OPINION: 3 steps to bridge the sales and marketing alignment gap

John Cheney

John Cheney, CEO of cloud-based CRM vendor, Workbooks

For any business leader looking to generate growth in 2022, alignment between sales and marketing must be a priority. However, experienced leaders will know that the process is easier said than done. Their ultimate goal may be the same, but often sales and marketing teams have conflicting views when it comes to reaching it, relying on different approaches, using different success metrics, and speaking different languages.

Alignment of sales and marketing teams is not a new issue, so why are businesses still struggling to achieve it? Research by Gartner highlights that less than half of organisations (49 per cent) have a common lead definition that was developed and agreed upon by sales and marketing teams together.

At Workbooks, we identified three key issues causing this alignment gap:

1. A lack of communication

2. A lack of insight into each team’s customer interactions

3. Disparate and disconnected technologies

These issues can prove costly for businesses. As well as being a cause of frustration for employees, lack of coordination between sales and marketing wastes an estimated $1 trillion annually in the United States alone, according to a study by LinkedIn. With such significant financial repercussions, even organisations whose sales and marketing teams appear to operate harmoniously should ask the question: “How could we be doing more?”

Addressing the lack of communication

Greater alignment between sales and marketing functions cannot be achieved without recognising the importance of doing so – and prioritising it for your business. Leaders should encourage an open dialogue between the two departments, providing a forum for the important questions to be discussed:

– Are sales and marketing goals truly aligned?

– Are teams communicating as well and as often as they should?

– Does each function really know how the other is communicating with prospects and customers?

– Has your organisation agreed on common definitions – for example, what is a qualified lead (you might be surprised to hear two very different answers!)?

– Would shared tools enable teams to work collaboratively and more productively?

– Ultimately, how could a better alignment of sales and marketing functions benefit your organisation financially?

– Businesses that probe a little deeper in this way usually identify room for improvement. The focus then becomes: “How can we make it happen?”

Gaining insights into each team’s customer interactions

Frustration from sales professionals when discussing marketing often relates to two things: insufficient focus on revenue generation and unviable or unqualified leads. Key concerns for marketers, on the other hand, often relate to salespeople not showing enough interest in – or acknowledgement of – long-term brand building, not following up on leads provided, and a lack of feedback on why leads may be qualified out. Leaders should invest time at the outset highlighting the importance of short-term revenue growth and long-term brand development, and ensure both teams have an appreciation of what the sales and marketing processes look like. Sales and marketing teams should then develop KPIs that measure their combined contributions. These shared goals and KPIs need to be centred around the pipeline and revenue; this will prove vital to bridging the alignment gap, with both teams agreed on the metrics they will be measured against.

Connecting technology

By 2025, 75% of the world’s highest growth companies will deploy a revenue operations (RevOps) model, according to Gartner. This signals a move away from siloed and linear sales enablement functions towards revenue enablement activities that support all customer-facing roles, ensuring every single part of the business is connected.

Reaching this level of alignment cannot be achieved overnight and requires an investment of time and effort, as well as commitment across the organisation. Technology can, however, be utilised to make the transition faster, simpler, and more effective. It can also help ensure these changes are long-term. Specifically, CRM systems can provide a single source of truth, centred around the customer. Features such as dashboards and reports, provided by these systems, allow sales professionals and marketers to easily see the sales pipeline and track performance and conversions at each stage of the buyer journey, allocate tasks between departments, and make required changes to marketing and sales campaigns with greater visibility to all.

Crucially, a CRM system is both a result and a prerequisite of successful sales and marketing alignment, requiring teams to agree a common language, set mutual KPIs, and demonstrate a willingness to collaborate. But business leaders and their CRM providers must also be mindful of why sales and marketing alignment remains an issue, and reasons for this can differ from business to business. Leaders should seek technology providers that want to understand these nuances, get under the skin of their business, and agree clear business outcomes tailored to their objectives in order to ensure maximum return.

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