Guide to aligning your sales and marketing teams


Sales and marketing alignment can lead to a 32% increase in year-over-year (YoY) revenue growth (Aberdeen Group).

Companies with strong sales and marketing alignment outperform those without. But for many, these two departments still work independently, with different systems, separate offices, unique reporting lines and performance metrics. Incredibly, only one-third (31%) of sales and marketing teams have an agreed picture of the organisations they are targeting?

When marketing and sales teams work together towards shared goals, productivity, return on investment, and revenue improves – as the business benefits from greater collaboration, high-quality communication, and multiple efficiencies.

So, how do your sales and marketing teams measure up?

  • My sales and marketing teams have the same goals
  • My sales and marketing rewards are connected
  • My sales and marketing teams use the same tools
  • My sales and marketing teams follow the same processes
  • My sales and marketing teams target the same customer
  • My sales and marketing employees are part of the same team

If you answer no to any of these statements, you may benefit from reading on.

AXD guide to sales & marketing alignment

  1. Set shared objectives & performance incentives
  2. Share knowledge
  3. Share software
  4. Agree on target customers
  5. Create project focus
  6. Schedule regular sales & marketing team meetings
  7. Create a collaborative environment

1. Set shared objectives & performance incentives

Report on performance as a team.

If you want Sales and Marketing to work together, incentivise them to do just that. Alignment comes from a shared understanding of direction, and in sales and marketing terms, that means objectives and incentives. The teams should share a goal (e.g. growth), a strategy, and several objectives and tactics to create common ground, focus, and a sense of purpose.

Shared objectives should see your sales team actively support, educate, and provide feedback to marketing, with marketing reacting and adapting to the information whilst also contributing intel of their own.

Take the simplest form of the B2B buyer journey – awareness, consideration, and conversion. Sales and marketing teams have a role to play in each stage, so build your team, your objectives, and your performance metrics with this in mind.

Role of sales & marketing at each stage of the buyer journey, with shared targets

Shared rewards follow shared objectives. Like objectives, the structure of performance rewards can make or break sales and marketing alignment. For sales teams, commission structures based on personal targets, growing with performance and loyalty, usually work for the employer and the employee. Unfortunately, the volume of vanity metrics in marketing makes bonusing a little more complicated. We suggest aligning marketing with sales through implementing a performance reward based on total revenue. This will provide a foundation for collaboration, but further effort is required to achieve the best results.

2. Share knowledge

Have a shared understanding of the market and the ideal customer.

With sales and marketing both working towards the same goal, the next challenge is improving internal communication. Efficient internal communication should provide a shared understanding of the value proposition, the problem your product or service is solving, customer requirements, ideal customer profile, and competition.

That all seems sensible enough, but consider this. Sales is a direct process where the salesperson talks to the customer, whilst marketing is a holistic process designed to increase awareness of a brand or product to the target consumer. Rarely will a marketer deal one-on-one with a customer. With time, these two separate sources of information can lead to very different views of the world and the world of your customer.

With this in mind, convert knowledge sharing into a process to reduce effort and resource wasted through content creation, storytelling, targeting, and conversion.

In a perfect world, a sales team should support marketing with content targeted at every stage of the buyer journey, leveraging their knowledge gained through prospecting, providing product demonstrations, and negotiating. In time, this should reduce the overall cost of acquisition.

3. Share systems

Choose & use the same software.

With separate systems, sales will lack visibility on the marketing messages their prospects have received or are about to receive, whilst marketers will struggle to see which campaigns convert to sales.

These issues are common in B2B organisations, but the solution is simple – your sales and marketing teams should use the same systems and operate with the same information. This solution is growth software.

Growth software is a category of business software that combines CRM, sales automation, email and social marketing into one system.

HubSpot became the first notable player in the category when they added a CRM product to their marketing automation platform. But in 2022, HubSpot is far from the only tool available. Due to the premium pricing of Hubspot, brands such as Nutshell, ActiveCampaign and Keap have come to the fore targeting the small business market segment.

Whatever platform is selected, growth software should provide sales and marketing with a shared platform to manage customer outreach, bringing sales and marketing teams together to drive revenue, allowing marketers to communicate at scale and salespeople one-on-one.

AXD suggestions

Neither comes cheap, but there is little doubting Salesforce and Hubspot are best in class tools.

4. Agree on target accounts

Account-based sales and marketing.

In a typical B2B organisation, LinkedIn sees just a 23% overlap between the target audiences of sales teams and the target audiences of marketing teams (LinkedIn).

The B2B world offers targeting opportunities not available in B2C, and if you are not taking advantage of that, soon if enough competitors will be. One of the clear advantages lies in market profiling. Whilst many in B2B have a clear understanding of their target customer, few have a list of target companies. With a clear niche, a definitive target list is a realistic goal.

Once armed with a list of target companies, sales and marketing can get creative, planning personalised outreach based on their shared understanding of the target customer. This approach can improve outreach conversion rates, shorten the sales cycle, and provide a clear return on investment. If a low average sale value or customer lifetime value makes one-to-one targeting impractical, a one-to-few approach could be more feasible and efficient. This involves segmentation of the target list before planning and performing outreach.

5. Create project focus

Improve marketing effectiveness.

With the depth and breadth of marketing, it is almost impossible for a small or medium-sized marketing team to cover all areas. B2B marketing teams have to manage the brand, digital, sales support, social/community building, and employer marketing. Dig deeper and there is product marketing, search engine marketing, advertising, public relations, event management, awards, etc. It’s a lot for any team to manage. Then there’s the expectancy for marketing to shift focus whenever the business or leadership team require it. This often leads to teams getting distracted by ad-hoc tasks with little coordinated progress towards bigger goals.

Splitting the marketing minefield into projects can be an effective way to overcome this. Take it to the next level by including the sales team in the planning of projects to encourage prioritisation based on revenue impact. Projects will create focus and the cadence marketing activities need to deliver results.

6. Schedule Sales & Marketing meetings

Create an effective feedback loop.

Whether it is weekly or monthly, a sales and marketing meeting will provide the opportunity for team members to share learnings and provide updates. During a meeting, sales can report on challenges, successes, competitor information, feedback, and sales support content ideas. Marketing can provide updates on plans, projects, campaigns, events and targeted accounts at the top of the funnel.

Here are some meeting ideas.

  • Share the information sales teams collect regarding what’s going well or frustrating prospects. It’s market research and can support the creation of sales collateral to improve performance.
  • Present the sales/marketing funnel metrics such as leads generated and converted. Identify where the blockages, pinpoint causes and plan solutions.
  • Review target, sales pipeline status, and plans. Set actions to progress opportunities with a deadline and responsibilities assigned.
  • Discuss content development and engagement during the meeting to keep everyone informed and plan further collateral.
  • Use insights from closed sales to improve future performance.

Example discussion points for your Sales and Marketing Meeting Agenda

  • Successes and challenges
  • Sales presentation – current pipeline, stages, frustrations and the positives, what shall we focus more on
  • Updates on sales resources created and what do we need more of
  • Performance update
  • Current campaigns/projects – what’s going well/challenges
  • Competitor insights
  • Opportunities for improvement
  • Upcoming priorities

7. Create a collaborative environment

Plan activities together.

If team members don’t trust one other, they won’t communicate openly, which makes getting on the same page and closing the sales loop all but impossible.

Mutual understanding and respect come from connecting. This can be over video calls, email, or even an instant messaging service like Slack. The more time teams spend together, the more developed the social bonds, which translates to open communication and collaboration at work.

Finally, not every interaction between marketing and sales has to be about work. Here are a few ideas to get your teams building relationships.

  • Drink after work
  • Go-karting
  • Team building
  • Attend events and conferences together
  • Training courses together
  • Play sport together
  • Video gaming
  • Hold an online quiz or competition that encourages chat

B2B sales and marketing experts

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