Aligning Sales and Marketing

A reader writes, "In December, I accepted a Director of Sales position with a new company. Right away, I noticed a lack of integration and teamwork between my department (sales) and marketing. I want to address this as quickly as possible without making enemies early in my tenure. Do you have any suggestions?"

To answer your excellent question, I turned to Carole Mahoney, principal of Unbound Growth. Unbound Growth was founded on the idea that all business activity needs to be centered on the buyer and their perception of their problem. Unbound Growth works with business owners and entrepreneurial salespeople to align their mindsets and behaviors to their ideal buyer.

Carole, when you work with a company what do you typically see in the relationships between sales and marketing?

"I've been on both sides of the aisle, from working in marketing departments to running my own marketing agency to being a salesperson myself and now coaching entrepreneurial salespeople. The blame game is still alive and well. When revenue is up, both sides want to take credit. When revenue is down, both sides want to point fingers and say "Your leads suck" or "You don't follow up."

"To some extent, both are right, but it can only be corrected when ego is set aside to address the problems. Conflict occurs when sales and marketing leaders allow the blame game to happen.  Everyone loses sight of what matters the most, and that is the success of the customer."

What are the trends nationwide?

A 2011 Aberdeen Group study reported that highly aligned organizations achieved an average of 32% year-over-year revenue growth. Unaligned organizations saw a 7% decrease in revenue. Interestingly, a study from Forrester noted that just 8% of companies say they have tight alignment between sales and marketing.

People sometimes reject the data, saying, "Of course we're aligned. How else could we function?"

I respond with, "If the report is true, you are in the minority."

To determine the level of alignment between sales and marketing, Carole recommends answering the questions below.

Customer Profiles

  • Have the two departments built the customer profiles together?
  • Do you both know and agree on:
    • who your best customers are
    • how they buy
    • which problems you help them solve
    • how the results impact them

Speaking the Same Language

  • What reports does each department run?
  • Are those reports shared?
  • Do you run them at the same frequency?
  • Do you respect each other's interpretation of the data?

Buyer Behavior

  • Is there agreement on the stages of the sales cycle?
  • Does each stage have a name?
  • Is there jargon either one of you doesn't understand?
  • What is the buyer behavior happening at each stage?


  • What constitutes a good lead?
  • What is the corresponding marketing and sales behavior with the lead?
  • Are you tying those behavior benchmarks to the same outcomes?
  • Do you agree on how many leads are needed and where they should be coming from?

Social Media

  • Do both departments engage on social media?
  • Is this left exclusively to marketing?
  • How many sales people have social media profiles?
  • Does the content
    • focus on the buyer?
    • offer educational insights?
    • explain the buyer's problem and options to solve it?
    • stay current with industry trends?

Getting Started

Carole recommends beginning the alignment process by suggesting weekly interdepartmental meetings. Team up and tackle the questions above a section at a time.

After answering the questions (and any others you think of), continue to meet weekly to share new information. Begin the process of writing a combined sales and marketing plan for the coming weeks and months.

With your team, schedule monthly roundtables. Share with the reps what you have learned and where you are with your marketing integration goals. Allow them to share their feedback and ask questions openly.