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Marketing and Sales Alignment Comes Down to Process, Comp and Ego

An Uneasy Accord

Whether you sit in the marketing or sales camp, or a camp on the outskirts looking in, you’ve probably heard comments like, “Sales couldn’t close a deal if the lead came to them with signed contract in hand.” Disgruntled sales reps reply, “These leads suck!” Perhaps it’s a little dramatic, but I’ve heard sentiments just like this said behind closed doors. The ability for the two primary revenue-generating departments in an organization to work together is an absolutely critical element to company health and success. Here’s how to dominate the often illusive marketing and sales alignment.

Alignment, Not Just a Word

In the past couple months, I found myself attending two separate conferences, one tailored exclusively to marketers, the Marketo Summit. The other tailored to inside sales leaders, AAISP Summit. Two weeks, two conferences and one UNIFIED message, sales and marketing must be aligned if our organizations plan to drive revenue and grow.  Sales and Marketing leaders said the exact same thing, yet there still seems to be a divide. How does this happen? As a Sales Professional who lives and breathes in a Marketing first world, 3 things come to mind. Process, Compensation and Ego!

Marketing and Sales Alignment: Process

Let’s explore process first.  While it may seem boring, process is the glue that binds alignment together. There must be a tangible way for sales and marketing to define a lead, qualify it, hand it off to sales and ultimately close win business for the organization. If there is no defined process, which is followed and agreed upon by BOTH sides of the house, then there is only one outcome.  The ongoing battle, “Sales can’t close,” and “the leads suck!” Not productive.  The development of a shared process must be established, I’m sure you think you’ve done this and done it well, and even if that is the case it was a set it and forget it type of action.  The process is fluid and must be revisited continually based on feedback from sales and marketing. That feedback loop must be built into the process! That process requires a mechanism to be tracked and measured, those are up to you, but again make it a joint decision and make is scalable.

Marketing and Sales Alignment: Compensation

After a scalable process is established and agreed upon, the next logical step is compensation. Sales is typically the highest paid group within an organization, but as the relationship of sales and marketing evolves, sales realizes the importance of their marketing counterparts in their success and marketing is being held responsible for more that just throwing “leads” over the fence.  As quotas are rising for the sales people, marketing is seeing KPIs focused on “qualified leads” generated, pipeline influence, and (gasp) revenue!  This is a crucial evolution of marketing and how they interact with sales, similar standards being set across the board means that marketing should be met with compensation standards similar to their sales counterparts. Performance-based compensation sets goals, creates alignment, and is straight-up good for business and morale.

Check Your Ego

The third and probably the most common (and hardest to overcome) challenge are those egos.  It’s about creating a culture of shared wins and celebrating them TOGETHER. I’ve found, and trust me I am guilty of it myself, when sales closes a deal they get the pat on the back, they get their name on the big board and they get the big payday!  I love all of that, I really do, that’s why I love sales, but for sales to think they are the single cog in an increasingly shortened and heavily influenced sales cycle is all about ego. Sales closes, and it’s celebrated, but I can tell you from experience the more you celebrate those wins with your partner-in-crime (Marketing), thank them, recognize them, and give them their credit. In return, they will be more willing to help you win the next big deal.  That type of culture is created from the top. Sales and marketing leadership need to work together to create that type of environment.  Lift each other up and celebrate the dynamic duo they are, the bottom line is if Marketing brings in qualified leads and sales can close them then everyone wins.

Update 5/21/19: With the popularity of ABM, this ego-checking is even more important. Listen and/or watch ABM powerhouse Derek Slayton from Terminus discuss how their most successful clients’ marketing and sales teams work together in this interview: https://www.leadmd.com/best-practices/video/account-based-marketing-terminus-cmo-derek-slayton/

In Conclusion

Two weeks, two conferences, 4,000 Marketers and 3,000 Sales leaders and everyone is saying the same thing. marketing and sales alignment is key to enjoy the type of success every business is striving to achieve.  They may say it in different ways and with different visuals, but the bottom line is sales and marketing are joining forces and you’d better be ready for the ripple effect.

1 Comment

  1. SLMAdiscuss on May 3, 2016 at 11:15 am

    Justin: Agreed with your three but must add LEADERSHIP. Without the leadership of sales and marking management putting thier heads together as adults nothing happens.

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