The 10 Commandments of Sales and Marketing Alignment

According to CallidusCloud’s 2015 Sales and Marketing Sentiment Study, only about 15 percent of sales pros and marketers say their operations are fully aligned. IDC said sales and marketing misalignment costs the average $100 million company $10 million annually. Another study estimated that wasted sales productivity and misspent marketing money cost U.S. businesses $1 trillion every year because of misalignment.Sales and Marketing Alignment

So, this problem is a lot like the weather: everyone talks about it, but no one ever does anything about it (to paraphrase Mark Twain’s neighbor Charles Dudley Warner).

How many other wasteful activities in your company would be allowed to persist? Would it be tolerated if your operations department routinely over-ordered raw materials by 10 percent? How about if finance routinely paid out 10 percent more than it was supposed to? Or if your facilities person was consistently 10 percent over budget? If those things happened, someone would get fired at best, and a criminal investigation might be initiated at worst. So why is an activity that is equally wasteful justifiable?

Answer: it shouldn’t be. And, increasingly, it isn’t.

How do you avoid falling into the old traps, where goals and definitions are not shared, where data is intentionally or inadvertently kept in silos, where leads disappear through holes in the process, and where both sides think the other is sabotaging their success? Start with these 10 Commandments – stay faithful to them, and you’re much more likely to succeed.

1. Thou Shalt Not Harbor Ill Will Toward Thy Counterparts

Sales and marketing just love to snipe at each other when things don’t go perfectly. Many times, department leadership is to blame; when CMOs and Sales VPs engage in turf wars to claim ownership of data, assets or manpower, they inflame the simmering tensions while contributing nothing to success. Here’s an idea: grow up. Both sales and marketing need for their business to succeed if they want to keep their jobs. Both sales and marketing need to contribute to revenue. You objective is the same. Even if you hate the people in marketing, or despise the people in sales, but sanguine enough to realize that your future is predicated on building a relationship with them.

2. Thou Shalt Develop a Lead Management Process, and Thou Shalt Stick With It

Marketing needs to put together a process for passing leads to sales – and receiving leads back from sales if they need more nurturing. That feedback loop maximizes your marketing investment, and it ultimately results in more closed deals. However, if marketing can’t communicate how that process works, of if sales refuses to make that process a component of how they work, lead generation will be expensive, nurturing will fail to deliver the results sales needs, and everyone suffers. The saddest scenario comes when the process is in place, but sales gradually stops doing its part. Stick with the program – it’s there to help you close more deals, so abandoning it is a form of slow professional suicide.

3. Thy Lead Definitions Shall Be Developed Cooperatively

For some ridiculous reason, many sales and marketing teams are unaware of how the other side of the equation defines key terms, like “qualified lead.” If sales has one idea, and marketing has another, how can marketing ever deliver what sales needs? Get your teams together and decide on a concrete, shared lexicon – and if there’s a need to change the definitions, make sure everyone knows what those changes are.

4. Thou Shalt Use Data for Decisions

We’re in the era of big data and big analysis now – so use it. Don’t cling to your preconceived notions if the numbers are contradicting them, and don’t shun analysis because you fear you might be contradicted and lose the battle with the other side. That sort of insecurity leads directly to business failure. Instead, embrace the idea that analysis may expose areas where sales and marketing can improve tactics or re-define customer personas. Seizing upon this is a competitive advantage. Disregarding it is a career-threatening move.

5. Thou Shalt Not Have to Covet Thy Neighbor’s Technology

The era of SaaS made sales and marketing technology easy and inexpensive to deploy. It also made it easier to re-build the silos we were so intent upon destroying during the early 2000s. Be smart about this: when marketing data is silo’ed, sales has no information on where leads came from; when sales data is silo’ed, marketing has no way to see how leads were worked and thus has little information to gauge the quality of its leads. Use common platforms whenever possible for greater transparency and ultimately greater cooperation between sales and marketing.

6. Thou Shalt Agree Upon a Lead Scoring System

If sales wants lead scoring to deliver leads as they are ready to buy, sales needs to help define the scoring system. Conversely, if marketing wants the lead scoring system to pay off in more closed deals, it needs sales’ front-line experience to help make the system reflect reality. A scoring system cooked up solely by marketing delivers what marketing things qualified leads look like, and if Commandment 3 isn’t being observed the scoring system will merely be an advanced tool for passing useless leads to sales. Automating things that don’t work is not a good use of your time and treasure – so before you turn on your lead scoring system, talk about it with the sales reps who will benefit from it.

7. Thou Shalt Share Anecdotal Data

Sales hears things from the people they contact that can have a direct impact on how marketing collects lead information, nurtures customers and presents company information. Similarly, marketing may get feedback on past experiences with sales or objections to product features that may present a sales roadblock. If the two sides fail to share this information, they’re taking gifts from their customers and potential customers and flushing them down the toilet. Leadership needs to figure out how to incorporate this valuable anecdotal information into sales and marketing operations to improve customer experience, sharpen lead quality, and improve the sales team’s chances of closing deals in the future.

8. Thou Shalt Develop Content in Tandem

Too many content marketing and product marketing calendars are created with zero input from sales. Instead of talking with the people in direct contact with buyers every day, marketers in charge of content often attempt to guess what’s needed in a vacuum. A lack of insight dooms editorial calendars to irrelevancy; the result is more noise and less signal, and makes it harder to find the content that is really needed by a customer or a sales rep at the key moment. Talking to sales reveals what’s missing from the content mix, what’s working and what existing assets are succeeding and don’t need to be replaced yet.

9. Thou Shalt Goal Thy Teams on the Same Objectives

Getting goals aligned is critical for getting teams aligned. Often, sales’ goals are based on sales performance, while marketing’s goals are based on something else – volume of leads, typically. This is foolish: more leads does not translate into more sales. In fact, sometimes it translates into fewer sales. Instead, change marketing’s goals to mirror sales’ performance based goals: how much did marketing contribute to revenue? This puts an emphasis back on lead quality, which results in more closed deals and more revenue.

10. Thou Shalt Bear Responsibility Equally

When you have a less-than-stellar quarter, don’t throw the other side under the bus. This is the time alignment and collaboration is most critical, and not hanging together in the tough times undoes all your other efforts to get sales and marketing to work together as a team. And when you have a great quarter, don’t elbow the other side out of the limelight. An aligned sales and marketing team succeeds because everyone involved gets it – they speak the same language, work from the same data and have the same ultimate goals.

Of these commandments, the greatest one is this: keep talking. It’s easy to blame problems on faceless people you have no relationship with, but if you’re in constant communication it changes the focus from assigning guilt to finding solutions. If you can start a dialog, and maintain it, sales and marketing stand a far better chance of going forth and multiplying your revenues.

By Chris Bucholtz | August 13th, 2015 | Marketing

About the Author: Chris Bucholtz

Chris Bucholtz

Chris Bucholtz is the content marketing director at CallidusCloud and writes on a host of topics, including sales, marketing and customer experience. The former editor of InsideCRM, his weekly column has run in CRM Buyer since 2009. When he's not pondering ways to acquire and keep customers, Chris is also an avid builder of scale model airplanes.