Forrester’s latest research “B2B Sales and Marketing Alignment Starts with the Customer” confirms the dysfunctional and damaging gap that still exists between sales and marketing in the vast majority of B2B organisations.
Fewer than 1 in 10 of the B2B organisations surveyed claimed to have tight alignment between their sales and marketing functions - and nearly 7 out of 10 evaluated their performance as average or worse.
You’ve got to wonder why this remains an unresolved problem for so many organisations when SiriusDecisions have shown that companies with a fully aligned approach to sales and marketing achieve average 3-Year revenue growth rates 24% higher than their also-ran peers.
Obstacles to Alignment
According to Forrester's survey, the top 3 excuses for failing to achieve alignment were given as:
- “Marketing thinks long-term, sales thinks short-term”
- “The functions have different goals and measures”
- “We have insufficient time to communicate and plan”
Note that I used the word “excuses”, not reasons - because excuses are what they are. Shameful, avoidable, excuses. Excuses that for as long as they are accepted will continue to prevent B2B organisations of all sizes from failing to realise their potential.
Why Attempts to Align Fail
Now, I’m not suggesting that organisations haven’t tried, or that the desire to do better doesn’t exist. But most of the failed attempts seem to have been internally focused, tactically motivated and limited in scope.
Here’s what I’ve learned: The only effective way of aligning B2B sales and marketing functions is to ensure that both develop a common shared understanding of who their most valuable prospects and customers are and how and why they choose to buy.
In other words, if alignment initiatives are ever going to be truly effective, they must be centred around the customer’s buying decision process and not just the vendor’s internal sales and marketing process - and the vendor must acknowledge that some of their existing processes may have to change as a result.
Six Steps to Momentum
I’ve been able to observe organisations that have managed to achieve outstanding alignment, and it seems to me that they have done it by establishing six key foundations:
- They have developed profiles of their ideal customers and key decision makers
- They understand their prospects’ critical business issues - and the consequences
- They have aligned their key capabilities with their prospects’ most critical issues
- They understand the trends and trigger events that cause prospects to search for solutions
- They understand the key phases and milestones in their prospects’ buying process
- They manage sales and marketing activities as a single integrated revenue cycle
Alignment Requires Intent
Forrester and SiriusDecisions aren’t the only organisations to highlight the need for alignment - it’s been a consistent theme in the research by CSO Insights and many others. It seems like the sort of thing that it would be hard to argue against.
I don’t believe that alignment can be achieved solely through the good intentions of ground-level sales and marketing foot soldiers - It also requires executive intent. But it also requires a framework and a process - and the ability to get deep inside the heads of your prospects, to understand what they truly value, and to act accordingly.
So here's my question: how well aligned are your sales and marketing organisations today - and what's the single most important step you could take to improve matters?
Best Practices Checklist
Do you work for a B2B software developer or solution provider? I've captured many of today's best go-to-market practices in a 20-point self assessment checklist. You can download it here. Please take a few moments to complete it. I think you’ll find at least one idea that will help you create an even stronger foundation for the future.