What true sales-marketing alignment looks like and how to achieve it in your business.Posted on August 21st, 2019 by Jay Thomas
Sales-marketing misalignment is an ongoing and costly problem in B2B. Siloed teams produce dissonant messages, and the sales cycle suffers. The lack of cohesion between sales and marketing departments costs B2B companies 10 percent in revenue every year.
In contrast, companies that achieve alignment enjoy tangible benefits. Their teams are 67 percent more effective at closing deals. Getting your sales and marketing aligned isn't just a happy coincidence. It's a key factor affecting your bottom line.
Now's the time to make alignment a priority. What should you do if your sales and marketing departments are out of alignment? The solution starts with recognizing the underlying issues.
What misalignment looks like
"In response to a lack of needed content, over ¼ of the sales team will often or always create content without waiting for marketing." — Seth Patel, Marcom Central.
When sales and marketing aren’t aligned, the discord will produce noticeable symptoms. The following problems are tell-tale signs of misalignment:
- Poor Communication. Departments that are siloed or distant have strained communication. Correspondence between them is disorganized, and misunderstandings quickly escalate into larger issues. Without clear communication, teams begin to operate with different goals, ideas, and strategies. For example, while your sales department needs more case studies, marketing's creating whitepapers.
- Ineffective Content. Misalignment leads to incongruous sales materials. The messages that work for your reps in the field aren't reflected in your sales material. Furthermore, sales may get stuck in a rut. Reps may avoid using the latest research, campaigns, and materials coming from marketing.
- Slow Distribution. Reps spend up to 31 percent of their time developing their own content. Why? Because they aren't getting the materials they need when they need them. This problem creates rogue reps who customize content. Not only do they produce their own material, but they often go off-brand in the process.
What alignment looks like
"The new reality is that marketing needs to know more about sales, sales needs to know more about marketing, and we all need to know more about our customers." — Jill Rowley, #SocialSelling.
True sales and marketing alignment is born from collaboration. The two departments have to work together to establish clear concepts, unified goals, and cohesive content. Open communication is essential.
The marketing team needs to be aware of any issues sales reps are having with the current materials. The sales department should foment discussion about new content creation. They should communicate the value of content to sales reps. In return, sales reps should provide regular feedback on the effectiveness of materials. There needs to be a shared understanding of what's working and what isn't so both teams can work together for improvement.
The more sales and marketing work together, the better your outcomes will be. Of course, true alignment requires a focus on one more element. The third piece of the puzzle is the most important of all: the customer.
Both marketing and sales need to be focused on solving customer problems. Ultimately, the direction in which they must align is the customer.
Moving from misalignment to alignment
After identifying alignment, the next step is starting to move in that direction. Transformation begins with a diagnosis. You can't solve problems that don't have clearly defined sources.
Start by identifying the sales process and analyzing the funnel, CRM, and marketing. Assign status changes to each step in the process and assess the results. Are the status changes taking longer than they should? Are there snags in certain stages of the process? Are some reps having more difficulty than others? These questions can help pinpoint the weak areas within the system.
Developing a communication framework
Once you've found the weak spots, start a discussion with both sales and marketing. Don't forget that communication is the cornerstone of alignment. Bring the marketing team, sales reps, and managers together. Hold meetings and conduct surveys to get answers to questions, such as:
- How do you prepare for a sales call?
- How long does it take to prepare yourself?
- Do you feel like you have the right information?
- Are your sales materials up to date and properly customized?
- How would you rate communication between departments?
Don't settle for basic answers. Dig deeper to uncover the real reasons behind them. Common themes in the responses are red flags that deserve your attention.
Analyze the marketing materials
After assessing your processes, you need to analyze your materials. Perform an audit to see what content you have and which content is being used most. Discuss the content with reps and managers to learn which pieces are getting the best response. Examine the top-performing content for common features, and get rid of subpar materials.
Then, use business intelligence and surveys to find out how reps are using content. Research how satisfied they are with the marketing department.
These measures will reveal your alignment's strengths and weaknesses. You need to use this knowledge to move forward.
Leaders drive change, but they can't do it alone
For your teams to become aligned, you need a strong leader spearheading the initiative. Leaders provide focus, decisiveness, and morale during a transformation. Yet, not even the most capable leader can achieve alignment alone. Change needs to be holistic, and every member of your team needs to be on board with it.
"It has to be an all-hands-on-deck engagement. The change leader must signal that enterprise-wide transformation will be a collective effort, with accountability distributed throughout the organization." — Douglas A. Ready, Harvard Business Review.
Employees at every level need to understand the importance of alignment, as well as their role in it. Why?
Alignment isn't just necessary for your business. It's also good for your employees. When teams are aligned, individuals are better able to do their jobs. With the benefits extending to individuals, teams, and the company as a whole, everyone has a stake in the alignment transition.