The 5 Stages of Marketing and Sales Alignment

Do your sales and marketing departments battle each other? Or have they learned to play well together? Now is the time to find out.

"Consistently using your data to understand where you are doing well and where you have opportunities to improve performance is critical to establishing a well-coordinated sales and marketing ecosystem.”

—Larry Goldman, president of AmberLeaf, a customer intelligence consultancy

The battle between sales and marketing may go down in history as one of the most hard-fought conflicts. It’s easy to understand why. Today’s marketing departments face unprecedented pressure to generate pipeline. And sales teams are stuck sifting through thousands of leads, many of them unqualified. Achieving alignment between the two can create significant improvements in marketing return on investment (ROI), sales productivity, revenue generation, and business performance.

Just ask Larry Goldman, president of AmberLeaf, a Chicago-based customer intelligence consultancy. Goldman shares the five stages of marketing and sales alignment that express the shift from internal strife to bottom-line success:

  1. Us versus Them: You battle it out on a daily basis, pointing fingers over missed sales quotas and poor marketing ROI. The problem at this stage, says Goldman, is that “there’s no agreement or understanding of what the different roles are between sales and marketing.” Neither of you agree on what constitutes a high-quality lead or how to craft a compelling campaign. Goldman warns about the inevitable blame game over low conversion rates and bloated marketing budgets.
  2. Friendly role-playing: You still don’t see eye-to-eye on lead generation but at least you’re beginning to agree on roles and responsibilities. A sales team at a software company, for example, may not be interested in cold calling and may simply wish to receive late-stage leads. Marketing reps at a small grocery chain, however, may demand that sales reps help out with generating product demand. Whatever the expectation, Goldman says, the best way to make peace “is by looking at the sales funnel and determining marketing’s responsibilities and sales’ responsibilities. If you can come to agreement on that, things are going to start to get a lot better.”
  3. Cooperative efforts: With leads and roles now well-defined, you are finally cooperating. Now is the time to agree on key metrics to analyze on an ongoing basis. Percentage of sales-accepted leads, market-entry costs, sales cycle length, lead-to-customer conversion. These are all “enlightening indications of whether sales and marketing are doing their job,” says Goldman. Just remember, he adds, “It’s not just a numbers game. If we’re talking about sales and marketing alignment, quality is what it’s all about.”
  4. Collaboration mode: You’re so comfortable together, that you’ve actually started to collaborate. Cloud-based sales force automation and campaign management tools provide unprecedented transparency into the sales and marketing pipeline. Using this goldmine of data, your organization can work as a whole to boost marketing ROI and drive sales. “Marketing and sales can learn how to collaborate more effectively when they have integrated, timely, and trusted data in their marketing and sales automation systems,” says Goldman.
  5. Complete alignment: Congratulations. Not only are you collaborating, but you are also sharing the right data points. “Consistently using your data to understand where you are doing well and where you have opportunities to improve performance is critical to establishing a well-coordinated sales and marketing ecosystem,” says Goldman. From simple dashboards to predictive analytics, each group is receiving the exact level of detail necessary to drive top-line growth.


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