Bind Marketing and Sales Teams Together in Four Steps

Unite sales & marketing in 4 steps: tackle challenges, boost efficiency, gather feedback & ensure accountability for impactful growth.

Article Highlights

    Any experienced sales operations manager knows that sales and marketing teams often struggle to coordinate their efforts. But why, exactly, is this the case?

    Marketers and sales reps usually have different goals and metrics, which don’t always cross-pollinate very well. Awareness in the form of ad impressions and meetings booked are very different kinds of numbers. Marketing and sales teams also have very different personalities and communication styles. This creates important cultural barriers.

    Marketers and sales reps also often work on very different time horizons. At a software company, for example, marketers might work in seconds, minutes, and hours, using paid channels to drive hundreds or thousands of signups per day. Account executives at the same company, working on lower-quantity, higher-value accounts, might work in months or even years.

    Over the past two decades, I’ve seen this disconnect undermine early-stage teams, series-A and B startups, and well-established small businesses (SMBs). It’s an existential issue, either because it compresses runway (startups) or stagnates growth (SMBs). After witnessing and wrestling with this phenomenon for many years, I’ve come to the following conclusion:

    In revenue, sales, and marketing ops, our primary goal is to build a system where (a) sales trusts marketing to deliver qualified leads that help reps meet quota and (b) marketing trusts sales to deliver actionable, front-line intelligence that it can use to fine tune persona models, messaging, content, and the overall marketing operations system.

    That flow of trust, feedback, and constant iteration closes the uncomfortable disconnect that often plagues business development teams and, as a result, drives business growth.

    Here are four specific steps any sales operations manager can take to bind sales and marketing teams together. 

    I’ve used these as a consultant and in my own entrepreneurial life. 

    They help.

    Step 1: Fix the Plumbing

    First, build a simple flowchart that outlines channel inputs, lead stages, and timeframes. This will allow you to document where leads are coming from, assign lifecycle stages, and define a nurturing timeframe. 

    For example, a sales operations manager may have webinar leads hitting her CRM once per month. She might assign these an “Engaged” lifecycle stage and set the expectation that reps should follow up with these leads no more than 24 hours after they enter the CRM.

    Step 2: Loop Everyone In

    Next, build a human-readable version of this flowchart. This playbook does not need to be terribly polished. It could live in a PDF, a Slack channel, or a shared Google Doc. We just want to define lead stages and action timeframes for the sales team. This creates an accountability framework for reps, and it helps define best-practice actions and expectations.

    For example, a sales operations manager may want to document nurturing timelines that tell his reps exactly what they should do across time to turn leads into prospects and then customers. The playbook can also define best-practices like sequence lengths, engagement/touch goals, and other critical inputs. 

    Like the following example, this playbook should also explicitly define lead stages.

    OwnerLevelLead StatusSummary of Conditions
    Marketing1SuspectHas email and/or other basic contact info.
    Marketing2FanInteraction with social content, visited the site, &c.
    Marketing (+ Sales if Cold Prospecting)3Information Qualified LeadBasic level of sales qualification: verified email and demographic fit (job title, appropriate geo, &c).
    Marketing4MQLLevel-one buying behavior (contact request, content engagement, &c).
    Sales5WorkingMQL with at least one sales touch (call, email, meeting, &c).
    Sales6Sales QualifiedSales has confirmed data and qualification and accepted (and not disqualified) the lead.
    Sales7OpportunityBuying mode/deal active.
    N/ADisqualifiedBad data, competitor, no budget, no engagement, &c.
    Sales + MarketingNeeds NurturingNeeds more time to consider/buy.
    Sales + MarketingConvertedCustomer

    Step 3: Increase RPMs

    In the energy industry, “wildcatting” is a high-risk, high-reward activity that involves drilling for oil and gas in unproven areas. Wildcatters may conduct their own geological research, but wildcatter explorations are, by nature, speculative and uncertain.

    A sales operations manager can expect her reps to engage in a certain amount of self-directed, wildcatter sales prospecting. However, our top-level goal is to build a system where sales depends on marketing for leads and marketing depends on sales for feedback. Like oil and gas wildcating, independent sales prospecting can burn a lot of time, money, and capital. It’s also usually not very persona disciplined, and it hardly ever drives feedback for the marketing team. 

    For all these reasons, solo sales prospecting and outreach is more of a bug than feature. It disconnects (rather than binds) marketing and sales teams.

    Sales Operations Managers Improve Efficiency

    To address this, I generally encourage reps to focus on the lists marketing provides them. These lists contain both warm/inbound leads or cold, information-qualified leads that align with known customer variables. In this model, marketing spends its time on lead gen and lead research/prospecting, leaving sales reps free to spend the bulk of their time on outreach.

    In the past, it may have been difficult to increase lead “RPMs” with contacts exclusively sourced from marketing channels. A business will only run so many webinars, attend so many events, and generate so many content leads. This is especially true for small teams. Now, though, B2B lead gen is easier (and cheaper) than ever. Tools like Seamless, Apollo, and LinkedIn Sales Navigator make it easy for any sales operations manager to generate leads quickly and inexpensively. In a matter of minutes and for < $100/mo, we can generate lists that contain thousands of qualified business professionals. 

    “Pouring” these cooler, information-qualified/persona-aligned leads into our funnels – as a supplement to marketing-sourced leads – not only helps volumize outreach and facilitate learning. It allows sales operations managers to maximize the time reps spend touching persona-aligned contacts and minimize the time they waste on persona-fuzzy outreach.

    Sales Operations Managers Drive Feedback

    This process cranks another important growth lever too: 

    When reps know their quota is bound to marketing-sourced leads, feedback about personas, conversations, and messaging (which marketing always needs) flows like summer rain. What was a communication desert becomes a rich, watery ecosystem filled with lively, fluid discussion. 

    As such, by focusing reps on marketing-generated lead lists, a sales operations manager can not only help his reps work more efficiently. He can close the marketing feedback loop as well.

    Step 4: Activation and Accountability

    Even if a sales operations manager checks off the first three steps, I see something very clearly time and time again: 

    This system will underperform without an engaged, active, and accountable sales team.

    This human factor is the gasoline that makes the engine run. I cannot overstate this. This system will not work without an engaged, active, and accountable sales team that understands and is committed to running these processes day in and day out.

    Here are two simple tips that will help any sales operations manager activate reps, prepare them for success, and hold them accountable for playing their critical role.

    Sales Operations Managers Prioritize Inputs over Outcomes

    Successful growth depends on a number of different factors – product, market conditions, positioning – many of which aren’t in a rep’s control. However, inputs, time spent on task, showing up to play – these are in everyone’s control. Doing them is a choice. Not doing them is a choice.

    Build reports and goals that link accountability to questions like “Of the leads assigned to a rep, how many were untouched after 30, 60, and 90 days?” and “Did a rep actively engage leads in sequences, social touches, and other outbound nurturing processes?” In short, build reports that ask, “Are my reps doing the work?” This will help any sales operations manager build a highly-activated, highly-engaged sales team that works, learns, iterates, generates feedback, and improves over time. 

    Entitlement and disengagement thrive in ambiguity. They die under the sanitizing light of clarity and precision. Build a reporting and accountability framework that optimizes for the latter.

    Sales Operations Managers Leverage Fractional Talent

    Companies like and Activated Scale make it easy and affordable for a sales operations manager to plug in seasoned pros, on both the strategic level and the tactical rep level. Especially for reps and small, budget-constrained teams, this “try before you buy” approach can prevent over-commitment to less-than-engaged sales pros.

    Over the past twenty years, I’ve seen two primary things kill early-stage companies and stagnate growth at established SMBs: over spending on digital ads and making big commitments to disengaged, entitled sales hires. 

    Running fairly rapid sales talent sprints of 3-6 months is a cost-effective, low-commitment way to identify high performers and ensure you’re working with dedicated, engaged, A-level sales talent that cares about your company and does the work. Once you find these pros, you can make a more substantial long-term commitment to them.

    Sales Operations Manager as Champion

    Marketing and sales are, arguably, the most difficult challenges any business faces. Building the right messages, channels, and internal “pipes” that allow a business to command attention, bring people into the funnel, and do something meaningful with them once they arrive — there are as many solutions to that problem as there are companies in the world.

    As a series of inputs and outputs, most business tasks are pretty binary: profit and loss, tasks getting done or not done, positions filled or not filled. Marketing and sales are more of a quantum space. The inputs and outputs are in a near-constant state of change. And as professionals, we engage with human desire and human pain. These are complex, enigmatic things. And unlike securities filings or tactical management, engaging with desire and pain brings us into the realm of myth and literature and archetypes and the creative arts.

    In essence, sales and marketing are about human nature, which is inherently difficult and ever changing.

    As a sales operations manager, you play a very special, very important role in this reality. By defining key terms, organizing and executing critical processes and responsibilities, and ensuring KPIs give your organization a holistic view of overall funnel performance, you can become a heroic player on your team. The difficulty of sales and marketing selects for champions. And for those willing to spend their lives here, few roles offer as big a chance to make as big an impact.

    When marketing and sales win, everyone wins. As a sales operations manager, you do the work that drives business growth, improves a concentric circle of lives, and boosts micro- and macro-economic health.

    I hope these four steps help you bind your sales and marketing teams together and drive powerful outcomes for your teammates, stakeholders, and customers.

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