Sales and marketing team alignment makes a lot of sense, and in most small-sized professional services firms, they go hand-in-hand. But as companies continue to grow, it’s not uncommon for sales and marketing to fall out of sync, and this can lead to significant losses in visibility, profitability, and growth

In fact, a recent study showed that sales and marketing misalignment can prevent nearly 75% of leads from converting into sales. On the other hand, professional services firms can increase sales by 38% when they bring sales and marketing into alignment.

So, how do you reap the benefits of alignment by getting the left hand of sales to talk with the right hand of marketing — without triggering an arm-wrestling match? 

At Hinge, we’ve developed actionable strategies to help our clients receive the transformative benefits of sales and marketing alignment – and we’re excited to share them in this handy 10-minute guide. 

But before we jump into the strategies, let’s explore the fine-grained difference between your sales and marketing teams, and how they get disconnected in the first place.

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What’s the Difference Between Sales and Marketing?

Both your sales team and marketing team are essential for growing your firm’s client base, increasing profits, boosting sales, and improving visibility. However, each of these teams will fulfill different roles in support of those goals. 

Here’s how sales and marketing teams are different:

What Are Sales Teams?

Sales teams are defined as primarily being concerned with nurturing client relationships, closing deals, and helping customers see the benefits of buying your products and services. To support these efforts, sales teams need to evaluate the suitability of potential new clients and customers, educate them about your products and services, and eventually seal a commitment to buy. 

Also, depending on the sales strategy – and the needs of the firm – your sales team could be involved in the process of identifying and creating new business opportunities and writing detailed proposals for new clients and customers. 

What Are Marketing Teams?

Marketing teams on the other hand are defined as primarily being concerned with identifying and understanding your marketplace, customers, and competitors. After identifying and understanding these elements, marketing teams showcase your strategies and services in a way that reflects the unique attributes of your marketplace, customers, and competitors. This allows your marketing team to strategically promote the visibility of products and services while communicating how potential new customers will benefit from working with your firm. 

Also, depending on the marketing strategy – and the needs of the firm – your marketing team could be involved in educating clients and referral sources, strengthening client relationships, connecting with referral sources, creating new business opportunities, and writing detailed proposals for new clients and customers.   

Observations of Sales and Marketing in the Field

It’s common for certain roles to flip-flop between marketing and sales. For example, in Hinge’s Visibility program, we’ve seen marketing departments performing lead generation or proposal writing activities at some firms, while at other firms, we’ve seen sales departments fulfilling those roles. 

Another thing we’ve noticed is the fact that many sales and marketing strategies are highly “reactive” at professional services firms. Instead of proactively engaging in sales or marketing efforts, these firms wait for customers to approach them with requests for proposals (RFPs). Then, the marketing or sales team will “react” by writing the proposals and hoping to win the jobs. Most of these firms don’t have a clear sales or marketing strategy beyond waiting for RFPs and writing proposals. Although this can work for some organizations, a lack of proactivity can significantly hinder visibility, profitability, and growth. 

At the end of the day, sales and marketing teams share the same goal of driving growth and profitability. They just have different methods and motivations behind their work – and in too many cases, they’re disconnected in their efforts to achieve those goals.  

How Sales and Marketing Disconnect

According to Hinge research, only a small majority (54%) of professional services firms maintain strong coordination between their sales and marketing efforts. In the rest of the firms (46%), lost opportunities and wasted effort result from sales and marketing team misalignment. 

In the vast majority of cases, sales and marketing teams lack alignment due to the following three reasons:

  • Habitual pattern of organizing workflows: Many firms have been operating with disconnected sales and marketing teams for years – or sales and marketing simply grew apart as the size of their teams began to grow –  and no one sees how this lack of alignment could be counterproductive
  • Lack of effort and planning to ensure alignment: No processes or intentional activities are in place to support communication between sales and marketing teams. In other words, decision-makers have not made sales and marketing alignment a priority. 
  • Lack of knowledge: Neither team realizes the importance of sales and marketing alignment. They have not considered the potential benefits of alignment, and they simply don’t know that the disconnect is hurting the entire company.

Is Your Firm Suffering From a Sales and Marketing Disconnect?

Disconnected sales and marketing teams can cause poor performance, low sales, inefficient resource allocation, reduced visibility, and wasted marketing content. Even worse, misaligned sales and marketing teams can work against each other, inadvertently blocking each other’s success. Unfortunately, most professional services firms do not realize that a lack of alignment is the source of these challenges.

If you’re questioning whether your firm is suffering from a sales and marketing disconnect, listen to what each team is saying about the other. The marketing department could say, “We’re bringing in plenty of leads but the sales team isn’t closing the deals.” Or, the sales department could say, “We’re not closing any deals because marketing isn’t bringing in the qualified leads we need.” Either way, this kind of finger-pointing is a hallmark sign of a disconnect.

The Importance of Sales and Marketing Alignment

To help you understand why sales and marketing alignment is important, imagine that your marketing department is busy developing messaging, content, and collateral to boost your firm’s visibility to suitable clients. However, the marketing team hasn’t met with sales to learn about the unique pain points and defining characteristics of the clients who are the most likely to purchase your services. This lack of communication between sales and marketing is a problem because it can lead to marketing efforts that convey the wrong message, attract the wrong leads, and fail to highlight the most attractive elements of your brand. 

Since your sales team connects with clients daily, there is no better resource for your marketing team to learn about industry trends and the defining characteristics and pain points of your clients. Therefore, it makes sense for your marketing team to work closely with sales while creating customer profiles and fine-tuning its messaging. Your sales department can provide golden nuggets of information that will radically improve all marketing and lead generation efforts.

Despite the potential benefits, a surprising number of professional services firms don’t try to align their sales and marketing teams. Instead, they allow their sales and marketing departments to silo themselves, resulting in setbacks to growth and profitability.  

4 Proven Strategies That Boost Sales and Marketing Alignment

Now that we understand each team’s role, how marketing and sales can grow apart, and why collaboration is important, the next question is: In what ways can they work together? 

Fortunately, sales and marketing have plenty of opportunities to align across joint activities with client-focused priorities. Here are a few:

  1. Team Configuration: Rethink the Traditional Rainmaker Model and Build Your Marketing and Sales Teams

Instead of using sales and marketing teams to attract and secure customers, a lot of firms rely on one or more “rainmakers” to pound the pavement, network in the community, and bring in the bulk of their business. These individuals are usually founders, partners, advisors, board members, or star salespeople who close deals on behalf of the firm. They’re the reason some firms don’t engage in sales or marketing, but simply wait for new RFPs to roll into the office.

Although rainmakers are extremely valuable assets, contemporary sales and marketing is becoming more complex and requires a much broader skill set than rainmakers alone – especially if you want to thrive in today’s digitally-driven marketplace

In this respect, evolving beyond the rainmaker model into the “team” model is a much better way of structuring your business development strategy. For firms that haven’t already done so, this involves the building of your sales and marketing teams. Once they’re assembled, you can start aligning their efforts through a mutually collaborative relationship. 

Let’s take a look at how you can build a team-oriented marketing structure at a firm that doesn’t already have a marketing team:

  • Present the “Why Change Argument”: A shift from the rainmaker model to a team-oriented marketing strategy is going to impact a lot of people at your organization. So you’ll need to develop and present good reasons for the change to others at your organization. This way, others will join you and support the effort. For example, what will your marketing team look like after the configuration? Why are these changes going to be good for the organization? 
  • Get policy buy-in to test the team model first: Some organizations will immediately see the benefit of the team model. But if that’s not the case at your organization, we’ve found that it’s a lot easier to get buy-in to test the team model instead of jumping directly into a wholesale change. 
  • Identify the gaps in skills: As for building the marketing team, first, identify your strengths. Do any team members have good speaking, writing, or digital design skills? What skills are you missing? Maybe you’re lacking skills in marketing automation and client research. Write down your skills gaps and start engaging the resources needed to close those gaps. Often, those human resources are already in your organization!
  • Develop an operation plan: Decide which team members will fulfill which marketing roles and how often. Then, iron out any inefficiencies or incentives that could be working against you. Once you’ve put it all together, you’ll find that the team-based marketing model is more flexible, resilient, and productive than just relying on rainmakers alone. 

If your firm is also lacking a defined sales team, here’s an additional resource on developing a sales team structure.

  1. Strategy Alignment: Aligning Sales and Marketing Strategies 

Both your marketing and sales teams know that attracting new clients is essential to the health of your business. But are your sales and marketing teams implementing the same kind of approach to achieve this goal? Or, could they be working against one another and not even realize it? 

Many firms don’t know the range of sales and marketing strategies available, and they might not have taken the time to identify the unique strategies their sales and marketing teams are currently leveraging. This can result in the sales team choosing an approach that isn’t compatible with that of the marketing team.

In this respect, aligning your sales and marketing strategies starts with identifying the strategies each team is currently using. Next, the teams should discuss what they’re doing. Then, they can align their efforts and eliminate inefficiencies to achieve better results. 

Here are the most common strategies that sales and marketing teams are using today:

  • Seller-doer strategy: This is the most common strategy in smaller firms. The person making the sale is the person doing the work. Not only is this team member finding new prospects and closing deals, but he or she is also performing the actual service. 
  • Traditional seller strategy: This strategy involves a specific person who is responsible for creating and closing opportunities. After closing the deal, another employee – the “doer” – performs the work. In this strategy, the seller maintains a relationship with the client to find and close new opportunities. This isn’t the most common strategy in professional services firms because the client can’t evaluate the “doers” expertise or establish trust – which is usually a critical element in closing the deal. 
  • Seller and expert strategy: This strategy is needed when extensive proposal and contract negotiation phases are required before closing a sale, which is usually the case with government contracts and large construction projects. This strategy requires a salesperson who manages the relationship and an expert who helps create the proposal and contract and will likely manage the actual work. This strategy is typically limited to large-budget projects.
  • Business developer and closer-doer strategy: This model uses a salesperson to create opportunities and nurture leads, but they don’t provide an in-depth technical perspective to the client – nor do they close the sale. Many professional services firms label this role as a “business developer” as opposed to a salesperson. This frees up the doer’s schedule to spend more time on doing the job as opposed to finding and nurturing new client relationships. 

After reviewing the above sales and marketing strategies, you can align your sales and marketing efforts by holding a meeting — with both teams in the same room — to answer the following questions: 

  • What sales and marketing strategies does our firm use to boost profitability, visibility, and growth? 
  • Do we use different strategies at different times depending on the job?
  • Would it be better to use different strategies than we’re already using?
  • What roles do the sales team and the marketing team carry out to support the current strategies? Where do these roles align to support each other, and where do they conflict? 
  • What changes can we make to bring sales and marketing efforts into better alignment around these strategies? 
  • Or, if we change strategies, how can we align sales and marketing efforts to support the changes?

When you bring sales and marketing into a meeting to conduct discussions like this, a lot of creative solutions and “aha moments” rise to the surface. Soon enough, both teams will harmonize their strategies toward dramatically better results.

  1. Aligning Forces: Best Practice for Getting Sales and Marketing on the Same Page

The previous section touched on the benefits of bringing representatives of sales and marketing into the same meetings. In this section, we’ll dive into the specific topics that sales and marketing should regularly discuss. Holding joint meetings on the following topics is a great way to keep the teams in sync:

  • Strategy development meetings: First and foremost, sales and marketing should continually collaborate on determining the best strategy for communicating the firm’s messages, pursuing leads, nurturing client relationships, and measuring the results of these efforts.
  • Content development meetings: Marketing teams spend a lot of time developing educational content such as blog posts, articles, webinars, and whitepapers. When the sales team participates in content development meetings with the marketing department, salespeople can provide valuable topic ideas based on their first-hand knowledge of what resonates with the target audience.
  • Campaign development meetings: Marketing teams also spend time on creating and promoting new campaigns – such as events, ads, and speaking engagements – to boost visibility and attract new leads. Since it’s the sales team that will be communicating with those leads, the sales team should be involved in campaign development meetings to ensure that the marketing team is attracting the right clients.
  • KPI meetings: Finally, it’s crucial that sales and marketing teams review the same key performance indicators (KPIs), and they should meet to review them at the same time and in the same room.
  1. Aligning Metrics: What KPIs Should Sales and Marketing Review Together?

One of the most common reasons for misalignment happens when sales and marketing teams track different success metrics. That’s why it’s important for sales and marketing to hold regular KPI meetings where they review, discuss, and understand the latest KPIs together.

Here are the most important metrics that sales and marketing should review together:

  • Implementation metrics: These figures relate to the various sales and marketing techniques and technologies your teams are implementing. They reveal the time, cost, and energy required for different strategies. Examples of implementation metrics might include statistics on CRM software – for example, how many team members are using it, how are they using it, and how much does it cost to use. It could also include figures related to sales tactics like the time and cost of reaching out to potential clients with personalized emails and phone calls. 
  • Visibility metrics: These figures reveal how visible your firm and its services are to the target audience. Examples of visibility metrics include total website traffic, social media metrics, attendance numbers at events, Google search rankings for your website, and other stats that reveal how many people are seeing and interacting with your brand. 
  • Expertise metrics: These numbers show the degree to which your potential customers are seeing and interacting with your thought leadership content. In other words, how successful has your firm been at demonstrating its expertise? Examples of expertise metrics include blog views, premium content downloads, guest post metrics, webinar attendee figures, and attendance at speaking engagements. 
  • Impact metrics: These figures show the impact and success of your marketing and sales campaigns. In other words, they tell marketing and sales how worthwhile their efforts have been. Examples of impact metrics include figures on new leads and inquiries, sales pipeline stats related to different lead stages (i.e., raw leads, sales-ready leads, etc.), sales wins and losses, and monthly revenue figures to show how sales and marketing efforts are contributing to the bottom line.

Ultimately, if sales and marketing aren’t looking at the same KPIs in regular meetings, they’re not going to align their strategies to overcome challenges, and they could be creating more setbacks and challenges along the way. 

Final Thoughts About Sales and Marketing Alignment

Thanks for staying with us and reading through this guide. At Hinge, we’ve held the hands of countless firms along the journey toward better sales and marketing alignment – and to our delight, we’ve watched our clients radically transform their businesses by implementing the simple tips and perspectives outlined above.

If you’d like to grow your business with lasting momentum, focusing your marketing and sales teams on the same goal makes sense. After all, better alignment between these two departments allows them to work together to attract the type of clients who are desperately seeking your services — and your company’s unique style of delivering them. 

Do you want to start the journey toward better sales and marketing alignment? Schedule a strategy session with Hinge, and we’ll show you exactly how to do it!

Elizabeth Harr