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  • Debbie Schwake

The State of Sales and Marketing Alignment

Profitable. That's how sales and marketing alignment feels.

The closer the alignment between sales and marketing, the more profitable the organization. The two have even been called "the ultimate power couple."

As defined by my esteemed industry colleague, Christopher Ryan, "sales and marketing have a symbiotic relationship, meaning that they are separate and distinct but highly dependent on each other.

Since as far back as any of us can remember, sales and marketing have been quite notably at odds, pitted against each other in a competition of who gets the resources based on who's winning. Who gets credit for that lead.

What prevents sales and marketing alignment?

According to research experts, Gartner:

"Marketers have been focusing their efforts on driving engagement through digital content development and delivery, and improved engagement measurement to secure a faster sales handoff. Meanwhile, sales has been boosting the team's in-person capabilities through the use of prospecting tools, sales enablement content and activities such as stakeholder mapping. This is resulting in a disjointed experience that does little to ease a complex purchasing journey."

  • Sales' #1 demand of marketing is more visibility into upper-funnel activities.

  • Marketing's #1 demand of sales is more visibility into lower-funnel activities.

(Is it me, or does that feel like a simple fix?)

Perhaps the most simplistic argument for alignment that does not require an actual statistic was written by Mary Clare Novak of G2:

"Sales and marketing rely on each other, and if the two departments aren't on the same page, neither can do their part to reach their primary goal: to attract prospects and convert them into customers."

Why is sales and marketing alignment so important?

And the evidence that alignment results in more revenue abounds.

  • 87% of sales and marketing leaders say collaboration between sales and marketing enables critical business growth. (LinkedIn 2020)

  • According to SuperOffice, a CRM platform, successful alignment "generates 32% higher revenue, retains 36% more customers, and achieves 38% higher win rates. The research also found that high alignment generates higher brand awareness and average deal size."

  • A joint Marketo and Reachforce research piece found that businesses are 67% better at closing deals when sales and marketing work together.

  • SiriusDecisions reports that companies with aligned sales and marketing teams achieve up to 19% faster growth and 15% higher profitability.

Where does sales and marketing alignment stand?

But where does sales and marketing alignment stand, according to some industry sources? Well, in many cases, the definition of what constitutes alignment is not completely clear or at least not very consistent. However, here are what some have to say on the subject.

  • In a 2020 study, Freshworks reported that 90% of respondents think sales and marketing goals should be aligned, but only 44% believe their teams are highly aligned.

  • In the same study, respondents indicated: Sales and marketing agree that the biggest impediment to alignment is a lack of accurate data on prospects and customers.

  • A 2020 LinkedIn study reported 9 of 10 sales and marketing professionals say they are misaligned across strategy, process, content and culture.

  • The study went on to report:

    • 96% of sales and marketing professionals admit there are challenges with strategy alignment, including

      • Sales and marketing don't report to the same executive

      • Marketing and sales don't measure success on the same KPIs

      • Marketing and sales don't share goals and objectives

  • Freshworks CRM's 2021 study reports 90% of respondents think sales and marketing goals should be aligned, but only 44% believe their teams are highly aligned.

  • Marketing Charts says some 54% of respondents predict that their organization's marketing and sales operations will merge into one revenue operations team. The study goes on to say fewer than one-third (31%) of respondents reported that their sales and marketing teams had agreed on a set of key accounts to target, with the largest share (45%) having done this partially and one-quarter (24%) not having done this at all.

Whatever goal sales and marketing choose to align on, it's a fact that any great relationship must begin with both an understanding of one another and mutual respect. Bridging the gap between sales and marketing has everything to do with trust. And remember, trust is earned.

Sales and marketing are both professions with very different principles. We plan, think, and behave very differently when it comes to our role in the organization and our relationships with our buyers.

You must start by recognizing that each profession's unique characteristics and methodologies - marketing and sales - are very different from one another. But when they're aligned, they're perfectly complementary as we work hard to deliver value to prospects and buying committees.

The beauty is that sales and marketing can have a very complementary relationship. And when you achieve alignment, the pair are a powerful force.

The journey begins with a little faith, some learning, mutual trust, and getting started. You recognize the unique characteristics and methodologies of each profession - marketing and sales - which are very different from one another. But when they're aligned, they are perfectly complementary as we work hard to understand the value we're delivering to the individuals and buying committees we're selling to.

Want to know where to start? I wrote "The Definitive Guide to Sales and Marketing Alignment." And if you think some coaching will be more useful, I can help there too. Contact me to discuss options.


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