By Kristy Sturgill • February 27, 2018

The Key to Aligning Sales and Marketing (While Keeping the Peace)


Every business needs a good sales team to close the deal and move products off the shelves. And, the marketing team is just as important because they’re working to bring customers to the sales team. The rivalry between these two teams isn’t new, and companies have been trying to encourage alignment for decades.

We want to help you take your team from a power struggle to power couple.

The key to aligning sales and marketing is to have a team with the right attitude. There are dozens of tools that can bring alignment to your sales and marketing teams. But at the end of the day, it’s people who have to use the tools. They need the desire to work together, and as a leader, you have to provide incentives to improve teamwork and shepherd the right company culture.

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Start with the customer in mind.

To create alignment between your sales and marketing teams, they first have to agree on their customer. It might seem obvious, but unless both groups outline and agree on a target audience, they could run the risk of serving different demographics.

The sales team has a unique perspective on what matters and what brings in profitable customers. Similarly, marketing may also have a different perspective on what customers matter most to the company. A buyer persona is there to help the organization iron out any differences and create better collaboration.

Establishing the target customer helps keep the peace because it eliminates any stress resulting from differences in foundational assumptions.  


Host regular “smarketing meetings.”


Marketing + Sales = Smarketing.

It’s a handy term we picked up from the team at HubSpot. The purpose of a smarketing meeting is to work through problems in each department of the organization. The driving mission of this meeting is to improve communications between the two teams. 

It can be difficult not to bring up profits or plans for an upcoming corporate event, but leave these concerns at the door. This meeting is for solving problems. It’s not about planning the next event, and it’s not meant to be a praise session. (Although, it’s okay to celebrate a little, and sometimes planning is solving problems.)

If these meetings have more than ten people participating, it can derail quickly. If you have a large team it doesn’t mean you can’t have effective smarketing meetings, it just means you need to be a bit more strategic.

Rotate team members into the meetings, or bring specific people who can add to the conversation. Every member needs to have thoughts and opinions to lead the problem-solving initiatives.

Pro tip: Consider leaving top management out of the meeting (depending on company culture). The CEO can add stress to the conversations, and discourage some people from sharing.

Make a frequency commitment and stick to it. Based on how the first few meetings go, determine how often teams should convene for their smarketing.

More Communication = More Collaboration.

Regular conversations will slowly bring your team into alignment and help keep the peace.

Encourage and foster an environment of transparency.

As a leader of the organization, it’s up to you to push the company culture in a positive and healthy direction. Trust is the foundation of alignment. And if you’re going to achieve this goal, you’ll need to create transparency.

Make each team outline their goals. During this process, look for overlap and identify areas where departments could help one another. Then, take some time to create a sales and marketing playbook -- leaning heavily on data to determine success or failure, and have everyone agree to the numbers.

Here are some good ideas for increasing transparency between departments:

  • If you’re not already, have both teams use the same software or data sources.
  • Ask everyone to write down their goal and how they plan to achieve it.
  • Encourage leaders and employees to talk about how they make decisions.
  • Reward truthfulness when reporting on goals.
  • Seek out everyone’s opinion during meetings, not just a select few.

There are a lot of tools out there to improve transparency, like HubSpot’s CRM, but remember alignment is less about technology and more about people. If you only care about the technology, you're ignoring the root cause of misalignment.

Commit to the pipeline.

The most effective way to encourage peace in your organization is getting everyone on the same page. When sales and marketing both commit to the pipeline, then they no longer feel they’re working against each other.

Create a Service Level Agreement (SLA) and have both the marketing and sales department sign it. Make sure the marketing team knows their role in the buyer’s journey, and avoid putting too much emphasis on who makes the final sale.

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Celebrate Together.

Take some time to do a little dance when these two teams are in sync. Reward the departments for their progress, encouraging them to continue down the path of alignment. Enjoy lunch together as two departments or take a day to do some fun team-building exercises.

The key to aligning sales and marketing is company culture and the attitudes of the teams. When interactions are toxic, the entire organization will suffer. Changing company culture takes time and a ton of communication.

Bring these two departments together to discuss the right target customer, how should they measure success and who’s responsible for specific goals. With the right encouragement and environment, the teams will find themselves aligned in no time.

Is your company working toward alignment? Our free worksheets will get you there! Download and get started today.