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    Sales and Marketing Alignment Starts With Vocabulary

    Written by Jeffrey Willis on June 14, 2018

    sales and marketing alignment for B2BWhen I taught 8th grade Language Arts, I all too often had to take that tone with my students and remind them to “use their words.” I may not be in the classroom any longer, but I can still pull out that tone when needed, which of course brings us to the issue of sales and marketing alignment.

    I say to you, “use your words.”

    It feels as though we’ve been talking about bridging the gap between marketing and sales for forever. We’ve examined the rivalry between these two departments from all angles. Organizations have restructured their initiatives to get these teams on the same page; yet, marketing still complains that their efforts are not being appreciated and sales thinks marketing just doesn’t get it.

    According to Hubspot’s State of Inbound 2018, only 26 percent of organizations report tight sales and marketing alignment. Additionally, sales managers offer that their top leads (71 percent) are either directly sourced by the team or from referrals —not from marketing.

    The problem isn’t some overhyped rivalry. In fact, marketing and sales essentially have the same overall objectives, which means that all too often the issue boils down to one thing: language.

    Sales and marketing have different terms for the metrics used to describe and measure their efforts and goals. But if the teams are not reporting and communicating using the same vocabulary, then sales and markteting alignment will continue to remain out of reach.

    Marketing, use your words

    “Opens” and “impressions” and “conversions,” oh my! These are the terms that can make a marketer downright giddy. Every action becomes a metric for marketers to show that a prospect is moving through the funnel. We have set up complex scoring matrices that weigh demographic, firmographic, and actionable insights to identify the ideal prospect before pushing them over to sales. The terms “MQL,” “sales qualified,” and “sales accepted leads” have been hammered out and defined by many organizations.

    Yet with all these terms in place we are still left asking, why isn’t it meaningful?

    So to answer this, I must perform the gauche task of answering a question with another question. What does an open, an impression, a conversion, a sales accepted lead really mean in the context of your organization? Think of reporting this to your CEO or the Board. When was the last time a CEO reported clicks to a board?

    b2b marketing and sales get aligned

    Unfortunately, in the traditional passing of leads to sales, marketing has removed itself from the full conversation. The truth is these terms that make marketers giddy are important to their efforts; however, when you look at the bigger picture, they are not part of the dialogue being used to discuss the organization’s success or failures.


    Sales, use your words

    “Quotas,” “won,” and “loss” are go-to words for most sales team. For them, it’s about the trajectory and the velocity of hurling toward the final big decision: “Closed.” Cue the celebration, because this directly speaks to the ROI of their efforts. It’s a term that can be understood and appreciated through the entire organization.

    While sales needs visibility into the different stages of the pipeline as well as ensuring their pipeline is full with vetted leads, they often aren’t relying on marketing and marketing’s intel to provide this, especially when an organization lacks alignment between the two teams.

    business to business sales and marketing alignment


    Organizations, use your words

    So this brings us back to where we started. Marketing and sales don’t want different things, and they aren’t really at war with each other. That well documented “gap” we keep trying to bridge really doesn’t just exist between these two teams but rather at the organizational level. There is a lot of talking, reporting, and analyzing going on, but in the end, very little true communication that matters to the big picture may be taking place.

    What matters to an organization encompasses both marketing and sales. Your company is looking at such things as churn, cross sales, upsells, and pipelines. Organizations can boil everything down to what sold, how long did it take, and how big is the deal.

    Sales most closely speaks this organizational language because it is their job to “close,” but even for this department they often muddy their success with unnecessary information that may carry very little meaning to the organization as a whole. Additionally, because marketing has not traditionally been involved in the full funnel, they rarely get a chance to even speak the same language when it comes to reporting up to the C-level.


    Alignment /əˈlīnmənt/ noun A position of agreement or alliance.

    So how do we fix sales and marketing alignment? Simple: use your words. By this, what I really mean is use the same words and share the same data sets so that everyone is communicating in the language of the organization. 

    For this to work, all parties must be engaged in the full funnel. Clear parameters on what success looks like and how it’s going to be tracked, implemented, and measured must be set at the organizational level. Marketing and sales can no longer have a unique set of terms or goals.

    This also means that to create these joint objectives, marketing can’t throw leads over the fence to sales and wait to see if they do anything with them. Marketing has to become part of the full funnel and be held accountable through closing as well.

    The first step is for an organization to put into place its terms and definitions for its business goals. At the core these should be:

    • Close rates
    • Deal size
    • Funnel velocity

    Once these goals are in place, putting in a process for closed-loop reporting allows all team members to be on the same page at the same time with everyone understanding the impact of each effort. Marketing is now brought into the full funnel and can track their efforts directly to ROI, while sales can hone in on the numbers that really matter to the organization and not just their commission. They are speaking the language of the organization and not just their department.

    marketing and sales need to speak the same language

    The phrase “lost in translation” exists for a reason. Marketing and sales aren’t mortal enemies; they just aren’t speaking the same language. Setting common goals with a common terminology at the organizational level can show what a fine art language really is when it comes to the success of a company. 


    Are you ready to start a conversation about how you can better align your marketing and sales efforts? Let’s connect.

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    Topics: Digital Marketing, Revenue Operations

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