Sales and marketing alignment is both critical and difficult to measure.

If asked about the status of your sales and marketing alignment, you would likely say it is better than ever. But our perceptions rarely tell the full story. Alignment actually fails in most organizations, according to a recent LeadMD and Drift study.

This article will walk you through more results and explain how you can apply them in your own business to have a real impact on alignment and business success.

1. Align with buyers and innovation

The best companies are completely – almost fanatical – buyer-centric. It is therefore no surprise that the companies with a great focus on sales and marketing are highly focused on their buyers.

To start a stronger move to market, it takes a deep understanding of your buyers. You need to update your Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs) and any resulting go-to-market segments.

Sales and marketing must also work together early on in defining ICPs. Typically, sales teams offer their feedback late in the game when marketing has already invested a lot of time and resources. That leads to frustration and resentment, not to mention an inaccurate end result.

Collaborate early on and encourage marketing to share their early-stage ICPs with sales for feedback before moving on.

Next, set expectations for innovation in sales and marketing. The term “innovation” means different things to different people. You should therefore align both departments according to their definition and purpose in your company. Let both teams know what it takes to innovate successfully and how you plan to approach the process.

Update your customer information as you prepare for innovation if it wasn’t recently updated. This can easily be a six month process that shouldn’t be rushed.

2. Further standardize sales and marketing

After you’ve updated your ICPs and go-to-market moves / segments, you should have a solid foundation to work with. However, you still need a 100% buy-in from both sales and marketing. Since you invited sales to participate from the start, you should be around. Usually, however, tweaks need to be made and more information exchanged before your foundation can be consolidated.

Once you’ve made that sales-marketing agreement, both departments can work together to tailor the buyer journey accordingly. The groups must take their own actions, but should jointly agree on the ultimate goals.

Sales should provide insight into what content is needed at each stage and whether customers need training, information, a custom sales proposal, or some other tactic to move on to the next stage. Marketing should then communicate whether these content requirements are possible and provide realistic timeframes for completing them.

Throughout the process, both teams need to understand and agree on the definition of all the terms used. It is easy to assume that everyone uses the same words in the same way, but we have found that even high-ranking practitioners often do not. Most people don’t want to raise their hands and ask for clarification, but real unity requires mutual, agreed definitions of the vocabulary you use.

Make sure you understand what you mean and ask others to do the same.

3. Define an informed measurement approach (note: no vanity metrics)

How do you measure your progress and success after taking the first two steps?

Many teams look to metrics like MMS to gauge their effectiveness. However, these metrics look bad when used on their own. We call such metrics “vanity metrics” because they make marketers feel good about themselves but don’t say anything about the value they offer.

Instead, couple leading metrics with lagging metrics, including pipeline creation, revenue generation, and lifelong customer benefit, to get real insight into sales and marketing performance so you can customize and improve them.

A good workable example is measuring “depth of relationship”. Heat mapping your alignment within a company is critical to measuring not only the strength of the customer relationship, but the quality of your potential calls as well.

From there, switch to meeting acceptance (sales accepted lead) and meeting quality (don’t worry about the actual number of meetings scheduled). This is a great look that is best determined first by the attendant answering the meeting and then via the call recording – if you’re using a gong or Chorus.ai and your sales management team can handle the volume.

By combining these leading indicators with cold, hard, and sales-based results, you get information on how to optimize that early metrics and your top-of-funnel focus. Rarely does the method itself need to change – usually it’s the target accounts (a big focus during the COVID pandemic), the buyer personalities and messages, and of course the sales games that we enable.

* * *

Once you’ve done these basic steps, you’re ready to take out other alignment boosters for a spin. For example, if businesses reopen and we don’t all work virtually, consider placing your sales and marketing teams physically close together. Invite both teams to daily scrums and encourage them to conduct customer interviews together.

Tactics like these aren’t difficult to implement and can drive sales and marketing alignment. However, start with the three main steps that I outlined in this article. And when you see the alignment increase and produce tangible results, you can move on to more advanced tactics.