In today’s omnichannel world where potential buyers get lots of product and company information online, it is crucial that sales and marketing are aligned to customer needs. CEB research showed that B2B buyers tend to be over 60% of the way through the sales process before they contact a salesperson.

Effective alignment generates more revenue for your company and prevents millions of dollars being wasted on ineffective content and stalled deals. Did you know that misalignment between marketing and sales costs companies $1 trillion a year in lost productivity and leads? While their aligned counterparts achieve 20% annual revenue growth.

What sets the best organizations apart?

Shake Marketing and Huthwaite International recently conducted a global survey amongst marketing and sales leaders to assess what the best companies are doing to align these two functions. The survey looked at 26 different factors including the nature of the relationship between sales and marketing, how the two functions work together, the contributions of both sales and marketing and the use of technology.

Based on the results, here are the key factors that were most important in distinguishing highly performing sales and marketing teams:

  1. The collaborative nature of the relationship, which is open, trusting and respectful
    Both parties respect one another and equally accept responsibility for poor results without blaming one another.
  2. The ability to influence upwards in the organisation
    Marketing and Sales team collaborate on presenting their plans to the Board or Executive leadership.
  3. The collection and sharing of intelligent information on customers and the market
    Marketing provides insights from data/ analytics that help sellers position themselves as thought leaders and deepen relationships with customers.
  4. Achieving consistency and integration
    Marketing and sales share a common language. They are seen as an integrated team with clear roles and responsibilities and they communicate consistently with each other and with customers.

Diagnosing the problem in your organization

There are two key areas to assess: how aligned your marketing and sales teams are with each other, and how aligned these two functions are to customers.

First — let’s look at internal alignment. Do you have shared goals? What about a shared scorecard? Often, the marketing department may be measuring one set of activities – such as website visitors, email newsletter subscribers, leads captured, and marketing qualified leads, while the sales team is looking at # of opportunities created and # of deals closed. When these two scorecards are misaligned – for example, if marketing’s metrics are all “green”, while sales metrics are all “red”, this leads to a “tension point” with finger pointing as to which department is dropping the ball.

Next, are you speaking the same language? This may seem so simple that it’s not worth mentioning. But we’ve found that organizations usually do not have agreed upon internal definitions for common questions such as:

  • Who is our ideal customer target?
  • What do we mean when we say the “value” of our product/ service?
  • What is our value proposition?
  • What is a “campaign”?
  • What qualifies as a “lead”?

Another critical area to look at is how aligned with the customer these two teams are. It’s great if your marketing and sales teams get along, but if they are disconnected from the customer, we call this the “road to nowhere”. Remember that the best marketing organizations feed their sales team insights and intelligence that helps them position their solution in a superior way. This means the marketing team must spend the time to truly understand what the customer really wants or needs before creating marketing materials and messages.

How often do marketing and sales collaborate on creating new content and messaging? This is a great opportunity to discuss what the customer values and determine the best strategy to communicate your company’s differentiators.

What roles do marketing and sales play?

There is often confusion about what is a marketing function vs a sales function. The truth is that marketing and sales are trying to achieve the same thing: happy customers, and more of them. However, they each have a different role to play in that journey.

  1. Marketing thinks broad. Sales thinks specific.
    First and foremost, Marketing is responsible for defining the market opportunity and the ideal customer segment. They should be setting the strategy and plan for how to increase awareness and demand amongst the list of prospective buyers. With the exception of account-based marketing (ABM), marketing content and programs are more generic in nature, meaning they target the buyer in a “broad” sense, vs. addressing an individual buyer.Sales, on the other hand, deals with an account or a set of accounts. They seek to build 1:1 relationships and sees the customer as a specific person, for example “Jim, in Accounting” and work to tailor their value proposition and solution to each company and individual.
  1. Marketing is long-term focused. Sales is short-term focused.
    Marketing should set the big picture strategy – how does your company solve a pain point/ need, what products should you lead with, what makes your solution so unique compared to the competition, and how can you generate awareness/ demand at scale. Sales is short-term focused. Yes they want to build long-term relationships, but they also want to close the next deal, and may be inclined to take on clients that aren’t “ideal” for your business to hit their number. Sales can influence how to make your product or service better/ easier/ more valuable for your customers, but they don’t own making it happen.
  2. Skillsets and traits are different.
    As a broad generalization – Marketers are usually creative and detail oriented, collaborative, good project managers, with varying levels of strategic, analytical and technical skills. Salespeople are generally competitive, charismatic, resilient, social, great communicators and relationship builders. Celebrate these complimentary skillsets and take advantage of having different points of view on your team.

It’s time for sales and marketing to work together to truly understand their customers’ needs, wants, motivations and pain points so that they can offer compelling value.

Want to see how aligned your company is? Take the Alignment-o-meter

Read more: