It’s Science.

LeadMD has spent the last six months designing and implementing research to be released in a few weeks. That research centers around a simple mandate – determine what sales and marketing alignment truly means from a performance standpoint, boil that alignment down into tactical actions any organization can adopt and then create an alignment index that can be used to benchmark your company’s performance while creating an actionable roadmap for improvement. It’s a really big mandate and one that we’ve painstakingly curated around actionability. There are too many research reports that don’t yield a clear path to action. This will not be another in that stack. The below is a ‘toe in the water’ that shares some early indicators from that study. To sign up to receive the full report when it becomes available, click here. And now, join me as we dive headfirst into finally solving for this problem.

Beyond Symptoms, What’s the Disease?

Sales and Marketing alignment is a bit like data quality. Everyone knows something isn’t quite working and yet no one knows exactly how to solve for it. This is due to the propensity for the problem to be defined by symptoms, rather than the disease.

“Our sales team doesn’t believe in marketing.”

“Marketing thinks sales is lazy and undisciplined.”

These are symptoms of a disease that has remained largely nebulous. Even the term ‘Sales and Marketing alignment’ is vague. If these two teams are aligned around failing, does it really matter? Alignment is not what we’re aiming for. Results are.

What’s LinkedIn Saying?

The stars are aligning on this topic, with LinkedIn’s quarterly issue of The Sophisticated Marketer hosting sales and marketing alignment topics on their cover. Starting on page 39, there’s an article, “The truth about smarketing – That the playbooks won’t tell you.” In the article, Grace MacDonald a Marketing Manager at LinkedIn, shares this Tweetable stat:

LinkedIn’s research shows that businesses with strong sales and marketing alignment are 67% more effective at closing deals, 58% more effective at retaining customers, and drive 208% more revenue as a result of their marketing efforts.

Our research found similarly stunning numbers, but slightly more nuanced. It isn’t enough for sales and marketing to simply be aligned, they must be aligned around the right things.

What’s the North Star of Sales and Marketing Alignment?

The customer. There’s actually a very clear mandate with which to benchmark your revenue team’s performance: Looking through the lens of your buyers, are you presenting an experience that serves them in their journey?

If the answer is no, you’re almost certainly suffering from misalignment, or ineffective alignment. You simply cannot provide an excellent experience to your buyers if your team members are not united around who you are as an organization, what your product does, the problems you solve, etc. So instead of focusing on siloed measurements (“sales’ conversion rate sucks!”) or the blame game (“marketing isn’t giving us good leads!”), step into your buyers’ shoes.

Sales and Marketing Alignment: People 

The first step in aligning these disparate departments is to get them in the same room. Sounds like something Captain Obvious might say, but it’s alarming how rarely this happens. If your sales and marketing folks (not just leadership!) never spend face time together (the real version, not the kind on an iPhone), they cannot have relationships. And without relationships, they will never work together productively.

If marketing never gets to know sales as human beings, resentment takes root much more easily. It becomes, “the sales team isn’t following up with the leads we give them fast enough!” and “marketing isn’t creating the types of content we need!” Each department views the other as lazy or self-centered, fueling the dysfunction. It’s almost as bad as a family reunion.

So, get everyone in the same room. Often. Have them talk to one another and get to know one another. And then, as a cohesive unit, get to know your buyer. This requires research and a major investment, in terms of time and budget. But it’s key to ensuring alignment and keeping everyone’s focus where it should be.

Sales and Marketing Alignment: Process

Once everyone agrees about who your buyer is, it’s time to work through the buyer journey together. If you don’t, you’ll have a disparate and choppy customer experience. Sales will say one thing to customers, and marketing will say another. Both teams will fail to respond to buyer signals, and responses will be inconsistent. We see this a lot. AI and marketing automation have made it where buyers receive responses from companies more than ever, but they’re not the quality responses they need.

So, work together to create processes that marry your buyer with your solution. We recommend using journey mapping and defining customer lifecycles in order to end up with an experience that truly wows your customer. But it all starts with mutual understanding, and processes that stem from that.

Sales and Marketing Alignment: Technology

Finally, it’s time to layer in your technology. At this point, you can make tech decisions holistically, based on a complete view of your buyer. Both departments should work to integrate tools and devise complementary elements, rather than making siloed decisions and pursuing individual tactics. Technology is the last step because it can divide your teams further if you try to tackle it first. People first, then process, then tech. No exceptions.

Onward…

Early data from the study has revealed two performance vectors that we will use to indicate true Sales and Marketing synergy:

a. The ability to create qualified pipeline

b.The ability to translate that pipeline into revenue

Squarely, both departments must be responsible for both of these goals. When we bifurcate the responsibility, we create an invitation to game the system. Which is exactly what is happening in today’s revenue teams. Progressive marketers have adopted ownership of pipeline creation while sales’ continue to own revenue production. We know this doesn’t work. The insanity of continuing to optimize around these silos is finally backed up by data. The solution of course is larger than lagging metrics. For the first time however, we have concrete data correlations to illustrate what leading precursors (the detail behind my people, process and tech summaries above) lead to success – when success is defined correctly.

If you want to get a head start on what actions you can take to impact your bottomline through sales and marketing alignment, get early access to our findings here.

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