When was the last time you talked to the sales team? (And no, saying “Mondays, am I right?” to a coworker whose name is right on the tip of your tongue while standing next to the coffee maker doesn’t count.)

I mean really talked—talked about whether the content you give their team is driving prospects to make purchase decisions; about whether they’re aware of the eBook you’re putting out next week; about whether they’ll be able to find it once it’s live.

We, marketers, are increasingly pressured to prove that our work is driving real revenue for our companies. But how can we do this if we don’t know how—or whether—our content is being used by sales? Our recent Marketing and Sales Alignment Benchmark found that more than half of marketers have no visibility into how sales uses content, and that just 35% of salespeople believe their marketing colleagues know what content the sales team actually needs.

These stats don’t paint a cheery picture of the current state of alignment between B2B marketing and sales teams. Which is concerning, because we need to better align our marketing and sales teams if we want to succeed in the Age of the Customer. But don’t dispair—it only takes a little initiative for marketers to begin building a foundation that will transform the way our two teams work together.

It all starts with a conversation.

Here are three steps to facilitating marketing-sales alignment:

1. Align on Alignment

The first step to building alignment? Make sure it’s a priority for both sides of the equation.

Start at the Top

Like so many other things in business, there’s only so much you can do without the blessing of those in the corner offices. (Or, depending on your company, the standing desks by the window.)

This is especially true when your goals directly involve another department. Despite the fact that the marketing and sales teams ultimately share the same goal—to transform leads from prospects into happy customers—it’s not always obvious when you take a look at short-term projects and priorities. And you can’t just waltz into the sales team’s weekly meeting and start handing out directives.

Instead, you’ll need help from the inside—someone who can convince the team that alignment is something that will benefit them just as much as it will benefit you.

Who better to do this than the sales leader?

To get the sales leader on board, schedule a meeting and open by laying out your case for improving alignment. (There are a ton of great stats from our Marketing-Sales Alignment Benchmark you can use to back up your assertions with cold, hard data.)

After making your case, devote ample time to understanding the sales perspective by preparing specific questions about the way sales sees the world, such as:

  • What are your department’s primary objectives?
  • How does your department measure success?
  • How do you track what assets sales reps share?
  • What complaints do you hear most often from sales reps regarding their relationship with marketing?

Most importantly, listen.

Set Next Steps

Without agreed-upon next steps, your meeting won’t have been particularly productive exercise.

We suggest proposing sending a survey to the sales team that will help you understand your current alignment landscape, followed by individual or group interviews with responses that interest you.

Don’t Move On Without an Official Endorsement

Hopefully, your meeting goes well and the sales leader expresses their enthusiasm for moving forward. But before charging ahead, make sure that what happens in the conference room doesn’t stay there.

Get your sales leader to commit to sending an introductory email to their team (you can even offer to write it) that explains their support of the project and lays out expectations for sales participation. They’ll be a much more compelling advocate for alignment than you will!

2. Let Sales Complain

No one wants to hear what they’re doing wrong, but being receptive to sales pain points is the only way you’ll be able to move forward effectively.

Send a Survey

What do you need to know about sales behavior and pain points? Keep it simple, specific, and largely multiple choice to encourage completion.

We have a full list of suggested questions and answer options in our facilitation guide, but here are a few we’d suggest:

  • Where do you look for marketing content?
  • What content are you creating yourself?
  • What segmentation is important for you?
  • What content would be useful that doesn’t exist today?

Get the facilitation guide now.

Sit Down with Stakeholders

After reviewing the responses, schedule time to talk to individuals and/or groups. Depending on the number and quality of your responses, you may choose to sit down with everyone who completed the survey or just with those whose responses caught your eye.

During this conversation, move past simple questions and dig into longer, open-ended inquiries. For example:

  • What isn’t working about the way you look for content today?
  • Do you feel your needs are heard by the marketing team?
  • How do you talk about personas and buying stages?
  • What would great marketing-sales alignment look like from your perspective?

3. Build a Roadmap

The only way to know if you’re making progress is to set measurable goals (these don’t necessarily need to be quantitative) and commit to following up.

Establish Alignment KPIs

Only you will be able to determine what goals make sense for your organization, but one metric we at Kapost have seen work on multiple occasions is so basic as to almost be surprising: wasted time.

To measure wasted time, establish a baseline of how long salespeople spend searching for content each week. Using average salary data, calculate how much money your company spends paying people to do so. As you improve content findability and reduce this time spent searching, you’ll be able to come back to leadership with a clear number: the financial impact of better alignment.

Finalize Your Roadmap

You’ve met with sales, taken the time to understand existing issues, and translated those problems into goals.

Now, take your findings and your proposals for next steps and return to the sales leader for their feedback. Once you both agree on key success metrics, finalize the decision in writing, including a timeline you’ll use to measure progress.

Ready to Make it Happen?

Grab our printable facilitation guide. It has detailed survey question suggestions, sample email copy, and meeting agendas that you can personalize to fit your needs. Because you know the relationship between sales and marketing isn’t going to get better by eying each other suspiciously in the hallways.

And if you’d like personalized advice, consider calling in the experts on Kapost’s Professional Services team. They’ll help you articulate your vision and build a personalized roadmap—no Kapost software required.

Sales and marketing alignment research to better the customer experience.

Zoë Randolph

About Zoë Randolph

Zoë serves as a Marketing Manager at Kapost, where she writes long- and short-form content, conducts research, and runs webinars. When she's not contemplating the future of B2B marketing, you'll find her immersed in a book, talking politics, or agonizing over the mediocrity of Cal Bears athletics.