Integrated marketing 101: best tips for sales team alignment and boosting collaboration

By: Laura Clark | May 31, 2022

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably experienced the tension that can build between marketing and sales teams when the goals, expectations, and processes are not properly integrated or communicated. 

We know building a marketing engine for B2B and SaaS companies is an uphill climb. And if your marketing team is not in alignment with your sales team, then generating quality leads and nurturing them throughout the pipeline is even harder

Sure, there are enticing benefits to aligning departments, such as happier employees, and reduced expenses. In addition to these, did you know Adobe reports that you can generate 208% more revenue with a marketing-sales aligned lead strategy?

If you and the rest of your marketing team are eager to be more involved in lead generation with sales, Aimtal’s Demand Generation Manager, Tucker Delaney-Wynn wants you to know you’re not alone. 

“Typically if a CEO asks you as a marketing manager, ‘how does your marketing work impact sales?’ a surprisingly large number of marketing teams cannot answer that question.”

If you aren’t sure how much your marketing efforts are influencing the sales team, keep reading to find out:

👍 What an ideal marketing-sales alignment strategy looks like

😔 Why your marketing team isn’t in alignment with your sales team

😊 The best practices for marketing teams to align and collaborate with sales teams

What is smarketing? The integrated marketing services advantage

While we know it’s ideal to approach a campaign with integrated marketing in mind, the ultimate goal is to operate alongside sales as one single lead-generating system. This is called ‘Smarketing’, a blend of sales and marketing referring to when the two teams are fully aligned in terms of goals, processes, and communications.

But how do you know you’ve nurtured a successful ‘smarketing’ team? Here are the key indicators to look out for:

Transparency: Open communication about shared goals

Consistency: Processes are assessed for consistency across customer touchpoints

​​✅ Closed feedback loops: Sales and marketing have agreed on a content feedback process

Cross-functional: All go-to-market strategies require input from both parties

Why your sales and marketing teams are not in alignment

Marketers are highly creative individuals—but at times, can become lost in the grind of content initiatives and forget about the sales pipeline. So while we’re dreaming up new ways to connect with the buyer persona, sales can be left with content that doesn’t suit their needs or isn’t properly cataloged for ease of use.

Not certain why you’re struggling to work with sales? Here are three reasons why collaboration may be a challenge:

1. You’re not sure what part of the funnel needs to be fixed

Have you performed an audit of your sales funnel recently? If not, you may have some hidden bottlenecks in your content that are restricting your growth.

Start by asking the hard questions, such as:

  • Are we attracting a lot of new prospects? (TOFU)
  • Are our leads converting? (MOFU)
  • Do we have healthy customer retention? (BOFU)

If these questions have been ignored, it’s time to open up the conversation for deep change. Looking at your sales funnel has the added benefit of re-igniting cross-functional transparency with the entire sales team. And you’ll need their input to help you succeed, too! 

2. Each department has different goals and capacity

Classic, right? If your marketing goals don’t lead back to overarching lead generation objectives, your sales team may be brewing frustration for two reasons.

On one hand, it’s likely you aren’t sending qualified leads to sales. Did you know only 7% of salespeople said leads they received from marketing were very high quality? When you lack communication about what data matters during prospect activities, you’re less likely to target, nurture, and deliver qualified leads.

On the other hand, you may be sending a ton of qualified leads to sales. But if you aren’t collaborating on what leads you will pursue together (yes, together!) sales may not have the bandwidth to pursue them all properly. That’s where your initiative comes in. Aligning your goals across each team can allow you to make better use of your existing resources, and lead to a more focused discussion about what lead generation strategy to prioritize.

3. You’re in a funding tug of war

As marketers, we often feel like we’re competing for resources with sales. Traditional approaches to sales & marketing collaboration reinforce the idea that one department would provide more return on investment than the other. 

But here’s a reminder: the real focus should have always been on the external competition. If you’re competing for funding internally, this probably means your objectives are misaligned, and the company would benefit from deeper conversations around budgeting and cross-team collaboration.

Best practices for boosting collaboration and communication between sales and marketing teams

Let’s jump right into how you can effectively boost your marketing-sales collaboration and communication efforts.

Include the sales team in the content ideation process

You read that correctly! Integrating sales and marketing teams is much easier when the company mission ties in with the buyer’s journey. Collaborate with your sales team to map out your customer’s journey for the different types of content you plan to create.

And don’t worry — giving away some of your process power is not going to weigh your team down. Instead, this is an opportunity to demonstrate your advanced understanding of the customer. And even better, it shows that you’re in the deep end with them. 

Including sales in your process is your common ground and will create a narrative to show you’re in it together by acting upon common themes from the customer.

How should sales and marketing teams communicate with each other?

Modern day marketing and technology trends change quickly, but the content game is often slow. One minute you’ve promoted an industry-defining product feature, and the next quarter your competitor has adopted the same functionality with a more impactful campaign. Classic B2B marketing struggles implore us to be more proactive, and the sales team is ripe with timely information you should be actively trying to mine.

Here are our strategies for silo-busting communication with sales:

  • Meet regularly: And as much as possible. Create a specific time each week or month with the intention to measure the success of team objectives.
  • Create platforms for brainstorming: Nurture the ideation process by creating a channel in Slack or Teams for news, events, and bright ideas! 💡
  • Assign a marketing-sales ambassador: This is a representative from your team who will sit in on sales department meetings and catch those golden nuggets to strengthen your sales enablement strategy.
  • Respond to prescriptive statements: Ever heard your sales rep say something like, “Our prospects don’t…”? If you ever disagree, make sure you can qualify and quantify your marketing plan so you can articulate your client and customer knowledge.
  • Optimize your CRM: If your CRM is a marketing-sales pain point, discuss ways you can integrate your data that will allow you to achieve your lead generation objectives.
  • Ask your sales team what they need: It could be possible that you’re spending time creating materials for your sales team that aren’t very useful to them. Show initiative by proactively and regularly asking your sales team what they could use from the marketing team resource and material-wise that they don’t currently have.

Show empathy and build connections between teams

Sales teams are busy. With trade shows, demos, and emails that culminate in regular rejection, their stress is real on a daily — if not hourly — basis. 

As a marketing leader, you can set the tone with empathetic language when bringing your two teams together. It can go a long way to building bridges and creating a more united and connected mindset. In fact, research shows that an empathetic team culture leads to stronger collaboration. So, anytime the tension bubbles up, set an example by keeping discussions supportive and solution-oriented. 

To take it one step further, initiate more engagement between teams with events. You can plan an off-site team-building activity, play strategy games on Zoom, have a contest for charity, or even promote your sales results on your company communication channel such as Slack or Teams.

Now to solve the curse of the unused collateral

As marketers, we can all think of an infographic or client story that never saw the light of day. Now that content marketing is more of a measurable science, it’s infinitely easier to advise your sales team on why they should use your latest content. 

Since you’re working hard to pump out some great content at every stage of the funnel, start a buy-in campaign with:

  • General marketing education: Some sales reps are new to the game, so a brief presentation can clarify how your content is connected to the sales process.
  • Develop the buyer persona together: If both teams can agree on your customer’s biggest pain points, and the audience research can prove it, your team is more likely to create content that the sales team will want to use again and again.
  • Create a content system: Ensuring content selection is accessible in your CRM is only the beginning. In CRMs such as HubSpot or SalesForce, your content library can be categorized by vertical, the buying stage, and other criteria. The more specific you are in labeling the content, the more likely your sales team will use it. 

Remember — when you agree on the customer journey together, you have a reference point to legitimize the time and money spent on creating the collateral.

Request frequent and substantive insight into the lead scoring process

Have you ever heard your sales team say, “We keep getting stuck at the C-suite”? 

Thought so! We hear this from our clients all the time. And if you take anything away from this article, let it be the importance of seeking more transparency into your sales team’s lead scoring process. Just as you evaluate the effectiveness of your lead generation campaign, an integrated sales and marketing plan should include the marketing team in their method for measuring the sales readiness of a lead.

It’s important to embrace the sales team’s lead nurturing barriers as an opportunity for your marketing team to support them. For example, when our clients express concern about their brand’s awareness at the C-Suite level, we ask questions such as:

  • Did the company just get new leadership?
  • Does your product or service meet only some of the lead’s functionality requirements?
  • Has specific functionality helped you to sell to specific buyer personas over others?  

Practicing regular curiosity about how sales score their Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) can give you a firsthand account of how customer relationships are currently functioning toward the end of the buying process. This will not only build goodwill between your team and sales, but will further integrate your sales and marketing funnel, as well as increase revenue.

Read: How to generate quality leads for your business

Did the sales strategy change *again*? Now is your time to shine!

Marketing may be intrinsically linked to the sales team, but ultimately, they are the ones closing deals with the customer. That’s why an integrated sales and marketing strategy would be incomplete without actively practicing sales enablement methodology

Putting it simply, sales enablement is the process of giving sales teams the resources, guidance, time, and information they need in order to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. If you hear the Head of Sales pushing their team to book more demos, offer to ensure forms for gated content or events include an email address and use-case field. Or perhaps they have a final demo with the prospect’s C-Suite team next week — find out the company’s sector, and share your top-performing content pieces with the team.

Being proactive will do wonders for building trust between your teams, and incentivize sales to give you more of the information you need to generate leads.

Develop a demand generation strategy

It’s easy to get lost in the endless ways you can use digital marketing to drive leads. The benefit of optimizing your marketing-sales strategy is the opportunity to be more responsive to the content your audience is looking for. In other words, you don’t have to choose between marketing and sales, after all! 

Enter, the ‘demand generation strategy’ — an integrated sales and marketing framework for relieving pain points in your lead generation strategy (yes, even ones you didn’t know you had).

How does demand generation work?

Let’s look at an example. Our client 3CLogic has a powerful voice-enabled self-service solution for contact centers. They chose to work with us to enhance their lead generation strategy.

Our team successfully:

  • Looked at their entire sales funnel
  • Interviewed sales and marketing 
  • Reviewed patterns in their shared CRM

And we realized together that their top and middle-of-funnel prospects did not understand just how attainable digital transformation is for their system of record. 

The solution? We created a campaign around their case study with WellStar Health System that outlines a high-level understanding of the value of voice-enabled technology — rather than getting lost in specific functionality. 

With ads, email nurturing, and social media, over 50% of their marketing leads for the quarter came from this piece. Results! 🙌

Integration Celebration 

At the end of the day, don’t forget to acknowledge your wins together, just as much as you convalesce over lost leads. With these tips, sales leaders at your company will be hyping your team up in no time! 

We know Michael Scott would approve.

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