How to get sales and marketing working together

How to get sales and marketing working together

Posted by Clare Dodd
Speed Reading Mode

It's true. Sales and marketing don’t get on. In fact, 87 percent of the terms sales and marketing use to describe each other are negative,  according to a recent survey. It’s bad for business and it’s got to stop.

When sales and marketing work together, ‘companies see substantial improvement on important performance metrics: ‘sales cycles are shorter, market-entry costs go down, and the cost of sales is lower,’ according to the  Harvard Business Review.

Not only that, but as Steve McKee writes in Business Week,

‘It should go without saying that customers these days are too mobile, too connected, and too informed to tolerate any gap between what one department says and another does.’

When a customer reads your blog and engages with your Twitter feed, the last thing you want is a sales rep ringing up and presenting an entirely different personality and product-focus.

Instead the two teams need to work together to raise awareness of your company’s brand, tone and messaging so that leads choose to engage with, and trust it enough to become customers.

Bridging the sales and marketing gap

With such a wide and established cultural gap, it’s perhaps naïve to think that sales and marketing will ever be the perfect, friction-free match. Bill Rozier, VP of global marketing at Ciena puts it well when he says,

One important thing we’ve done is to set expectations appropriately. Our senior management understands that conflict is inevitable and expects us to manage it.

So perhaps you can’t end the war, but there are ways you can call a truce and extend out a few olive branches so that the business can benefit from a smoother running sales and marketing machine.


1. Understand sales and marketing have the same goals

Both sales and marketing are working to grow the company. Both want more customers, more brand awareness and more profits. While each team takes a different route, ultimately everyone is heading in the same direction. It’s a good way to find common ground.

2. Create harmony

The inbound techniques favoured by the marketing team might be pitted against the outbound strategies favoured by sales but creating harmony between these approaches can really change things up.

Outbound techniques can be one way of nurturing and qualifying the leads that come of some your inbound strategies. Create harmony to really address your customers needs.

3. Develop buyer personas

Make sure everyone is targeting their efforts at the same potential customers. For example, both teams need to understand customers’ challenges, pain points and objections to make a sale.

Buyer personas make sure everyone is promoting the same answers, targeted at the same problems and speaking to the same people. They also help to align decisions priorities and pricing because you can make decisions based on a better understanding of your customers’ needs and preferences.

4. Have regular meetings

Communication, as in every other walk of life, is key. You need to have regular meetings, with agreed topics for discussion and hard data to back up queries or gripes.

‘At other companies the primary relationship between the two teams might be between the VP Marketing and the VP Sales.  This is a mistake.’ HubSpot recommends weekly meetings. Check out our guide to effective sales and marketing meetings.

They even suggest mixing up desks so that sales people and marketers sit together and have a better understanding of what everyone does.

5. Create a standard hand-off process

You need an easy way to get leads into the right hands automatically, a way for them to report on whether they have accepted or rejected the lead, and, if they accepted the lead, what the disposition eventually was—won, lost, or not really a lead,’ says Bill Babcock.

HubSpot for marketing and for CRM. It builds a closed-loop feedback mechanism between marketing. It also manages the hand-off process from marketing to sales with lead scoring, lead assignment and a shared database of contacts.

6. Agree mutual SLAs

Set shared, public, visible service level agreements (SLAs) that make sense for both marketing and sales teams. For example, you can work back from sales goals to set targets for marketing qualified leads, inbound contacts and visitors. This way you can calculate a lead acquisition target for marketing.

In return, sales can agree to follow up on a given number of leads to make sure marketing efforts are not wasted and there is an accurate picture of what really generates sales.

7. Learn to share your toys

There are all sorts of things that marketing teams can do to help make a salesperson's life easier. Now, that's not to say that marketing is the 'sales resources' department. But, some of the marketing resource should go to helping the sales team, even if it just means collating key middle and bottom-of-funnel content.

This can come in the form of collateral that helps educate the potential buyer that is thinking of making a decision. They've done their research and they just want to know if your product or service is the answer they need. So, marketing can give sales access to case studies (written and video). Or, automated email answers for common queries with links to key blogs, guides and pamphlets, and so on. 

8. Educate each other on your differences

By their very nature, sales and marketing will attract different types of people. The Harvard Business Review ran an influential article back in 2006, titled Ending the War Between Sales and Marketing. In it they addressed both the economic and cultural divides that exist between the two teams,

‘Marketers…are highly analytical, data oriented, and project focused. They’re all about building competitive advantage for the future…Salespeople, in contrast, spend their time talking to existing and potential customers. They’re skilled relationship builders…they want to keep moving.’

The two groups are bound to clash if sales is focused on the next 10 feet and marketing is looking the horizon.

But if you can educate each team on what the other is doing and why, and present it in a way that explains the mutual benefits their efforts produce, you may witness the start of a beautiful friendship.

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[This content was updated in January 2020]

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