Achieve Sales and Marketing Alignment With Incentives and Recognition

By: Maggie Wenthe
Coworkers meeting about sales and marketing

When you think about the design of a typical organization, with departments and floors and divisions and labyrinthine hierarchy, it’s almost as if it’s custom-built for confusion.

The blinders we put up to focus on specific goals can cause us to forget that we’re all on the same team: marketing, sales, product development and everyone else.

Research has proven that marketing and sales departments need to interact seamlessly, since both are essential to success in every market-oriented company.

But few companies have a perfect relationship between these two integral pillars.

The Marketing/Sales Conflict

In many organizations, product development creates a product, then tosses it over the wall to marketing. It’s then marketing’s role to stir interest in the product, then throw generated leads over the wall to sales. After that, sales is expected to understand the customer needs and close the deal.

When the lines of communication between these groups are closed—when the walls are high—no one ends up happy. Marketing blames product development for providing the wrong features or functions. Marketing blames sales for not following up properly on the lead. Sales points the finger at marketing for a poor lead.

And the customer is caught in the middle with a product they’re unhappy with or one that doesn’t suit their needs.

However, when sales and marketing manage to work together effectively, the results are phenomenal. According to a report by Aberdeen Group, organizations with highly cooperative marketing and sales teams made great strides:

  • A 20% average growth (increase) in annual revenue, as compared to a 4% average decrease among low-cooperation organizations
  • An average 47% of marketing-generated sales forecasted pipeline, as compared to an average 5% among low-cooperation organizations

But, as sales leaders know full well, creating a harmonious balance between the two sides of the organization can be an enormous challenge. Symbiosis between sales and marketing won’t happen by itself. It requires an expert approach and tried-and-true tactics.

Incentives and recognition can solve these common sales and marketing disagreements and create a frictionless bond between the two. Across a wide spectrum of industries and audiences, incentives and recognition work.

Here is a collection of incentive and recognition ideas to expand marketing and sales alignment.

Incentive and Recognition Ideas to Build Alignment

  • When planning incentives to align your marketing and sales departments, first make sure that metrics and goals are shared. Ensure everyone is working toward the same goals, whether they’re year-long or a shorter sprint, such as a fiscal quarter.
  • With common metrics planned out, map out iterative steps people take between where they are now and where you want them to be. What do they need to achieve each month to get them to a yearly goal, for instance? Once you have established common metrics and mapped out the steps needed to the end goal, there’s a multitude of options that will incent and recognize.
  • Take advantage of your team’s competitive nature—host a contest that encourages interdepartmental growth. For instance, offer an award to the sales rep or sales region that best uses marketing automation tools.
  • When rolling out a new product or feature, plan a spurt incentive program that focuses on growth in revenue (sales) as well as the number and value of new clients (marketing). This can keep both teams in the game.
  • Understanding is key to cooperation. Many sales and marketing teams are conflicted because they don’t understand the others’ role, and training reinforcement is just the ticket to correct that. Don’t just use training to build individual team capabilities and knowledge—go deeper and encourage collaboration through cross-functional training. When sales understands marketing’s role and vice versa, great things will happen.
  • Many companies have an “employee of the month” program. Take that concept and create a more granular “marketer of the month” program, where a marketing team member is recognized by sales, and vice versa. This creates a meaningful, memorable and a professionally rewarding experience for your employees.
  • Peer-to-peer or manager-to-employee recognition is incredibly useful when creating real excitement, and it’s a popular tactic—in fact, 48% of organizations put peer-to-peer recognition to use. To grow employee engagement, give your employees and managers the power to recognize each other for great work that correlates with your overarching organizational values.
  • Keep tearing down the walls by promoting in-person recognition at meetings. When marketing and sales can attend each other’s meetings and are recognized for their assistance in the opposite team’s success, everyone wins.

Incent Your People With What Motivates Them

Salespeople and marketing professionals are complex, and so is motivating them. Some people are moved more by cash and tangible items, while intrinsic drive is the thing that pushes others.

So, what’s the best incentive? Letting your people choose what motivates them.

Just as much as awards, make an appeal to the intrinsic motivation of your people by using autonomy and mastery—the potential outcome is personally rewarding.

With extrinsic motivators, correlate value with significance to get more from your people. The value of your awards should vary depending on the significance of the goal achieved. Think anything from an online badge or certificate to group or individual travel opportunities.

One popular, powerful motivator: incentive travel. Countless organizations put incentive travel to use to successfully encourage sales growth, but it can help encourage marketing growth, too. Encourage your managers—or perhaps your entire sales and marketing departments—to work together and push harder by promoting a once-in-a-lifetime trip for top-tier performance.

Download this powerful SITE Foundation white paper to learn more about what it takes to drive substantial performance and results from your recognition and incentive programs.

Maggie Wenthe
Maggie Wenthe

Maggie strives to help the world understand the power behind personalized motivation that aligns people with business goals to drive powerful results. As the leader of Marketing Strategy at ITA Group, she analyzes market trends to develop world-class solutions that help Fortune 1000 companies motivate and engage their employees, channel partners and customers. She is certified through the Incentive Marketing Association, the Enterprise Engagement Alliance, as well as Pragmatic Marketing Level VI. Between marketing and three little boys, Maggie doesn't have free time. But when she can find a few minutes, she loves listening to audiobooks on marketing, business and sci fi thrillers.