The Inbound Growth Blog

The Inbound Growth Blog covers all topics relating to an integrated marketing strategy. We write about inbound marketing, social media, integrated marketing strategies and the sales process.

Small Business Growth Strategies: Aligning Your Sales And Marketing Teams To Grow

Posted by John Beveridge on Feb 14, 2013 10:13:00 AM

Sales and marketing alignment blogAs the owner or manager of a an SMB company, you’re pulled in many different directions. You’re likely engaged in the day-to-day operations of your business, while at the same time you are constantly looking for ways to grow. In most cases, two of your biggest concerns are marketing and sales. These two different functions are closely intertwined, but don’t always coordinate their efforts. You are marketing to increase your sales. If you have all the sales you could handle, you probably would not worry about marketing! Aligning your sales and marketing strategies so that they work together only makes sense.

Three Steps To Develop Smarketing: Sales And Marketing Alignment

Developing smarketing, the alignment of sales and marketing, within your company is not always easy. Traditional thinking puts the sales and marketing teams at odds quite regularly, with both teams thinking that the other is out of touch with the big picture. These three basic steps will get your sales and marketing teams on the same page and working towards a common goal: generating quality leads that have a high conversion rate to closed business.

Agree On Definitions Of Lead Stages

One of the biggest areas of disagreement between sales and marketing relates to the quality of leads. Sales will say that the leads passed to them by marketing aren't ready to buy and marketing will say that sales doesn't fall up with high-quality leads. The best way to bridge this gap is for sales and marketing to jointly develop definitions of the various lead stages. Senior management should "referee" this process to help bring the two departments to agreement. Specifically, the following two lead stages need to be defined.

Marketing Qualifed Leads(MQLs)

Marketing qualified leads are leads that have exhibited characteristics that indicate that they are likely to purchase your company's products or services. Depending on the source, experts estimate that 75%-98% of visitors to your website aren't ready to buy. Marketing qualified leads are generally defined as leads that exceed a pre-determined lead score. Lead scoring is a process where points are assigned to a lead based on a number of factors including:

  • The extent of their interaction with your marketing process. For example, if someone has downloaded several of your content offers, it's likely that they are getting closer to a purchase decision. You might assign a score of 10 points when someone downloads a top-of-the funnel content offer. If they download 5 of your offers, they're assigned 50 points.
  • The types of offers they're accessing. If a lead requests a bottom-of-the-funnel offer like a consultation or a free trial, they most likely are reaching a purchase decision. While you may assign a score of 10 for the top-of-the-funnel offer, you would assign a higher score (25 or 50) for an offer like a consultation or free offer. Keep in mind that if someone requests a consultation or a free trial, the sales team will most likely be who you assign to do the consultation or set up the trial.
  • How they interact with your website. If someone accesses a certain number of your website pages or specific pages, you would assign points to their lead score. For example, if someone has looked at 10 different web pages, they are clearly interested in your company. If someone is looking at your pricing page, that's also an indication that they may be nearing a decision. In these two cases, you might assign 25 points for the person who's accessed 10 pages and 15 points to the person who's accessed your pricing page.
  • Demographic factors like industry, geography and job title. If you know you do a great job with tech companies, you would assign points to any lead coming from the technology industry. If you market within a defined geographical area, you would assign points to a lead in your market area. You also would assign points to someone with a job title that indicates that they are a decision-maker or an influencer on the decision to purchase your products.
  • Assign negative points for factors that indicate a lower probability of the lead buying from you. In my lead scoring system, I deduct 5 points from anyone who registers for a content download with a Gmail address. I'm more interested in someone who provides a corporate email address, although I do know that some buyers just use Gmail for their business email.

Once a lead has accrued a lead score that defines them as a marketing qualified lead, the marketing team has to do more research to make sure the lead is ready to pass to sales. Keep in mind that your lead score is an evolutionary process - you'll change point values and perhaps the MQL definition as you get feedback from the marketplace and your sales team.

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Sales Qualified Leads

Once a lead has been defined as marketing qualified, the marketing team needs to do some research to determine if the lead is a sales qualified lead (SQL). A sales qualified lead is ready for an outreach by your sales team. By definition, it is a warm lead. Marketing needs to research the lead to make sure it is truly ready for sales outreach. Here are some examples of the research necessary to determine if a lead is sales qualified.

  • Does the lead meet your requirements to do business? For example, it the lead is from a branch office for a company that makes decisions out of headquarters, it might not be ready for sales interaction. If it is, you want to let your sales team know that it's coming from a branch office so that they can explore the leads role in the purchasing process when they speak. Other factors to be researched include company size, industry, public or private, etc. This research will be specific to your company, but you should define what research needs to take place as part of your alignment process.
  • Does the lead have decision-making authority or is she an influencer of the purchase? You won't always know this from available information, but it's best to share what you do and don't know with the sales team.

Develop a Service-Level Agreement Between Sales and Marketing

We've discussed setting SMART goals for website visitors, leads and customers in previous articles. To briefly recap, SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely. An example of a SMART goal is to produce 100 sales qualified leads per month by 3d quarter of 2013. SMART goals for your inbound marketing program are developed by starting with your revenue goals and cascading down goals that support the revenue production. Here's an example of a service-level agreement for revenue production.

  • Produce $250,000 of revenue from inbound marketing. Based on our expected revenue per sale, that would equal 10 $25,000 deals.
  • In order to produce $250,000 in revenue, you need to generate 100 sales-qualified leads.
  • In order to generate 100 sales qualified leads, you need to generate 125 marketing qualified leads.
  • In order to generate 125 marketing qualified leads, you need to generate 400 unqualified leads.
  • In order to generate 400 unqualified leads, you need to produce 10,000 visits to your website.

By going through this goal-setting process, you do a few things. First, you define clear goals for each step of the process that hold the responsible party accountable. Secondly, you test the validity of your goals. For example, if your SMART goals dictate that you need 10,000 website visitors per month to hit your goals and you currently have 500 visitors per month, your goal is most likely not achievable. In any case, this goal-setting process is crucial to achieving the return on your inbound marketing investment.

The Essential Guide To Inbound Marketing


Meet Regularly And Adapt Your Processes

These processes, particularly the lead scoring definition, are rarely perfect when they're drafted. You should have regular growth meetings that include both sales and marketing to review what's worked and what hasn't and to make the necessary adjustments to your processes. As mentioned previously, I recommend that senior management be part of these meeting and arbitrate any disagreements.

These meeting should also review progress against goals. If any of the goals aren't being hit, you need to examine your tactics and adjust them accordingly. For example, if you're not hitting your web traffic goals, you might consider increasing your blogging frequency from twice weekly to daily.


Once you have broken down the barriers between sales and marketing, you will likely see an overall improvement in the operations of your business. However, the job does not finish here. It is important to make certain the two teams do not rebuild the barriers. Continuously analyze the flow information between both departments and make certain the information loop remains strong, and in turn the smarketing team will continue to enjoy success.

Topics: Integrated Marketing Strategy

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