Sales vs. Marketing. It’s the conflict that’s been simmering since the dawn of commerce.

When there’s a rift between these two supposed teammates, its businesses themselves that suffer. Aberdeen Group recently found that 77% of best-in-class companies report a ‘good’ or ‘strong’ relationship between sales and marketing, compared to only 47% of their laggard peers.

The consequences of letting sales and marketing drift apart are so huge, a whole industry has sprung up to help businesses reconcile these perennial sparring partners.

Consultant services, software collaboration tools, webinars—everywhere you look, it seems someone’s offering to ‘resolve your Sales and Marketing disconnect’.

But here’s the thing. While establishing a good relationship between sales and marketing is spectacularly important, it isn’t actually all that difficult.

It doesn’t require special solutions, niche expertise, simultaneous chanting of ancient texts, or timely animal sacrifices.

All it takes is one much-needed step back from the issue. A few deep breaths. And five, simple, rapidly-achievable steps forward. In this post, we’ll look at the first:

#1 Agree on what the ideal prospect looks like

If there’s an arch-guru of sales and marketing alignment, it’s Inflexion-Point’s Bob Apollo. Here are some wise words from his blog:

“[…] sales and marketing alignment initiatives—if they are to stand any chance of realising their potential—can’t just be about internal alignment. They have got to be about aligning with the customer, and with how and why they choose to buy.”

We think Bob’s bang on the money here. Both your sales and your marketing teams need to know exactly who your customer is. This means luring them into the same meeting room—we find tea and biscuits make for the perfect bait—and getting them talking.

Getting your people together

At Salesforce, our search engine marketing team regularly sits down with our sales development folks to refine, together, how we target our online ads. Our email and telemarketing teams, meanwhile, run feedback sessions before any campaign, drawing on buyer insights from every team.

After we’ve made good on the promise of biscuits, the first question we put on the whiteboard is this: ‘What kind of person is our ideal buyer?’

In general, you’ll want to know your perfect buyer’s:

  • job title
  • responsibilities
  • age
  • concerns
  • ambitions

You’ll also want to know what kind of organisation they work for. How big is it? What’s its likely budget? Which industries, and countries, does it operate in?

Finally, you’ll want to identify key ‘trigger scenarios’. There are the situations that might lead the prospect to investigate your products or services – for example, the appointment of a trail-blazing new CFO, or the arrival of agile, young competition in the marketplace.

Getting your info together

Between them, your sales people know more about your ideal customers than anyone else. Get them sharing their thoughts with each other, and their marketing peers, and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to arrive at a detailed profile of your ideal buyer.

You may also want to draw on insights from web analytics, and data partners—both can be invaluable in closing any profile gaps.

Getting moving

Now you know exactly who you should be talking to, you can start forging ahead, with Sales and Marketing in perfect step—if not quite skipping, laughing, and holding each other’s hands.

Your Marketing team can map its database of leads to its brand new profile of your ideal buyer, and pick up the conversation with those who fit the profile. Marketing can also begin to work out where to find more of these magic people, and which messages and approaches are likely to resonate with them the most

And Sales… Sales can start enjoying more of the best kind of leads—ones that are already in the right job, place, and headspace to buy.

We’ll be looking at the next four steps to simple Sales and Marketing alignment in future blog posts. If you’re itching to skip ahead, however, just check out our e-book: Sales & Marketing Alignment Made Easy.