Editor’s note: A version of this article on sales and marketing alignment appeared originally in Aberdeen Essentials.
The relationship between sales and marketing isn’t always harmonious. Though they share a common goal – revenue – sales and marketing alignment can be a challenge.
But the business world no longer has a place for an adversarial relationship between sales and marketing. In today’s digitally-driven marketplace, with so much of the buying process taking place online before a prospect even talks to a sales rep, a disconnected sales and marketing team is simply not an option; the two teams must work hand in hand as they guide the customer journey.
Here are the six steps toward achieving sales and marketing alignment:
Bond around a common objective
Agree on a common objective – generating more profitable and longer-lasting customers, for example – and consider each team equal partners in achieving it. Value the symbiotic relationship. And though you may not agree on everything all the time, stand united when it comes to the big picture. It’s never “marketing’s pipeline” or “sale’s funnel” – it’s our pipeline, and our funnel. Have each other’s back.
It’s true a successful relationship begins with strong communication? Same with marketing and sales. At Act-On, we spend hours discussing what’s needed to attract and grow customers. We talk on the phone; we sit in each other’s offices; we meet at the nearby pub. Collaboration is impossible without communication.
It often feels as if “Sales is from Mars and Marketing is from Venus.” Sales reps have one of the highest-pressure jobs in the world, constantly trying to close deals that are their company’s (and their own) lifeblood. Marketers must combine their knowledge of buyer behavior with insights from the field and consistently produce effective content that shows how the brand meets customer needs.
Sales and marketing are complementary but different disciplines, and each tends to have its own culture and language. Since we have shared goals despite these differences, it’s critical for marketing people to try and understand a sales rep’s day-to-day reality, and vice versa. This empathy provides the foundation for lasting alignment.
Sticking together when times are tough
Sure, it’s easy for sales and marketing alignment to be in synch when things are going well. Messages are resonating; leads are flourishing; and customers are buying. It’s when a company is going in challenging new directions that the relationship is truly tested.
Without trust and strong communication, sales and marketing leaders may start pointing fingers at each other. To withstand such difficult times, you really must build a trusting, synergistic bond.
Developing common interests
In a relationship, developing common interests might mean going hiking together. For sales and marketing, it means coming up with systemic ways of working together. For example, we’ve had teams composed jointly of sales and marketing people collaborate on important projects.
We also have marketing people attend the weekly sales call.
Ensuring sales and marketing work together, as a matter of course, strengthens the notion that sales and marketing are unified.
Alignment between sales and marketing starts with their leaders. All sales leaders seem to think they’re paired with either a great CMO or a terrible one. And CMOs say the same about sales leaders. There seems to be no in-between. This situation can have as much to do with interpersonal chemistry as it does with business considerations.
Answering the following questions can help you figure out if the chemistry is there with your current peer across the aisle: Would you mind driving three hours on a business trip with this person? I once drove three plus hours on a business trip with a manager after being on the job less than a week. It does happen.
Does collaborating with your Sales or Marketing leader feel like fun or a chore? Can you make each other laugh?
Here’s how it should be: When the CRO-CMO partnership is going well, it just feels natural.
Sales and Marketing Alignment Nirvana
How well sales and marketing embrace these six steps determines their ability to collaboratively fulfill customer needs and drive growth. Bringing in weekly donuts for everyone doesn’t hurt, either.