I admit it. I’ve been guilty of promoting the benefits of sales and marketing alignment as if they were self-evident to everybody involved. I’ve quoted studies that suggest that better sales and marketing alignment is a key priority for CEOs. I’ve spoken to hundreds of marketers who genuinely believe they could do a better job if they were able to work more closely with sales - and of course they are right. But here’s the problem: many sales leaders (and sales people) see concepts like “alignment” as yet another fluffy marketing idea, along with the latest expensive and irrelevant re-branding campaign.
In many ways, of course, they are right. Without a targeted programme of precise, tangible and self-evidently obvious action, improving “sales and marketing alignment” can seem like a vague and worthy aspiration, rather than something that is going to help them sell more, reach their quota faster, and (even more important) earn more commission.
To me, sales and marketing alignment is about getting sales and marketing working together to a common agreed and simple plan to identify more of the right sort of prospects, engage with these prospects more effectively, and convert more of them more quickly into paying customers.
Time to eliminate wasted effort
It’s as much about what you choose not to do, as it is what you do. It’s about systematically and ruthlessly eliminating actions, investments and programmes that contribute nothing to progressing the buyer’s journey, or to persuading your prospect to take that all-important next step in the buying decision process with you.
And there’s a raft of wasted effort to be eliminated in most B2B sales and marketing organisations. The statistics are sobering: According to Forrester, prospect executives rate only 7% of the sales meetings they are involved in as worthy of a follow up. The Corporate Executive Board found that more than 4 out of 5 pieces of collateral played no useful role in the prospect’s decision-making process.
So it’s time to stop being fluffy about this. It’s time for sales and marketing to put a plan together that focuses all their energies on identifying, engaging and converting more of the right sort of prospects. It’s time to agree to only invest effort, budget or resources on tactics and activities that have a clear and provable role in advancing the buying decision process.
Four Core Principles
Here are four core principles - adapted from the pioneering thinking developed by Hugh Macfarlane of MathMarketing - that could help to ensure that sales and marketing not only “work nicely” together, but also concentrate their combined energies on the handful of things that are truly going to make a difference to your revenue performance this year:
- Develop a single integrated sales and marketing plan based around a crystal clear appreciation of who you agree your most valuable prospects to be and how and why they choose to buy - i.e., around their buying journey, not your sales process
- Work out exactly how many prospects you need at each stage of their buying journey over time, taking into account how many of them are expected on average to move forward with you to the next stage in their decision-making process, and how long each stage will take
- Document simply and clearly how sales and marketing commit to work together to cause this progression, and which tactics they intend to use to advance the prospect from one stage to the next, eliminating any current tactics that cannot be shown to be relevant to this objective
- Systematically measure your progress, reinforcing the tactics that can be shown to be working, and eliminating or redesigning those that are not playing a provably useful in advancing the buyer’s journey
If this seems like a lot of hard work, consider the following: Sirius Decisions reported that well aligned sales and marketing organisations show a 3-year annual growth rate 24% faster than average. MathMarketing found that well aligned organisations achieved 38% higher win rates and 36% higher customer retention.
I’d bet that those differences are even larger in a recession, or a flat-lining economy. Can you really afford not to get aligned? This isn’t just another fluffy marketing idea - it could be the thing that makes the difference to your revenue performance this year.