Sales and Marketing AlignmentThere is irony in the fact that despite all the new social selling, collaboration, big data-based predictive sales analysis, target account-based marketing and cloud-based technologies the pesky old issue of sales and marketing discord is alive and well.

Prophesiers of new sales methodologies, coaching techniques and technology beware; the root cause is not in poor processes, lack of information or leadership -- it is the persistent war between sales and marketing.

Sales, for decades, have been taught that their only priority is quota attainment. Specifically this quarter’s quota, however they can get it, for the penalty of failure is high. Success is lauded upon with accolades befitting an Olympic athlete along with forgiveness of a wide spectrum of bad behaviors.

Marketing, for decades, has been taught they are different. They’re the keepers of the brand, the sages of strategy and creative wellspring of the company. Without marketing, there would be no cool websites, clever billboards and totally awesome events. Results are shared in coded speak that only marketers understand and in presentations that dazzle to the point of distraction.

The bloom is off and today both teams stand naked on the plains of unpredictable revenue. CEOs, rising up through the ranks of Sales and Finance, have gotten wise to Marketing’s mumbo-jumbo and Sales’ creative forecasting techniques. The question today constantly being asked of both teams in every meeting is -- where is the revenue?

Finding the Real Boss: The Customer

After two decades or more of Sales and Marketing squaring off in a boxing ring routinely throwing jabs, right hooks and under the belt punches as they blame each other for missed growth numbers, something has changed. Both teams now realize that they've been fighting the wrong fight. The old fight was about zero-sum control and who had it. The real fight is about the customer.

B2B Sales leaders have accepted that the customer is their new boss and is calling some tough shots. These leaders are responding by investing in new sales models, teams with new skill sets, compensation plans, in-depth research into customer experience expectations and flexing their internal political clout to change how other departments treat customers.

B2B Marketers are coming around to the same conclusion, abandoning their traditional charters and organization structures. Demand generation teams are being replaced by specialized content creators, lead scoring is being replaced by account-based scoring, target account-based personalization is being adopted, marketing operations has been elevated to the CMO’s right-hand position, active social communities are replacing glitzy events, influencer/blogger managers are replacing PR agencies, and money is being funneled into deep research into journey maps and experience co-creation sessions with customers.

It’s all about the customer and that is driving Sales and Marketing into each other’s arms. Each secretly knowing their very survival depends on a deep co-dependent relationship. That is resulting in alignment. Not by resolving differences between Sales and Marketing but by resolving differences between them and the buyer.

Six Best Practices for Alignment

There are 6 best practices in aligning Sales and Marketing:

  1. Document Customer Journey Maps -- only by understanding the purchase and post-purchase journey of high value customer groups can Sales and Marketing identify where they are mis-stepping, missing out and spinning their wheels.
  2. Align Outbound Strategies to Tollgates -- align Marketing content, nurture programs, sales development and social selling strategies to journey tollgates thereby enabling buyers to more successfully navigate their own internal milestones, and result in brand preference.
  3. Jointly Develop Interaction Maps -- jointly re-engineer and align Marketing and Sales buyer touch points to journey maps to ensure that all buyer interactions are appropriate, consistently handled and well executed.
  4. Document Lead-to-Close Processes -- jointly evaluate and document lead-to-close processes and identify opportunities to streamline work methods, data collection, hand-offs and ensure data accuracy.
  5. Implement Employee Training -- establish a shared Sales and Marketing employee training program on journey maps, interactions maps, lead-to-close processes, social best practices and internal hand-offs.
  6. Transparent Reporting -- share jointly developed and owned metrics and dashboards on customer engagement, conversion, revenue and customer satisfaction metrics with the entire company.

According to Peppers & Roberts Group, 81% of companies with strong customer experience competencies outperform their competition. Companies that build their organization’s processes, technology and culture around the experience buyers want and value outperform their peers. Counter to popular belief, alignment is not happening because of a mandate from the CEO (that rarely works) but from Sales and Marketing leaders and their rank and file realizing that they need to work and behave differently if they want to survive.

Much like arranged marriages, it takes time for these two partners to figure out how to work, live and make decisions together. As long as both teams focus on the customer and on delivering a consistent, valued experience over the entire relationship’s lifecycle, alignment will become the norm instead of the exception.

Title image courtesy of Josep M Penalver Rufas (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Read more by Christine in her The Road to Customer Experience Is Not Thru Net Promoter Score