Till Death Do Us Part II: Tactics That Make Sales and Marketing Alignment Work
Hugh MacFarlane, founder and CEO of MathMarketing, conducted an alignment benchmarking study by surveying 1,400 professionals in 84 countries around the world. The study found that the businesses that have the greatest degree of alignment:
Close 38% more proposals than non-aligned businesses
Lose 36% fewer customers to competitors
Clearly, aligning your sales and marketing departments has enormous take-it-to-the-bank benefits. The barriers to getting it done fall into two broad categories:
Marketing often sees itself as the strategic player and sales as the tactical delivery mechanism for the strategy. In contrast, sales often sees itself as the primary driver for the business and responsible for revenue, with marketing relegated to a sales support staffing role. This creates a fundamental rift between the two departments that can be hard to overcome.
Getting started: The human factors that help maintain sales and marketing alignment
- Identify team leaders who will lead the initiative. The team leaders should meet regularly and share information. They should identify common goals that CXO-level champions support.
- Start simply. Pick one or two areas where alignment can be visible and focus just on them. Lead definitions and qualification benchmarks are good places to begin; agreement on these two areas gives sales and marketing a common language and common definitions.
- Sit in on each other’s meetings. If, for example, sales has a weekly meeting, give the marketing representative five minutes at each meeting to present marketing’s upcoming campaigns and the outcome of recent campaigns. Sales should feel free to ask questions.
- Let sales have a voice in collateral development. Those on the front lines often develop their own materials; they may see what’s needed better than marketing.
- Create a service level agreement. This is a written document in which sales and marketing make promises to each other. It memorializes processes and timelines; done thoroughly, it could uncover areas of disagreement that could be unpleasant surprises further down the road. It doesn’t have to cover everything, but what it does cover needs to be specific and measurable.
Often each group’s critical data is housed in separate data silos in separate systems, and sharing the data becomes an exercise in exporting and importing CSV files and spreadsheets.
The solution lies in finding ideological common ground, and supporting that agreement with technology that makes information sharing possible and enforces action.
Choose the right technology
Underlying all of this is the need for technology that supports and streamlines alignment. It’s especially important for the marketing database and the CRM database to be integrated, with sales and marketing aligned on what data to sync, and how often. This creates a common operating picture that lets both sales and marketing visualize prospect status and take appropriate action at predetermined points.
It’s also important that the system to provide outcome reports. Marketing can use report data to revise ongoing campaigns and focus budget where it’s driving results. Ultimately, the accountability that reporting provides will allow marketing take credit for its contribution to revenue, which becomes a key factor is sales and marketing alignment.
Communication supported by technology is the key. Begin simply and add alignment points as results indicate your best opportunities. No company is too small to align; no company can afford not to.
Author Profile: Shawn Naggiar is the Chief Revenue Officer of Act-On Software. He joined Act-On in early 2008 as employee #7, and was a key architect in creating the company’s go-to-market strategy. The Sales Lead Management Association (SLMA) counted Shawn as #4 on the list of “50 Most Influential People in Sales Lead Management” for 2012.