Sales Enablement vs. Sales and Marketing Alignment

Sales Enablement vs. Sales and Marketing Alignment

By Jarrick CooperDec 21 /2016

sales-enablement-vs-sales-marketing-alignment.jpgWhen sales and marketing work together, it results in increased productivity and profit. When they don’t, important business objectives can be missed.

Sales and marketing alignment and sales enablement are two buzzwords I’ve heard a lot lately, but what do they mean and how are they different? Why has it been a challenge in the past to get sales and marketing on the same page, syncing up to achieve common goals?

Sales and Marketing: The Step Brothers of Business

Historically, sales and marketing have been the stepbrothers of the business world, competing for the affection of their father and blaming each other for their shortcomings and missed goals.




The CEO is like the biological father of the sales team while the marketing team is like his new stepson. The CEO and sales team have a close relationship. Sales brings in new business, so it is easy for the CEO to measure the sales team’s contribution to the company. Marketing, on the other hand, spends most of its days strategizing new ways to generate leads for the sales team utilizing effective tactics—all of which costs the company. Sales makes the money, marketing spends it.

Dysfunctional Family Dynamic

Marketing pitches their strategies to the CEO, showing how each initiative and activity is part of a larger chain that all play an important role in capturing new leads and moving them through their buyer’s journey. The CEO thinks the marketing plan is too expensive and he is skeptical that marketing’s strategy will yield the lowest customer acquisition cost (CAC) and highest ROI. So the CEO cherry-picks tactics from the chain and rejects the rest, leaving marketing with a fragmented strategy but with the same goals and expectations.

That’s when the dysfunction begins. Sales goals are not met and Dad wants some answers. The sales team blames the marketing team for delivering too few or low-quality leads. The marketing team points to their insufficient marketing budget and blames the sales team for being lazy or poor closers.

Like I always tell my kids, complaining about the problem will never lead to a solution. Cue sales enablement and sales and marketing alignment to the rescue.

Sales Enablement

Merriam Webster defines enabling as providing someone with means or opportunity or to make something possible, practical or easy. In this case, that “someone” is a salesperson or sales team and the “something” is the process of closing a deal.

For instance, let’s say Jill was recently hired in sales. She has quite a bit of experience in your industry, but not necessarily in selling. She needs tools—an email account, a phone, access to the CRM, sales scripts, and so on. She may also require training—courses, books, hands-on training and the like. The process of connecting her with these resources is essentially enablement.

Now that Jill is equipped with what she needs, she can send emails, make phone calls and start closing deals. When she understands the product, how to sell it, why the customer wants it, and what the organization values, she can make decisions that are congruent with her role and the company.

In short, sales enablement can be defined as the act of providing salespeople with the tools to make their job of closing deals easier. I recommend checking out HubSpot's detailed infographic if you’d like a deeper dive into the intricacies and definition of sales enablement.

Sales and Marketing Alignment

Sales and marketing alignment—the act of aligning the goals, strategies, accountability and forces of sales and marketing—is the foundational component of sales enablement.

If sales and marketing are the stepbrothers of business, it’s not hard to see why it’s so hard to get them to align. There are several contributing factors. One is that marketing often tends to have a long-term mindset (because they’re looking to boost brand recognition and nurture leads), while salespeople tend to move at a fast pace, working hard to meet quotas.

Their roles can also be in conflict. Marketing wants to be strategic in their next moves. Sales wants to push toward quarterly goals. Some marketers tend to see lead generation as a numbers game, while sales argues it’s the quality of the lead that counts.

So, while sales enablement and sales and marketing alignment do not mean the same thing, sales and marketing alignment is an integral component to the success of a sale enablement strategy—ensuring that communication between sales and marketing stay open and transparent and that the two departments work together and share accountability to achieve agreed-upon goals.

Failure to align sales and marketing teams around the right processes and technologies cost B2B companies 10 percent or more of revenue per year, resulting in $1 trillion in lost revenue each year due to decreased sales productivity and wasted marketing efforts. It’s time to get your teams oriented.




Sales and Marketing Working Together

When sales and marketing teams work together to develop lead generation, demand generation, prospecting, lead nurturing, closing, customer retention and referral strategies and tools, goals and accountability align. When goals and accountability align, get ready for a more efficient sales and marketing process, happier stakeholders and a better-looking bottom line. The question is how to get there.

Every organization's needs are different and each should develop their own tailored sales enablement and sales and marketing alignment playbook, but here are a few basic steps to get you pointed in the right direction:

  • Establish goals and KPIs. What goals and expectations do both departments have and what metrics will be measured to determine if the goals have been met? When marketing and sales are clear on each other’s objectives, they’ll gain a better understanding of the thought process behind the actions, and will be better able to help each other at every stage.
  • Identify ideal buyer personas. A combination of customer and prospect feedback and sales team input will form the basis for whom your marketing should be targeting, what messaging and offers will best resonate with them, and what channels are best for reaching them with your content. When marketing is expected to define buyer personas without input from the sales team, salespeople will always be able to blame poor close rates on marketing attracting the wrong types of leads.
  • Define a lead generation strategy together. In addition to helping to define the ideal buyer personas, the sales team should also provide feedback on the lead generation strategies coming from the marketing team. Marketing has a plan, but it might not complement what sales is trying to achieve. Sales wants to close deals, but may not understand how prospects were attracted in the first place. Collaborating on a unified strategy will improve communication on all fronts.
  • Determine how to identify a warm lead. The sales and marketing teams should work together to identify all the ways that leads interact with your brand and products and assign negative and positive point values to each of those activities. With that information and a bit of marketing automation, marketing can help sales identify which leads are most likely to be sales ready, allowing them to prioritize leads.
  • Define responsibilities. Traditional sales funnel models keep sales and marketing siloed. If both departments were responsible for revenue, and not just for lead generation or closing, they would work more closely together. This would also make lead hand-off a smooth and effective process.
  • Measure success. The sales and marketing teams should continue to meet on a regular basis—weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly—to report on the success of each department's efforts. Are marketing’s efforts bringing in quality leads? Do the lead scores accurately reflect the sales readiness of the leads sales is talking to? Are there any sales tools or collateral that would help the sales team close more deals? Is the sales team hearing any frequently asked questions, pain points or objections that could be addressed with new marketing content? Are there ways that either sales or marketing could help shorten the buy cycle for their customers?
  • Practice positive reinforcement. If you are holding sales and marketing teams to arbitrary quotas, lest they will be fired or demoted, you are creating a culture of fear.  At best your teams will resent you and likely move on from the company as soon as possible, at worst your employees will become desperate and resort to unethical behaviors that could affect your brand in ways that you may not be able to foresee. For your sales and marketing alignment machine to work, your teams need to feel comfortable opening up with each other and putting new ideas on the table. Your employees will get more fulfillment from their job and their happiness will shine through in their work. That translates to happy customers, creative sales and marketing strategies and optimal profits.
  • Optimize and iterate. Continue to evaluate the data. What strategies are working? How can you amplify those winning strategies or use those strategies as a framework for another sector that needs growth? Which strategies are not working and why? Keep a record of what’s been done and in what context to help establish a playbook that will make developing future strategies more efficient.

Sales and marketing are on the same team—they just don’t know it yet. Once they become aware of how each contributes to the other, they’ll become best friends.

Sales Enablement and CRM guide

The Author

Jarrick Cooper

Jarrick holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in marketing/management and has 15+ years of marketing and media experience for startups and established B2B and B2C companies in various industries, including specialty manufacturing and high-end real estate.