I was pleased to accept the invitation to serve as an Expert Voice at S&MM (Sales and Marketing Management) SoundOff weblog. I will be posting monthly on topics of interest to sales and marketing professionals. Check it out.
Today, I posted my first article, focused on Sales and Marketing alignment. Throughout my career, I have been surprised at the huge number of disconnects between sales and marketing. Especially when the pipeline runs thin, it is easy to point fingers. When sales needs an account-based marketing campaign fast and Marketing is working on a promotion that won't be launched for 6 months, tempers can flare. When Marketing dismisses Sales as purely tactical, I think they are missing an opportunity to increase their own effectiveness and impact.
Valeria Maltoni writes about the power of conversation to bring people together. In this post, I write about a structure for conversation between departments that helps Sales and Marketing work together to unleash their value - for the firm and the customer. I have reposted it below.
What are your thoughts?
- What gets in the way of Sales and Marketing alignment?
- What has worked to bring Sales and Marketing into sync in your company? What was the impact?
Marketing and Sales Alignment has received lots of attention in the past several years as a way to improve business performance. Why should getting along be so difficult? After all, both teams are focused on creating revenue, aren't they?
One way to understand the disconnects is to compare the ways sales and marketing create value. Sales creates value by focusing on the customer, competing fiercely and achieving goals. Most marketing departments feed the sales engine by providing vision, innovation and new sources of value. As a result, each team leads its people differently, uses a different vocabulary and generally has a different time horizon to measure success.
Unless these differences are articulated and understood, it is difficult to create trust between Sales and Marketing. So a starting point to creating Sales and Marketing alignment begins with a common understanding of Value - how it is created and measured, what blocks it, and what the two departments can do to break through the barriers and get in synch. Here's how:
Every department has a unique combination of priorities. Is Marketing focused on identifying and penetrating customer segments or in redefining the customer experience - or both? Depending on the time horizon, Marketing's focus may have little near-term revenue impact. But their investments in these areas may be necessary to ensure the firm's long term success.
Sales may agree that selling new solution bundles is a great idea, but if making the revenue commit number is the number one focus, they will likely stick with what is known and predictable.
Define clearly where each department is focused and how that supports the firm's strategy and focus.
Define how you create value
Sales and Marketing need to agree on how each group creates value for itself, for the firm and for each other. While revenue is a common goal, both Sales and Marketing may create other forms of value on the path to booking revenue. Those might include new market growth, increasing share of wallet, increasing customer satisfaction and retention, training new hires or developing new partners.
Understand the difference between value drivers and outcomes and agree on who is responsible for each piece. Just as before, clarify how creating specific kinds of value relate to the team's focus and to the firm's strategy.
Agree on how you measure success - then measure it
Lead generation is a top priority of both Sales and Marketing, yet they often disagree on the meaning of a qualified lead. Marketing may focus on details such as click-through, lead source, lead timeliness and the prospect's preferred communication mode. Sales wants accurate information on decision authority, project budget status and time frame for a decision.
From the firm's point of view, a qualified lead might require all of the above. Marketing needs certain data to learn which campaigns, messages and communication channels are most effective. Sales wants to quickly connect with prospects who are ready to begin a buying cycle.
Bottom line, Marketing should have a big role in lead generation, though it is unrealistic to expect them fill the funnel on their own. A Sirius Decisions study of large B2B firms found that the deals in the pipeline directly attributable to Marketing-related efforts averaged about 18%.
Define the barriers
After Sales and Marketing are clear about what they want to accomplish, they also need to identify what barriers they are up against. While silos are common between business functions, some barriers to cooperation come from outside the relationship. Higher-level corporate objectives might be impeding divisional flexibility. Strategic partner agreements often create channel conflict.
Performance incentives should reflect the firm's commitment to internal alignment. In one multi-billion dollar technology company, Marketing was frustrated because their new solution bundling approach was not getting traction in the field, despite a huge investment in platform launch, training and advertising. Unfortunately, the Sales side of the house was incented to move boxes. One executive lamented to me, "We sell vision, solutions and value 12 weeks a quarter. But in week 13, our incentive system forces us to sell boxes on price." In this case, changing the incentive system and revenue recognition priorities would be better for both the company and its customers.
Get in sync
The more teams connect and interact, the greater the chance that decisions will be made on facts and that they will develop a trust-based relationship.
Set up a rhythm of joint knowledge-sharing, planning and problem-solving to achieve goals and knock down barriers. Bring cross-functional teams together to discuss plans, assumptions, results and lessons learned. Sales can provide account-specific insights while Marketing can share patterns across segments and regions. Both can work together to knock down barriers.
Figure out ways to get Sales and Marketing to campaign together, instead of throwing barbs at each other. Encourage people from different functions, regions and divisions to work with each other consistently, check in with each other informally and collaborate to generate new ideas. Do not overburden people with more meetings. Instead, make it easy for the teams to create fewer, high-impact discussions.
When trust develops between the departments, Sales and Marketing refocus on how they can leverage all of their strengths to create and develop exceptional customer impact, experiences and relationships.
Greg Krauska is a change agent and management consultant. Learn more about The Change Agent Group.