How to align Sales and Marketing, once and for all?

Oct 14, 2019 · 8 min read

-by Carole Offredo (Dataiku), Michael Falorni (Intercom), Kim Walsh (Hubspot), Alexandre Prot (Qonto)

They gave this talk about how to close the gap and make that make the collaboration between the sales team in the marketing team, at B2B Rocks Paris — the international conference for B2B & SaaS startups.

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Usually, marketing is here to generate leads and to increase brand awareness, basically for the targeted audience. Sales are here to kind of close leads.

So, the incentives, the objectives, and the teams are sometimes not aligned. So, how do we close the gap and make that make the collaboration?

How to align sales and marketing on the company, let’s say overall objective and goals?

Kim: Inside of an organization, the relationship between marketing and sales is the most important relationship as it relates to the go-to-market.

So, what I am a huge fan of doing is creating what we call a “Service Level Agreement” (SLA) with marketing and sales. In marketing, we will do a demand plan, and we will say okay we will generate X number of leads X number of products QLs (which are qualified leads) that we give to the sales team. The sales team that says okay, we will follow up on those leads or those qualified leads in a certain amount of time, and we dig into the work rates and the close rates.

It is all one big loop, and we all agree on is that the relationship between sales and marketing is all about the customer experience and the full lifecycle.

Marketing’s job, in my opinion, inside of an organization is not just to generate leads. It’s all about the customer experience. Inside of HubSpot, we have something called our go-to-market meeting “marketing” which we include sales and marketing. Presently, we now include product as well.

Michael: Also, what we do at Intercom, we don’t have a marketing plan and a sales plan, but we have a revenue plan where you have like common KPIs, and you need to get on board both parts of the units.

One thing that is very interesting and missing in a lot of companies is getting a real understanding of what’s the end customer. And the thing that we do in Intercom that I would recommend would be the “sales day”. Anyone who joins the company has to spend the first eight hours of their training sitting next to a salesperson just going through the daily routine of what an SDR is doing, live chat, and replying to clients.

It provides a really good understanding of who are the clients that we have, what are their objections, why did they work with us, why they don’t work with us and why are they even coming to us.

A good understanding of the clients is very important very key for both entities.

Carole: The first thing that people need to agree on is “who are you chasing for”. You also need to understand what is the type of maturity in your markets.

So, when you are in an early-stage market, and when you start, you are selling features in B2B. There are no reasons for spending money making hundreds of awareness campaigns to make sure that people can see you because at some point you need these early adopters to make it happen.

If there is no alignment on where you are from a pure company perspective, your Sales are asking Marketing to make press and ads because the company is not known. But in fact, you do not even have a few people who can say that your technology matters, so you are wasting time and money.

The second rule is that, at some point, marketing, and sales go along with each other, but there are fights. There are moments where Marketing is frustrated, and moments when Sales is frustrated. You should hire accordingly and tell people beforehand what they will face.

There is no foundation if there is no real process and SLA. You should define those very basics: What is a lead? Where is the lead going? What is the turnaround time? How is it going to a Sales? What is the expectation?

Do you do also have some salespeople going into the marketing teams when they do their onboarding?

Michael: What we are doing is involving key executives from the marketing side to a sales meeting. They might have a different vision on how to tackle clients. It helps them to understand better what the clients are, what are their objections, why the client will work will not work with you.

We also have weekly meetings with the demand-generation team and the sales team. We go through the pipeline, how many leads do we have, are they progressing through the pipelines, are they actually even closing.

Then, we try to be very honest and get feedback. Is the money spend on marketing is effective. We try to adapt things, we do also a lot of A/B testing on where we are spending money (social media, search engines, etc).

Kim: I would add that our “Sales monthly review” actually starts with marketing. It starts with the demand generation.

Also, I think the metrics are really important because you can understand what it is worth. I’m a huge fan of 30-day metrics. You can understand what’s working or not. I think diagnosing the metrics inside the funnel is very important because if marketing is generating tons of leads and your close rates from Sales is not 50% or more, there’s a disconnect.

Sales and marketing have to work together to create automated workflows to make sure that you’re speaking to your potential customer al along the journey.

For the startup audience who are focused on developing awesome products, one question I asked founders is, “how is your product or service going to get found? how are people going to know about your product?”. You could go and hire a salesperson and do that one-to-one, but putting that investment in marketing or your brand at the beginning is super important.

You should shift in the mindset from building a really good product to “how are people going to hear about, learn about, find, and become a customer and have a good experience with us, so they tell more people.” That, to me, is marketing and sales.

Michael: Absolutely and that is why content marketing is crucial. Whatever your position you could create content, share best practices and expertise. It’s like the kind of a glue that sticks between both sales and marketing

Do you have teams that can combine sales and marketing together?

Alexandre: Two seconds of what we do at Qonto, we offer new banking services for very small companies. Usually, our customers find us online, it’s self-service.

Some larger clients usually go through several steps, including meetings and calls with our sales team. So there are different processes based on the size of the customer.

So, for the vast majority of our clients, there is no such thing as the marketing team and the sales team. It’s what we call the “growth team”. Everyone is both marketing and sales.

Kim: We see the growth team as a liaison between marketing and sales. For us, the growth team sits inside the Product. Product has a demand generation, a QL goal in our company.

Inside startup an early-stage scaleups (around Series A Series B), they is a lead generation team (SDR/BDR) which is rolling up into marketing as opposed to rolling up into sales. I see that about 50% of the time in what we call startups and scale-ups right around Series A Series B.

Michael: It is slightly different because we have a lot of inbound, 95% of what we do is coming inbound. So, we have the SDR just reading that amount of inbound, and it’s actually most of the job. But we still have those teams separated at the moment.

Carole: We are trying to have this kind of team with a mix of SDR, Account Executives (AE) and marketing, to execute a campaign and run a marketing program at the local level.

Then we have a team of marketing which is doing machine, content, etc, which is feeding the local execution.

What shared KPIs or shared bonus structure between sales and marketing work the best?

Carole: For a marketer, never accept to be paid on MQL. It is the worst ever decision to make as it disconnects you from the real business.

In B2B marketing, you shouldn’t be incentived on leads, but on validated opportunities and on the revenue for people at the local level.

We are alos doing a lot of awareness, acceleration of pipeline, community activities, which are supporting the goals and renewing most of our customers.

Michael: Some very important metrics for us would include the volume of leads that are turning into real opportunities, and the second one would be the lead scoring with a mix of parameters (like tech stack, level of funding, alexa rank, etc).

Kim: Another side point that is important for startups and entrepreneurs as you starting and scaling is that both sales and marketing are operating out of the same system and tools.

So, whatever you are using for CRM, marketing platform or tech stack, so that as one cohesive unit you can track, measure, and monitor what are you using in that CRM. Both teams need to be on the same page.

Michael: The volume of tools is key, as they can be overwhelming. Too many tools could slower the onboarding of new people which is an issue when your scaling. Some key suggestion includes to find some core apps and use them well (no more than 10).

Carole: Create time to educate yourself and your team. Educate on the time of marketing. Marketing needs time to be efective and couldn’t create revenue just by asking for it. Educate people to use and understand the same numbers, sell cycle, conversion rates.

Alexandre: Also, it is important both sales and marketing have access to the same tools and also the same numbers. Because frequent changes to the definition or type of numbers you seek would get people lost.

Kim: Use the same tools and the same revenue numbers. Alos, what we are also starting to see a lot around this organizational structure of one cohesive unit is that marketing, sales, and customer success reporting to one person. So, we are seeing more of Chief Customer Officer.

If your startup or a scale-up, I encourage you to think about what structure makes sense and do you have alignment all through.

Michael: “When top goals of the companies are not clear, what is that your company trying to do? Trying to generate revenue, no matter where it sits? Are we going up markets are we going down market?”. Once those things are not pretty clear it’s also very complicated for both departments to work together effectively. So, work on it first!

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Axeleo is the leading acceleration platform for Enterprise…


Written by


Axeleo is the leading enterprise technology acceleration platform in France. We are both VC and Accelerator.



Axeleo is the leading acceleration platform for Enterprise Technology startups. Both VC and Accelerator, Axeleo offers an all-in-one support that caters to entrepreneurs, startups, corporates, and investors.


Written by


Axeleo is the leading enterprise technology acceleration platform in France. We are both VC and Accelerator.



Axeleo is the leading acceleration platform for Enterprise Technology startups. Both VC and Accelerator, Axeleo offers an all-in-one support that caters to entrepreneurs, startups, corporates, and investors.

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