Get 20% Annual Revenue Growth: Align Marketing & Sales

Meeting Point by Joe Shlabotnik

Internal mistrust and miscommunication between sales and marketing has become the norm in many organizations. This mistrust phenomenon has always struck me as odd because the revenue growth of many organizations can be directly attributed to the effectiveness of their sales and marketing. In fact, according to a study by the Aberdeen Group, organizations with aligned sales and marketing teams achieved 20% annual revenue growth while their counterparts saw revenues decline by 4%.

The truth of the matter is, achieving sales and marketing alignment is tough but it can be done. To help you get started and maintain internal bliss between your sales and marketing team I've compiled these six tips:

1. Buyer Personas:

I know, I know, you have heard how important buyer personas are before and you will probably hear it again ten more times before the end of the week. But the fact remains, defining a buyer persona for your business will help you improve both your marketing and sales effectiveness. Your marketing team can use a buyer persona to tailor their marketing messages to better appeal to their target market's preferences. And your sales team can tailor their approach to improve rapport, needs discovery and their close ratio.

More specifically a buyer persona is a critical component to better unifying your sales and marketing teams by eliminating confusion over who they should target. This will help to reduce internal conflict by eliminating a common source of aggravation: conflicting qualified lead definitions. This confusion will be eradicated because marketing will know exactly who to market to and sales will know exactly who they are selling to. It's really that simple.

Here are some questions you can answer to help you start creating your own buyer persona:

  • What are the top pain-points or challenges that your buyer experiences? Be as specific as possible.
  • What is your buyer's role and responsibilities within their organization?
  • What triggers your buyer to search for your solution, service or product?
  • What results or outcomes does your buyer expect from your service, solution or product?
  • Identify the five problems or objectives that your buyer designates as highest priority.
  • What attitudes or concerns prevent this buyer from purchasing your solution, service or product?
  • What are the top reasons that this buyer doesn't buy? What are their objections?
  • What elements does this buyer evaluate as they compare alternative solutions, services or products in their decision process?

    2. Defining Your Funnel:

    In most B2B organizations sales and marketing have different definitions for the individual stages of the sales and marketing funnel. More specifically, different views of how and when a lead should be passed from marketing to sales. A clear and mutually agreed upon definition of the funnel will help further unify your sales and marketing teams. Here is an example of how the sales and marketing funnel could work together.


    To create a mutually understood definition of your funnel, examine each of the key touch points a lead passes through before becoming a customer. Next, mutually agree on each stage's definition. The process of establishing collective by-in and input from both sales and marketing will help you create an effective unification strategy.

    3. Lead Quality:

    The most important definition to nail in your marketing and sales funnel is Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL). This is the hand-off point between marketing and sales so it's imperative that you gain alignment on the definition.

    MQLs will vary across industries and organizations but they should reflect a combination of characteristics and behaviours that determine when a lead is a good fit for you company and when they are ready for sales follow-up. There are many different methods to determine when a lead should move over to sales. The most straightforward and easy to understand method that I've come across to identifying high value leads is the Fit vs. Interest Matrix. (Show Diagram)


    Fit is easiest to define because it's so closely connected to the characteristics of your buyer persona. For example, your ideal customer might be a VP of Human Resources from a Financial Institute with 1,000 or more employees. Depending on how closely a lead aligns to your buyer persona's characteristics will help you determine whether they meet your MQL fit requirements.

    Engagement on the other hand isn't as straightforward as fit. The x-axis will require some on-going tweaking and experimentation to nail down a winning formula. However, you can start by mapping out all the online activities and behaviours that reveal how close a lead is to a buying decision.

    For example, if a lead downloads a case study, views your pricing page and your client testimonials they are illustrating strong interest signals and could be ready for sales follow-up. In comparison, a lead who only visited your blog may not be ready to speak to sales.

    The four quadrants help identify those high value leads and whether you should hand that lead over to sales or continue to nurture the relationship. You can use the above matrix to help your sales and marketing teams determine when leads are ready for a sales follow-up.

    4. Marketing Qualified Leads:

    Now that you know how to use the Fit vs Engagement matrix it's important to mutually define your MQL. Use a combination of Fit characteristics and Interest Behaviours to formulate your own definition. Base your definition on data, not assumptions. If you rely more on data instead of assumptions you will have a more accurate definition of a qualified lead. Here are two examples of MQLs:

  • A contact with a VP of Marketing title who has requested a demo and works at an Insurance Company in Canada with more than 1,000 employees.
  • A contact with an HR Manager title who has downloaded three eBooks, a case study and is based in Canada.

    If you don't nail the definition on the first try it is okay, but it's important that you begin the discussion between sales and marketing. Feedback on the quality of leads being passed to sales should happen regularly to ensure you can tweak the definition and improve lead quality.

    5. Service Level Agreements:

    To help your teams stay committed to your unification plan you should consider implementing a Service Level Agreement (SLA). A Service Level Agreement documents the commitment that sales and marketing make to achieve their shared goals. That's right, bringing your sales and marketing teams together requires an understanding that sales and marketing share some BIG goals.

    For example, if marketing doesn't deliver a certain number of qualified leads each month then sales can't hit their targets. Or if the sales team doesn't follow up on leads in a timely manner then neither team can hit their goal. As you can see, to hit your revenue goals it's really a two-way street where each team needs each other to succeed. You can start your SLA by answering these questions:

  • How many leads do you need to acquire one new customer? Next, determine how many leads in total you would need to hit your monthly, quarterly and yearly sales targets.
  • What percentage of those leads are you relying on marketing to deliver? If your sales team is responsible for some of their own prospecting then you might not need marketing to generate 100% of your leads.

    Once you have answered the above questions you can use the data to formulate your own SLA between sales and marketing.

    6. Regular Meetings:

    Another great way to help bring your sales and marketing teams together is having them actually meet - in person. I know, it's a foreign concept for most organizations and will take some time to adjust. But believe me, the benefits absolutely outweigh the awkward beginnings.

    Depending on the size of your organization, the individual teams should dictate how often you need to meet. But at the very least, you should meet once a month if not more. These meetings should provide an overview of each team's progress to achieving the goals defined in the SLA. Also, it's a great time to discuss upcoming marketing plans or promotions so sales is prepared and for sales to provide feedback on lead quality and their sales follow-up efforts. The key is to share key information so marketing can deliver better leads and sales can close more deals.

    Achieving sales and marketing alignment may seem like a daunting task but it's important to understand that this whole process is scalable. As you learn more about your funnel, lead quality and how your teams prefer to interact you can tweak elements to best suite your needs. The key is to get started and chip away at each tasks while you refine your unification strategy.

    Next Steps

  • The Inbound Marketing Funnel Reviewed From Top To Bottom

  • Setting SMART Goals

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