While “Marketing and Sales Alignment” has been both a challenge and a worthy goal for some years now, the topic has seemed to crescendo recently as the pressures for performance and accountability on both teams increase.

We recently did a roadshow with InsideView and other industry leaders on this topic, titled “Drive: Fuel Your Revenue Obsession.” The thought leader presentations and InsideView’s research, Crack the Code on Sales and Marketing Alignment, showed that while the issue still exists, solving it has never been more important.

Where we stand today

Today, the internet and competitive pressures have increased demands on both functions, as we’re theoretically able to process so much more than ever before: more communications, more leads, more deals. In reality, the role of a sales rep is much more difficult than ever before because the power is all in the hands of the buyer and expectations are exponentially higher. Marketing is feeling the heat, too. “Big data,” the ability to measure marketing’s performance, and the mandate that marketing needs to prove its contribution to pipeline and revenue is forcing a look farther down the sales cycle.

Thanks again to the internet, nearly 70% of the sales cycle happens before sales is even in contact with the buyer [1]. This means marketing and sales must work together to educate and guide the buyer down the path to a closed deal, which makes the demands on sales—once the buyer does engage—significantly higher. Sales must be both educated and consultative. And, to be those things, they need the support, training, and content to effectively compete in an environment where the buyer has all the power.

And yet, sales and marketing teams still struggle to align

It’s easy to fall victim to “how we’ve always done it,” when it comes to cross-team collaboration. I’m begging you—don’t be a victim. Companies where sales and marketing have joined forces are gaining an incredible competitive advantage, and it’s easier to align than ever before.

The benefits of alignment are incredible

But there are still challenges

Times of change—even when it’s for the better—don’t come without challenges, and there are still hurdles to full alignment in these areas.

  • Many existing challenges directly relate to a long tradition of “religious wars” between sales and marketing. It’s easy for me to say “get over it,” but that’s exactly what teams need to do—get over it, and get on with working towards a common goal, together.
  • If you’re not objectively measuring the disconnect (lead quality, content quality and effectiveness, and intelligence on account or prospects), this ongoing argument becomes finger pointing. With a closed-loop process and objective data, teams can focus on root causes and work to fix them.
  • The main areas of friction—and therefore biggest areas to align—include leads, content, and prospect and customer intelligence (i.e., data).

What to do about it

The best way to align your sales and marketing teams is to take baby steps. Walk before you run, gain some traction, and then run with it!

  1. Identify key stakeholders and influencers, then get them committed to working on the issues that are unique to your organization.
  2. Agree on common goals: For example, what are we really trying to fix (this month, this quarter, this year).
  3. Be accountable for common Performance metrics/MBOs.
  4. Communicate—across teams, up and down:
    • What you are doing
    • Why it’s important
    • What exactly is expected of everyone
    • …and don’t forget to LISTEN!
  5. Fix the content problem.
  6. Focus on quality leads over quantity.
  7. Work together to improve intelligence/data on customers.
  8. Measure, measure, measure, improve, repeat.

Yeah, I just yadda, yadda, yadda’d over the best part. To hear a longer discussion on it, view our roadshow presentation here.

Help is available

Before marketing automation, sales enablement, and sales intelligence tools, it was really difficult to have an informed discussion about what was or what wasn’t working between sales and marketing.

However, in the last five years or so, sales enablement solutions like Highspot have reached a point of closed-loop analysis that enables go-to-market teams to systematically improve. Sales can easily tell marketing what works (and what doesn’t) because it has the data to back up its claims. Marketing can in turn just as easily tell what sales uses most and optimize existing content based on actual usage figures and customer uptake stats.

Don’t be fooled, though.

Not all sales enablement solutions are created equal. It takes what we call “modern” sales enablement solutions to create the necessary closed loop processes that drive greater sales effectiveness and provide marketing (and everyone else involved) the analytical insight required to optimize for future success.

Want to learn what to look for in a sales enablement solution to drive greater sales and marketing alignment? Read our Definitive Guide to Sales Enablement.

[1] The B2B Sales Force Digital Reboot, Forrester, Oct 19, 2015