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What I Have Learned about Sales and Marketing Alignment

A Critical Component of Rapid Growth

Close alignment between Sales and Marketing is absolutely critical to growing fast. When working well together, Sales and Marketing are like a well-oiled go-to-market machine cranking out new business and capturing market share. When they are not working well because of misalignment, Sales and Marketing grind to a halt, stalling the GTM engine and hampering growth. As part of the series, 5 Reasons Your Company is Not Growing Faster, this blog will look at why your Sales and Marketing team may not be as aligned as you would like, some common areas where misalignment occurs, and what you can do about it to get aligned and accelerate growth.

Devil in the Details

Most Sales and Marketing teams think they are fairly well aligned. Yes, there can be friction between Sales and Marketing around the lead quantity and quality, but most teams think they are aligned pretty well.

Most teams are wrong about this.

Just because Sales and Marketing sit near each other, spend a lot of time in meetings together, get together for planning off-sites and show every outward sign of collaboration does not mean they are truly aligned. And that is because in spite of closely collaborating, often they do not have the same goals. If you ask leaders within Sales and Marketing a very simple question, you will get drastically different answers. That question is:

“What does success look like?”

Each function with Sales and Marketing will interpret this question differently, and will likely answer it in terms of how it applies to their function. Target account teams will say success looks like closing those large target accounts. Field Reps will say it looks like hitting their sales targets. Sales Development teams will say it’s generating a target number of opportunities. Demand generation teams will say it’s creating a number of leads or pipeline. The web team will say it’s web traffic or web form signups. The content team will say it’s a number of content views or downloads. And so on and so on….

Each department is correct, but what’s wrong with this picture?

You can’t really blame each team for trying to perform their function and hit their targets. But now you have a Sales and Marketing team that is trying to achieve a dozen different goals, and they are not aligned on hitting the one goal that matters to the company: achieving a revenue target.

If you can’t agree as a team on what success looks like or the overall goals of an initiative, then you can never be aligned as a team on the strategies and actions to achieve those goals. As a result, Sales and Marketing teams begin to diverge in different directions before they even get started. The result is a misaligned team from the start that can achieve success in some areas like content downloads or leads generated, without achieving success in other areas like revenue generation or market penetration.

One Team. One Goal.

The key to aligning Sales and Marketing teams is to have one overall goal that everyone in every group can sign up for. And since Sales and Marketing are in the business of driving revenue, that should probably be a revenue goal. Be prepared for this to cause a massive amount of angst in non-sales areas like content production, design groups, demand generation and sales development. Particularly if its tied to the team’s compensation. They will say:

“We are not sales people and we don’t generate revenue so why are we being goaled on it?”

But that is exactly what they do. Content is not written for content’s sake. Its only use is to educate and qualify prospects that ultimately close. Leads are not generated to create pipeline that goes nowhere. Their only use is to develop into opportunities that close into revenue. Making a small but important change to the goals for each function can change their perspective:

The goal should be to “generate a certain number of leads that result in revenue.” Or “generate a certain number of content downloads that result in closed deals.”

When everyone is on the same page in terms of what the team is trying to achieve and what success looks like, then you are truly aligned and can begin to work as a team, and win or lose as a team.

Sing One Song

Another area where I see a tremendous amount of misalignment between Sales and Marketing is in company messaging and value proposition. One way to quickly diagnose whether this is true with your company is to get a couple of sales decks that different sales reps are using when they call on accounts, and compare them to the messaging on your company website.

You might be surprised what you find.

Is the messaging consistent in terms of the problem your company solves for customers and the value proposition you can deliver? Are your key differentiators vs. the competition clear and consistent across not only these, but across all sales and market assets? Given the distributed nature of the creation of sales decks, websites, collateral and event content, it is easy to have some drift. To fix this, build a master message document or message platform that contains all key messages and get agreement from all departments that these are the key messages to use across the board. Then make sure everyone is singing from the same sheet of music in all sales and marketing assets. Otherwise, all the market will hear is noise.

Hand-offs Critical to Success

Another critical area where Sales and Marketing misalignment can often occur is where one group hands off output to another group. For example, where Marketing hands off leads to Sales Development, or where Sales Development hands off opportunities to Sales. These touch-points or linkages between groups are critical areas where things can break down because teams are not aligned on expectations. For example, the leads coming from Marketing are not the leads Sales Development is looking for, so they don’t follow up on many of them. Or the opportunities that are passed from Sales Development to Sales are considered low value, and are not aggressively pursued. These broken linkages can sit silently unnoticed for months or even years in some cases, all the while hampering growth in spite of goals being achieved within the departments creating the output. In this instance, fix this by closely tracking or auditing leads and opportunities through the hand-offs to make sure the exchange is a good one from one team to another. In general, make sure expectations of output quality and quantity are the same on both sides of the transaction to ensure a productive hand-off from one group to another.

Alignment is Key

Sales and Marketing alignment is like aligning the chambers in a lock – if all the chambers are not aligned, the lock won’t open and you’ll be shut out of rapid growth. But when they are aligned, it can open up a new door of opportunity.

Al Campa is Founder of Rocket Scale, which advises companies on how to accelerate revenue with powerful go-to-market engines. He can be reached via www.rocketscale.net.

Close alignment between Sales and Marketing is absolutely critical to growing fast. When working well together, Sales and Marketing are like a well-oiled go-to-market machine cranking out new business and capturing market share. When they are not working well because of misalignment, Sales and Marketing grind to a halt, stalling the GTM engine and hampering growth. As part of the series, 5 Reasons Your Company is Not Growing Faster, this blog will look at why your Sales and Marketing team may not be as aligned as you would like, some common areas where misalignment occurs, and what you can do about it to get aligned and accelerate growth.

Devil in the Details

Most Sales and Marketing teams think they are fairly well aligned. Yes, there can be friction between Sales and Marketing around the lead quantity and quality, but most teams think they are aligned pretty well.

Most teams are wrong about this.

Just because Sales and Marketing sit near each other, spend a lot of time in meetings together, get together for planning off-sites and show every outward sign of collaboration does not mean they are truly aligned. And that is because in spite of closely collaborating, often they do not have the same goals. If you ask leaders within Sales and Marketing a very simple question, you will get drastically different answers. That question is:

“What does success look like?”

Each function with Sales and Marketing will interpret this question differently, and will likely answer it in terms of how it applies to their function. Target account teams will say success looks like closing those large target accounts. Field Reps will say it looks like hitting their sales targets. Sales Development teams will say it’s generating a target number of opportunities. Demand generation teams will say it’s creating a number of leads or pipeline. The web team will say it’s web traffic or web form signups. The content team will say it’s a number of content views or downloads. And so on and so on….

Each department is correct, but what’s wrong with this picture?

You can’t really blame each team for trying to perform their function and hit their targets. But now you have a Sales and Marketing team that is trying to achieve a dozen different goals, and they are not aligned on hitting the one goal that matters to the company: achieving a revenue target.

If you can’t agree as a team on what success looks like or the overall goals of an initiative, then you can never be aligned as a team on the strategies and actions to achieve those goals. As a result, Sales and Marketing teams begin to diverge in different directions before they even get started. The result is a misaligned team from the start that can achieve success in some areas like content downloads or leads generated, without achieving success in other areas like revenue generation or market penetration.

One Team. One Goal.

The key to aligning Sales and Marketing teams is to have one overall goal that everyone in every group can sign up for. And since Sales and Marketing are in the business of driving revenue, that should probably be a revenue goal. Be prepared for this to cause a massive amount of angst in non-sales areas like content production, design groups, demand generation and sales development. Particularly if its tied to the team’s compensation. They will say:

“We are not sales people and we don’t generate revenue so why are we being goaled on it?”

But that is exactly what they do. Content is not written for content’s sake. Its only use is to educate and qualify prospects that ultimately close. Leads are not generated to create pipeline that goes nowhere. Their only use is to develop into opportunities that close into revenue. Making a small but important change to the goals for each function can change their perspective:

The goal should be to “generate a certain number of leads that result in revenue.” Or “generate a certain number of content downloads that result in closed deals.”

When everyone is on the same page in terms of what the team is trying to achieve and what success looks like, then you are truly aligned and can begin to work as a team, and win or lose as a team.

Sing One Song

Another area where I see a tremendous amount of misalignment between Sales and Marketing is in company messaging and value proposition. One way to quickly diagnose whether this is true with your company is to get a couple of sales decks that different sales reps are using when they call on accounts, and compare them to the messaging on your company website.

You might be surprised what you find.

Is the messaging consistent in terms of the problem your company solves for customers and the value proposition you can deliver? Are your key differentiators vs. the competition clear and consistent across not only these, but across all sales and market assets? Given the distributed nature of the creation of sales decks, websites, collateral and event content, it is easy to have some drift. To fix this, build a master message document or message platform that contains all key messages and get agreement from all departments that these are the key messages to use across the board. Then make sure everyone is singing from the same sheet of music in all sales and marketing assets. Otherwise, all the market will hear is noise.

Hand-offs Critical to Success

Another critical area where Sales and Marketing misalignment can often occur is where one group hands off output to another group. For example, where Marketing hands off leads to Sales Development, or where Sales Development hands off opportunities to Sales. These touch-points or linkages between groups are critical areas where things can break down because teams are not aligned on expectations. For example, the leads coming from Marketing are not the leads Sales Development is looking for, so they don’t follow up on many of them. Or the opportunities that are passed from Sales Development to Sales are considered low value, and are not aggressively pursued. These broken linkages can sit silently unnoticed for months or even years in some cases, all the while hampering growth in spite of goals being achieved within the departments creating the output. In this instance, fix this by closely tracking or auditing leads and opportunities through the hand-offs to make sure the exchange is a good one from one team to another. In general, make sure expectations of output quality and quantity are the same on both sides of the transaction to ensure a productive hand-off from one group to another.

Alignment is Key

Sales and Marketing alignment is like aligning the chambers in a lock – if all the chambers are not aligned, the lock won’t open and you’ll be shut out of rapid growth. But when they are aligned, it can open up a new door of opportunity.

Al Campa is Founder of Rocket Scale, which advises companies on how to accelerate revenue with powerful go-to-market engines. He can be reached via www.rocketscale.net.

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