We’ve been talking about sales and marketing alignment for quite a few years now but it still comes up as an issue. We’re hearing less overt statements like, “we have a problem with sales and marketing alignment,” but conversations with both sales and marketing members often reveal misalignment. For example, a sales manager might say that she doesn’t know where their leads are coming from (or she says “online” which is only moderately helpful,) or a marketing manager explains that he doesn’t know which leads have the highest conversion rates.

Having all the sales and marketing tools and processes in place is only effective if the entire team is using them the same way. Here are three things that sales and marketing have to agree on in order to be effective:

1. The definitions of the stages within the sales and marketing funnel (lead workflow).
Funnel stages differ slightly from company to company but they are essentially tracking the same thing: the progression of lead to customer. Sales and marketing together need to define each stage of the funnel and the process for moving someone from one stage to the next.

Most teams will have stages that look something like this:

Prospects → Leads → Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) → Sales Accepted Leads (SAL) → Opportunities → Customers

I’ve worked with companies that skip MQLs and send all leads directly to the sales teams, and I’ve worked with companies who add another stage for Sales Qualified Leads (SQL). As long as it works for your business it’s OK, but agreeing on the stages and what they mean for your team will help ensure that your customers aren’t getting messages intended for new leads, and that new leads are getting the appropriate level of attention.

2. How and where to share information.
Marketing has information in the form of lead or customer behavior such as which emails they open, which webpages they visit, and which assets they download. Sales has inside information such as the names of key personnel, clients’ new initiatives, and use cases for your products and services.

Typically this information goes somewhere in CRM, in shared folders, or both. It’s not uncommon to find that many don’t know where to put it or how to find it on their own so it sits on hard drives or, worse yet, doesn’t get saved anywhere.

A regular team review is a good idea. For CRM, distribute a PowerPoint presentation with screen shots that make it easy to find the right fields, and within shared folders keep templates so all use case cases and success stories are in the same, usable format (this also makes it easy when onboarding new team members.) Lastly, don’t forget that any time you add a field to CRM to double-check your marketing automation system sync to make sure data is always being updated properly in both places.

3. What your goals are.
Don’t just make “sales goals” and “marketing goals,” make “sales and marketing goals” that think beyond the generalizations of “close more deals” and “generate more leads”. As a team, identify target accounts, lead volume (so sales is prepared to give adequate follow up to every qualified lead), and retention programs. These are just some examples, of course, but start with team-based goals so that individual strategies and plans are all headed in the same direction.