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Magic Bullets, Unicorns, and Easy Buttons… Sales and Marketing Alignment is Real!

Published on May 22, 2019

Sales Marketing

I first wrote about sales and marketing alignment way back in 2015. Can you believe we don’t have it all figured out by now? I wish that were the case, there are major trends in the market that point to better alignment between the two sides, but the reality is there is still a gap.

The rise of ABM (account-based marketing), revenue operations (the merging of sales ops and marketing ops), and the customer experience are all required both sales and marketing to work together flawlessly in order to live up to the promises of these major topics.

Sales and Marketing teams are made up of people, people have relationships, and relationships are built on trust. So how do you then either build or restore trust in a business based relationship? Spoiler alert, this stuff is not rocket science. However, the simplicity makes it doable, but also just as easy not to do. The building blocks of building a trust-based sales and marketing relationship create a level playing field, do what you say and check your ego.

Create a Level Playing Field

While sales and marketing have different functions it’s imperative they operate against the same set of objectives. As marketing continues to push for “a seat at the revenue table” it’s imperative that marketing is measured in ways similar to their sales counterparts. Starting with a mutually agreed upon set of objectives is a great place to start. Let’s say it’s a revenue target, the playing field is level(ish), but it’s also important to set the ground rules. The ground rules should include things like definitions, roles and SLAs (service level agreements) between the two departments.

Having a clear set of joint objectives helps with focus. Let’s say that our company has a $50MM revenue target from “high value target accounts.” This is an overly simplistic example but here are a number of areas of definition, roles and SLAs which may need to be defined.

Marketing: Target: $50MM

Roles: Acquire data and map to CRM, Develop content for each persona at each stage, Engage with buyers across channels, Serve up engagement data in CRM

SLA: Valid Content Request: 1 Week Turn

Sales: Target: $50MM

Roles: Account map the buying committee, Develop outbound cadence for each buyer at each funnel stage, Deploy outbound message cadence across sales team, Leverage engagement data to meet buyer where they are in the cycle

SLA: Engaged Contact in Buying Committee – 1 hour contact

While this is a very simplistic anecdote, clearly defining the target, the definitions within it, the roles and SLAs helps to set the stage for the second building block.

Do What You Say

If you’ve ever wondered why sales doesn’t follow up on them, allow me to illustrate. Let’s pretend you’re in sales. You’re responsible for the targets outlined above. Meanwhile, your counterparts in marketing, UNLIKE my example above, have an undefined lead target. As a result, you get bunch of “leads”, but because you don’t understand where they came from or how they help you hit your target, you ignore them. Remember, as a sales person, you’re driven to met your quota. Any action not directly aligned to that personal goal will struggle to get attention.

Now flip the script, you’re in marketing. You’ve defined your goals for lead creation WITH sales, as in the example above. Now, if sales does not hold up their end of the bargain, if they don’t contact that hot lead within an hour, you have an SLA to point back to and address. If you agree to the terms and conditions so to speak, you have to do what you say you are going to do, otherwise you break the trust built in the first block.

Check your Ego!

This primarily goes out to my peers in sales, but the advice is sound regardless. As sales pros when a deal closes we ring the bell, get the pat on the back and are generally celebrated. You know as well as I do that there is so much involved in getting a deal done. So many touch points before you ever talk to them, after you talk to them, while you are talking to them. Take a moment to recognize the people involved it getting the deal done. Willingly hand out credit to your peers in marketing, finance, ops, legal who help you move the deal across the line. Hopefully you are not in the game for the pat on the back, if you are lucky enough to be in an organization that follows rules #1 and #2 above then you are in a great place. You will be rewarded financially, take the time to reward your peers. Trust me, it will pay off in spades in the long term.

Long story short, sales and marketing alignment, like many things in life, is relationship driven. Like it or not it’s the currency of the professional world. Use it to you advantage, you will likely be happier in your work environment, make more money and maybe even make a friend or two along the way. Come on, we spend more time with our colleagues than with our family. Might as well put some of the same principles into practice.

Tell me your stories, best and worst sales and marketing alignment… GO!