By Ron Greenberg and Dan Weinfurter
Published in Top Sales Magazine (January 2020 issue)
Not long ago, sales and marketing executives spoke to each other during senior team meetings, but frankly, not much more frequently than that.
They executed their respective plans, and rarely counted on the other to be of much help in furthering the agenda of their department. Sales had overall responsibility for revenue, marketing took on other goals and focused on the brand, awareness, reputation, positioning and demand generation strategy, not always linked with sales. The stories of marketing and sales each thinking the other area was essentially going in the wrong directions are many and often legendary.
Times have changed dramatically and now sales and marketing both own revenue goals and the “revenue” process, which often begins in marketing and ends in customer success, increasingly reporting to a single executive titled the Chief Growth Officer or Chief Commercial Officer. Still, there is often an executive in charge of the sales organization, and there is an executive in charge of marketing. But while they may be in command of different teams, it is essential they are aligned in all ways: in the go-to-market strategy, the positioning, the value proposition, key messages, and the tactics in place to drive awareness, lead flow, lead qualification, and the strategies and tactics necessary to advance from qualified leads to closed revenue.
With each new transformative technology, the notion of achieving new heights in sales and marketing performance, more easily, and more measurably, has been one of the hopes, if not promises.
First came CRM, then other sales automation platforms, and then Marketing Automation tools and platforms, and now there’s Account-Based Marketing (ABM) technology. Of course, there are literally thousands of other associated technologies and companies, tools, and platforms that have cropped up around all of these areas.
Even with all of the new automation and other tech tools on the scene, nothing yet automates sales and marketing alignment! One can argue that the tech and the merging of roles that has come with it have actually made sales and marketing alignment compulsory – more so now than ever before.
Consider this: your sales and marketing teams are probably leaving money on the table, if not the floor, without real, tangible interlock including planning, process, execution and measurement.
When sales and marketing alignment works, it’s a beautiful thing: Aberdeen Group estimates that sales and marketing alignment can lead to a +32% increase in year-over-year revenue growth. MarketingProfs reports that sales and marketing alignment can lead to +38% higher win rates.
So why isn’t marketing and sales alignment success more pervasive? Perhaps because it’s not an easy process. But it is a straightforward one, with clear, measurable, and substantive benefits. More on this later.
The saying, “the platform is not the strategy,” may have first popped up during the early days of CRM. It underscored the fact that great sales and marketing tech can take you a long way forward – but only if you have a plan for alignment between the sales and marketing organizations who are jointly using it.
Many sales and marketing teams are using the tools, but not in a coordinated, unified way that delivers on business objectives. Chances are they’re technologies that measure and provide insights on demand, client contact, intent, engagement, predictive behaviors, personalization, conversion and more. But how best to move forward and use these analytical insights, across sales and marketing, most effectively?
In many recent surveys of B2B marketers, especially for proven, newly reinvigorated approaches such as ABM, sales and marketing alignment is consistently cited as one of the most critical success factors. In fact, as reported in TOPO’s 2019 Account Based Benchmark report, “coordinating efforts across sales and marketing—is a hallmark of effective execution.”
Sales and marketing alignment doesn’t happen naturally. It takes effort, time, commitment, data, tools and thoroughness – which may be why so many try and quit or attempt alignment unsuccessfully. Success includes buy-in, behavior shifts, even changes to organization structure and comp. On top of this, the management system and metrics that will keep things running as planned is also crucial.
How well and how thoroughly true alignment is accomplished will affect everything else that comes after.
This joint, interlocked effort may even be considered to be akin to the creation of a high performance (sub)culture between sales and marketing, centered around opportunity and revenue-generating initiatives – and results.
As lines blur between sales and marketing organizations, unified views of your key accounts and customers, what they consider to be of most value, how to deliver that value to them, and how to engage them throughout the entire length of their decisionmaking journey is more important than ever.
If you start with alignment, then it’s likely that all that follows will be not only what you hoped for, but exactly what you planned for.