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The Ultimate B2B Marketing and Sales Alignment Guide

Written by Colleen Conneran on 22, July 2019

The Ultimate B2B Marketing and Sales Alignment Guide

When your goal is to align your marketing and sales teams for improved processes and increased customers, there’s a lot of steps you have to take before it happens.

A step that many people seem to miss is taking the time to align your marketing and sales teams.

Marketing and sales alignment means joining the two teams together to set expectations, goals, standards, and processes to ensure leads are transitioned through the buying process in a smooth and efficient manner.

When marketing and sales teams are aligned, this means that marketing is qualifying the leads they gather in order to ensure they handoff only qualified leads. Then sales takes over and will finish qualifying leads and switching leads into opportunities.

So all of this is great, but how do you actually go about aligning your marketing and sales teams?

We have broken it into five main steps to help you align your B2B marketing and sales teams.

  1. Knowing Your Audience
  2. Qualifying the Right Leads
  3. Setting Up Productive Processes
  4. Lead Scoring
  5. Measuring Success

With each step, we explain what it means and how this can help align your teams. It’s important to note that with every single step we cover, these should be happening with both your marketing and sales teams together. This shouldn’t be a one-way conversation.


STEP ONE: Knowing Your Audience

Before moving forward with any type of campaign, an important step is to take the time to decide exactly who it is that you want to target with your product or service. To do that you need to build your ideal customer profile and establish how to measure sales-readiness.

Creating an Ideal Customer Profile for B2B Companies

An ideal customer profile is the attributes agreed upon by marketing and sales that deems a lead as qualified or unqualified.

When you take the time to create a B2B ideal customer profile, you will be able to target the right people better and generate more qualified leads. It also will help to end the tension between your marketing and sales teams as they will work together to agree on what attributes actually qualify a lead.

An important part of creating an ideal customer profile for a B2B company is making sure that this is a conversation happening between both your marketing and sales teams.

To actually begin building your ideal customer profile, the first step is simple: describe your ideal customer. This is who will find your product or service most helpful and what they can offer you in return (repeat business, consecutive business, client referrals, etc.).

Then, interview some of your most successful customers. Ask them questions about what it was that made your product/service so helpful to them and Identify what characteristics and attributes they have that seemed most satisfied by your product/service.

Lastly, write out a list answering these questions based on who it is you’re targeting. You can begin with questions such as:

  • What is their industry?
  • What is the size of their business?
  • What is their budget?
  • What influences their decisions? Do they have to talk to the CEO to get permission for things? Do they need referrals from other customers’ first?
  • What are their pain points as a business?
  • What is their main business objective?

As you discuss these questions, rely as much as possible on any data you have. You can read an example of an ideal customer profile as well as more details on how to create one with your teams in our article.

define ideal customer profile

Measuring Sales Readiness

Sales readiness is a measurement for how your prospects demonstrate that they’re ready, or not, to talk to sales. If you have a good way of measuring sales readiness, you will have more clarity and confidence in knowing who can be a good fit for your product or service and whether or not they are ready to speak to a sales rep.

The first step in measuring sales readiness is determining all of the different actions someone can take that portray their level of readiness. These actions can differ from company to company, but the landscape of digital marketing tends to keep these pretty similar across companies and industries.

We suggest breaking it out into broader categories, then outlining all of the actions someone can take in each group. Use the following breakdown of different types of interactions as a starting point.

Interactions on Your Website

Prospects can interact with your website in a lot of different ways. Their behavior can tell you how interested they are in your product or service as well as how ready they are to purchase.

Email Engagement

If you are working on closing new deals, you are probably sending both marketing and sales emails. Measuring the interactions of these emails can be incredibly telling as far as how ready someone is to speak with sales.

Social Media Engagement

If your company is active on social media, you can easily monitor specific social media metrics to determine the level of sales readiness for a prospect.

Event Attendance

If you hold events online like webinars, or you host meet-ups or attend industry shows you can measure certain activities during these events to help determine the sales readiness of a prospect.

Now you have all of the activities that someone can take to portray their level of sales readiness. Next, you’ll need to break these activities out based on their value to your sales team.

One way to break these activities and behaviors into different groups is the following:

  • Hand Raisers - these people want to talk to sales (ex. They engage in live chat)
  • Actively Investigating Your Product - these people are interested but may not be ready to speak to sales (ex. They looked at your pricing page and a corresponding blog but that was it)
  • Passively Interested in Your Product - these people know who you are and what you offer but have shown no signs of looking to purchase (ex. Someone followed you on social media)
  • Not Interested - these people have shown clear signs that they do not want to buy your product or service and you should not be contacting them (ex. Someone unsubscribed from your emails)

Make sure that you can track all of the actions from email engagement, to website activity to social media engagement. When prospects show activity, whether they are high value or low value, you can cross-reference the prospect to your ideal customer profile to determine if they are a good fit or bad fit.

To see an example and read in more detail about determining sales readiness in your leads, check out our article covering the topic.


STEP TWO: Qualifying The Right Leads

Once you establish who it is that you are targeting, the next step is setting up a protocol to qualify leads. This is where it’s very important to make sure that this is a healthy, mutual conversation between sales and marketing.

The benefit of taking the time to make sure qualifying factors are in place, this means less time will be spent on sales behalf trying to weed out the unqualified leads and marketing will be able to better target specific markets.

Developing a Lead Qualification Process

A lead qualification process refers to the steps you take to determine whether a prospect fits your ideal customer profile (ICP), is ready to be contacted by sales through their actions, and is passed from marketing to sales effectively.

A good way to start is by talking to your more experienced sales team members about the criteria they use to qualify a prospect to be sales ready quickly. Agree on the good-fit and bad-fit criteria with the sales team and use this as a starting point.

Over time, conversion data and on-going collaboration with the sales team will help you fine-tune these criteria.

Now, you’re ready to use the below lead qualification matrix framework.

Lead Qualification Matrix

Your ideal customer profile good-fit and bad-fit attributes are located on the Y axis, and your sales readiness actions are located on the X axis.

Now, In each box of the matrix, write either “Sales” or “Marketing” to indicate which team is in charge of the leads.

Once your lead qualification matrix has been built, you need to develop a strategy for how you handle these leads and help them make progress in your marketing and sales funnel.

Here are some questions to discuss with your marketing and sales teams:

  • Nurturing: How should marketing nurture unready leads to get them sales ready?
  • Qualification: How do you know when a lead has moved from being unready to being sales ready?
  • Notifications: How does marketing notify sales when a lead becomes sales ready? How frequently are sales notified (immediately, once a day, etc.)?
  • Unqualified Leads: How do sales send leads back to marketing?
  • Lead Details: What information needs to be included when marketing sends a lead to sales?
  • Data: What data do both teams need to input for the appropriate reports to be run?

To explore this concept more, see an example, and read how to make one step-by-step, check out our article.

Marketing Qualified Leads vs. Sales Qualified Leads

Once you have decided who it is that each department is covering, take the time to dive into what the actual qualifying factors are for both parties.

By taking the time to define MQLs and SQLs, you can ensure that there will be minimal confusion for both departments on what a qualified lead looks like. This enables marketing to do a great job at pulling in strong leads and allowing sales to really close the deal with people actually interested.

Defining a Marketing Qualified Lead

To determine the top qualifying questions, we like to ask Sales, “what are the top 2-4 most important questions that you need to know to discern if this contact should be routed to your team or simply disqualified?”

Here is a quick checklist for getting on the same page with the Sales Team:

  • Have Sales define what a good lead looks like
  • Have Sales define what a bad lead looks like
  • Discuss what actions a lead has to take to become an MQL (maybe they viewed the pricing page, or downloaded a bottom of the funnel offer, etc.)
  • Document the process after an MQL is passed over to Sales to help identify gaps in the sales follow-up process (who and how will MQLs be routed to & when will they follow up?)
  • Review the decision-makers on your closed-won opportunities to be sure they align with your marketing personas
  • Update your buyer personas regularly to reflect any changes in the industry you’re selling into
  • Re-group with Sales to make sure your personas reflect the buyers they are selling to

Defining a Sales Qualified Lead

A sales qualified lead (SQL) has been vetted and qualified by a sales rep to be a viable prospect. This could include prospect problems that fit the solution offered by your company, and/or has the budget to purchase that solution.

Questions that address the following points will help determine if a lead is truly a SQL:

  1. Industry specific questions that couldn’t be collected in the MQL stage
  2. Buyer ready questions such as:
    1. Their Needs: What are their major challenges & how much will they be able to use your products to improve their current situation?
    2. Current Solution: Who, what, and why are they using to currently fulfill the needs that you can. Also, find out why they are looking (if they are) for a replacement.
    3. Decision Maker: Is this person the honcho who will pay you, or someone that has an influence on the decision-making process?
    4. Ready to Move: Find out if the company is ready to switch solutions and that the budget is there for you to push them into the next steps.

Once the MQL is ‘deemed ready’ by the sales team, it is officially marked as a SQL that can now move into an opportunity.

mql vs sql


STEP THREE: Setting Up Productive Processes

Now that everything is defined, it’s time to get it on paper and solidify the processes both marketing and sales will take moving forward.

An important step to do this is creating a marketing service level agreement. This spells out what it is that marketing is responsible for and what sales is responsible for. This will set clear expectations. By spelling it out, it limits confusion and potential arguing over who does what and who is in the wrong if something doesn’t get done.

After putting it all in writing, it doesn’t end there. A crucial step in making sure your marketing and sales teams stay aligned is setting up regular meetings between the two teams called SMarketing meetings.

By keeping the two departments in constant communication, efficiency and organization will increase allowing both teams to thrive as they continue to work together and create a more flawless process.

Creating a Marketing Service Level Agreement

When you create a service level agreement, or SLA, that means you have representatives from your marketing team and sales team to agree on what is expected of each party. We use this opportunity to define what each team is looking for:

  • What makes a “lead” a “marketing qualified lead”?
  • What makes a “sales qualified lead”?
  • How soon does the sales team reach out to a lead?
  • How many touches before a lead is dropped?
  • How many MQLs does the sales team expect?
  • What is our goal MQL-Customer conversion rate?
  • How many leads do sales need per month?

This will set expectations for both teams to work together. If there is a breakdown, you have a document to reference that holds everyone accountable.


What Makes Up a Marketing Service Level Agreement?

Each SLA can vary based on what the purpose is. For most agreements, they will share the same blueprint.

  1. Summary of Agreement: Review how success is measured and what the responsibilities of each team member are.
  2. Goals of Both Parties: When creating an SLA for sales and marketing teams, it is essential that both teams set their goals. You will want to have a team revenue goal, but both marketing and sales should have their own goals to help contribute to the shared revenue goal. For example, you may want to set a goal for marketing (traffic, leads, marketing qualified leads) to provide for the sales teams to close. Only relying on sales goals creates the disconnect.
  3. What's Needed by Both Parties: Review what each team needs from the other. The biggest issue is the lack of communication. If you can organize weekly or biweekly meetings to review performance, this is an opportunity to create the structure.
  4. What to Determine for Both Parties: Who is responsible for making sure goals and deliverables are met? Who needs to talk to whom? Every team member needs to know who covers each issue and what the responsibilities are.
  5. If Goals Are Not Met: Not always the easiest conversation, but it is important. Typically, if goals aren’t met it could be a flaw in the process. This is where you define how you measure individual success and process analysis. Maybe the MQL qualifications need to be changed, or they need to be contacted sooner. This is where you make your pivots.
  6. Conditions of Cancellation: What circumstances would you need the SLA terminated? If the process is consistently not working and you do not have buy-in from the team, is it time to start again?

Host Regular SMarketing Meetings

Smarketing is when Marketing and Sales work together as one cohesive team for a common goal. This will help with aligning your Sales and Marketing strategies.

Ultimately, Marketing is trying to aggregate leads to hand off to Sales. In turn, sales needs leads to close business. If you create a closed-loop system of reporting between Sales and Marketing it is beneficial to the common goal of making your company more successful and profitable. You can do this by taking the time to align Sales and Marketings Strategies.

Ways to Host Productive SMarketing Meetings

  1. Focus on Problem Solving
  2. Choose Wisely Who You Invite
  3. Everyone Should Speak Freely

Make sure to set the agenda so everyone can stay on track. A typical smarketing agenda identifies challenges with current goals & initiatives and solutions that were brainstormed during the meeting. Additionally, assign specific tasks that are to be completed before the next smarketing meeting. Then looking to your next meeting, make the new initiatives discussed the first item on the agenda to explore the progress made.

Because you are combining Sales and Marketing into one collaborative meeting to align Sales and Marketing strategies, the tendency is to invite more than less, in a fear of leaving someone out. Research shows that group meetings are more effective with 9 or fewer people. This might seem tough to cut certain people, but finding the right mix of sales and marketing team members is crucial.

Research shows that meetings are more productive when everyone contributes. This is especially paramount for smarketing meetings if you want to fully align your sales and marketing strategies efficiently.

One easy way to keep track of those positively contributing is to bring a checklist with all the attendees' names on it when they speak up just put a mark by their name. If you find that someone isn't speaking up, you might want to ask them about their thoughts on a particular item being discussed.

smarketing meetings


STEP FOUR: Lead Scoring

What is the difference between a qualified lead from an unqualified one? There are key attributes of a contact that make a lead qualified and unqualified, and it’s essential you understand the difference.

Once you understand the difference, you can then help your sales team save time by providing them with the means to prioritize leads.

That’s where lead scoring comes in.

Lead scoring is a crucial part of modern lead management and a worthy addition to your growth strategy.

Lead scoring is the process of identifying the best leads for your sales team to connect with by attaching values to your leads individually based on a strategic scoring system.

While it may seem that lead scoring is excluding a group of leads and focusing on another. Rather, lead scoring is a way to help your marketing and sales teams align and determine which leads are sales-ready.

So why should you take the time to invest in setting up lead scoring? And how do you do so?

Lead scoring allows you to uncover leads that may be worth sales talking to, even though they didn’t check all of the boxes to be considered a marketing qualified lead.

By applying a value to every interaction someone can take with your company, you can start painting a picture of who are your most valuable leads, even if they haven’t filled out forms for you. Lead scoring is a way to quantify actions taken by prospects and judge their behavior in terms of value for your company.




Types of Lead Scoring

Traditional lead scoring is the process of manually creating a scoring point system to a contact based on both explicit and implicit information to qualify leads that should be passed to your sales team.

Essentially, a marketer will identify a series of qualifying factors that indicate whether or not a lead should be pursued or not.

Predictive lead scoring is similar, except it is a tool that uses an algorithm to create the most accurate lead scoring model based on historical information to predict who in your database is qualified or not.

Learn more about both types of lead scoring and what they look like with examples in our article.

How Do You Set Up Lead Scoring?

Some of the key areas in which you can set up lead scoring are demographic information, email interaction, online behavior, company information, and social engagement. Let's break those down.

Demographic Information: If you sell to multiple areas but focus on one city or geographic area, in particular, you can associate a higher lead score to that area. Conversely, if you do not want to sell to a specific area, you can associate a negative lead score to leads who are in said area.

Email Interaction: If someone has opted out of your emails, they are likely uninterested in hearing from your company, you could apply a negative score to these people. Positive scores, on the other hand, can be associated with people who have opened multiple emails or clicked on important links within the email. Even if they didn't reply or fill out your marketing qualified lead form, you could pass them to sales based on their level of engagement with the content you are sending them.

Online Behavior: How a potential lead interacts with your website can tell you a lot about if they're actually interested in buying from you. If you can identify actions that indicate a high likelihood to cause a lead to close as a customer, you can associate a positive score to these leads. Conversely, you can consider the contacts who have stopped visiting your site, these people could likely be no longer interested, and you can take points away from their lead score.

Company Information: If you are selling B2B, you have specific criteria for businesses you would like to work with. You can associate different levels of points for certain company information.

Social Engagement: Interactions with your company on social media can be a great indicator of how interested a lead is in working with you. You can associate points to any social media interaction.

lead scoring


STEP FIVE: Measuring Success

Now that we’ve made it this far, it’s important to measure out your different efforts to see what did and what didn’t work or what areas need improvement.

With sales, it’s pretty easy to see how many deals they close and keep track of those numbers but with marketing it’s a little trickier. That’s where marketing velocity comes in. It helps you measure the productivity of your marketing teams efforts and initiatives.

Then, to help measure effectiveness overall, we have introduced what is called The Revenue StatementTM. This is a concept on how to build out a statement to measure where it is your revenue is coming from. This could be from marketing or sales or other initiatives running.

It’s an incredible concept that has allowed CEO’s and C-Level executives to really narrow in on what is bringing the most amount of revenue and where.

Measuring Marketing Velocity

To dive into how efficient the marketing team is in relation to your lead volume your focus should be on your marketing velocity.

Marketing Velocity allows you to measure how effective your team is on an hourly basis in relation to the number of leads each deliverable produces. This allows you to clearly determine what your marketing team should be spending their resources on and which tasks should take priority over others.

Taking the time to calculate your strategy's marketing velocity will not only allow you to see the efficiency of your marketing team but also allow you to see what deliverables your team should prioritize. This will enable your marketing department to determine how much time and, in turn, money is spent on an item allowing marketing teams to work optimally on a limited budget.

The best way to determine the effectiveness of your team's marketing efforts is to breakdown and analyze each type of deliverable your team creates.

To do this, use the table below to list all of the items your marketing team produces.

After you’ve listed all of the assets your team has created, add how many of those items your team produced, under the “volume” column, how many leads one item produces on average under “leads”, and how many hours one asset takes to produce in your specified time range, under “hours”.

Marketing velocity

Leveraging your marketing velocity is vital for every marketing department to help determine which tactics your team should implement to drive the biggest impact on your lead volume.

Coupling your marketing velocity with testing your marketing strategies in short time periods will allow you to stay a step ahead of your competition and allows your marketing department to be as efficient as possible. You’re able to see, down to the hour, how efficient your marketing team is.


Building a Revenue Statement™

In any growth-oriented business, driving profitable revenue growth is one of the most important business goals. However, as we dig deeper into this topic, we find that most companies lack clarity into accounting for what is really working and not working, and “how” to systematically make informed business decisions to optimize profitable revenue growth.

For example, we use financial statements to manage the financial health of our business. The Income Statement provides an accounting for “past” revenue that has been generated for a given period and may have revenue further segmented into territories, product/service categories or industries segments. However, what is missing on the Income Statement is “how” revenue is being generated.

In addition to just generating revenue growth, successful businesses are also seeking ways to generate and optimize profitable growth.

The purpose of the Revenue Statement is to provide revenue leaders a standard way to report, assess, plan and optimize revenue for growth.

The Revenue Statement provides a standard report, just like an income statement, accounting for revenue funnels across your entire business for both for net-new customer and existing customer revenue funnels showing you “how” revenue is being generated across the entire business.

Below is a simple example of a Revenue Statement:

Revenue Statement

Like an Income Statement, a standardized Revenue Statement can serve as a powerful tool to assess, plan and optimize profitable revenue growth.

If you are interested in learning more about how to build, assess, plan and optimize a Revenue Statement for profitable revenue growth, read this article and supporting eBook.

align your marketing and sales teams with our help

Topics: MARKETING, Marketing & Sales Alignment, SALES

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