“Improving sales and marketing alignment” has been close to the top of CEO priority lists for years - and with good reason. Most people would agree that sales and marketing organisations that work well together are likely to outperform their poorly-aligned peers.
But organisations sometimes struggle to come up with the hard data to back up this belief. It’s a subject that the Aberdeen Group has monitored over many years, and their latest Research Brief offers compelling evidence of the benefits of sales and marketing alignment.
In “Sales and Marketing Alignment: A Primer on Successful Collaboration” (published March 2014) they highlight the significant performance gap between Best-in-Class, Industry Average and Laggard organisations.
Alignment gaps create performance gaps
More than three-quarters of top-performing organisations reported a “good” or “strong” relationship between sales and marketing - compared to less than half of the laggards. But the rubber really hits the road when it comes to revenue performance and quota achievement.
Despite a still-challenging economic climate and conservative buying behaviours, Aberdeen found that best-in-class organisations reported an average 99% team achievement of sales quota - compared to only 46% for laggards.
That’s a huge performance difference. It’s enough to affect not only the short-term fortunes, but also the long-term futures of organisations and the executives who lead them. And it’s a clear signal that improving sales and marketing alignment can’t be put off until later.
Assessing your alignment
How aligned are your sales and marketing teams today? There are some obvious indicators. Well-aligned teams tend to meet more frequently on both a formal and informal basis and to share common plans, priorities, goals and metrics.
You might find it useful to complete our short self-assessment test. The questions draw upon the lessons learned from a careful study of many of today's top performing sales and marketing organisations. You can take the test here.
Improving sales and marketing alignment
Effective alignment starts with agreeing a common focus - and that involves a shared agreement around what problems you are best at solving, which sort of organisations are most likely to benefit, and which stakeholders are likely to be involved in the buying decision.
It also requires that you drive sales enablement by intentionally align your marketing messages with your sales conversations. You know when this isn’t happening: sales people end up creating their own materials or “making it up as they go along”.
This is not only horribly wasteful; it’s also hugely disrespectful to the prospect, and one of the primary reasons why Forrester recently reported that prospects regarded only 1 in 8 of their conversations with sales people as a valuable use of their time.
Connecting the marketing message with the sales conversation
In fact, I recommend that you take the position that marketing should be prevented from launching any new campaign or deliverable unless and until it’s been reviewed with the sales organisation, and a sales conversation plan has been developed.
Organisations that have embraced this principle find themselves creating fewer, but much more effective deliverables. They report far better collaboration between their sales and marketing organisations - and they invariably deliver consistently impressive revenue growth.
Alignment works. It’s not hard to achieve, if you’ve got the right people on the team. And if you haven’t got the right people on the team, you’ve got a bigger problem. So what’s holding you back? Here’s that link to the self-assessment again. Take it, and drop me a line with your thoughts.