How To Align Sales and Marketing
Learn the fundamentals of how to align sales and marketing with expert Jeff Davis.
In this article:
- Jeff Davis: Sales and Marketing Alignment Expert
- How To Achieve Marketing and Sales Alignment
- Where Do Organizations Fail?
- Do Organizations Need More People In Sales and Marketing Operations?
- Important Reminders in Aligning Sales and Marketing
How To Align Sales and Marketing: Learn The 3 Pillars of Alignment
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Jeff Davis: Sales and Marketing Alignment Expert
Hi, I’m Jeff Davis. I am a keynote speaker, business coach, and host of the Alignment Podcast. My story is really simple. It frustrated me that sales and marketing did not understand how to leverage each other.
I actually did not intend to start the kind of work I have now, but it got to a point where I told myself I had to find solutions. My situation that time bothered me a lot, so that’s where everything came from.
I started my career in sales, and that’s where I saw opportunities. I noticed that when we interacted with Marketing, they didn’t quite understand what we needed in the field. We would go to customers with the materials that Marketing gave us, but we would end up not using them. Sometimes we lied to our Managers and say we used what Marketing gave us but in reality, we threw it away.
When we met with Marketing, we pretended that everything was great. At that time, from the business standpoint, I didn’t know how to articulate my frustrations. That was one of the things that motivated me to go back to business school. I wanted to have credibility as a marketer and understand how that role fit in the organization along with sales.
Eventually, I went back to business school and transformed myself into a marketer. I became part of a brand team and did digital marketing. Then I got out of the corporate world and began a career in the startup space.
How To Achieve Marketing and Sales Alignment
I realized that marketing and sales should get along. To turn that into reality, I wanted to dig into the data and pull out insights, then use those to create a roadmap to produce thoughtfully-aligned marketing and sales teams. The end goal is for both teams to drive revenue more effectively.
Step 1: Recognize The Issue Between The Sales Team and The Marketing Team
I’ve experienced firsthand the issues that come with trying to align sales and marketing. It was extremely frustrating because I would ask questions that my sales leaders would not have answers to. They’re so siloed in their approach that they only focus on what they have to. Anytime you ask them questions outside their bandwidth, they wouldn’t have any idea about it. They would say it’s “a marketing thing.”
That confused me, because sales and marketing directly impact each other. I look at sales and marketing as a revenue system. We may have two separate functions, but we’re intertwined. Our success or failure is dependent on each other.
What Causes The Divide?
I don’t really consider the divide between sales and marketing a battle. As I’ve mentioned before in the Alignment Podcast, the real issue is the lack of empathy. I don’t think sales and marketing are at odds with each other. The problem is, they don’t understand how to leverage each other in a way that helps them succeed.
There’s a lack of knowledge on what the other does, so that causes conflict and finger-pointing when revenue is not ideal.
When you look back in the history of sales and marketing, during the 60’s and 70’s, big corporations set up centers of excellence. They purposely created these silos to groom people to be experts in sales, marketing, and operations. What it did is create these hard silos that people did not cross over from, and we’re still living in its residuals.
When you look at it, marketers have a long-term view — they plan ahead. Whereas salespeople need to make sure they meet their quota for each quarter. They have a short-term view compared to marketers. There is a disconnect in their perspective.
Step 2: Learn How To Align Sales and Marketing
Learning how to align sales and marketing is an essential skill for anyone in a leadership position. If I’m a Chief Marketing Officer and I don’t understand how to leverage my VP of Sales and vice versa, then we can’t come together as colleagues. How can we expect our subordinates to have any interest or care? We have to look at sales and marketing as a revenue engine system.
It’s really the job of the leaders to come together and figure out the best way to drive revenue for the company. That could mean combining skills or delegating tasks, but it’s got to be pulled through. Without these conversations happening, you’ll only drive yourself to the ground.
We have all these technologies and yet we still miss quotas. They’re becoming harder and harder to obtain. The issue is not with technology — you have to deal with the people and help them understand.
How Can Sales and Marketing Leverage Each Other?
The first thing you need to do is to start meeting and open the dialogue for leveraging each other. Once you’ve established that executive connection, how do you bring that meeting together? Will you discuss data, structure, or technology?
You now have one piece of the equation that’s very important, and that’s communication. When I look at all the strategies and tactics that we talk about when it comes to alignment, there’s a lot of data we need to take in. How do we then consolidate this?
When I boil everything down, it really comes out in three buckets. I call them the Three Pillars of Alignment Strategy: data, process, and communication.
Step 3: Recognize The Importance of Data
I started with data because you first have to transform your organization into a data-centric organization. Not only a data center, but also one that’s insight-centric. First, though, you need data.
A lot of times I see sales and marketing leaders come together and start working, but then they realize that they don’t have the same data set. You need to operate from a single source of truth, as that will help you create a unified dashboard. Then you can go through KPI’s.
You need to have the data first. You may find that your data decays over time more and more quickly. Sometimes you do need to get a data vendor in. In my opinion, of all the levers you can pull, data is probably the most important part of your revenue stack.
Step 4: Focus On The Right Metrics
Revenue attainment is always the number one metric for sales and marketing. Some marketers get super uncomfortable with this. They say, “We shouldn’t have a revenue target.” Yes, you should.
There should be KPI’s and metrics under that that are shared across both functions. Things like average sales cycle and sales consumption of marketing content, both marketing and sales affect those. Those metrics should be in a shared dashboard between the CMO and the VP of Sales.
The metrics that both teams affect, those are the ones that sales and marketing should meet together about. Monitor those together because they will tell you what’s happening in the revenue.
Step 5: Strengthen The Communication Between Sales and Marketing
The average sales cycle is one shared metric that I really like because I think it incentivizes marketing to serve sales. I do believe that marketing exists to make sales easier. Conversion is another one because it goes across the entire revenue funnel.
Those that span the funnel are the ones that you want to look at because they tell you the story of what’s going on in your funnel. They can also tell you where your leads are dropping off or exiting your funnel. That will indicate if it’s a handoff issue. A lot of times it’s an MQL to SQL handoff that is not happening.
That’s a conversation that we need to talk about. Like, how do we ensure that there’s less friction between the MQL and SQL transition? Do we need to change the definitions and make adjustments? We need to decide what those really mean.
Step 6: Understand The Whole Sales Process and Pipeline
Now we move on to the concept of process. The sales process should be mapped according to the buyer’s journey. A lot of us want to sell in the way that we want to and not in the way that our customers want to buy. That is fundamentally causing friction. So you have to apply due diligence to understand how your customer buys.
The process that you knew before — offering your product, proposing an exploratory call — that’s not happening anymore. It’s no longer a linear process. The sales process now is a nonlinear process where people can come in and out of phases.
Marketing needs to be there to support you, to provide the content you need in that phase that will enable you to do what you need to do.
With that said, your current process must follow the nonlinear process closely. That way, you can understand what’s happening in this funnel process and the reality of things.
Both sales and marketing leaders need to have visibility of the entire pipeline. Sales leaders cannot just focus on the bottom of the funnel, while marketing leaders focus on the top. Lines are blurring between the two. That’s why you need to have full visibility of the entire funnel.
That is the reason why I say that the process part is key. In those joint leadership meetings, you should be able to look at the entire pipeline and tell what is going on as a revenue engine. Where are things falling out, and how much is coming in and out? All of these conversations need to happen in those meetings.
Where Do Organizations Fail?
In my experience, most organizations fail in all Three Pillars of Alignment. In my opinion, of the three, if I had to start with one, it would be the data. The thing is, you can have a great process and great communication, but if the data is terrible, those won’t matter. Wrong data will push you to make terrible decisions. You can’t fix wrong data — garbage in, garbage out. You will only optimize garbage.
Look at the culture you’ve set up in your organization. Is it a culture of transparency where it’s okay for people to say things like, “Look, we tried it for two quarters and it’s not achieving what we want to achieve. We’re not hitting KPI’s. We need to adjust the strategy and do something different”? It has to be okay to say that.
Do Organizations Need More People In Sales and Marketing Operations?
I believe that there is a need for organizations to increase the number of people in their Sales and Marketing Operations. It’s an opportunity.
In today’s digital age where buyers are empowered digitally, data is the currency of B2B. I would even say that one could argue that data is the currency of any business, so it was agreed that data is the currency of our business.
You need to have somebody manage that, to keep it as accurate, timely, and relevant as possible. Those are the three things that you need your data to be in order to make good business decisions. If you’re not hitting one of those three, you’re not optimizing your data.
Important Reminders in Aligning Sales and Marketing
In closing, here are the points to remember on building the business case for alignment. It comes down to a couple of things. First, the alignment must be supported by the CEO. If your CEOs are not on board, then the effort will not be sustainable.
Second, the modern buyer is digitally empowered. Sellers have to catch up. Most sellers are not where they need to be in order to sell in the way that buyers are looking for.
The loss of sales productivity and wasted marketing span is much more costly than people think it is. All the hours that salespeople are spending looking for data, not following up on leads — all that stuff costs money. People are not really quantifying how much that is costing their business, but it’s important.
Third, it’s been shown that alignment is directly related to increased revenue and improved metrics. We have the data that shows that.
Fourth, we’ve got to stop throwing technology at problems. Tech is actually exacerbating the problems. A Change Management Consultant came to my summit last year, and she said something that brought it home for me. She said, “People operate the tech, so it’s not about the tech — it’s about the people.”
Someone also told me once, “If you accelerate a broken car, you just break it faster.” If the process is broken, and you accelerate it with great technology, it’s only going to break down faster.
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Learning how to align sales and marketing is only the first step to improving your organization’s revenue. Be intentional in aligning these two separate but equally important functions, then work to optimize the Three Pillars of Alignment.
What insights did you gather from this discussion on how to align sales and marketing? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!
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