The Secret to Sales and Marketing Alignment: What Every CEO Needs to Know


ROI. It’s a term most are familiar with, but very few can agree on. Marketers think it’s one thing, salespeople think it’s something else and C-levels think it’s another thing entirely. Why do so many companies struggle with agreeing on simple things like terminology? Why does there appear to be so much disharmony among marketing, sales and leadership teams? Why can’t these teams just act like they’re on the same side for once?

When it comes down to it, it’s not a collaboration issue. It’s a communication issue.

According to the HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2018 report, just 26 percent of employees characterized their company’s sales and marketing relationship as tightly aligned (i.e., they have an established service level agreement, or SLA). That means almost three out of every four companies don’t believe their marketing, sales and C-level personnel have a good relationship. 

Better communication can solve this.

If each of these three groups could actually speak in a way that resonates with the other, there would be more understanding, less frustration and overall, better alignment. Let’s dive deeper into this concept by covering the negative effects of miscommunication and exploring ways to make healthy communication a real possibility at your company.

The Ramifications of Miscommunication

One of the problems here is a failure to identify how serious miscommunication is for the health of the company. It doesn’t matter if you’re in marketing, sales or leadership — if your most crucial departments for new business are not aligned and communicating clearly with each other, it can have several negative effects. Here are four of them:

  1. Improper spending: When the marketing, sales and executive teams aren’t communicating correctly, companies don’t invest as wisely as they could. For example, if CEOs don’t understand why marketing tactics like backlinks are valuable, they won’t want to invest the company’s budget in that area because it doesn’t align with their perceived definition of success. Instead, the budget is allocated elsewhere and there is a missed opportunity to invest in a proven marketing strategy that can actually move the needle.
  2. Unclear ROI: The State of Inbound 2018 shows that 42 percent of companies have established proving the ROI of marketing activities as a top priority over the next 12 months. Proving ROI can be difficult, however, when it means one thing to the digital marketing company or team, another thing to the sales team and still another thing to the executive team. If the marketing team thinks they’re performing well, but the executive team believes the company is spending money without getting anything in return, there’s a disconnect. ROI is unclear unless everyone agrees on targets for success.
  3. Team animosity: It’s no secret that sales and marketing teams often don’t get along, which also frustrates the executive team. This is a cyclical communication issue. Marketing thinks sales isn’t following up on the leads they’re giving them, salespeople think the leads from marketing aren’t high-quality, executives are frustrated with the lack of results and cut the marketing budget, then the whole cycle starts over again.
  4. Damage to the bottom line. Ultimately, companies need to spend their marketing money properly, know what they’re getting for that investment and accelerate what’s working well for a positive effect on the bottom line. If they don’t, the opposite will happen. Most marketers appreciate a bigger budget, yet executives are charged with spending as little as possible for the greatest effect. If everyone can speak the same language and agree on ROI targets and where to spend the budget, the bottom line won’t be damaged.

The good news is that in addition to being a proven sales and marketing strategy, effective communication ensures positive results.


Examples of Proper Communication

The only question is, how do you communicate properly when each team hears a marketing or sales term differently? Let’s take a look at a couple of examples of marketing terms, how each team — marketing, sales and C-level — understands them and how they should understand them if they want to speak the same language:

Term #1: Backlinks

Scenario: The company gained 10 new backlinks last week.

What each person hears:

  • Marketer: We’re on a roll! Our SEO services and marketing efforts are paying off, and we’re setting ourselves up for a bigger marketing spend in the future.
  • Salesperson: (Charlie Brown teacher voice)
  • Executive: My marketing team is doing something, but is that good? What does 10 backlinks mean for the company?

What each person should hear:

  • Marketer: We’re gaining momentum, but we need to press on and get more backlinks if we want to reach our goal and make things easier for the sales team.
  • Salesperson: We now have 10 new implied endorsements for our company!
  • Executive: With each backlink, we’re boosting our reputation and establishing ourselves as a thought leader. Getting 10 in a week is good news.

Term #2: Lead Nurturing

Scenario: The company is considering implementing a lead nurturing strategy.

What each person hears:

  • Marketer: This gives us an opportunity to make a lot of tactical steps with our contacts. It’s a strategic, high-quality marketing tactic.
  • Salesperson: This sounds like a pain. I’m already spending too much time on data entry work instead of selling. Why can’t I just stick to tactics that already work for me?
  • Executive: That sounds like a big financial and time investment, plus it will lengthen the sales cycle. I’m not sure if it’s worth it.

What each person should hear:

  • Marketer: If we can set up an effective marketing automation strategy like lead nurturing, it will free up time for us and the sales team.
  • Salesperson: This means that I’ll be able to touch prospects more often and move them closer to a sale without any extra work on my part.
  • Executive: This will require an initial investment, but it will be an ongoing source of potential revenue moving forward.

Sales, Marketing and Executive Alignment

When it comes down to it, making the sales funnel more efficient is everyone’s goal. After all, according to the State of Inbound 2018, closing more deals was the top priority for the next year for 75 percent of companies.

To close more deals and make your funnel more efficient, everyone should speak the same language. Whether you’re in sales, marketing or leadership, clarifying terms and phrases that have tripped you up in the past can go a long way toward improving your company’s future results.


Adam Weiss

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