Why sales-marketing alignment fails - and what leaders can do about it
Part of the reason that B2B companies have failed to improve sales-marketing alignment is that they are only focusing on one piece of the alignment puzzle. So what are the others?
Research continues to show that marketing-sales alignment remains a significant challenge for many companies. Earlier this year, for example, InsideView published The State of Sales & Marketing Alignment in 2018, which was based on a survey of more than 500 sales and marketing professionals.
In this survey, 75% of marketing respondents, and 63% of sales respondents reported having a good or excellent relationship with their counterparts. However, respondents also rated the marketing-sales relationship as weak or very weak on several vital demand generation activities.
Many B2B companies have been trying to crack the code on sales-marketing alignment for more than a decade. So why has this task proven to be so difficult? Part of the reason success has been elusive is that most companies have focused on only one piece of the alignment puzzle.
Shared understanding isn't enough
Many of the "best practices" for achieving sales-marketing alignment are intended to create a shared understanding among marketing and sales professionals regarding the critical components of the company's demand generation strategy and process, some of which include:
- The definition of the target market, and the characteristics of the ideal customer (the "Ideal Customer Profile").
- Core value propositions.
- Customer buying processes.
- Lead management processes (lead stage definitions, scoring criteria, etc.).
- Reinforce the aligning narrative - The CMO and the CSO must constantly communicate the importance of having marketing and sales work together seamlessly - that the company's demand generation efforts can't produce maximum results unless marketing and sales function as a cohesive team. In addition, CMO's and CSO's should communicate that informal, self-directed collaboration among marketing and sales professionals is not only acceptable, but expected. This aligning narrative needs to be reinforced every day in some way.
- Conduct regular sales-marketing forums - CMO's and CSO's should conduct joint sales-marketing forums on a regular basis. The cadence of these forums is determined by individual company needs, but they probably should occur at least monthly in most companies. The primary objective of these forums is to provide a venue for marketing and sales personnel at all levels to interact, exchange information, and discuss problems and opportunities.
- Leverage cross-functional teams - The CMO and the CSO should always be looking for opportunities to use cross-functional teams to deal with meaningful problems, challenges, or opportunities. Whenever possible, these teams should be composed of individuals who wouldn't otherwise work together. Not only are cross-functional teams usually the best way to address major issues, they also foster the development of personal relationships that span functional and departmental boundaries.
Creating effective sales-marketing alignment is ultimately an exercise in team-building. It's essential for marketing and sales professionals to have a shared understanding regarding the major components of demand generation strategy.
G. David Dodd is a consultant and author who has been advising and supporting B2B companies for over 25 years. He works with clients to evaluate major strategic issues and initiatives, develop business and marketing strategies, create authoritative, compelling content, and design effective content marketing programs. He also helps clients...