It’s an old story: sales and marketing just can’t get aligned. And, as a result, bad blood ensues and sales performance lags. Companies already know this; study after study has indicated the value of aligning sales and marketing. For example, the Mx Group found that a lack of sales and marketing alignment results in as much as 91 percent of marketing investment being wasted. The same study found that, in dysfunctional organizations with poor alignment, around 50 percent of sales time is wasted on unproductive processing. That’s the bad news. The good news is also contained within the numbers: aligning sales and marketing makes businesses 67 percent more effective at closing deals; companies with aligned sales and marketing processes report measurable increases in lead conversion 89.1 percent of the time; and alignment yields 24 percent-faster growth and 27 percent profit growth over three years. We know the problem, and we know the advantages to fixing the problem. So why have so few companies actually solved the problem? The issue is connections. Sales and marketing didn’t become misaligned all at once; they became gradually misaligned through a number of changes. The vast majority of these changes were not made to intentionally shaft one side or the other; although we’ve all heard horror stories about malevolent marketers and spiteful sales pros. Most causes of misalignment were made innocently, with the intent of making things better, not worse. Changes made to improve something can often have unintended consequences. They may make some part of the process better, but in the process they break connections between systems and people, all of which add up to misalignment. The secret to becoming re-aligned is to fix those connections, and to build more when it’s possible. Broken connections come in distinct flavors.
We’ve written at some length about the hazards of the cloud era that present themselves when IT is excluded from a discussion of what it takes to add new software to the sales and marketing stack. The ease with which technology can be added means that specific problems can be tackled quickly, but it also means that the task of unifying that new technology and making sure it works with the rest of the sales and marketing stack may be put off or ignored all together. The result can be sales and marketing working from different and distinct solutions, which results in sales and marketing having different versions of the truth about prospective customers. This leads to finger pointing when sales numbers are disappointing—and those pointing the fingers often feel the data support their assertion that the other side is wrong. Disconnected sales and marketing also leaves sales and marketing with only a partial picture of each customer. When sales gets leads from marketing, there’s often no elegant way to share the story of that lead beyond the demographics and basic facts, so sales has less context about how the lead was cultivated and what lead to it being passed to them. In return, a broken connection between sales and marketing means that leads that don’t close may not get the attention they need to close in the future, or that the lead will be simply “DQ’ed” and never returned for nurturing. How do you rebuild these connections? Make sure IT is involved in the selection and deployment of your sales/marketing tech stack, and make sure you can explain the route you want lead data to take as it moves from marketing to sales and back to marketing. Eschew the quick fix that leads to long-term problems.
The two sides of the equation can easily develop “us vs. them thinking,” especially when they’re under pressure for less-than-ideal performance. Many companies run the two departments entirely separately, and they give the two sides different goals and use different metrics to indicate success. This causes them to operate in ways that are increasingly out of sync, leading to more acrimony and damaging performance further. Technology’s pretty easy to fix; people’s behaviors, especially when they’re driven by emotions, can be a lot harder. The secret here is collaboration on a routine basis, starting with a summit on defining what a lead is and how leads should be qualified and ranging to the lead scoring system. Marketers may hate it, but the sales department is closer to the reality of results. The two sides need to be in close communication. This should be an on-going process involving regular meetings and assessments of what has worked and what has not so that the two sides change together to win more deals instead of lurching forward out of step with one another and damaging sales performance in the process.
Human Connections Inadvertently Broken by Technology
This is the most insidious way that small changes damage alignment: human connections are altered not by conscious decisions but by things hidden within the technology. An example might be an update to a marketing application that happens automatically via the cloud but which cuts the connection with an associated system, reducing visibility for sales and affecting their ability to close deals by removing context from the lead record. It could happen when a bug derails the process of returning leads that aren’t ready to marketing for nurturing. This can happen in many ways, and unless sales pros and marketers are already on the same page and have abandoned an adversarial approach, these glitches are seen not as technical issues with simple resolutions but as deeper issues involving ill will between sales and marketing. If you’ve taken steps to get sales and marketing on the same page and rebuild the human connections, it will be much easier to address these problems by assuming there’s a technical issue at play and to avoid jumping to the conclusion that the other side of the sales/marketing divide has done something to cause problems. Being aware of the connections between sales and marketing is the first step. If you haven’t mapped out the way the two sides work with each other and the tools they use in the process, take the time to do so. Creating a visual image of the data journey that customer information takes through your organization will help you spot the connections and see where data can be added, changed or removed, and can help you identify potential trouble spots faster. Want to learn more about making sales, marketing, and technology work better together? Check out our recorded webinar on the subject!