5 Mistakes That Disrupt Sales and Marketing Alignment, and How to Overcome Them

By Carrie Dagenhard on February 27, 2020

Cats and dogs. Oil and water. Family gatherings and politics. Some things just don't pair well, no matter how hard you try. And for many organizations, unfortunately, sales and marketing represent another impossible duo.

Time and time again, brands have struggled to unite these departments. Even when you think you've achieved sales and marketing alignment by rallying teams around a common goal like growing revenue, sometimes it only takes one underperforming quarter for the finger-pointing and bad-mouthing to return.

"It's not our fault. Marketing never sends us any good leads."

"It's not our fault. Sales isn't working hard enough to convert new prospects."

Sound familiar? This back-and-forth is exhausting for everyone involved -- but it doesn't have to be this way. Here are five common mistakes that drive a wedge between these critical departments, and how you can overcome them.

1. Failing to Align on Lead Scoring or Lead Valuing

Lead scoring formulas are often designed either through the lens of marketing or sales, but rarely both together. This leads to fragmented data and ineffective handoffs. And if the sales team doesn't understand the logic behind marketing's lead valuing method, or if the leads are consistently low-quality, they may not trust the scores. Meanwhile, the marketing team is none the wiser because there's no feedback loop.

In a report by HubSpot, only 28 percent of salespeople said marketing was their best source of leads. Surprised? Probably not. Unless both teams work together to create lead valuing that makes sense for the organization as a whole, it's a futile effort.

How to fix it: Start by identifying what the current process looks like. Then, bring leaders from both teams together to hash out a plan that makes sense for everyone. This allows sales to explain why certain events may not be indicative of a lead's tendency to buy. It's a good idea to review lead scoring at least once a year to ensure you're still positioned for success.

2. Failing to Outline Responsibilities or Codify the Handoff Process

An unclear lead handoff process doesn't just lead to frustration and animosity between teams, it can also waste time, money, and jeopardize valuable business opportunities. When you haven't defined what makes a marketing qualified lead versus what makes a sales qualified lead, and what occurs when a lead is ready to be passed off to sales, then it's likely that someone on your team is going to drop the ball.

How to fix it: Develop internal service level agreements (SLAs) to outline the various responsibilities of each team and how they'll be held accountable. For example, when marketing sends a lead to sales, it must meet certain defined criteria. If sales rejects a lead, they must provide feedback as to why. Following an SLA will help further improve both the lead scoring and handoff process.

3. Failing to Integrate Tech

We now have access to more performance data than ever before, but much of this information still sits within disparate systems. Marketing has its tools, and sales has its own. And historically, teams have rarely shared the data they're using to inform cross-departmental decisions. However, when technology isn't at the epicenter of operations, sales and marketing won't have a clear view of the full buyers' journey and collaboration between the teams becomes nearly impossible.

How to fix it: Closed-loop reporting is essential for sales and marketing alignment. That's why it's critical for your organization to invest in integrable tools. For example, if you're using different platforms for your CRM and marketing automation technology, make sure they're easily linked. Plus, by uniting your data, both teams will have more insight into the full process and a clearer idea of which efforts drive the most ROI.

Achieve better sales and marketing alignment by fostering conversations between departments.
Image attribution: Helena Lopes on Pexels.

4. Failing to Involve Sales in Marketing Efforts

When a marketing team only relies on their own data, it's easy to make inaccurate assumptions about what's working, what's not, and whether or not messaging is on target. If sales teams keep information to themselves, such as which channels or campaigns bring in the best leads or new pain points and challenges prospects are facing, it puts marketing at a disadvantage.

How to fix it: It's crucial for marketing teams to include sales in their strategizing efforts. That means them sitting down with salespeople to find out what questions prospects ask the most, where in the process leads often jump ship, and which resources provide the best support. Marketing should also ask sales what ideas they have for new projects.

"The best way to break down silos is to bring both teams into the creative process," said Scott Harkey, founder of OH Partners, in an article for Forbes. "When we all speak the same language, the outcome is cohesive and authentic."

Additionally, make sure your marketing team never releases a campaign without first educating the sales team on what it is, who it's targeting, and what results can be expected from it.

5. Failing to End the Blame Game

Whenever things go awry and goals aren't met, it's easy for sales and marketing teams to blame one another -- often because they're working in silos, with little to no insight into each other's processes. But pointing fingers doesn't solve anything; it generally only leads to greater friction and frustration.

How to fix it: It's up to leadership to unite teams by nipping toxic blaming behavior in the bud and breaking down the barriers between departments. One way to do this is by holding quarterly joint meetings with sales and marketing, where you spend time reviewing performance and discussing areas for improvement. These gatherings should also focus on team-building best practices to foster bonds between departments.

By giving sales and marketing professionals a chance to learn about each other's processes, they'll be more likely to cooperate and willing to identify opportunities to help one another accomplish your brand's key goals.

Sales and marketing alignment is essential to your organization's ongoing success. It's also the most important shift you can make toward achieving revenue goals in the months and years ahead. When your teams overcome these five mistakes, your brand will be well on track for its most collaborative and lucrative year yet.

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Featured image attribution: Fauxels on Pexels.


Carrie Dagenhard

Carrie is an Austin, TX-based freelance writer and B2B content strategist who combines a background in journalism and decade of marketing experience to help technology and healthcare organizations captivate their audiences. When she's not writing, you can find Carrie on her yoga mat, working her way through the ever-growing pile of books on her nightstand, planning her next travel adventure or sampling local craft brews. Learn more about her at www.carriedagenhard.com.