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Why Sales & Marketing Alignment is Crucial to B2B Inbound Marketing

Why Sales & Marketing Alignment is Crucial to B2B Inbound Marketing

I’ve worked in both the sales and marketing fields, and can speak to the fact that while these two departments should get along, they are usually at odds. As one of my former colleagues used to say, “Marketing thinks all Sales does is procrastinate, drink and complain, and Sales thinks all Marketing does is color.” Yikes.

Why can’t we all just get along? You might be asking this if your sales and marketing teams are working against, rather than with, each other. This is a common issue that many businesses face, and that’s why a service level agreement (SLA) is necessary to align Sales and Marketing so inbound buyers are handed off and sold to successfully. Here are some of the benefits of doing so:


It puts Sales and Marketing on the same team. 

Your company can’t survive when your employees are at war. Productivity drops, morale lowers and people eventually leave because they don’t feel appreciated. When Sales fails to see the value of leads from Marketing, Marketing gets equally frustrated. Not good.

SLAs help Sales and Marketing work towards a common goal. To create this common goal, make sure:

  • Marketing and sales leaders are involved—pull in other people from each team as needed
  • You come to an understanding on common definitions, like who your buyer personas are, what each stage of the sales funnel means, and how you define a marketing-qualified lead (MQL)
  • To draft goals that are clear and S.M.A.R.T., then make sure each team understands and agrees to the goal(s)

Doing this ensures mutual success, and removes “us vs. them” from the equation.

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It makes the handoff of leads easier. 

Do you have a process for moving leads from Marketing to Sales? Many companies, especially startups and small businesses, don’t. If leads are being sent to Sales inconsistently, it makes it hard for Marketing to know if their MQLs are performing well.

How do you fix this issue? Define when a lead should be handed off to Sales, and be very specific. Should the lead have a certain score? Be in a specific industry? Work with businesses and not consumers? Whatever the criteria might be, be clear about it and make sure sales and marketing agree.


It squashes any disagreements or complaints.

As a former salesperson, I know how much the teams I worked on complained about leads—I was guilty of this, too. (Maybe the teams should have focused on the ABC’s of Sales.)

The ABC's of Sales

The SLA shuts complaints down. When people from your Sales team come to you with issues about leads, you have the ability to cross-check their findings with the SLA. Review the agreement together, and discuss why the lead is good (based on the lead data, and the information in the agreement).

Now, I don’t want to dump on Sales completely. As someone who was in the field, sometimes a warm lead from Marketing feels ice cold. Reviewing the SLA with your Sales team as they bring up lead issues will also help you revise your SLA to ensure lead quality is consistent. SLA review (and revision, if needed) should happen at least once per quarter.

Finally, in the case of a disagreement, an SLA also keeps your marketing team accountable. With the agreement in place, Marketing should become more focused sending only quality leads, and avoid shooting over lukewarm leads to Sales.


It guides sales training and sifts out poor performers.

Here’s a follow-up point to the one above. I spent three and a half years in Sales, and I knew it wasn’t for me. That’s why I transitioned to Marketing, where my talents are much better-utilized. While I had strong work ethic and did my best, I was not a top performer, and I knew it.

I’d hang out with other salespeople, and we’d always complain about the leads from Marketing. Placing blame is easier to do than admitting you’re bad at your job, but we did have a point. Sales had no idea how to message to these specific warm leads because we had no training on it. An SLA solves this.

Once you define what a qualified lead is, based on their demographics and activities, you better inform Sales’ messaging to these leads. Train your sales team on this messaging, and I guarantee the complaints will die down. Those people who are still consistently complaining about these leads are likely not top performers. You may need to train them more, find a different role for them or let them go.


It improves company ROI.

One of the best things about an SLA is that it keeps your sales and marketing teams efficient so they can drive quality leads and increase revenue. According to HubSpot, “companies with an active SLA are 34% more likely to experience year-over-year ROI” than those that don’t have one.

What’s more, businesses with SLAs are also “21% more likely to get greater budget allocations.”


Imagine what your sales and marketing teams could do with a slice of that additional revenue…

The benefits of SLAs are felt not only by Sales and Marketing, but throughout the entire company. If you don’t have an SLA, what are you waiting for?!


If you do have an SLA, I’d love to hear about your experience implementing it in the comments below. Have more questions about Sales and Marketing alignment? Contact our Milwaukee marketing agency to connect.