Lessons in Sales & Marketing Alignment

Sales and Marketing Alignment

At the end of June, I attended the second Sales & Marketing Alignment Summit in Chicago organized by Jeff Davis. Similar to Jeff’s first event last year, it was terrific and provided many thoughtful insights about how to improve alignment between these two critical functions. Here are a few of the lessons I learned, and none of them can be fixed by simply waving a magic wand.

The CEO’s Role in Alignment

The discussion at the Summit started with considering the CEO’s role in alignment. The CEO is the primary keeper of company culture and, without his or her involvement in encouraging alignment, it is difficult for marketing and sales leaders to accomplish it on their own. If a company has room to improve its alignment and the CEO is not currently aware of or engaged with driving this improvement, then making the business case for them can be one of the most important first steps.

Technology vs. People

Is poor marketing and sales alignment a people problem or a technology problem? “People operate the technology” was the answer from one of the panelists, which is a fair point. It was also discussed that if you do not have good people alignment, to begin with, then deploying new technology will frequently increase that misalignment.

For example, if marketing decides to purchase a tool to gain visibility into the funnel but sales is not involved, marketing might gain insight down the funnel and now has to create buy-in with sales to make decisions and change course. In some cases, the technology can drive the alignment. However, they might have purchased a tool that won’t work well for both teams. When they are aligned prior, they may realize they need more than just visibility – which is just the tip of the iceberg for improving alignment.

Perceived Lack of Accountability

While it’s not fair or correct in many organizations, there is a perception that marketing lacks full accountability. Sales is measured by their results and marketing is not, or at least that’s how the traditional narrative goes. Thankfully, this is rapidly changing with many of today’s marketing leaders being accountable for specific demand generation and revenue goals. There is still a challenge in helping others understand those goals and providing transparency into exactly how marketing is helping to drive revenue growth.

Chicago Sales & Marketing Alignment Summit

Pictured from the left, Matt Carroll – VP of Sales, FunnelWise; Mariam Huss – Founder and Managing Director, Axxum Consulting LLC; Nate Turner – VP, Demand Generation, Sprout Social; and Jeff Davis – Founder, The Sales + Marketing Alignment Summit.

Wave the Magic Wand

What elements of the marketing and sales relationship would you change if you could wave a magic wand and change anything? The answers to this question were especially interesting.

One panelist talked about removing the history of animosity between these two functions. Providing more visibility into each other’s roles was also discussed, so sales could truly see and understand what marketing does, and vice versa.

Another deeper comment was about having both areas succeed and fail together – instead of separately. Specifically, sales is recognized for their wins and marketing for their wins, but why aren’t they both recognized together and viewed as a combined unit when it comes to winning? A similar philosophy can apply to failure as well. Instead of just one side receiving the blame, a true team approach would have marketing and sales either win or fail together instead of on their own.

Finally, one panelist mentioned that if he could wave his magic wand, he would like to have marketing and sales conversations focus more on data than people. What is the story that your marketing and sales data is telling you, and how do you apply it to help both areas and the company as a whole succeed? Using stories to uncover the message that your data is telling you is critical to marketing and sales alignment. I couldn’t agree more.

Use Revenue Funnel Science to Improve Marketing & Sales Alignment

Revenue Funnel Science™ is a methodology to improve how you measure, forecast and optimize your combined marketing and sales funnel. By applying elements of the Revenue Funnel Science toolkit, you can uncover the story in your data and drive new revenue growth that both marketing and sales can celebrate together.


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