Google the terms “marketing” and “sales”, and you’ll find a lot of articles on how the two disciplines are different. While there’s some truth to that, the one thing marketing and sales teams have in common is that both have a role to play in driving sales. 

It makes sense, right? 

While it’s one thing to understand that sales and marketing need to align, it’s another thing entirely to make it happen. 

Often small business owners are unclear about what that kind of alignment looks like on a small scale. No matter the size of your business, poor communication between teams, miscommunication with customers, and a lack of ROI will negatively impact your company’s bottom line.

If you find yourself struggling with this situation in your business, read on for 7 actions you can take to begin achieving marketing-sales alignment within your small business today.

What A Lack Of Marketing-Sales Looks Like

Recently two companies came to me, wanting help with growing their revenue. On the surface, they appeared dissimilar. One was an established small business and the other, a fledgling startup. But they had other things in common. With their respective 2- and 3-person teams, they both felt that their smaller team size and limited marketing budgets were holding them back. 

In each case, I quickly learned that marketing budget and team size were not the real culprits behind their growth problems.

Instead, it was a lack of marketing-sales alignment. 

For the first company, it quickly became clear that there was a lack of company consistency. Each one of their three sales reps had their own process for how they engaged with and sold to prospective clients. Each one defined lead, prospect, and opportunity differently. Thus, the customer experience could vary greatly from one to the next.

The second company, on the other hand, was receiving plenty of inbound leads, mostly through word of mouth, but no one was following up with them after their initial inquiry. Sales conversations simply weren’t happening. This had to change. 

For both of these companies, alignment was a small fix with big results. 

To see if your own business, may be diagnosed with a lack of marketing-sales alignment, it’s a good idea to check for these symptoms within your business:

  • Low quality of leads
  • Poor communication between teams 
  • A lack of accountability 
  • Inconsistent messaging 
  • No centralized strategy that all team members understand 
  • Lack of trust, collaboration, and camaraderie between departments 
  • A lack of metrics for success in place
  • Varying definitions from person to person, or department to department

The Marketing And Sales Challenges Faced By Small Businesses And Startups

According to recent research into B2B organizations, sales cycles are long—increasing to 22% over the last 5 years—and complex. That means it’s becoming increasingly difficult (and expensive) to gain the attention and trust of potential clients in ways that are targeted and relevant.

 According to the latest studies, only 10% to 15% of sales leads make it to the bottom of the sales funnel and convert into deals. And only 5% of sales reps say that leads acquired through the company’s marketing efforts are high quality. 

These stats point to two challenges, ones that are the responsibility of BOTH the sales and marketing teams: 

  1. Maximizing reach to potential clients 
  2. Converting as many leads as possible into revenue.

Sales departments are frustrated by the time and money wasted on low-quality leads, while marketing departments are still unclear about which leads are deemed “sales-ready.” 

In companies of all sizes, marketing and sales teams often aren’t fully integrated, but this issue is significantly more prevalent in small businesses and startups. For organizations with a combined sales and marketing staff of less than 10, focusing on marketing and sales alignment can seem like an unnecessary luxury. 

But if your marketing and sales are working towards different goals and objectives, your organization will never reach its full potential, and, perhaps worse, you’ll be wasting your valuable time and money. No matter how much “ad spend” you allot, you’ll never be able to make a meaningful impact on your company’s bottom line. In startups and small businesses, where resources are already scarce, this can mean a death sentence. 

Ready for some good news? Read on. 

Why Marketing-Sales Alignment Matters – Especially In Startups And Small Businesses

The good news is that well-aligned sales and marketing teams drive more than 200% revenue growth from marketing tactics. So aligning your marketing and sales teams is a great – and relatively easy – way to start growing your business. 

Businesses with aligned marketing and sales teams are as much as 67% more effective at closing deals and save 30% on their customer acquisition costs.

When you take all of that into account, it’s clear that an effective partnership between sales and marketing is the #1 success factor attributed to achieving revenue goals.

If the problem facing you is rooted in a lack of alignment, ensuring everyone is working toward the same goal is the answer. With a few processes and procedures (even very simple and basic ones), you can establish and foster alignment throughout your business. 

Take the time to establish strong alignment now, and you’ll enable faster and more efficient expansion of your efforts as your business grows later. 

7 Steps To Start Aligning Your Small Business’s Marketing With Sales ASAP

Marketing-sales alignment helps your organization make better use of its resources and become more efficient at driving sales, which will in turn generate more revenue. Best of all, it doesn’t have to be complicated. 

Whether your objective is to establish initial alignment parameters for a small sales and marketing organization or to improve existing efforts, consider these elements of a well-rounded alignment strategy:

  1.  Organize both marketing and sales efforts around agreed-upon buyer personas.
  2.  Establish a marketing-sales funnel with defined stages, conversion triggers, handoffs, and expected conversion metrics.
  3.  Document the responsibilities of the marketing and sales teams with an SLA.
  4.  Agree on full-funnel contribution KPIs for both the marketing and sales teams that are appropriate for each team’s maturity level, existing processes, and budgets.
  5.  Determine an attribution framework and data sources.
  6.  Build a regular feedback mechanism, both for team leaders and individual contributors. Voice-of-customer intel from sales has implications for messaging, content, and campaigns that can enhance performance. Likewise, ensuring sales teams are informed on ongoing marketing efforts provides the opportunity to amplify their results.
  7.  Encourage accountability at both the leadership and team levels.

Key Takeaway

Marketing-Sales alignment is not a “one-and-done” exercise. Rather, it is an ongoing process and one that must be flexible and adaptable to changing business priorities and market factors. 

With this in mind, it’s completely acceptable to approach alignment incrementally. Partner with your marketing or sales counterpart to dig into each of the above elements a little at a time, and be comfortable with not having all the answers right away. Embrace a testing/experimentation mindset. Do it manually for a while if you must. Start simple and evolve as you can. And remember that even the simplest alignment strategy is better than no strategy at all.

If you’re ready to put an expert strategy in place, we’re here to help. 

Our Fractional CMOs are skilled in taking what can be a complex process and distilling it down into the exact hands-on marketing help you’ve been looking for.

When we partner on the C-Suite, our marketing experts fully engage with your company, aligning your sales with your marketing efforts, and giving you clarity for continued, predictable growth.

Allison is an accomplished senior B2B marketing executive with 20+ years of experience supporting companies with impactful strategies that deliver qualified sales pipeline and revenue.

Connect with Allison and find out how she can help your business scale to the next level.

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