship.


#2 - Be humble about leads/MQLs growth

Leads and MQLs are a means to an end, and it’s vital that marketers maintain that mindsight. Lead/MQL growth can be ‘celebrated’, sure, but it should be with the right perspective of keeping the end goal in mind. The end goal of pipeline growth (and the sales and marketing relationship) is best served with an attitude of “we’re happy there's lead growth, but we really want to see it translate to pipeline” as that serves to both keep the sales team focused on turning those leads into opportunities and avoids the misalignment that comes from marketing being seen as patting itself on the back for driving up “lower quality” leads. 


#3 - Align reporting to opportunities and pipeline

To this end, reporting KPIs should align to opportunities and pipeline. As marketing is looking at the effectiveness of marketing programs and investments, outcomes should be tied to not only leads but also opportunities and pipeline. Applying win rate assumptions makes it very easy to look at this from an ROI perspective and keeps Marketing, Sales and Finance all aligned around the metrics.  


#4 - Be the first to say leads need to increase

As a demand gen marketer, if my closed loop reporting indicates leads need to be higher, I always want to be the one who said “leads need to go up.” In fact, for a growth business leads usually need to be increasing. As a demand gen marketer I like to embrace that reality vs. push back on it.  


#5 - Keep your pulse on lead trends and root causes

To build confidence with sales around the path to growth, you want to show you have your pulse on the underlying levers and what you’re doing to drive leads/pipeline, that there is a growth strategy behind your actions. E.g.

  • XXX web page has been our top converter to pipeline, so we are building out more content across this theme
  • YYY content asset has been our top converter to pipeline, so we are putting more promotional $ behind it
  • We are seeing a strong mid-funnel conversion rate around webinars on ZZZ, so we are making that a more prominent focus of our lead nurturing campaign


#6 - Be completely open about challenges marketing is facing

Along similar lines, if there are challenges marketing is facing be very open about them. As long as you clear on what the issues are, what the ramifications are and how you are addressing them, it’s hard for sales to “beat you up” over those challenges. Or they may still beat you up but the issues are open acknowledged, and maybe even leads to cross functional discussions around if additional investment can help to accelerate improvements/growth.


#7 - Treat converting leads to opportunities (and the conversion rates) are a team game

The challenge with pipeline growth is that it’s a team game – sales and marketing need to work together to ensure the right leads are generated with the right follow up programs and turned into opportunities.  Don’t take an attitude that marketing’s job is to generate leads and that’s it, as that will not only lead to poor behavior but that will lead to misalignment.

Partner with sales to address the issue and build alignment around the criteria of quality leads (which can factor into lead scoring and prioritization), provide the right enablement tools and automation to sales for lead follow up, and work together to go after opportunity & pipeline objectives.


#8 - Leverage CRM data for insights around lead quality

Marketers will often talk about the need to get feedback on sales from leads. But I find many marketers don’t leverage the data that is available to them in their CRM systems such as lead disqualification reasons provided by reps. By digging into that data and netting out key insights, that will not only help to improve marketing effectiveness but it will reinforce to the sales team that the data they enter into CRM is valued.


#9 – Build demographic data into lead scoring

Sales cares about getting to the right people in their target profile – whether that means job titles/roles, industry, size of company, etc. So as marketing embrace this and build these criteria into your lead scoring models, so that these things that sales cares about factors into the leads they receive.


#10 - Execute on short-term programs to support sales

Marketers need to be strategic and drive the right long term KPIs that ensure business growth. But this can absolutely be balanced with attention on short-term programs to support sales objectives. This falls in the category of “a little bit can go along way”. I’d want to be all over building a short-term email program to the customer base to support sales objectives. If sales is going to do it anyway, I’d rather partner with them to build and execute it so that it can align with the overall program plans and you marketing get acknowledgment for supporting the short-term sales objectives.


#11 – Focus on the “real enemy”

Rather than beat each other up, sales and marketing can build alignment by staying focused on the *competition*. Look at what competitors are doing in both their marketing and sales programs, and build alignment around this common enemy. This helps keep you at the same side of the table and can lead to performance improvements in both marketing and sales effectiveness.  


#12 - Be there on the last day of the month/quarter

Sometimes it’s just about letting sales know that you care - by being there last day of the quarter/month and rooting them on to hit the monthly target. Plus that’s part of the fun.


I want to hear from both sales and marketing. How did I do with this list? Anything missing? Am I dreaming to think that sales and marketing really can get along (and work together to drive growth)? Or do you agree with Billy Cina's take that misalignment is inevitable and irrevocable?