My company recently hired a new business development representative on the sales team; in fact, we’ve hired quite a few over the last six or so months. 

I’ve been involved in interviewing every candidate that our Director of Business Development has brought in. He talks to them first and then I spend time with the candidate. The two of us assess these typically young, hungry BDR candidates a little differently in terms of what they bring to the role, to the team, to the culture, to the company. 

Toxic Relationships Tank Success

A few weeks after he started, the new BDR said to me, “You know I came here because you (I’m the VP of marketing) and [the director of Biz Dev] are friends, right?” When I asked him what he meant, he told me that at his last company, the relationship between sales and marketing was completely toxic and as a result, neither team was able to be successful. 

The fact that the director and I work as much as a unit as we each do with our respective teams was a critical choice in us hiring an exceptional employee.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that the director and I are on the same page. A study by Heinz Marketing found that at the executive and senior management levels, 61 percent said that sales and marketing are tightly aligned. But when you fall into lower levels, those numbers change: of those who said that sales and marketing are seldom aligned, 72.6 percent were in middle management or under. 

This tells me that at a strategic and philosophical level, the commitment to aligning these two critical business disciplines is there, but when you get down to the execution level, something falls apart. 

And at great cost: HubSpot has shown repeatedly that sales and marketing alignment (what they cheekily call “smarketing”) drives results. Where misalignment can cost B2B companies 10 percent or more revenue a year, according to recent data, working together results in 36 percent higher customer retention and 38 percent higher sales win rates. 

So the strategic commitment is there, and the numbers backing up the benefits are clearly unimpeachable — then why is it so damn hard for marketing and sales to be synched top to bottom?

1. There’s an Embarrassing Lack of Communication

When half of both marketers and sales folks say that the biggest challenge to alignment is communication, feel free to channel your inner Homer Simpson, cringe, and yell “d’oh!” 

Come on guys, we’re all better than this. And let’s be honest: if sales and marketing people struggle with communication, that’s some of end of civilization stuff right there. Not just the senior people need to get in a room and agree that they’re on the same page: we’re talking getting your marketing managers and BDRs, your directors and account execs, together for a weekly meeting about what’s working and what’s not. 

More importantly, it’s an opportunity for both sides to be transparent and honest with each other and to brainstorm solutions collectively, making all parties accountable for improvement.

Learning Opportunities

2. Metrics for Each Department Aren’t the Same and are Therefore Dumb. Yes, Dumb

If two people run a race but finishing is defined separately for each, it’s going to be pretty hard to determine a winner. And really, at that point, why bother? You’re basically running two separate races, even if you’re sharing the same course. 

It’s easy to punt this to the CEO or anyone else so that neither marketing nor sales has to get out of the comfortable cocoon of metrics that let them each point fingers at the other.

I agree with Tracy Eiler. Marketing — you’ve got to come to terms with sales on what they need and how to measure that relative to legitimate, forecasted pipeline. Put an end to sales telling you that your leads are worthless by making the last step of the upper-funnel activity measured by sales turning a lead into an opportunity, while agreeing on an SLA with sales about their outreach frequency and nature to those leads. 

Shared pipeline measurement and mutually agreed-upon lead quality definitions will result in a common foundation for alignment.

3. Celebrate Wins Jointly — Treat Successful Customer Acquisition as a Mutual Victory

If you’re a marketer and you’ve upheld your end of the bargain, bringing in qualified leads and supporting the sales process with phenomenal content and competitive intelligence, it can sting when only sales gets credit for closing the deal. 

By allowing the marketing team to share in that adrenaline rush of euphoria when a new logo signs on the dotted line, sales builds an allegiance that only comes from the shared highs. This will be the strength of a bond you need when things get more challenging. After all, this isn’t about one team or one person: it’s about the bottom line and success of the company for which everyone works. Remembering that and divvying up recognition accordingly is the right move.

Collaboration between sales and marketing is achievable and revenue-driving. Grab your sales counterpart and even if you’re not great friends like I am with our director of Biz Dev, I’m pretty sure you both are motivated by company success. And that’s enough to get the ball moving.

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