Top Tips For Driving Marketing And Sales Alignment

Michael Brenner on May 12, 2011 in Sales Alignment

What is the biggest issue facing Marketers today? Tons of recent reports, the latest coverage of major industry conferences, threads on Twitter and also my own site analytics point to the same issue as the biggest challenge for marketers: Marketing and Sales alignment.

I have spoken and written on this subject a number of times so here I will include all my notes on the subject in one overview post…

According to “The Sales Machine” author Geoffrey James Sales “Hates” Marketing. Don’t worry, he presents a balanced view with Ten Reasons Marketing Hates Sales.

According to James, the main reason Marketing gets annoyed includes when Sales raids Marketing’s budget and when Sales takes all the credit for leads and pipeline (they would never!) But what really interests me is when he explains what we do in Marketing that peeves our Sales colleagues. Geoffrey lists these main items:

  • Marketers focus too much on deliverables (not outcomes).
  • 80% of the Marketing content created for Sales never gets used.
  • Marketing forces technology on Sales people who just want to sell stuff
  • Sales really HATES when Marketing passes bad leads

But I also find that the biggest reasons we lack alignment are:

  • Timing or as (someone?) once said, Marketing wants “Mr. Right” but Sales wants “Mr. Right Now!”
  • The definition of leads
  • The quality and quantity of leads
  • Tools and Content

So here are 7 actions Marketing can take to address all these obstacles to a successful relationship:

  1. Marketing needs to make Sales the customer. That’s why I am more interested in their frustrations with us!
  2. Marketing needs to spend time in the field speaking to customers, listening to sales presentations and watching demos
  3. Marketing and Sales need to define a clear process for lead management based on a common definition.
  4. Marketing needs to accept that there are times when Sales needs higher quantities and sometimes they need higher quality of leads (depends on the health of their pipeline and the proximity to the closing of a fiscal period.)
  5. Marketing and Sales need a process of joint business planning so we share common goals and common reporting. Marketing has to stop creating activity-based marketing plans!
  6. Marketing needs to sit down with Sales to map content needs to personas, buyer journeys and Sales’ needs.
  7. Marketing needs to define a common process before tools are selected or configured.

You can also read “How To Align Marketing With Sales” and “7 Steps To Sales And Marketing Alignment” or just tell me what you think?

Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes. Please follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.
Showing 8 comments
  • Peter Johnston

    The whole idea of marketing Makes Leads for Sales is flawed.

    It is time to recognise the value that sales brings to the early part of the buying process. They put customers into play… The early discussion used to help buyers to define their problem or opportunity. They would see that others in their field had similar issues and had chosen certain solutions.

    More importantly they also closed the doors which clients could escape through near the end of the process. Were they the sole decision maker? What were their buying criteria? What would prove the value of this project? Who did they have to persuade?

    The reason marketing makes leads for sales is so flawed is that these basic steps aren’t taken into account in the lead creation process.

    • Michael Brenner


      I am so happy you bring up this important issue. And it is for this reason mainly that I support joint planning, metrics and reporting of common objectives. See also my thoughts on the flaws in “lead credit” in the marketing attribution article preceding this one.

      Thanks for your comment and for adding this important point to the discussion!

  • David Keith Daniels

    I agree with you on 2 through 7, but have to disagree strongly on #1, that Marketing needs to make Sales the customer. I’ve seen this approach have unintended consequences. A big one is that if Sales is the customer, then the Customer is always right. Sales can then be interpreted not as a group, but as individual salespeople who are always right. Instead of solving the problem it’s made worse by reacting to the demands of individual salespeople, who need help with the deal they’re working on right now.

    • Michael Brenner

      Hi David,

      Thanks for making the point. I have to say you could be right. I think it takes a strong and confident marketing leader to avoid blindly following every request from sales. And strong and confident leaders are fewer and further between than we would like.

      My point was this: there is a hige disconnect in many B2B orgainzations between marketing and sales. There are some predictable causes for this battle and there are plenty of folks on both sides who dig in their heals. In the instances where marketing is creating programs specifically FOR sales (marketing programs, offers, content) marketing needs to take more of a service-oriented approach. We need to listen to what sales actually needs and stop the common practice of creating things and then “throwing them over the wall.”

      Thanks for helping me to clarify the point. I honestly wanted to disagree with you at first but I really appreciate you making me think a little harder about what I meant and how to articulate that.

  • Andrew Briggs

    As a marketer, you are the voice of the customer and together with sales, the driver of business growth.

    Yes, Sales and marketing need to be aligned, but in my experience, marketing can become sales support, and thus become less strategic, and less customer focussed. Finally, your marketing people get less motivated.

    Best advise I’ve heard is to give your marketing people problems, not solutions. And empower them with information.

    I believe in all points above bar point 1, but I’m interested to know (if it is a true partnership) what Sales need to do in respect of marketing. Sales need to understand systems exist to benefit the organisation, and that the sales cycle is much longer than they believe it to be. They need to understand that the budget needs to be efficiently managed and that there are lead times.

    As a marketer, your job is to make the sales person’s job easy – that is through delivering a product which is desired, at the right price which delivers tangible benefit to both sides, or in other words, build the optimum environment for profitable sales.

    • Michael Brenner

      Great point Andrew,

      I would say that – hey this is one of the greatest conflicts in the business world and continues to rank as one of the top issues for sales and marketers so it is no easy task.

      If marketing makes a true partner of sales and guides them on the length and difficulty of the sales process, then yes, sales has a stake in the game as well. They need to follow up on leads, provide feedback, update CRM systems, etc. But ultimately, I think this process should be created with a “sales as the customer” mindset in order to be effective.

      The other route is to create Service Level Agreements and look for accountability. My belief (and experience) is that this just leads to more distrust and is often a band-aid attempt at fixing the real problems.


  • trish bertuzzi

    Every member of the Marketing organization needs to spend 4 hours a month following up on the leads they generate. A 4 hour a month investment will pay off in spades regarding: lead process, lead quality, buyer personas, messages that resonate etc. You want alignment? Walk a mile in each other’s shoes….

    • Michael Brenner

      Hi Trish, that is not a bad suggestion. Not bad at all.