It’s a longstanding trope that the sales and marketing departments in businesses are constantly at odds. But why is this the case, and how do we heal these old wounds?

Why Does the Divide Exist?

At the end of the day, the ultimate goal of every department in a business is to further the success of the company. This is truest when it comes to sales and marketing. Both departments are directly responsible for making money from customers. And yet, the divide exists. Is it competition, is it conflicting job duties, or is it something else?

Well, it’s a little bit of everything.

The most obvious is that these two departments are often tasked with the same end goal but given different approaches. Sales staff cold-call leads to try to get them to buy now, while marketing staff use slow-burning strategies like advertisements and digital content to accomplish the same outcome. And that’s the problem. We suddenly see two departments that have the same interest, but different opinions on the right way to get there. Thus, sales and marketing compete against each other for the most favor in the eyes of management.

How to Align Sales and Marketing

Once you’ve identified that sales and marketing aren’t working together well enough, there are some easy steps you can take to align these two departments.

The first thing to understand is that marketing and sales should not be trying to compete for the same goals. They must instead work together by divvying up the tasks that lead to a successful sale. Instead, they should take over different steps of the sales and marketing process.

Sales staff are great at closing the deal, but they need marketing to support them. They will have a low success rate if their leads are cold. The marketing department’s job is to warm up leads and deliver them to sales to close. By the time sales has their hands on the leads, they should be warm and ready to close.

How Should Marketing Support Sales?

The solution is actually right in front of our eyes, with the basic marketing funnel. Here are some of the major stages of the funnel, and how sales and marketing need to interact.

AWARENESS: Using strategies like content marketing, email newsletters, and social media, the marketing team can bring in leads at the awareness stage of the funnel. The goal here is to engage with people who have never heard of your company before, but might be interested in what you have to offer. Leads will be more open to learning about your company at tradeshows or through blogs than they would be if a salesperson called them up at random. The latter would be considered unwanted telemarketing!

INTEREST: This is where marketing automation really come sinto its own. Leads at this stage have engaged with the brand, so the marketing team is able to feed them information through emails, newsletters, courses, webinars, and other free content that can help them become more familiar with the company without committing.

CONSIDERATION: This is where sales may start to take over some responsibility. It is up to marketing to provide the lead with product information, special deals, and opportunities for free trials. But it’s also important for the sales team to have access to the same information. They need to know what specials are active, and what language the marketing team is using to promote these products. If a lead decides to get in contact with the sales department at this stage, you don’t want them to feel like sales is speaking a completely different language than marketing.

INTENT: This stage of the marketing funnel is where sales becomes fully involved. This is the stage of product demos, where sales will often talk directly with leads as they go through the process of seeing if the product is a good fit. Expect a lot of questions; some will come through marketing channels (email, social media) and others will come through sales channels (direct calls, support lines). It is important here still that sales and marketing are speaking the same language and have access to the same information. This information should be created by marketing, and agreed upon by sales. It is imperative that sales does not offer something that marketing can’t deliver on, and vice versa.

PURCHASE: When it comes to sealing the deal, this will generally be up to the sales department. The lead will turn into a customer and make a purchase or be onboarded, all with close contact with the sales department. Sales should be armed with everything they need to close the sale, some of which may be up to the marketing department based on what they have learned about the customers.

POST-PURCHASE: Sales and marketing aren’t done, even when the sale is finished. These departments must stay engaged with the customer. Sales is responsible for checking in with customers to make sure they’re still satisfied, and trying to upsell them if possible. Meanwhile, marketing needs to build brand loyalty through things like surveys, user groups, and loyalty programs. Once again, the voice these two departments use needs to be unified, so that the customer is getting a consistent experience no matter who they interact with.

Following this strategy will help bring the sales and marketing departments into alignment. There is no need for marketing to covet the recognition that sales receives for every closed deal, and there is no need for sales to think marketing is a joke that doesn’t serve any purpose. These two departments can exist in unity, working toward the same goals and supporting each other. It is up to company leadership to see the value in both, and to reorganize the function of the company around this necessary alignment.