Since I started writing about and studying sales and marketing alignment earlier this year, these conversations have resonated with both sales and marketing leaders. Everyone sees their own organization in this discussion, whether collaboration exists or challenges abound.
As the process of buying and selling evolves, customer-facing roles change along with it. Sales and marketing teams have traditionally operated in silos, resulting in tension and preventing each team from fully executing their jobs. It is no longer possible for these two functions to remain separate and distinct. They must work together to accomplish specific tasks.
CSOs and CMOs play separate roles in the revenue life cycle, focusing on distinct results, but must collaborate across a series of revenue-generating activities to meet revenue goals. Alignment is not a status to achieve, but a continuous path of collaboration.
The following guidance for leaders of both functions demonstrates specific collaborative activities across a number of strategic fundamentals — processes owned by sales and marketing teams individually — that will lead to revenue growth.
The strategic process to determine the approach and target audience is often done by marketing alone. They develop the personas, understand the market and collect data about buyers and the product. But the sales team has plenty to add to this conversation. They spend all day talking to buyers. Sales really understands the buyers’ challenges on a granular level. It is critical to bring the broad perspective of marketing together with the specific perspective of sales to identify the most likely customers. And this is relevant whether you are focused on leads or accounts.
Sales: Provide qualitative market, customer and prospect insights.
Marketing: Provide quantitative persona, product and segment market data.
When sales and marketing are not aligned, buyers experience a disconnect in messaging. They read one thing in marketing emails, content and social posts, while they hear something else entirely from sales. Have you ever had a sales rep walk you through a slide deck and they contradict the language on the “approved” slide? This is why these two functions need to work together to improve the messaging platform on a continuous basis so that it is consistent, and further resonates with buyers. Again, marketing often does this alone because of their understanding of industry insight, but sales know what words and what content impacts buyers. They can share the voice of the customer because they talk to them every day.
Sales: Share the voice of the customer.
Marketing: Share industry insight.
If the two functions are not measuring the same thing, then it is difficult to align their results. But more often than not, marketing and sales are measuring different kinds of things. For example, many marketing teams are still responsible for delivering a specific number of leads, or even marketing-qualified leads. This is a quantity metric. It is possible to spend more to increase this number. While sales is responsible for delivering on pipeline and revenue numbers. These are quality metrics. If an organization is not a good fit for the solution, it is hard to close the deal.
If both teams are measured on their influence on revenue, then they both seek the same kinds of metrics. As a process, they need to agree on the specific shared metrics, how they are reported and where the data is sourced from to indicate the stated, common results. While marketing needs to measure further into the funnel, sales needs to follow the process, providing visibility into the process.
Sales: Measure commitment to sales process.
Marketing: Measure campaign engagement impact on revenue.
Enablement is the alignment secret weapon because sales and marketing teams collaborate here whether any other collaboration occurs between the two groups. Marketers create content that sales teams need for internal and external use, but even this can be improved by working together. An integrated process with appropriate feedback loops from sales before and after using collateral increases the effectiveness of content. Better trained sales reps and better content leads to revenue growth.
Sales: Provide input before and after usage of materials.
Marketing: Create materials to inform what sellers know, say, show and do in the appropriate format.
And finally when considering how sales and marketing can work together to achieve revenue growth, there are three categories of operational fundamentals to consider. Since other functions primarily own these activities, sales and marketing leaders can make recommendations for more collaborative efforts, but they cannot solve alignment just between the two of them. These are:
- Revenue Process Design: Design internal, interconnected workflows that guide the buyer through the revenue lifecycle.
- Technology: Advise on the requirements of a technology stack to meet the needs of sales and marketing.
- Data: Develop data strategy, including governance and quality assurance.
These are the activities that sales and marketing leaders have confirmed make a difference when seeking alignment to drive revenue growth. Does this match what you see in your organization? What are the biggest blockers to sales and marketing alignment?
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Excellent article. If any I would add that Sales and Marketing can also collaboratively input on another process managed by a third function: Invoicing Process. The invoice means another touchpoint impacting and communicating to the Customer and hence, while managed by Finance, should benefit from their input… and indirectly contribute to further revenue growth by enhancing the customer experience and driving (more) loyalty.