5 Challenges for Marketing & Sales Alignment

5 Challenges for Marketing & Sales Alignment

More and more organizations are realizing that the talent and resources of Marketing need to be “reeled in” to support sales.  While “branding” is important, remember this:  A brand is merely the promise of an experience.  In order to experience the brand, one must generally purchase the product or service of the brand.  In order to purchase the product or service of the brand, you need to provide a selling channel.  A selling channel needs support.  Capische?

Sales has a quantifiable objective: Revenue.  One either achieves/surpasses it or one does not. The way to achieve/surpass a revenue objective with the highest probability of success is to align appropriate organizational resources, most notably in Marketing and Sales.  The coordination of these resources is known as Marketing and Sales Alignment.  And for the most part, Marketing needs to learn to paddle in the same direction as Sales, sometimes warning them where the rocks, eddies, and rapids are.  There are some fundamental challenges in attaining alignment:

1.   A classic challenge is overcoming Sales’ attitude towards Marketing. Salespeople are notorious for claiming that the leads produced by Marketing are useless.   To overcome this, Marketing needs to spend time with sales during prospect conversations – whether it be in an inside sales bullpen or out in the field.  And at the tactical level, Sales and Marketing need to barricade themselves in a conference room, roll up their sleeve, and work together to define what a “sales ready” lead is – The solution: A) Have marketing spend a day in the field with salespeople, and B) spend an hour clearly defining what a lead is.  A framework for this is the “BANT” concept – BANT stands for BudgetAuthorityNeed, and Timeframe.  It is possible to create an online dialog with prospects while they are looking for information that enables them to disclose to you where they fit within the continuum of BANT criteria that Marketing and Sales have delineated.  This can also include geography, industry, infrastructure requirements, and other factors that translate into a “sweet spot” that your product or service addresss.   By understanding what sales is trying to find out in the trenches, Marketing will have earned more confidence from Sales and the leads should increase in quality.

2.  Another problematic attitude is held be Marketing people who assume that they know more than the Sales team. Once again, it takes a cooperative initiative, this time on the Sales side, to show Marketing the reality of sales dynamics.  Sales needs to educate Marketing on the nuances in the “buying center” – does a customer have a centralized or decentralized buying organization?  Are they RFP driven?  What are their past or current relationships with competitors? What are the company, departmental and even individual drivers that make a difference in a sale versus a lost sale?  What are the strategic and/or “political” circumstances that must be ti-toed around?  If Marketing thinks it knows the answer to those and other questions, is it sharing that information with Sales?

3.  Salespeople try to eliminate prolonging the pre-sales relationship with a prospect.  Marketing people will tend to lengthen that relationship with the positive intent on strengthening it and building trust.  Salespeople want to close a deal as soon as possible and move on.  Marketing attempts to shower prospects with clever ways to remember their service or product.  Both Marketing and Sales need to collaborate to craft value proposition to communicate to prospects on how good the relationship can be once they have bought the product or service and are achieving success with it.  Post sales programs for driving customer success are critical, especially with newer technologies that meet resistance in adoption.  Marketing needs to coordinate with both Sales and the Customer Service department in order to create tutorials, user groups, feedback mechanisms, etc. that foster the “brand fanatics” or “brand ambassadors” that we hear about as needed in today’s online marketing ecosystem.

4.  Sales and marketing have structural barriers in place. Legacy organizational culture and structure can unwittingly sabotage new efforts.  Many Marketing departments still don’t have MBOs tied to company sales performance.  Product marketers may create bundles or new products for Sales to sell, only to find out that the effort/commission ratio is too great and Salespeople rely on selling the older or unbundled product because they perceive they’re compensated better – in other words, Sales will go for the “low hanging fruit” because they’re under a monthly pressure and will not prioritize strategic necessities that are not in line with tactical reality.

5.  Both departments may have staffing fluidity and other issues. Marketing is generally looked upon as overhead and is centralized in nature, and Sales, depending on whether it is inside or outside can be either centralized or decentralized.  Nevertheless, turnover in Marketing at leadership levels, which tends to feel “understaffed,” and normal turnover in Sales management also prevent long term collaboration as departments organize, re-organize, lay-off and tend to their respective Maslow-like organizational needs.  Once again, however, Marketing must realize its vulnerability and take the initiative to create an institutionalized bond with Sales that weathers a “revolving door” storm.  Part of this effort would include the systematic automation of processes that consolidate and warehouse data to be used over time by a steadily changing workforce.   Otherwise, excessive turnover can cause irreparable harm to an organization as Marketing and Sales try to reinvent the wheel and recover lost information about customers and prospect relationships every time a critical person leaves the firm.

Overcoming these challenges doesn’t mean Marketing is subservient to sales.  Marketing needs to exert leadership and work with Sales a partner in this endeavor.  Otherwise the organization risks not moving forward toward its growth objectives.

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