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How to Align Sales and Marketing for Success

Written by:

Victoria Yu is a Business Writer with expertise in Business Organization, Marketing, and Sales, holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of California, Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business.

Edited by:

Sallie, holding a Ph.D. from Walden University, is an experienced writing coach and editor with a background in marketing. She has served roles in corporate communications and taught at institutions like the University of Florida.

How to Align Sales and Marketing for Success

How to Align Sales and Marketing for Success

Consider, for a moment, that a company needs all its limbs to function while working together,  in much the same way that a person does. Now, imagine how difficult life would be (for a company or for a person) if the left hand never knew what the right hand was doing. In practical terms, this is a great metaphor for what happens when sales and marketing—two departments essential to the wellbeing of a company— fail to communicate with each other. Such failure could only lead to confusion, chaos, and missed opportunities. In fact, according to a survey by Gartner, aligning vital corporate functions such as marketing and sales was listed as a top priority for over 200 sales leaders in 2023.

If your business has grown large enough to have separate sales and marketing teams, it’s best to avoid any potential problems and pitfalls by aligning these two disparate departments, and by never allowing them to drift too far apart. To ensure that you understand what it takes to keep these vital functions working together in harmony, this guide will go over everything you need to know to align sales and marketing for business success.

Key Takeaways

  • Though sales and marketing teams both interact with customers to eventually make a sale, the two departments often are locked inside information silos, which only creates confusion and mismanagement.

  • To align the sales and marketing teams means coordinating and sharing goals, strategies, priorities, and metrics between the two, ensuring that both complement and elevate each other.

  • Companies with aligned sales and marketing departments enjoy more profits, customers, and customer lifetime value.

  • Five tips to help your business align your sales and marketing efforts are to designate a clear hand-off point, share key goals and metrics, adjust your sales compensation plan, share buyer personas, and coordinate content.

What’s the Difference Between Sales and Marketing?

Sales and marketing are intrinsically linked because they both deal with the same customers and talk about the same products. However, marketing and sales represent two different stretches of the customer journey. 

First, the marketing funnel develops overall brand awareness and oversees the potential customer from the moment they become aware of the brand to the point they consider purchasing. Once a prospect is interested, they progress into the sales funnel to complete the sale.

Even though both departments/teams work to convert prospects to buyers, the point at which the marketing funnel ends and the sales funnel begins isn’t always clear. Where one ends and the other begins depends on the company. For example, some companies don’t use a marketing funnel at all, and they choose to fold marketing into the mix by placing it on top of the sales funnel. This can lead to confusion and misunderstanding when it comes to the difference between sales and marketing. 

What Does It Mean to “Align” Sales and Marketing?

Let’s begin this section with good descriptions of sales and marketing.

The sales department or sales team manages and executes processes to exchange goods, services, or products for money or other forms of payment. Sales processes include things such as identifying potential customers, building relationships with potential customers, and persuading or helping customers make purchases. Sales representatives use different techniques and venues to make sales, including direct selling, online sales, or retail settings. The primary goal of sales is producing revenue for a business or company, while satisfying the needs and desires of its customers.

On the other hand, the marketing department or marketing team is responsible for promoting and selling products or services by creating strategies to attract, engage, and retain customers. The marketing team conducts market research, identifies target audiences, develops, and manages brand image and messaging, and executes marketing tactics to influence potential customers. These tactics include the use of advertising, social media, and public relations. The primary goal of marketing is to serve as a driver of sales while helping to build and maintain a company’s loyal customer base.

You can see, based on the descriptions presented above, that sales and marketing share the goal of helping to generate revenue for the company. To align the sales and marketing teams means to share goals, priorities, strategies, and even key performance indicators between the two functions. Aligning these two functions creates a unified business and a cohesive customer journey, boosting the company’s overall operations and chances at making sales. In the world of business, the aligned sales-marketing teams are often referred to as “Smarketing.”

A big problem arises, however, due to the fact that marketing and sales are separate business functions that drive different parts of the customer journey. As such, marketing and sales departments often work in information silos where one team doesn’t talk to the other. When this happens, it can lead to confusion, miscommunications, duplicate communications, and even customer issues.

To be more specific, a big point of contention between marketing and sales is that the marketing team sets the price point of the items the sales department sells. It’s true. Product pricing is a function of marketing, because the price of a product affects how consumers view the product. In other words, a common issue for salespeople is that marketing managers set the price of an item too high for customers to afford, and the salesperson is unable to sell it. 

Miscommunication with customers can occur when there is a lack of communication between the sales and marketing departments. For example, the marketing campaign might employ an appeal to one pain point and might promise the consumer one image of a product, while the salespeople–who are speaking directly to customers, might appeal to another pain point and present the prospective buyer a completely different image of the product. The end result for potential customers might be confusion and misunderstanding, which is not likely to lead to a completed sale.

Why You Should Align Sales and Marketing

So why should you try to solve such an age-old issue?

The benefits of sales and marketing alignment are worth every ounce of effort. Why? Because aligning marketing and sales increases revenue by 34%, boosts customer retention by 36%, and makes a company three times more likely to exceed new customer acquisition targets.

As Smarketing aligns goals and processes between sales and marketing, both teams will be working off the same definitions of what counts as a qualified lead, and how exactly to nurture that lead at each stage of their buying journey. Aligning sales and marketing enables prospective buyers to experience a faster, more efficient, and seamless sales process from start to finish, and this will improve the chance of them making a purchase and becoming a loyal customer.

Remember what we said about marketing setting the price that salespeople have to sell. Without an open conversation between sales and marketing teams about why the price is set the way it is, salespeople can find themselves feeling desolate, frustrated, and helpless with what they perceive to be an unsellable price point. 

In an interview series published in the Harvard Business Review, beleaguered sales reps bemoaned problems they encountered with fluctuating price changes due to price goals, saying they were, “All corporate. We cannot change anything. This mismatch creates a teeter-totter where we have to decide what to sell and what not to push. It’s really discouraging.”

Aligning sales and marketing is the cure for this ailment because it opens a line of communication between price-setters and product sellers on the front line, getting pricing buy-in from salespeople and helping managers set prices that can agree with and sell. With open communication with regard to pricing, not will the company be poised to sell more, employee morale will also improve.

How to Align Sales and Marketing

So how exactly do you align sales and marketing? Here are five actionable tips to help you break down information silos and present a more unified customer journey.

1. Designate the Hand-Off Point

One of the biggest issues we’ve seen when it comes to aligning marketing and sales is that companies often don’t have a clear distinction between where their marketing funnel ends and where their sales funnel begins. 

As every business process and customer journey is different, there isn’t a universal consensus for the hand-off point between marketing and sales: some companies ask marketers to take leads all the way to checkout, while others expect salespeople to market directly to leads. Thus, employees might step on each others’ toes during the process, or even drop customers between the two functions, assuming the other side is processing them. Without a clear understanding of what leads have already talked to the company about, sales reps might bring up statistics and promotions the lead already knows, or ask questions the lead has already answered.

Thus, when mapping out your sales funnel, sales pipeline, customer service design map, and customer journey, you should clearly demarcate which part is governed by the marketing team, and which part is governed by the sales team. Clearly distinguishing the boundary between marketing and sales ensures that each half of the funnel has unique-yet-complementary messages and content for customers, creating an immersive and seamless experience. 

Similarly, if you’re a B2B company with separate sales funnels for your sales prospecting and lead generation campaigns, you should go through each individual funnel and find the unique hand-off point for each. 

To help smooth the transition, consider creating a lead scoring template for marketing reps to fill out for each lead they pass through the funnel, describing how qualified each potential customer is to complete a sale and what content or products they have shown interest in. Armed with this knowledge, sales reps can jump right into a tailored sales conversation and take the lead straight to close.

2. Share Key Goals and Metrics

Next up is to strategize together, sharing goals and metrics between marketing and sales to achieve greater company objectives.

As an example, say your company has a goal of increasing revenue by 10% this year. While marketing could come up with a strategy designed to bring in as many leads as possible to increase the volume of sales, sales could be using a completely opposite strategy involving decreasing the number of inbound sales and instead focusing on existing customer lifetime value. Once again, if the two teams don’t communicate, sales will be caught off-guard by the flood of new leads, and both departments will fail to produce any results. 

That’s why both marketing and sales leaders should sit down and coordinate exactly how they’re going to implement larger company objectives, setting complementary goals for each of their departments. Some shared key performance indicators (KPIs) both groups could coordinate are conversion rates, lead scores, and funnel velocity.

3. Adjust Your Sales Compensation Plan

A big difference between marketing and sales employees is that while marketing positions tend to be salary-based, salespeople are often paid through a commission structure. This means that salespeople are encouraged to sell as many items as possible in order to make money.

Now, based on our previous example, our discussion of the two teams using opposite strategies designed to sell many low-priced products or a few high-priced products, you can see how this situation could present a problem. Even if the company’s marketing and sales leaders agree to sell only to highly-qualified leads and focus on long term customer lifetime value, salespeople on the front line will still be incentivized to make as many sales as possible, regardless of customer fit or profit margin.

As such, when setting up your long-term marketing and sales strategies, sales managers should also consider restructuring their sales representatives’ sales compensation plans to incentivize sales reps toward the department and company’s broader goals. Continuing from our example, a sales manager could add a salaried component to reps’ payment structure, or give bonuses for completing non-sales related tasks like researching and nurturing customers. 

4. Share Buyer Personas

Both marketing and sales reps talk directly to customers. As such, they often prepare conversation scripts and promotional materials to help standardize their interactions and appeal more strongly to leads, based on their pre-conceived notion of the sort of potential customer they might interact with. 

However, if the traits and personalities of these imaginary target customers don’t align, then the marketing and sales teams will be speaking to two different people. Incoming customers will experience a huge tonal shift in their communications with the company once they pass from the marketing to sales team, causing confusion, mental dissonance, and in the worst case, a lost sale.

To fix this issue, marketing and sales teams should work together to create shared buyer personas, which are semi-fictional representations of your company’s ideal customer profile. This will give everyone a shared understanding of the company’s ideal customer’s demographics and pain points, as well as personality traits and what sort of conversational tone might be best to take with prospects.

Let’s say, for example, that your car dealership is selling a new minivan oriented towards families. While your ideal customer profile would simply be families of medium to high socioeconomic status, your buyer persona would go one step further to create a fake family of Dana and Mark Foster, who hope to get a spacious car that will fit their three younger children as they grow older. By asking both the marketing and sales teams to appeal to this fictional Foster family, a company can be sure that its entire customer journey is consistently appealing to ideal customers who resemble the buyer persona.

5. Coordinate Content

Finally, in a similar vein to the previous point, companies should be sure to have separate marketing promotional content and sales enablement material, creating an enriching experience for consumers at each step of the sales process.

Consumers won’t be enticed by content they’ve seen before. So, if a sales rep mistakenly sends a lead a factoid or infographic they’d already seen from a marketing rep, the company essentially wastes its chance of adding value to its product pitch, and instead frustrates or bores the customer. As such, marketers and salespeople should divvy up content between them and communicate to ensure no content is used twice on the same customer.

Additionally, consumers at different stages of the sales journey require different content. Consumers at the beginning of their sales journey want more superficial and emotion-based appeals, while mid- and late-stage leads will obviously want more in-depth product details and benefit explanations before making a purchase. Thus, the unique content presented by your marketing and sales teams should seamlessly create a sliding scale between pathos and logos appeals, with no duplicates.

Finally, marketers should also be in constant communication with sales reps while developing marketing material, as sales reps would know first-hand what sort of promotional content and topics garner the most interest from potential customers. Similarly, sales reps should stay up-to-date with their company’s current marketing campaigns to know what features and benefits are at the top of consumers’ minds when making a pitch.


Though it may seem difficult to implement at first, aligning your business’s marketing and sales departments brings a wealth of benefits for both your customers and your employees. The longer you wait to coordinate these functions, the further they will drift apart, driving an irreparable wedge in your business operations. By following the five tips we’ve provided within this guide, you can set your company up for the best bottom-line results. Aligning your company’s marketing and sales efforts will improve your business’ success potential by bridging any potential communication gaps.


Why can’t I just merge marketing and sales into one department?

Aligning marketing and sales can be complex, and you might be tempted to simply merge the two functions into one “Smarketing” department and call it a day. However, this would be a grand mistake. As we mentioned earlier, though they both deal with customers, marketing and sales perform different functions with the customer. Marketing builds awareness and interest, and sales takes them to close.

Simply put, marketing and sales complete such disparate tasks that merging them together would simply distract employees from meeting one task and goal or another. Separating these functions means employees in each department develop a more specialized skill set, improving the company’s overall performance and capabilities. Thus, rather than combining them, simply aligning the two is enough to boost performance.

What are some best practices for aligning marketing and sales?

Once you’ve got those five large adjustments up and running, the next step is to ensure that your marketing and sales teams don’t drift apart again by setting procedures to keep the two aligned in the long run. This means that marketing and sales leaders should meet up regularly (weekly or monthly), and that marketing and sales employees should be constantly briefed on what the other team is doing. 

Additionally, you should also ensure you’re aligning your marketing and sales operations with the company’s larger strategic goals, as well. It doesn’t matter how well marketing and sales are in sync if the two are out of sync with the rest of the company!

What sort of software can I use to help align marketing and sales?

If your company doesn’t have one yet, a CRM system can help you align marketing and sales by providing a platform through which to record, manage, and pass on information about leads as they progress through their sales journey. Some vendors of CRM software are HubSpot CRM, Salesforce CRM, and Zoho CRM.

Additionally, marketing automation software can help your marketing team keep track of and send out marketing content and messages, standardizing the process and preventing duplicate communications. Marketing automation software can be integrated into CRM systems, meaning inbound leads will flow seamlessly to the sales team.

Are there any risks to aligning marketing and sales?

With any sort of change, there’s always a risk that your efforts are misplaced, creating costly mistakes. A mistake in attempting to align marketing and sales is investing in a fancy piece of technology without changing business processes to match, which actually creates a net loss for the company without generating any income to match.

So, though CRMs and marketing automation technology could help align marketing and sales, it’s best to think about and address the underlying issues of misalignment first, rather than relying too heavily on technology.