The alignment problem 

The reality is sales and marketing misalignment is extremely common. So common that only about 8% of B2B organizations have actually aligned their teams successfully through collaborative efforts that drive revenue, conversion, and overall growth. 

However, the results of a unified team speak for themselves. Aligned teams are 67% more efficient at closing deals and reduce customer acquisition costs (CAC) by 30%

While aligning your marketing and sales teams might seem like a no-brainer, many teams continue to struggle with true alignment, which involves not only coordinating goals and strategies but also fostering a shared understanding of the buyers’ journey. So, what does it take to turn these teams from acquaintances (or even frenemies) to collaborative partners? While there isn’t one easy fix, there is one major commonality sitting at the intersection of these two teams. Their buyers. 

How connected data can help 

Just as individuals possess distinct qualities, interests, and potential, leads also exhibit varying degrees of readiness to engage and convert. 

Consider leads as a spectrum of opportunities. Some leads might be highly interested and proactive, actively seeking information about your offerings and showing strong intent to make a purchase. On the other hand, some leads might be just starting to explore their options and require more nurturing before they are ready to commit. Say marketing passes on 100 leads, and 79 of those are later disqualified by sales, that signifies a major misalignment between the marketing team’s targeting and sales’ expectations.  

This disconnect can turn into a vicious cycle – a lack of faith in the leads sales is being handed means they are less likely to follow up. If leads aren’t being nurtured or there isn’t a feedback loop informing marketing of the problem, marketers get frustrated and can lose the motivation to spend time, energy, and budget driving better leads.  

The solution? Understanding where each lead stands on this spectrum allows these teams to tailor their strategies accordingly. Sales can engage high-intent leads with targeted and persuasive messaging, while leads in the early stages might benefit from additional marketing nurture and educational content to guide them through their decision-making process. This distinction in lead readiness is crucial for sales and marketing teams. 

This is where intent data comes in. 

Building trust with data provenance

Data provenance refers to information about the source or origin of data. This includes details about where the data was initially collected or generated, who collected it, when it was collected, and under what conditions.This plays a significant role in establishing mutual trust between marketing and sales and acts as a bridge by providing valuable insights into lead behavior and qualification. 

Organizations gain a clearer understanding of the “why” behind leads, such as origin, qualification, and readiness for engagement. This information helps establish a solid process and rationale for passing leads from marketing to sales and enhances the handoff process. Moreover, intent data offers a glimpse into the actions and interactions of leads, answering the crucial “why” behind a lead’s readiness for engagement. This transparency not only boosts confidence in lead quality but also ensures that leads are nurtured and engaged based on their demonstrated interests and behaviors. 

Building more efficient processes 

Connected and reliable data is the driving force behind this collaboration. 

High-quality, accurate, reliable, and comprehensive intent data empowers marketing to focus on the best channels and best audiences. It also motivates sales to do something with them. Whether that’s initial nurture, following up on active deals, or even re-engaging closed lost accounts. This data-driven alignment fosters a culture of trust and cooperation, as teams can rely on accurate information to guide their strategies and decisions. 

Steps to making it happen

Ultimately, marketing and sales want the same thing – to effectively convert buyers into loyal clients. This is only possible when marketing is optimized to scale demand based on a lead performance feedback loop so that sales are empowered to follow up confidently. Armed with connected data, marketing teams can provide context on readiness, priorities, and more.  

How do you properly build that bridge? Here are six actionable steps to align marketing and sales in your organization. 

1. Revisit your ideal customer profile (ICP) 

Revisiting your ideal customer profile (ICP) is a crucial first step that sets the foundation for effectively utilizing intent signals. 

In order to actually understand and act on intent insights, both teams must agree on who exactly they are targeting. Revisiting your ICP entails a comprehensive evaluation of the characteristics, attributes, and behaviors that define your most desirable customers, such as: 

  • Demographics: characteristics such as age, gender, location, company size, industry, and job title. 
  • Firmographics: company revenue, number of employees, geographic locations, and organizational structure. 
  • Technographics: the technology stack and tools that a company uses. 

In addition to these, you should also consider similarities among your top customers and areas you have been able to up/cross-sell into. 

Defining your ICP should be a joint effort across your organization so teams have a shared understanding of the ideal customers to target and can collaborate effectively to align strategies with intent. 

Note: ICPs are not a one-and-done deal. The market is always evolving, which means your ICP will periodically need updating. You may need to recruit the help of your customer success team and set up quarterly calls to check in on customer satisfaction or ask questions about your hero customers (who has been successful, and who have they successfully upsold?). Include sales in the conversation as well, inquire about new or larger opportunities in a certain vertical or deals that aren’t converting as well as they used to. Involving marketing, sales, and CS gives you valuable information from different vantage points to decide if your ICP needs updating and how to define it.  

2. Identify weak points  

Take a good, honest look in the mirror at your current lead generation and automation processes. Do you like what you see? Or are there workflows or strategies you could clearly improve? 

Identifying weak points is like shining a spotlight on areas that need improvement. While this step can be difficult to do, it’s necessary to identify which areas can be optimized for success, then prioritize solutions based on impact and lift to solve them. Try asking yourself and your team the following questions: 

  1. Where could data be better connected, utilized, or reported on? 
  2. What data is missing that could improve alignment of marketing and sales strategies, collaboration, and overall success? 
  3. What does the data we have now tell us about potential shortfalls? 

Addressing these discrepancies in conversion rates requires open communication, collaboration, and a shared understanding of data-driven insights. A plan of action could include setting up regular meetings between marketing and sales teams to discuss performance, challenges, and opportunities. 

Other areas that could identify weak points include: 

  • ICP/Firmographics 
  • Lead quality 
  • Content/personalization 
  • Pipeline velocity 
  • Operational efficiency – example: form fills booking directly from a submission 

Best practice is to perform a sales and marketing alignment audit. Have marketing audit their process and ask sales to do the same. Set up a time for your teams to come together and identify areas containing gaps, and brainstorm processes to improve. 

3. Prioritize in-market buyers

Unite both teams under a common objective: identifying and engaging with leads displaying active buying intent.  

Leveraging intent data allows you to understand and agree on exactly what “in-market” means for your organization. Intent data reveals which prospects are engaging with relevant content, visiting your website, and exhibiting signs of purchase readiness. You may identify prospects based on a combination of factors such as specific content interactions, frequency of website visits, engagement with certain product pages, and explicit indications of purchase intent. 

To use intent insights effectively you’ll need to establish clear lead-scoring definitions and segment those accordingly. At its most basic, intent data reveals who is in-market to buy, but dig a bit deeper to answer questions about how your marketing and sales teams should target certain prospects. 

Common ways to prioritize and score leads include: 

  • MQL (marketing qualified lead): Leads that have shown interest and engagement with marketing efforts, such as downloading content, attending webinars, or signing up for newsletters. They meet certain predefined criteria set by marketing and have shown enough interest to be passed on to the sales team. 
  • SQL (sales qualified lead): Leads that have been further evaluated by the sales team and deemed ready for direct sales engagement.  
  • BANT: A lead qualification framework that assesses a lead’s budget, authority, need, and timeline to determine their readiness for sales engagement and likelihood to convert. 
  • SAL (sales accepted lead): Leads that have been reviewed and accepted by the sales team for further engagement. While not fully qualified, they show potential and are worth pursuing. 

Once this is identified, you can determine which leads need what.  

For example, SQLs may continue to receive marketing emails, but the content strategy may evolve to incorporate heightened social proof and tactical insights. 

4. Centralize your data

Connected data is only valuable if made easily available for both your marketing and sales teams.  

Ensure that both teams have access to the same information and can track lead interactions, behaviors, and engagement. One way to do this is by integrating your CRM system to allow seamless data sharing between marketing and sales. This integration enables a real-time flow of information about lead interactions, preferences, and behaviors, fostering a sense of unity and a shared mission. Within your integrated CRM, you should automate alerts and notifications to inform sales teams when high-intent leads engage with specific content or reach certain thresholds to facilitate timely follow-up. 

It’s important to continuously monitor the integration and data flow to identify and address any issues. Regularly review the effectiveness of intent data and make necessary adjustments. This enables both teams to access, leverage, and collaborate effectively with intent signals. 

5. Map your content strategy 

A large part of marketing’s job is to identify why people have a certain pain and educate buyers on solutions by providing valuable insights. 

However, that important messaging can be clouded by misalignment between marketing and sales. Marketing and sales must have consistent content and messaging when helping solve buyers’ pain points. 

Using intent allows you to deliver the right content to the right leads at the right time. Once leads have been segmented and prioritized based on intent, map your existing content to their specific needs and interests. This will identify any content gaps that should be filled with new content.  

One approach to this is to map your content based on lead scores: 

Content types: Case studies Webinars Goal: Educate leads on advanced strategies and best practices. Content types: Ebooks/Guides Blog posts Goal: Address pain points and challenges faced by leads. Content types: Infographics Explainer videos Goal: Offer a brief, engaging overview of how your organization’s features assist. 

This ensures that your content aligns with the varying levels of awareness and engagement among leads, ultimately guiding them through the buyer’s journey more effectively. Sales should communicate what content resonates with leads and what additional areas need to be addressed back to marketing so that both teams are delivering content aligned with what buyers want. 

6. Communication is key

After all, collaboration between teams really comes down to the people. One of the best ways to centralize efforts is by establishing a feedback loop between marketing and sales, whether that’s a Slack channel, a weekly stand-up meeting, shared reporting, or other means of joint collaboration. This encourages open communication about lead quality and the performance of marketing efforts. 

Before and after intent data 

Let’s look at an example of what collaboration might look like before and after adjusting your organization’s alignment strategy: 

Before intent After intent 
Marketing runs independent campaigns targeting a wide range of industries without considering buyer intent. Sales teams rely on basic demographics to prioritize leads, often missing high-intent prospects. Marketing generates leads through various channels without a clear understanding of sales’ preferences or lead intent. There is minimal communication between marketing and sales regarding lead quality and readiness. Sales frequently receive leads with low intent, resulting in wasted efforts and slower conversions. Sales follows up inconsistently due to lack of trust in lead quality. Marketing and sales collaboratively define a detailed Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), including intent-based characteristics. Marketing tailors campaigns to attract leads matching the ICP’s characteristics and intent signals. Intent data is used to track and score leads’ online behaviors, identifying and prioritizing high-intent prospects. Regular meetings between marketing and sales fine-tune lead criteria based on intent data insights and optimize channel and messaging performance. High-intent leads, as identified by intent data, are passed to sales for targeted engagement. 

Measuring results

Regardless of any gaps, marketers and salespeople are driving the same thing: revenue. 

Measuring the results and success of aligning marketing and sales with intent data involves tracking various key performance indicators (KPIs) that reflect the effectiveness of your efforts. Analyze the impact of connected data and aligned strategies on lead quality, conversion rates, revenue generation, and more: 

  • Lead quality 
  • Conversion rates 
  • Sales velocity 
  • Return on investment (ROI) 
  • Quality of engagement 
  • Sales acceptance rate 

Regularly analyze these metrics over time to gauge the ongoing impact of aligning marketing and sales. Keep a constant feedback loop between teams and adjust your strategies based on the insights gained, continuing to refine your approach to maximize success. 

It’s important to talk to your teams and understand their point of view on alignment efforts by utilizing surveys or feedback mechanisms to gauge the perception of alignment between teams and assess whether they feel more aligned and collaborative. As results from joint efforts present themselves, make a point to celebrate success — recognize and celebrate joint successes achieved through aligned efforts and celebrate wins together to foster a sense of collaboration and motivation within both teams. 


Reliable and integrated data allows B2B organizations to bridge the gap between marketing and sales efforts to generate and scale revenue. Marketing is confident in the leads they are generating for sales, so sales teams are empowered to reach out with relevant content to in-market leads. By aligning teams through intent and connected data, you’ll see more collaboration, better results, smooth optimizations, and a streamlined path to your revenue goals. To learn more about using intent data to achieve your goals, check out our intent activation guide.