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Listen, I can tell you about sales enablement and sales & marketing alignment until I’m blue in the face, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to believe me or listen closely. That’s fine, I am but a mere blogger just trying to spread my truths into the Universe, and whoever happens to listen and walk away more informed, then great.

But, what if I were to tell you that one of the most prestigious universities in the world conducted their own study to determine the impact of sales and marketing misalignment? You’re interested now, right? It’s fine, that doesn’t hurt my feelings. Not like this is my career or livelihood or anything.

Anyway, Harvard Business School conducted a study in which they attempted to find the results of sales and marketing misalignment. The researchers presented 150 B2B sellers with four situations that each had unique stressors on the alignment between Sales and Marketing.

The results, while not wholly groundbreaking (misalignment is bad!), provide some valuable insights into the softer side of misalignment. Rather than demonstrating the cold-hard facts of misalignment, this study highlighted how it affects team morale, goal accomplishment, and motivation.

Sales and Marketing Alignment Effects

The first result that the study notes is perhaps the most interesting. It also is the most straightforward of the findings. Simply put: a misalignment of goals is a strong demotivator. “When two goals are misaligned, it reduces the sales force’s perception that they can achieve their goal.”

Because only sellers were surveyed the results are oriented around the effects on sellers, but it’s easy to correlate their findings to marketers. An organization that does not have clearly defined goals for both Sales and Marketing—as well as shared goals—risks creating an unmotivated workforce. The study goes on to say, “The effect of the misaligned goals reduced hope… and created a defeatist climate.”

The study discovered a second, related danger to misalignment. This second finding states that misaligned goals have a compounding effect in terms of perceived difficulty and demotivation. “Misaligned goals are perceived… as more difficult,” the study says. “While difficult goals are not necessarily problematic, the challenge is when the sales force believes that the misalignment of goals is simply unnecessary, or that the goal combination makes it impossible to be successful.”

The respondents in the survey felt something that is common to all walks of life. Why should I push myself to meet a goal that I think is fundamentally wrong and arrived at by incorrect means? Executives at organizations need to be sure that the goals they set for their teams are realistic and in keeping with expectations. Obviously, there will always be disagreements, but it’s necessary to ensure that there is not an organization-wide displeasure with goals.

Many times, we talk about how sales and marketing alignment can be improved through technology. And it absolutely can be! But when discussing this topic, we also need to keep in mind the kind of self-imposed restrictions and roadblocks that an organization may be creating. Sales and Marketing may have everything they need at their disposal but if their goals are misaligned that can easily lead to an unhealthy culture and result in misalignment.