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David G. Hubbard
  August 6, 2015

Comprehensive ABC’s for Achieving Effective Sales Marketing Alignment

Sales and Marketing Alignment is failing to meet expectations. What’s our next step?

CEO’s and their BOD/Owners should be well aware of the published stats by now:

Companies with effective Sales and Marketing Alignment accelerate their Revenues + Profits 20%+ faster than their peers.

CEO’s at the other 80-90% of the companies know that they are not a member of this elite high growth club. They want higher Revenue + Profit growth, and until they do, Sales and Marketing Alignment will continue to be an unresolved critical BOD issue.

A lot of folks thought that Sales and Marketing Alignment would be a relatively easy thing to jump-start, some still do. All we have to do is feed Sales more leads for them to close, right? Marketing Automation technologies and Sales Automation/CRM technologies would accelerate this effort all the way to the bank.

However, things aren’t going as smoothly as we had hoped.

  • Sales is still unhappy with Marketing leads,
  • Marketing is still unhappy with Sales feedback, and the
  • C-suite is still very unhappy about the company growth rate.


Sales Marketing Alignment is No Longer “Just About Us”

Sales + Marketing has been so focused on the tactical hand-off of new leads that we have failed to internalize the impact of recent strategic changes in our markets.

  1. Sales no longer controls access to the information that Buyers need. It’s not the 1990’s any longer. The Buyer team is self-educating online throughout their purchasing process, whether our sales groups or marketing groups are “engaged” with the buyers, or not.
  2. The paradigm that “Marketing Attracts Leads – Sales Closes Opportunities” no longer works. Given the changes in Buyer behavior and advances in MarTech, should Marketing focus even more on lead generation (instead of becoming a real partner in end-to-end revenue generation of the company)? Or, should Sales develop their own content, email campaigns and social messaging to address each stage of the buyer’s REAL purchasing process? Some proponents think so, but they conveniently ignore the negative impact to REAL Customer Experience caused by disjointed messaging.
  3. It’s not simply about aligning “Sales” with “Marketing”. It’s about aligning all the mini-silos within Sales + Marketing. Sales has evolved into several mini-silos such as “field sales, channel sales, account managers, inside sales, business development reps, and others”. Marketing has evolved into several mini-silos as well, such as “internet marketing, product marketing, Twitter marketing, LinkedIn marketing, Facebook marketing, lead generation, and others”.

The critical “must do” for Sales + Marketing is to better Align + Serve our target buyer.

Buyers have fundamentally changed and we must re-focus on who they are, their role within the buyer team, what is important to them, how do they make decisions, what will compel them to act, etc.

After all, how good is the quality of our “leads”, or how good is our “content”, or how good is our “messaging”, if we can’t agree internally on who the buyer really is and how we will collectively convert them from a stranger into a repeat customer?

Evolving from Tactical to Strategic Sales + Marketing Alignment

The real question becomes: How do we quickly evolve our existing Sales Marketing Alignment activity to adapt to these market changes and start really accelerating our company revenues?

Adding even more resources to address our “alignment opportunity” will just increase all of our revenue goals (and/or reduce our expense budgets).

The painful answer is that we must greatly simplify our current Sales Marketing Alignment strategy of Marketing Automation/ MQLs/ SQL’s/ SLA’s. It was a pretty good strategy in the 1990’s, but not sufficient to handle our current market conditions.

A/ Marketing must help Sales close more deals by supporting how Sales chooses to closes deals.

  1. Simplify the definition of a qualified lead. A qualified lead should represent what field Sales currently defines as a qualified lead, not what Marketing would like it to be based upon available data. Whether it’s BANT or some other methodology, the definition of a qualified lead must be aligned with how a Front Line Sales Manager evaluates the quality of Sales developed leads. Use progressive profiling techniques and compelling buyer-oriented content to deliver Sales-defined qualified leads. Leverage predictive lead scoring, big data, and ABM to supplement, not replace, Sale’s qualification criteria.
  2. Simplify the SLA. Sales are desperate for leads, so why does Marketing need to have an SLA (Service Level Agreement) to force them to chase all Marketing leads? While Marketing may be worried about ROI, Sales is worried about salesforce effectiveness. Forcing Sales to chase every poor quality lead reduces Sales Effectiveness and sales production. If the lead is Sales-ready, and a Sales rep is not chasing a qualified lead (as Sales defines a qualified lead), the Front Line Sales Manager will take action. Why? Because if their team fails, they fail!  We still need an effective SLA with teeth in it, but it’s got to be more strategic.
  3. Focus our skills in areas where you can achieve best outcomes. Marketing’s goals must evolve from simply generating more “leads”, to generating more leads that become Sales pipeline, more leads that become Sales forecast, and more leads that become more revenue. Let Technology measure Marketing’s contribution to sales generation, sales effectiveness, and cost of sale. Get Constructive Sales Feedback that you can readily use by leveraging CRM data about specific leads closed.

B/ Marketing must help Sales find more time to actually sell, (which means less time prospecting, less time re-qualifying, less time finding or creating buyer-centric content, less time chasing lousy leads, etc.)

    1. Participate in revenue generation throughout the lead to revenue process. Marketing must effectively nurture leads until they become a sale or a loss, not simply when Sales gets involved. The prospect will continue to self-educate online throughout the process.
    2. Stop simply “engaging” Buyers and Start “educating” Buyer teams. Marketing must create content and messaging that helps buyers move through their decision process, and ultimately make a decision to become our customer.
    3. Use technology to help Sales retain and grow the customer revenue base. Use nurturing to help support Sales prospecting efforts, Sales upselling efforts, Sales account penetration efforts, conversion of customers into repeat buyers, and conversion of satisfied customers into advocates. You have the technology and skills to do this, Sales doesn’t.

C/ Marketing + Sales must effectively Collaborate to better align with the evolving buyer. Collaborating on the right definition of a “lead” doesn’t get us better aligned with the buyer. Here’s what will:

    1. Collaborate on building a common perspective of the ideal targeted buyers. Adjust Sales + Marketing lead generation efforts accordingly.
    2. Collaborate on building a common perspective of the buyer team members and their personas/roles. Adjust Sales + Marketing messaging efforts accordingly.
    3. Collaborate on building a common perspective of the end-to-end Buyer purchasing process, from awareness through to implementation, from satisfied customer to repeat advocate, and
      1. Align Sales process + Marketing process to Buyer process.
      2. Adjust Sales Enablement + Marketing content generation efforts
      3. Adjust Social Selling + Social Media Marketing efforts
      4. Adjust Sales Automation/CRM + Marketing Automation

Strive for Strategic Sales + Marketing Alignment

We need to evolve from tactical alignment of leads to strategic alliance of functions and silos. Strategic alignment requires alignment across Sales + Marketing, across Sales, and across Marketing. It requires the following:

  • VP Sales + VP Marketing to lead the strategic alignment and approve cross-functional process changes, cross-functional measurement changes, cross-functional commitment/SLA changes.
  • Marketing Management + Sales Management to lead the tactical alignment regarding what’s working, what’s not working, and how it can be improved.
  • Marketers + Sales Reps need to participate and be actively involved. Without their feedback, management will essentially be trying to change the course of the ship without having a steering wheel.

Strive for Effective Sales + Marketing Collaboration

We need to evolve from simple collaboration with “meetings to improve communications” to effective collaboration with “meetings that deliver insights, solutions and better outcomes”.

Cooperation IS NOT Collaboration

  • Simply “Playing nice” or “Communicating more” may feel good initially, but quickly loses its luster when personal goals are at risk of being missed. We need to use our time productively to increase outcomes.
  • Simply rewarding more and more people when the company meets its “sales quotas”, or when Marketing generates more “leads”, makes as much sense to me as giving everyone on a sports team a “goal quota”, including the goalie! We need to reward the individual’s direct contribution to the outcome.
  • Simply integrating the Sales + Marketing function under one leader makes as much sense to me as having every employee directly report to the CEO. Integration does nothing to empower effective collaboration across Sales and Marketing silos, nor does it empower effective collaboration across all the other functional silos that impact customer experience.

Effective Collaboration requires that the value created and outcomes delivered are far greater than the effort invested.

  • Strategic Alignment + Effective Collaboration is achieved when we meet to discuss ways that our professional Sales skills and/or our professional Marketing skills can be best applied to do the following:
    • shorten our lead-to-revenue time frame, and
    • convert more of our leads into revenue, and
    • increase our sales WITHOUT increasing our cost of sale.

Strategic Alignment + Effective Collaboration is about over-achieving our personal AND functional goals through cross-silo collaboration on common goals. We might be able to win occasionally on own, but we’ll win consistently and win more with often with the right collaboration, because 1+1 really can equal more than 2. Ask any happily married couple 🙂

Having been part of Sales and/or Marketing professions throughout my career, I fully understand that Sales and Marketing are not ready yet to get married. In many companies, they’re barely cordial to each other, particularly behind closed doors! Let’s face it, they could use a little “relationship coaching” 😉

The Next Step to Effective Sales + Marketing Alignment

Achieving Effective Alignment + Collaboration may be challenging initially, but with the right expert leadership, you will be surprised how quickly it can start producing the right outcomes. Consider contacting us at Marketing Outfield for a Complementary Consultation. No obligation, no hard sell, just insight.

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