Ethan Denney

5 Step Plan to Dramatically Improve Marketing and Sales Collaboration

Marketing and sales share the same goal: acquiring new business. Yet, marketing and sales collaboration isn’t always smooth.

Perhaps this is true within your company.

Maybe you even see your departments working against each other, viewing the other like rival high school football teams.

But, this doesn’t have to be the case. You can help improve collaboration between your marketing and sales teams.

On the same team: marketing and sales collaboration

Improving collaboration between your sales and marketing teams requires an in-depth understanding of the other’s processes. Think of football plays, where each player knows exactly their role down to the yard line. Similarly, what if sales told marketing the most common questions leads ask? What if marketing told sales the exact messaging of their promotions?

In this post, I’ll walk through 5 ways your sales and marketing teams can improve their collaboration. Our tips will end with the Service Level Agreement (“SLA” for short), a document that explains the expectations for both teams.

Sometimes all it takes is team leads to tell their reports to explain everyone is on the same team. This brings us to our first point…

1. Communicate and find alignment

Improving team communication between marketing and sales is critical.

Let’s walk through a scenario:

Your marketing team develops content and promotions around messaging they know draws traffic to the company blog and results in higher ROI from ad campaigns. They also pull in a strong number of leads, which they pass onto sales. For them, the job ends here.

Your sales team takes the leads but has different ways to communicate benefits of your product to leads. This is because, after years of experience, your salespeople know the points to hit which finally convince customers to close the deal.

While sales closes a number of these deals, some lose interest because your product isn’t what they expected. So it’s important that your sales team has a great understanding of product management and how to optimize positioning to customers.

If the above sounds familiar, you’re not alone. In fact, only 23% of salespeople say marketers send over sales-ready leads. This points to the reality that many marketing and sales teams are focused on their own jobs. Marketing wants to draw traffic and leads while sales wants to close deals.

Your teams need to align their goals through education. And I mean more than sending reminder emails and stopping by one’s desk with one-off questions.

For marketing, this means communicating messaging to sales. Marketing may be promoting your company’s product in a way that’s very different from sales pitches. The result is a jarring experience for the lead. Sales can help marketing by providing qualitative information that happens closer to making a deal that marketing doesn’t see.

On the other hand, sales can help marketers improve their lead qualification processes. After all, sales has the data that shows which sources draw higher close rates. This, combined with number of leads and value per lead, give marketers a clear goal for an upcoming time period, typically per quarter.

Source: HubSpot

Let’s walk through another example. Sales is looking to close $20,000 in new business next quarter. Based on historical data:

  • The average value per closed deal is $1,000. Therefore, 20 deals need to be closed next quarter.
  • The average close rate is 5%
  • The average value per lead $50 (5% of $1,000)
  • To close 20 deals, marketing needs to bring in 400 leads (20 divided by 5%)

This is a simplified example, as there are different types of leads (more on that below). Nevertheless, I now have a concrete number of leads for marketing to capture.

Keep in mind these numbers will always change. That’s why it’s important to schedule regular meetings between your sales and marketing teams and make education a continuous process. Industries are always changing, meaning businesses may have to reconsider their ideal customer. This brings us to our next point…

If you have remote employees working for your company from their home, a seamless communication could be difficult to manage. However, if you opt for a virtual phone system for your virtual team, your dream of seamless communication among team members is possible.

2. Share insights to identify stronger leads

Identifying the best leads requires insight from marketing and sales. Yet before improving or modifying any lead types, sales and marketing must agree on what defines a lead in the first place. Does downloading a free ebook qualify a lead? Do only newsletter subscribers who meet your buyer personas qualify? The three leads types to define are:

  • Marketing-Qualified Leads (MQLs): Someone who has completed a defined action that tells marketing this person is a lead.
  • Sales-Accepted Leads (SALs): A lead that has been accepted by a salesperson, who will take over communication.
  • Sales-Qualified Leads (SQLs): A lead that has met defined factors by the salesperson and can move further onto the next stage in the sales funnel.

As I mentioned, your sales team probably knows general traits about leads that close at higher rates. Perhaps its business size, maybe they belong to a similar industry. These traits need to be communicated back to marketing so they can adjust their tactics.

Next, marketing then needs to tell sales exactly how they will try to attract more of these leads. Maybe marketing will try a more targeted ad campaign or publish a series of blog posts. Empowered with this information, sales can reference this content when talking to the lead.

Once your sales and marketing teams share this information, they can lay out lead definitions. For a marketing automation company, a well-defined MQL could be:

“A marketing manager for a small business with annual revenue of $100K who has downloaded our latest eBook on creating a content marketing schedule.”

Ideally, your lead definitions should be revisited quarterly, just another reason to have regular meetings between sales and marketing!

3. Enrich leads with additional information

Of course, pulling leads into the sales funnel is only the first step. Your marketing team should find out as much information about the lead as possible to pass onto sales. Fortunately, there are tools available today that accomplish this without manual research.

ConvertFlow, for example, automatically researches emails captured on your company’s site to create complete lead profiles. Lead activity is also tracked so your marketing and sales teams can better tailor their communications. If the lead visited a particular blog post four times, for example, doesn’t this signal the information was important to them?

ConvertFlow pulls in contact information from as little as an email.

Tools like Clearbit can find even more data on a lead such as the technologies a lead is using on their website or the total amount of funding the company has raised. This newly found information can then be populated into your company’s automation and CRM tools.

With additional details, sales can better tailor their communication, whether that be a phone call or demo, to the needs of the lead. Marketing also has more factors to go off of when determining buyer personas.

4. Align marketing efforts with the sales funnel

To avoid redundant or miscommunication to a lead, your sales and marketing teams need to establish detailed guidelines and boundaries.

Sales need to specify when marketing needs to lay off a lead. This can be marked in the “Lead Status” or similar field in your CRM. If the lead isn’t ready to buy and needs more nurturing, sales should mark the Lead Status to “Returned to Marketing.” Ideally, sales should send additional detail to explain why the customer isn’t ready to buy.

Though it’s sales’ responsibility to close new business, marketing can create supporting materials to make this process easier. To do this, sales needs to tell marketing exactly what they need – from spec sheets to case studies – to better present the company’s products to leads.

For leads that come back to marketing, marketing can use notes from sales to tailor the materials to direct to the lead. This mid-funnel marketing content can include an upcoming webinar that the lead may be interested in. The lead could be added to emails lists for appropriate campaigns. When a lead is ready to buy, marketing then re-send them to sales and cease communication.

“Middle-of-the-funnel content refers to assets that reach leads who are already in your database, engaging with your brand” – Source: Anne Murphy, Director of Content at Kapost

It’s this back-and-forth between sales and marketing that ensures no lead goes overlooked while being provided with the most relevant content for their situation.

5. Set up closed-loop reporting

After sales have been closed, it’s time for your marketing and sales teams to share their results and learn from each other. Closed-Loop Reporting is exactly what it sounds like: aligning sales (the goal of contact with the lead) with marketing efforts (what originally attracted the lead) to see what worked and what could be improved on for the future.

Source: HubSpot

For example, if sales closed thirty deals this quarter, how many of them first signed up for the free webinar? Did the most valuable leads originate as newsletter subscribers? Marketing can then focus their efforts on expanding the campaigns that work, and spend less time on the efforts that don’t.

To implement a successful closed-loop reporting system for your teams, you should do the following:

  • System Integration: Marketing needs to lead the charge and ensure their marketing automation tool is integrated with Sales’ CRM.
  • Tracking Codes: Marketing needs to ensure tracking codes are placed on every page and subdomain on your company’s website. This allows marketing to see every click and visitor referral (e.g. search engines, ad clicks).
  • Marketing Campaigns: All marketing efforts should be assigned to a campaign within the marketing automation tool. Reporting categories need to include all data points you want to track (e.g. cost attribution, date ranges, region, campaign type).
  • Revenue Reporting: A marketing team member needs to sit with an software engineer to set up revenue tracking analytics. This allows marketing to see conversions and revenue by marketing campaign.
  • Updated Lead Status: I already mentioned this, but sales must update lead status in their CRM to ensure ROI is accurately traced back to marketing efforts.

Closed-loop reporting can reduce sales cycles and costs per lead. Why spend marketing time and resources on campaigns that drive customers? Let’s not forget calculating ROI becomes much more accurate when you can link specific campaigns and content to individual deals.

Putting it all together: the SLA

Now that I’ve covered ways marketing and sales can work together, you’re probably ready to get your teams working together as fast as possible. Yet, what’s the best way to get started? How do you organize team goals and definitions?

Enter in the Service Level Agreement (SLA). This document outlines responsibilities for sales and marketing, team goals, and how to measure them. Solid SLAs should include:

  • Buyer Personas
  • Definitions for MQLs, SALs, and SQLs
  • Historical sales data (close rates by marketing source)
  • Number of leads generated and value per lead
  • Processes for handing off leads to sales.

If these points sound familiar, it’s because they’re the same points we’ve covered in this post! The SLA agreement is simply an easy way to reference expectations and ensure every marketer and salesperson is on the same page.


Your sales and marketing teams should work close together to ensure every lead has the highest chances of converting. Strong marketing materials help sales better communicate product benefits to leads. Detailed sales data helps marketing refine their targeting.

If you haven’t already noticed, this back-and-forth process doesn’t end. And it shouldn’t. Marketing and sales should always be working together and learning from each other. Working in separate silos will only frustrate employees and lead to lost business.

About the author
Ethan Denney
Co-Founder & CEO, ConvertFlow
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Ethan is the Co-Founder & CEO of ConvertFlow. He loves reading about and sharing anything that helps marketers convert more website visitors.