By Trent Whatcott – VP of Marketing at Primary Intelligence

“Smooth as a Bag of Nails”: Marketing and Sales Alignment 

My first job right out of my undergrad was as a copier salesperson. I was excited to set the world on fire and convert all copier contracts to my new company! I bought some suits I couldn’t afford and an Infiniti that I could afford even less. But success breeds success, right? I went all in. 

 During the first month of the job, I completed a well-known sales training program and then went through more sales training provided by the company’s marketing department. Years later, I have forgotten nearly all the marketing segments of my training except for one: our site seller.  

This company treated the site seller with the reverence usually reserved for religious documents found in a cave in the middle east. The VP of Marketing told the story of the site seller as if she were taking us to church. My training class roleplayed every page. Our trainer told us that we would use this site seller in every sales call. We anxiously paid attention to every detail with that understanding, not wanting to deliver the holy writ incorrectly. When the time came for us to venture out into the field, we knew every page, every line, every image in the site seller. I bought an expensive leather binder to hold the pages that matched my sales bag. I was ready to drop some site seller truth on my territory.  

My boss, Dom, whose friendship I cherish to this day, offered to go with me on my first day out in the field. I was thankful for his support, as the nerves became more and more intense the closer the time came to leave the office and hit the streets. As we called on potential customers, we finally found someone who would give us some time. I was excited to impress Dom with my “mad site selling skillz.”  

I set the site seller up on an easel and began my sermon. I made sure to cover every aspect of the many, many laminated pages. I was preaching to my first flock and doing an amazing job of nailing my training. On about page 10, I looked up to see how much of an effect I was having. As I looked at their faces, it was clear they were bored to tears and were confused. What on earth had happened? I looked over at Dom with a panicked look on my face, and he calmly jumped in and managed the rest of the discussion. I don’t remember how the conversation went after he took over. What could I have possibly done wrong? I had used the site seller after all! Mercifully, the meeting came to an end.  

On our way to the car, Dom put his around my shoulder and asked, “How do you think that went?” As I searched for the words that would describe my disaster, he guessed, “smooth as a bag of nails?” His question provided the perfect amount of levity to what felt like an unbearable situation to me. It became clear through the conversation that Dom had allowed me to experience failure early on in my career to learn. Dom explained that our marketing and sales teams were not aligned, that marketing had no idea what was going on in the field, and sales didn’t provide marketing with the information they needed to understand better the issues we faced in the field. But no matter what, the site seller was the best way to kill a presentation, that the marketing department would not listen and that he would suggest that I never use it again. “Marketing and sales do not work together very well,” Dom ended. He believed that without sales and marketing alignment, the company does not grow 

That was my first experience with a lack of sales and marketing alignment, but it certainly was not my last. When I transitioned from sales to marketing, I promised myself that I would do all that I could to align these two dependent divisions of the revenue team. 


“Smooth as Oil Through a Funnel”: Marketing and Sales Alignment Now  

My site seller experience feels like ten lifetimes ago now, thank goodness, but the overall premise of Dom’s message still rings true:  

“Marketing and sales must align and support each other.”  

The way sellers interact with buyers is changing. Marketing can no longer create materials and messaging that do not align with the sales process. Marketing can no longer train salespeople on product once or twice a year, buy branded stress balls or sticky-note pads, and consider the job done.  

Sales can no longer live in a separate silo that prevents marketing’s involvement in the sales process, does not give feedback on marketing efforts, and does not use the tools marketing provides.  

Marketing and sales need to be as smooth as a funnel. Marketing needs to reside at the top of the funnel, building awareness, demonstrating value, and pursuing high-quality leads to keep well-prepared opportunities flowing through to sales. Although the percentage varies widely by industry, customers make 70% to 90% a buying decision before engaging a salesperson.  

As the buyer’s journey shifts to a digital experience, buyers can research offerings, compare several vendors at one time, view current customer reviews, begin with a freemium program, attend a webinar, chat with a bot, and more before a sales team is even aware of their interest. That 70% to 90% falls on the shoulders of marketing, but it should also involve sales to help create an optimized and impactful buyer’s journey from start to finish. 

For that final 10% to 30%, sales must be fully prepared to close the business, and marketing must equip sales with all the intelligence they need to take the opportunity the rest of the way.  

Win-Loss Analysis can help align sales and marketing buy gathering and analyzing first-hand, unbiased, and inarguable feedback directly from your buyers. These insights provide marketing and sales intelligence data around what is (and is not) working within your processes, buyer’s journey, and value propositions. And these insights must be shared and utilized by both sales and marketing to help improve win rates and sales experience. 

Many organizations who have implemented a win/loss and customer experience analysis struggle to communicate findings with the sales team.  Their buyers are literally (and I use that word sparingly) telling sales how they want to be communicated with, how often, and with what offerings and features. This is information gold for sales. Sales reps no longer need to guess and probe for the information to help them beat the competition. They can learn how to best connect with the customer rather than plowing through a site seller that touches very little on what is important. The insights are collected, the marketing team has provided them, and when utilized by sales, the path to winning is clear.  

As you strive to align sales and marketing, keep the lines of communication open. Back your strategies with sales and marketing intelligence data, and remember that you are all working towards the same goal.  

To find out more about how Primary Intelligence can help improve sales and marketing alignment, check out these resources: