Ask someone who has never worked in a sales or marketing department whether or not the two functions tend to be closely aligned, and they will almost certainly tell you that they are and should be. Some might even express surprise that the two are in fact separate entities. Ask anyone who has ever worked in a sales or marketing department, however, and they will tell a very different story.
Salespeople and marketers all aim to increase revenue but they take different approaches to it, use different languages, and measure success in different ways. The end result, unless companies actively seek to align the two functions, is a major disconnect with negative effects on the business.
A 2015 survey from Gleanster found that of organisations lacking this alignment just 37% reach revenue goals and a mere 7% exceed them. This compares to 56% and 19% for aligned organisations. According to Sirius Decisions, aligned organisations achieve up to 19% faster revenue growth, and 15% higher profitability, than other companies.
The incentives are clear. So how then to achieve alignment? Here are four simple steps that have been proven to make it happen.
The first step must be agreement between the leadership of both functions to work more closely together. This should be unequivocal and reinforced regularly. If the departmental leaders can take that first step out of the silos then their teams are far more likely to follow them.
Frequent and open communication is the key to success in any relationship, so set up weekly meetings between your sales and marketing teams. Make sure they happen, even if the salespeople are out with prospects – simply turn it into a conference call.
It is important to manage these sessions so that all involved listen as much as they talk. Everyone must be free to air challenges and frustrations, and the other side must be prepared to listen and to work together towards a mutually beneficial solution. It is a style of communication that rarely emerges without management, but it is essential for successful alignment.
Much of the frustration that salespeople tend to feel at marketing is that they are insufficiently focussed on revenue generation and that they do not provide viable qualified leads. For their part marketers often feel that salespeople have too little understanding of, or interest in, long-term brand building, are not following up on leads and refuse to track leads through the sales cycle.
Spend time at the outset educating both parties on the need for short-term revenue growth and long-term brand development, and put in place KPIs around those, so both functions are measured on their contribution to the pipeline and to perceptions of the brand. Shared goals and KPIs will go a long way in getting both functions aligned.
There is much that can be done in very practical terms to bring the two functions closer together. Simply agreeing a common language is a straightforward step that can produces impressive results. Agreeing shared responsibilities for tasks throughout the demand funnel and sales cycle helps everyone to understand what they should be doing, and how by working together they produce far better results than they do in isolation or opposition. For example discuss and agree on what a ‘qualified’ or ‘sales ready’ lead means, what is an acceptable follow-up process on leads etc.
This alignment will not happen overnight. It takes time, effort and commitment across the organisation. Technology can, though, make it happen faster and more easily. Specifically, a CRM system can offer dashboards and reports where salespeople and marketers can easily see the sales pipeline, allocate tasks between departments, and make any changes needed to marketing and sales campaigns.
Crucially, putting one in place requires sales and marketing to have agreed a common language, to have agreed mutual KPIs, and be ready to work together. A CRM system is a result and a prerequisite of sales and marketing alignment. Organisations that have them tend to be customer centric with both sales and marketing aligned across the customer journey. In short, they tend to be higher performing and more successful organisations.