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Marketing and sales teams have a decades-old arrangement: marketing attracts interested prospects, and sales closes them. 

But this arrangement has been crumbling for years. The average B2B buyer now spends 70% of the buyer journey doing their own research before ever talking to vendors (6Sense, 2024).

What used to be “the marketing funnel” and “the sales funnel” have merged into a single buyer journey.

But marketers and sales reps still aren’t working together seamlessly. Fixing this issue is a big deal: a 2022 Gartner survey of hundreds of sales leaders found that sales and marketing alignment was their single highest priority. (It’s important enough that marketing and sales thought leaders coined a new term—”smarketing”—that emphasizes the need to combine efforts).

Aligning your sales and marketing teams will triple your chances of beating your customer acquisition targets. In this article, I present a game plan for coordinating your sales and marketing teams once and for all.

Why it's Important for Sales and Marketing to Work Together

When sales and marketing teams aren’t well-aligned, companies pay a high price: they struggle with lead generation and experience a 20% revenue decline compared to their more aligned peers.

But the benefits don’t stop with revenue. When sales and marketing are aligned, you can also expect to create a better customer experience, boost conversion rates, and improve productivity.

Deliver a Better Customer Experience

Much of what used to be considered the sales process is now largely done solo. 

Prospects browse marketing collateral at their own pace; once they gain conviction that your solution may, in fact, be right for them, they eventually reach out to schedule a chat. The division between what constitutes a “marketing” or “sales” activity has been blurred.

comparison then and now
Image source: SuperOffice

Today’s B2B buyers want personalized information relevant to their current buying stage. If you can pull this off, it’s a big win for customers. Instead of disjointed messaging, they’ll get precisely what they need at the time that they need it. This is how you build customer trust and loyalty—before the sale even happens.

Drive Better Conversion Rates with ABM

If your organization has an account-based marketing (ABM) program, improved sales and marketing alignment should come naturally: 67% of companies say their ABM tactics have led to better sales and marketing alignment.

Customers like ABM campaigns because they’re highly personalized. As a result, account-based marketing efforts tend to convert better: ABM can increase pipeline conversion rates by 14%

ABM also leads to a 25% rise in the marketing-qualified lead (MQL) to sales-accepted lead (SAL) conversion rate. 76% of marketers say ABM-based approaches deliver a better ROI than other marketing initiatives.

Improve Revenue Team Productivity

When marketing and sales teams work in silos—often chasing different goals—inefficiencies and duplicate efforts abound. 

This poor alignment has a cost: as much as 50% of sales time is wasted on prospecting that goes nowhere.

Companies with high marketing and sales alignment are 67% more effective at closing deals and have customer retention rates that are 36% higher than non-aligned companies. As a result, companies with aligned sales and marketing departments grow 19% faster and are 15% more profitable than poorly aligned ones.

How can Sales and Marketing Work Together?

It’s easy enough to say that sales and marketing should work together more. But what are the best ways to actually do that? Here are five strategies to focus on.

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Produce Relevant Sales Enablement Content

Imagine you’re a sales rep. You want to educate one of your accounts with a case study that’s customized for their industry. But your marketing colleagues have only focused on creating top-of-funnel content, and none of it is customized by industry anyway.

What do you do? If you’re like many sales reps, you work to pull together the resources you need on your own. But this has a cost: according to Seismic, a sales enablement platform, sales reps spend 10 hours weekly identifying content to send to their buyers without the right materials.

Fortunately, there’s a way for your salespeople to use more of their time actually engaging with prospects. By developing a robust catalog of sales enablement content (like case studies, articles, whitepapers, and battle cards, your sales reps can spend less time wondering what to send to buyers and more time developing relationships. 

The more nuanced you can get with your sales collateral—and the more tailored to the audience and stage in the buying process—the better.

Align on Lead Scoring and Prioritization

Without a comprehensive system to score leads, your marketing and sales teams risk engaging in redundant efforts. 

Prioritizing those that are most ready to buy is crucial, too, since only 5% of B2B accounts are actively looking to buy at any given time.

Start by getting your marketing and sales departments operating within the same lead management system if they aren’t already. 

Then, make sure they agree on what makes a strong lead and which leads to prioritize. Use your lead scoring system, in conjunction with intent data, to identify the most ready-to-buy accounts and ensure they get proper attention.

Align on Audience Segmentation and Account Targeting

If you want to deliver personalized ABM campaigns and keep them relevant to your audience, make sure your sales and marketing teams agree on your ideal customer profile (ICP), audience segmentation, and target account lists.

I asked Peter Mollins, the CMO of SetSail, a RevOps tool, for his advice on aligning marketing and sales at this stage. 

Here’s what he told me: “Every day, SDRs and AEs are having frank and challenging conversations with buyers. Each conversation is a goldmine of insight for marketing that's almost always ignored. Imagine as a marketer if you could know: which persona is your true buyer? Which messages resonate best with different industries? What are the hidden attributes of your ideal customer profile? When marketers can aggregate these insights from sellers, they can adapt their targets, messaging, campaigns, and more.”

You can get these insights hands-on (by interviewing your sales team) or automated (by using your CRM to mine call transcripts and emails). However you do it, as Peter says, you’ll end up with a “mutually beneficial cycle” that ultimately gives you better prospects.

Align on Customer Messaging

Personalizing your messaging is a clear win for both your customers and your business: 71% of customers now expect personalized experiences, and by implementing personalization, you’ll make 80% of prospects more likely to buy.

But aligning that messaging across your marketing and sales teams can prove challenging. Here’s how to go about it:

  1. Build consensus: First, make sure your marketing and sales teams reach a consensus on what messaging should be delivered at each stage in the buying process.
  2. Choose your level of personalization: Depending on the size of your campaign, remember that you can choose to customize at the customer level, role level, or industry level. “Batching” your messaging into those broader categories can meet personalization needs while reducing the amount of marketing and sales collateral you need to create.
  3. Create your collateral: Design multiple marketing and sales collateral versions, each customized for different target accounts. You’ll want to tailor your content to whatever your buyers are most responsive to. For example, Ironpaper, a B2B marketing agency, found that personalized white papers, ebooks, infographics, and reports were the most effective content mediums across their various ABM campaigns.

Content creation for personalized campaigns takes up-front work. 

But once you make your collateral available as shared resources in your sales enablement platform, your marketing and sales teams will never have to wonder what to send next—and your prospects will build trust faster by receiving messaging that’s tailored to their precise challenges.

Go After the Best-Fit Buyers Together

Here’s a story that might sound familiar:

Your marketing team settles on an ICP, builds a target account list, and starts to generate leads through their target account marketing approach. But after checking in with the sales team, your marketing team realizes only half of those leads are actually being worked on by sales.

What happened? Since sales weren’t involved in constructing the ICP, they weren’t able to weigh in and clarify which buyer personas were unlikely to help them reach revenue goals. 

The result is wasted effort on leads that sales didn’t view as high-potential.

To avoid this kind of situation, marketing and sales should define the ICP together and commit to working on the leads generated for the duration of the campaign—no changing course mid-campaign! 

If you’re running an account-based marketing strategy, your marketing initiatives (like targeted social media ads) are laying a foundation that sales will later reinforce in LinkedIn messages, outbound emails, and product demos.

3 Causes of Conflict Between Sales and Marketing Teams

Sales and marketing leaders agree that they should be aligned. But when it comes to actual alignment, companies are falling short: only 44% think their teams are highly aligned. Here are the primary causes of conflict that prevent alignment.

Different Approaches to Work

Sales teams tend to focus on closing deals and short-term, revenue-focused goals. While marketers care about short term success too, they also focus on initiatives like brand-building that boost conversion rates (and pricing power) over time—but may take years to pay off.

These differing perspectives can lead to misunderstandings. Kevin Smith, a consultant at The Story Architect, has worked as a fractional CMO for multiple tech companies. I reached out to Kevin for his take on resolving the friction between the sales and marketing approaches:

  • The Sales Approach: “Sales always thinks that marketing is ineffective at bringing high quality leads, while not understanding that they have a role to play in helping nurture the buyer along their journey. Sales needs to realize that if they wait for customers who are ready to buy, they will miss a lot of opportunities.”
  • The Marketing Approach: “Marketing can nurture customers who are at earlier stages of the buying process, but what's really needed is trust building, and that trust is personal. The customer needs to trust not only the brand but also "Jane" from sales. We buy from people we know and trust.”

So, what to do? Build systems that encourage relationship-building earlier in the customer journey to start building trust—and make sure your marketing team sets up your sales team with the positioning and resources they need to succeed.

Lack of Communication Between the Teams

“I think you’d be shocked,” says Nico Dato, the CMO of Entrata, a property management SaaS, of the lack of alignment between marketing and sales. 

In a 2023 interview with Dock, he said, “I'll go talk to the head of marketing and sales. I'm like, ‘Hey, do you work with each other?’ They're like, ‘No, not really. They provide us MQLs.’ I'm like, well, that's part of the issue.”

The divide between marketing and sales surfaces in a number of different ways: a Freshworks survey found that 37% of sales and marketing teams use different systems to track prospects and customers, and 34% experience serious friction during routine processes like handing off leads from marketing to sales.

What to do about this communication gap? Rasa Urbonaitė, the CMO of Breezit, an event-planning community, told me that marketing and sales managers should “establish very clear common objectives at the beginning of your cooperation. If you don't communicate a lot naturally, you should schedule meetings of your teams ahead of time, during different stages of your project…. It is also not a bad idea to have a platform that allows you to see the progress of each team. I'm thinking tools like Trello or Monday.”

Misalignment of Goals

When marketing and sales butt heads—as they tend to do—it’s often due to KPI-driven incentives rather than inherent differences in culture or leadership.

  • Marketing teams often worry about the number of leads, cost per lead, conversion rates, traffic, impressions, and engagement.
  • Sales teams tend to look at KPIs like total sales, sales qualified opportunities, revenue by lead source, and win/loss ratio.

The good news is that aligning your revenue team’s metrics can naturally resolve conflicts.

Sam Tarantino, the former CEO of Grooveshark, a music streaming service, told me: “Marketing can be perceived as being too abstract or disconnected from the immediate revenue generation process, which sometimes leads to tensions. To bridge this gap, we implemented a system at Grooveshark where sales and marketing shared goals and rewards, aligning them towards common objectives.”

By aligning on common goals like overall revenue, MQL to SQL conversion rate, and customer acquisition costs, you can reduce tensions and get your team moving in the same direction.

3 Tips for Getting Your Sales and Marketing Teams Collaborating Seamlessly

Sales and marketing teams often don’t have enough regular touchpoints. To fix that, you don’t necessarily need a radical change: from encouraging marketers to join sales calls to setting up joint meetings, there are plenty of easy-to-implement strategies to start with.

Encourage Marketers to Join Sales Calls

One easy way to get the ball rolling is to have your marketers join sales calls. Here’s why: for marketers, potential customers’ needs are usually summarized and abstracted into ICPs. 

Hearing a real person’s challenges (and objections) can be clarifying and may inspire marketing campaigns that more directly address your audience’s pain points.

Encourage Regular Joint Sales and Marketing Meetings

Sam Tarantino, the former CEO of Grooveshark, told me about his experience running joint sales and marketing meetings: “These meetings were platforms where sales could voice the challenges they face in the field and marketing could solicit feedback on content and campaign effectiveness. One standout campaign was directly birthed from these meetings, where insights from the sales team led to a highly targeted content strategy, resulting in a 35% increase in engagement on our targeted platforms.”

Pulling marketing and sales together in a structured setting can provide a platform for each team to understand the other’s needs.

By including space for open communication, tensions can be reduced so they don’t linger unspoken (and unresolved).

Eliminate Silos

Sometimes, setting up joint calls and regular meetings isn’t enough. David Ciccarelli, the CEO of Lake, a vacation rental platform, told me that blended sales/marketing teams have been a powerful approach to reducing silos:

“Create teams of blended sales and marketing employees and allow them to rotate tasks and jobs so each party can experience what it’s like on the other “side.” At the leadership level, you need to encourage two-way feedback from sales to marketing teams and make no room for the blame game. It’s about constructive criticism and allowing teams to work through those differences to find new solutions.” (For more on this topic, check out our article on high-performing B2B team structure).

Dock CEO Alex Kracov identifies another all-too-frequently siloed area: collaboration tools. “A reliance on multiple internal tools, differing data sources, and “tribal knowledge” creates inefficient processes that frustrate customers and leave leadership in the dark.”

3 Tools to Help Your Sales and Marketing Teams Collaborate Effortlessly

Aligning your sales and marketing teams is, at its core, an issue of incentives and culture. But you’ll also want to revisit the tools you use to make sure it’s as easy as possible for your revenue team members to collaborate—no matter what department they’re in.

1. Sales Enablement Platforms

Your sales enablement platform is a central repository for all the marketing and sales collateral you’ll deploy during each sales cycle stage. 

For example, Seismic, a sales enablement platform, offers a central hub for sales onboarding, training, coaching, and content. It also ensures the latest content that marketing departments create is actually used by sales because it’s easy to access and deploy the most up-to-date messaging.

2. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems

You’re almost certainly already using a CRM tool. But are your sales and marketing teams using the same tool to track prospects as they move through your pipeline? 

Doing so is crucial for data sharing, lead management, and comprehensive reporting. For example, tools like HubSpot offer a central place for marketing, sales, and customer service teams to interact with (and view updates on) the same accounts.

3. Project Management Software

71% of marketers want more visibility into lower-funnel activities—everything that happens after they pass their leads to sales. Meanwhile, 39% of sales reps say they want most from marketing teams more visibility into upper-funnel activities.

One solution? Use project management software to give each team insight into the other’s activities. 

Tools like Monday, Teamwork, and Asana help sales reps understand what the marketing team is up to—and vice versa—without overloading each team with additional meetings.

Your Path to a Unified Revenue Team

Yes, sales and marketing teams often experience tensions. But those tensions are often due to an outdated organization driven by siloed teams and misaligned metrics. 

Expectations are different now. Marketing’s job is no longer done after handing off leads to sales, and the sales team can’t expect to succeed without getting involved earlier in the customer journey.

Your path to unifying your revenue team is flexible: you can invest in new tools, encourage marketing members to join sales calls, or even create entirely new blended teams. Whichever approach you take, your end goal should be the same: a cultural shift that breaks down silos, promotes seamless teamwork, boosts productivity, and results in higher revenue.

For more on marketing and sales strategy, check out our articles on ABX strategy and the best ABM podcasts. And make sure to subscribe to The CMO Newsletter—we’ll keep you updated with insights tailored especially for marketing leaders.

Ryan Kane
By Ryan Kane

Ryan Kane has been researching, writing about and improving customer experiences for much of his career and in a wide variety of B2B and B2C contexts, from tech startups and agencies to a manufacturer for Fortune 500 clients.