24 November 2023

Improving The Relationship Between Sales & Marketing

Shannon Mackey
Written by Shannon Mackey

Shannon is a marketer with experience in global agency and brand environments as well as medium sized SA businesses, bringing a diverse set of marketing skills to any organisation. With a family legacy of hospitality she has a natural flair for customer-centric strategies to engage with end users in all environments. Her experience coupled with strategic thinking and creative implementation integrates her marketing services and ensures that clients are guaranteed maximum return on investment. Shannon’s background includes senior marketing and communications roles at Reebok SA, TBWA Hunt Lascaris and The Marketing Centre (both SA and UK).

Businesses with properly aligned sales and marketing teams sell far more often at a higher profit margin.

When our part-time Marketing Directors arrive in a new business, they’re often asked for marketing strategies to increase sales. As they look into improving the sales process, though, they actually find that the relationship between sales and marketing isn’t as it should be.

To improve your sales process you need to understand the difference between sales and marketing. More importantly, you need to understand the difference in mindset between sales and marketing. Good salespeople are tacticians, closers, short-term thinkers who are focused on concrete targets, but great ones also build relationships for the longer term. Good marketers are strategists, builders, long-term thinkers who are working toward goals that aren’t directly about sales, but great ones can convert that into short term actions. 

There is a tendency for sales to focus on the short term and marketing on the long, and that’s the real nub of the problem. Your salespeople can see the same situation differently from your marketers, and they can both be right as far as their own responsibilities are concerned. As the business leader, you need to step in, establish a common understanding, and ensure they are both working towards the short and long term goals of your business.

Common reasons for misalignment between sales and marketing

While the fundamental reason for misalignment boils down to “sales and marketing don’t understand each other,” it helps to know the specific points where your teams are failing to align.

  • Mismatched expectations - best illustrated by the common lack of agreement on what constitutes a lead. To poor marketers a lead is anyone who they can get a phone number for, to poor sales people it's only a lead if the cheque book is already open. This is why leadership has to step in, documenting processes and expectations that are agreed on by the whole business and demand that everyone pull their socks up.
  • Poor communication. If your sales and marketing teams sit six feet apart in the office, there should not be a 24-hour wait for information to turn around. If the people involved in sales and marketing don’t tell each other what’s happening, there’s no chance you’ll get their roles aligned.
  • Poor reporting. What are you doing with the leads you have? Are marketing handing over leads who are properly warmed up - are sales sending quotes, making follow-up calls, and keeping those leads on the boil? The teams need to talk to each other, reporting on their specific activities so each knows what the other needs. A good CRM, properly used, is essential for this.
  • What is a lead? This isn’t just semantics: it’s a vital point of process. Your business needs clear handover points as a lead progress from actively engaged (usually marketing’s responsibility), initial qualification (determining if they can and will buy, which could be a job for sales or marketing) and opportunity development (usually sales).
  • Understanding of roles and responsibilities. Sales and marketing have overlapping responsibilities - their relationship is so close that it’s often tempting to put one person in charge of both. But on a practical level, someone needs to build relationships with customers, and the specific activities - marketing collateral and sales calls or consultations - need specific oversight.

How to overcome sales and marketing misalignment issues

Every business is unique, therefore every situation is unique, and a proven marketing director will treat each case differently. However, just as there are common reasons for sales and marketing misalignment, there are also go-to tactics for resolving those reasons, such as:

  • Getting everyone together. Often nothing works better than a workshop to align two teams. Get everyone in the same room, working together to solve a shared issue. You’ll end up with some team bonding - and an outcome that both are bought into.
  • Getting everyone to define what a lead is for them. Refresh sales and marketing on the differences between their jobs, their metrics, and their roles in the business as a whole. There’s a simple way to define leads and lead generation - it starts with you creating your own detailed definition, so you can lead a discussion between your teams.
  • Checking your tools and responsibilities. Your prospects are on a journey from enquiry to lead to customer. Marketing are responsible for the beginning, sales for the end. To understand how and when to hand customers over, though, you need to know exactly what your business is doing to move those prospects along. Time taken to map this journey out can lend direction to misaligned marketing and sales teams.

There are three questions you need to answer in order to build a positive relationship between sales and marketing.

  1. What’s the difference between sales and marketing?
  2. How can marketing help sales?
  3. And how can sales and marketing work together? 

The answers amount to an agreed common goal, and an agreed process with clear responsibilities and definitions. Sales and marketing alignment will have a huge impact on business success; don’t underestimate the importance of bringing people together.

Sales and marketing alignment avoids wasting time and money on marketing that doesn’t need to be done. Want more advice on improving lead generation and growth? We can do that.


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