No, I’m not talking about the song by the musical group War, released in 1974. I mean the relationship between arguably the two most important organizations in any company: sales and marketing. Based on the way these two groups interact you might think they were at war rather than fighting on the same team!

We see continuing evidence that sales and marketing talk a good game about aligning around customer segments, sales strategy and new lead generation. Very few, though, seem truly committed to implementing and applying best practices to identify and secure crucial new clients.

We all know the claims and arguments. Marketing believes it is the driving force in company strategy. Sales believes it alone is responsible for making the number, and that marketing has no skin in the game on making that number. Marketing complains that sales does not follow up on the leads provided and simply sell price to get a deal done. Neither defends the other or participates in joint strategy efforts.

Enough already! Here are four simple steps to start sales and marketing down the alignment path.

  1. Sales and marketing compensation must be linked to a common measurement. We don’t mean putting marketing on the identical pay plan as sales, but if sales is paid on a booking number then marketing’s bonus should have a bookings component, too.
  2. Be sure marketing and sales agree on what the perfect prospect looks like. Sales is responsible for defining what that perfect prospect looks like to them. Marketing is responsible for creating the process to find them. The goal, of course, is that marketing finds leads that fit this profile-and sales qualifies those leads into real opportunities. Agreeing what this perfect prospect looks like is the only way this happens.
  3. Implement a process to pass certain leads back to marketing for additional nurturing. Not all leads passed to sales are sales-ready. Provided they fit the profile, continue nurturing them so you don’t miss a future business priority shift that may cause them to become highly qualified. When sales and marketing work together on the back and forth flow of leads both teams get better at finding more leads at just the right time.
  4. Establish a basis for trust and find a small win (something like a meaningful increase in early-stage, qualified sales pipeline from leads created by marketing). Nothing drives excitement and brings teams together better than a win. Remember, trust begins with honest, open communication and a realization that not everything will be perfect the first time. Also, once-a-quarter meetings won’t get it done so meet as frequently as possible. One step might be to include marketing in all sales pipeline reviews.

Ask your sales and marketing leaders to give these four steps a try. We are confident it will produce positive results for you and get you on the path to running a “best in class” lead management process.

For more on sales and marketing, see:

100 best sales & marketing ideas ever!

Advisors: Successful sales pipeline habits

Advisors: Solid marketing strategies transcend industry

Dan Hudson is the co-founder and president of 3forward and has a B2B sales and sales leadership background of more than 30 years. He can be reached at dan.hudson@3forward.com.