Despite all that has been written in recent times, sales and marketing alignment in many companies is further apart now than at any time over the last 30 years. Possibly that is because both organizations are now asked to do more with less due to economic conditions and business belt tightening. At the same time, prospects have become far less dependent on the ‘supplier/provider’ organization distributing them information to make informed buying decisions. (Also very well recently documented).
The most visible points of this lack of alignment fall in these areas:
1. Functional philosophy (Marketing = Branding vs. Marketing = Lead Creation)
2. Content gap (buyers want usable information not brochures disguised as newsletters)
3. Process breakdown (demand generation above the funnel – who owns it?)
So what has to change?
First, marketing organizations need to really understand the challenges sales teams face when competing in a saturated (often commoditized) New Rules marketplace. Brand image, PR functions and glossy collateral – while still relevant – are not sales’ most pressing needs (remember, new buying process…).
What sales organizations need are qualified leads for Reps to develop.
Qualified leads are the lifeblood of the sales funnel, and you can never have enough of them. Also, (back to process) sales people stop prospecting when they become engaged in active deals – they are paid to close, not prospect. Accepting that reality shows the futility of expecting a sales team busy working qualified pursuits to simultaneously fill the funnel.
Recognize that Lead Generation Management technology and content-based Lead Nurturing are best practices to achieving Above the Funnel goals. To make these tactics successful however, marketing must align to the way their sales team goes to market. As an example, if sales has a geographic orientation yet marketing is focused on vertical sectors there is not only potential inefficiency in the approach but client messaging can become fuzzy and confusing.
Finally, absolutely critical is that both marketing and sales share some common compensation goals. Because company success depends on both teams executing in tandem it makes sense for a component of each group’s incentive pay to be closely linked to mutual success. (Where to start with this point, read Aligning Sales and Marketing in Four Easy Steps).