Today, we look at an age-old problem that is common across B2B businesses irrespective of the industry or domain they are in – marketing and sales alignment. What’s more surprising is that it stays unsolved although the misalignment between the two functions is costing a lot of money, resources, time, and effort for a vast majority of companies.
So, in this article, let us understand the root cause of the problem and learn what are some of the best practices to follow to make sure both marketing and sales ‘travel’ together.
Making it happen with a business angle?
I have personally felt that this issue has always been analyzed from a single point of view. More often than not, marketing and sales alignment is a multi-dimensional problem. And when I say ‘making it happen with a business angle’, I am referring to fixing it for the business and not just for a single cause.
For me, this also means that:
- It’s not a battle between sales and marketing. It’s not a question of who wins. It’s a matter of how both can co-exist. It’s a matter of how both can win together.
- It has to be solved for the business as well as for the people in it, and not just either.
- We need to look at the larger picture. What’s in it for the business? What are the short-term as well as long-term implications? It’s not about 1 or 2 tasks you do every day, it’s about ‘fixing’ the whole system that prevents sales and marketing from aligning with each other.
But before we look at the ‘how’
Before we jump into the steps to be taken to achieve marketing and sales alignment, we need to understand two things:
- Both functions are different from each other. Don’t try to give them the same label. They operate differently. Their mindsets are different. Their routines are different. Acknowledge it, instead of trying to ‘make them one’.
- A change doesn’t happen at lightning speed. Remember the old saying ‘Rome was not built in a day’? The same applies to achieving marketing-sales alignment. It’s a journey. It’s progress you need to make every day. There are no winners in the game. Neither are there losers.
The 7 steps towards achieving 100% marketing-sales alignment
Attaining synergy between marketing and sales essentially boils down to one thing – how can both parties help achieve each other’s goals? But this is easier said than done. Hence, I am breaking down the 7 steps I think are essential to making this happen.
1. Focus on revenue-based goals
The ultimate goal of marketing and sales is to generate (or contribute to generating) new business. While salespeople have their success closely tied to the revenue numbers they hit, the success of marketing on the other hand in many organizations is measured by the number of leads or MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads) the team generates.
While leads and MQLs can be leading indicators, they can’t tell you what’s contributing to the revenue or pipeline of the business. This is where you need to design your marketing strategy around what is actually ‘bringing in’ business – what’s creating quality demand that results in high-value opportunities.
We discussed this topic in detail in one of the previous articles titled Why B2B Revenue Attribution Is Broken And How To Fix It. The article discusses how the new attribution model I proposed can help you find marketing channels that are really improving the topline of the business. It should give you a fair bit of idea about how to optimize your marketing activities for revenue.
2. Optimize for revenue, but evaluate for pipeline/SQLs
This is specific to marketing alone. While we have to design marketing activities in a way that they result in the highest revenue, it might not be fair to measure the team based on that (and this might lead to disgruntlement among marketing team members which is detrimental to ensuring marketing-sales alignment).
This is because the number of factors that are beyond the control of marketing increases as you move closer to revenue. These factors could include:
- Effectiveness of salespeople in the org.
- Efficiency of the leads management and follow-up processes.
- The product itself not meeting the needs of the market.
In addition, marketing also doesn’t get an opportunity to directly convince a prospect (on call or face-to-face meeting) to buy the company’s products.
Given these, the marketing team’s (and the team members’) performance should be evaluated based on the pipeline or the high-value SQLs (Sales Qualified Leads) it generates, and not the final revenue realized.
3. Understanding each other
This sounds like a relationship thing. But trust me, this makes a lot of difference.
Having compassion for what the other person is going through is important to bridge the gap between the two functions. This involves:
- The marketing team understanding the daily pain salespeople have to go through – targets, salary structure, business impact, scrutiny from the management/leadership, etc.
- The sales team understanding how marketing works – limitations when it comes to assessing lead quality, the time it takes to show the impact of a marketing initiative, the fact that not all marketing campaigns succeed, etc.
Some of the steps that can be taken to establish mutual understanding are:
- Have marketing team members (especially those involved in demand gen) attend sales calls and meetings with prospects. Marketers can be silent listeners.
- Marketing team should share relevant data with sales folks on why all marketing campaigns or activities don’t succeed.
- Having a quarterly (or even monthly) catch-up on goals, the progress each team makes on them, collaboration activities required, etc.
4. Have all the data in one place.
We just discussed the importance of marketing sharing data with sales. However, such ad-hoc sharing can be done to get into specific granular details.
What I am referring to here is having a common dashboard to regularly track agreed-upon metrics.
For instance, if you are into selling a B2B contacts database, following are some of the metrics you can visualize in the common dashboard:
- Total revenue generated
- Number of paid users
- Number of demo requests
- Number of direct sales qualified leads
- Funnel conversion values (demo request to SQL conversion, SQL to high-value opp conversion, opportunity to customer conversion, etc).
You could even include business metrics such as CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost), MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue), customer churn rate, etc., so that marketing and sales folks understand the end-to-end impact of their contribution.
This dashboard should be accessible to all the team members so that they know whether they are able to move the needle when it comes to outcomes that matter.
5. Focus on demand creation, and not just demand capture
Both marketing and sales are demand capture + demand creation functions. Only that the percentage of the time devoted to each would differ. While marketing has to focus more of its efforts on demand creation or generation, sales should spend more time on demand capture (if you have your sales folks generating demand for your business, that’s a bonus).
And this is a clear distinction every marketer, salesperson, and the leadership/management should understand,
Now, one of the most common mistakes that I see many marketers and marketing leaders make is that they focus on demand capture alone. As I always say, never ignore the 97 to 98% of your prospective buyers who might not be looking for what you are selling today. That’s the segment you need to target through demand creation.
But how does this help in marketing-sales alignment?
The answer is pretty simple. Focusing on demand gen helps in improving the quality of inbound as well as outbound leads over time. This is a win-win situation for both teams.
Related article: B2B Demand Generation – How To Create A System For It
6. People, process, and technology
The three elements – people, process, and technology – are core to any business’s existence. And these have a huge role to play in reducing friction between marketing and sales.
The below image illustrates the same:
It is when all three elements are appropriately managed, an ecosystem favorable for marketing-sales alignment will be created.
7. The marketing-sales-leadership triangle
Achieving marketing and sales alignment requires conscious support and effort from the company’s senior leadership or management.
In the last section, I spoke about getting people, process, and technology right for marketing-sales alignment. And the leadership’s role can be looked at through the same lens. It is the responsibility of the leadership or senior management to create an environment where marketing and sales can succeed together by leveraging these three elements.
And interestingly, this touches upon not just pure sales or marketing, but various other facets of the business such as:
- Company culture.
- Company’s purpose, vision, mission, and core values.
- Leadership styles of key managers and leaders.
And given that the management is responsible for facilitating success for both functions, it needs to:
- Act as the liaison between the two teams.
- Help establish rapport between them.
- Clearly communicate expectations from the management/board to both teams.
- Offer both teams enough resources, budget, tech, and other facilities to achieve their goals.
To summarize, marketing and sales alignment happens only with team effort, And a lot of pieces have to work together in harmony. Implementing the above 7 steps should get you into a position of making it happen, that too with a business angle.
That’s all I wanted to cover today. Stay tuned for more insights.
Skalegrow – B2B brand marketing agency
With marketing getting tougher and tougher, every wrong foot you make might hamper your growth. What you need is the right guidance and a helping hand. This is where Skalegrow can make a sea of difference.
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Brand marketing is one of the areas we specialize in. Whether it’s in the form of creating great content, crafting a unique positioning, or ensuring a consistent brand identity, we can help. Write to us at email@example.com for more details.
About the author
Naseef KPO is the Founder and CEO of Skalegrow. He comes with rich experience across multiple areas of B2B marketing including content marketing, demand generation, SEO, account-based marketing, marketing analytics, revenue attribution, marketing technology, etc. He writes thought-provoking and relevant articles on The Skalegrow Blog and his weekly LinkedIn newsletter Elevate Your Marketing.
Prior to starting Skalegrow, Naseef led large marketing teams in multi-million dollar B2B organizations where he made significant contributions to the topline growth of the business. He has also appeared on numerous podcasts where he shared his thoughts on trending marketing topics such as the application of AI in marketing, startup marketing, ABM, and B2B content marketing, just to name a few. Being the founder of Skalegrow, he is currently focusing on helping its clients stay ahead of their competition by using innovative yet practical marketing tactics.
You can connect with Naseef KPO on LinkedIn.