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The Ten Causes of Sales and Marketing Misalignment

Every year CSO Insights surveys more than 1,800 sales organizations, and every year the survey indicates that many sales and marketing organizations are operating in separate silos. Here are the 10 obstacles that stand in the way of sales and marketing alignment:

1. The CEO who does not insist on unified reporting on the company’s sales pipeline. Why? Because most CEOs don’t know that CRM technology offers pipeline visibility and marketing software offers a clear insight into the results of each marketing campaign. The best part is that the marketing software can be seamlessly integrated with CRM.

2. Salespeople who complain that the sales leads generated from marketing are useless. Why? Because their sales manager is unwilling or unable to diagnose the root of the problem. Many companies have cured this problem with simple solutions such as A) have marketing people spend a day in the field with salespeople, and B) have sales and marketing people spend one hour together to define the word “prospect.”

3. Marketing people who believe that they know what’s best for the sales force. Why? Because some marketing managers are proud of their analytical faculties. They trust their “instincts” and therefore believe that they know best how to fill the top of the funnel and why leads get dropped from the pipeline. The solution: Collaborate with sales and establish a shared responsibility model for pipeline dynamics.

4. Salespeople try to reduce complexity; marketing people tend to move in the opposite direction. Why? At the end of a series of engagements, salespeople want their prospects to say one word: yes. Marketing people want to find many different ways to presell prospects through a complex arrangement of stories and messages that resonate in the carefully targeted prospect’s mind. The simple solution: Let your customers tell the story in person, online, through social media, on video, in virtual reality.

5. Sales and marketing can’t agree on the barriers they face in the market. Why? In many instances the barriers are self-imposed. For example, in one large company, a strategic decision made at the top called for a bundling of solutions. Marketing launched a massive advertising campaign, salespeople received new playbooks and training, yet the campaign failed, since salespeople sold individual units that earned them higher commissions. The solution: Create a premortem analysis prior to large initiatives.

6. Both sales and marketing lose track of how customers buy. Why? Because sales managers cling to sales models that worked in the past, and marketing managers feed into the established (but obsolete) sales process. The solution: Align the sales process with the customer’s buying process.

7. No clarity about the value proposition. Why? When you have few customers, it is hard to define what your customers value. When you have many customers, it can become more difficult, since each market segment values your solution differently. The solution: Ask your customers, “How are we doing?” Spending a day with customers leads to more clarity than spending a week studying market-research reports.

8. Inability to speak the same language. Why? Salespeople are concerned with closing deals; marketing managers are concerned with opening opportunities. Salespeople believe that a lead is a prospect who has a need, a budget, the authority to buy, and is willing to buy within a short time frame. Marketing believes that a lead is someone who is supposed to buy based on marketing research and demographic information.

9. Inability to agree on the best tactics and strategies to win in this economy. Why? Nobody can figure out where the economy is headed. Chief sales officers are preoccupied with getting better leads into the pipeline so they can drive up sales. Marketing managers get often sidetracked by shiny objects, such as new marketing software, building online communities, new advertising messages, analyzing the competition, creating a social-media strategy, etc. The solution: Create a monthly review system for the simple purpose of aligning priorities.

10. Sales and Marketing managers tend to forget their mission. Why? In the heat of the battle for higher sales and greater market share, we forget the noble purpose of our company. Peter Drucker once said, “The purpose of business is to create a customer.” Without a customer we don’t have a business. The solution to sales and marketing alignment is to remember who signs our paychecks: the customer. This is a good enough reason to take the initiative today, reach out to your counterpart, and align sales and marketing around your company’s original mission and vision.

More solutions: Sam Reese, CEO of Miller Heiman on the subject of alignment. It’s only five minutes, but these ideas could be worth five million.

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Question: What ideas would you like to share from your extensive experience with sales and marketing alignment? Please contribute. Click on comments and share your thoughts now.

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Jeff Ogden

Great post and well said. I hear the words "Align Sales and Marketing," but very few companies do it well. Your reasons are spot on, but the fundamental problem is cultural.

Marketing looks for Mr. Right
Sales looks for Mr. Right Now

Jeff Ogden, the Fearless Competitor
Find New Customers "Lead Generation Made Simple"

Peter Gracey

Great post...number 1 resonates with me the most. If the CEO insists on viewing sales and marketing's performance in a unified fashion is sends the most powerful message you can hope to send. "I view you as a team, it's in your best interest to start working as one".

Michael Pedone - Online Sales Training

Number 2 is a big one. Most sales people don't truly understand "how to sell" in the first place. Just because you closed deals when times were great doesn't mean the leads are bad when times are slow.

Jeanne Hellman

I worked in a large global telecom, and spent the last three years aligning sales and maketing teams. What amazed me was how few of the "marketing" folks had ever talked with a seller... this astounded me: How can you support someone and something you know nothing about? It's too easy to fall back on, "this is how we have operated for the past X number of years, and it worked before so it must work now".
I was tasked with bringing in a Sales Knowledge Management platform into the company for a sales force of 1500 and support staff of around 4500 folks. I was a marketer, but had the pleasure (yes, pleasure) of supporting sales for a stint, and had gained first hand experience with the disconnect between the goals and directions of the two groups. Armed with this knowledge, and after confirming our assumptions with a thorough discovery phase, we were able to get management to realize that just throwing yet another technology at the sales force wouldn't do any thing but frustrate them more. We got the approval to implement a sales enablement program and create a strategy that would ensure we really made a difference to the sales team and the marketing teams, recognizing that to be successful, we needed to do things very differently and change the way sales and maketing interacted and collaborated.
We started by creating a very focused adoption strategy, improved processes, removed duplication and redundancy, and implemented ongoing training refreshers. Our strategies included quick wins for both marketing and sales. Not only did we target addressing long standing sales force needs and complaints, but we had to retrain the presales marketing teams to understand the customer centric views and needs of the sales force. Also in the discovery, we found that over 60% of the collateral that marketing created for sales was never downloaded or looked at... Why?
As the companied continue to downsize and loose marketing staff, the company could not afford to spend time and money on something that was expensive to create but not being used. We also discovered that in keeping with analyst findings, the training being delivered did not match the way the sales force needed to use what they were learning, so they did not retain the knowledge. Finally, we documented that the sales force was not attending to the corporate messages for numerous reasons, and there was no consistency of customer messaging between what marketing was disseminating and the sales for was communicating during the face to face customer interactions.
We found out what was needed, and then institued appropriate changes to resolve the problems and refocus marketing efforts into more value added endeavours. Marketers are full of good intent and really do feel what they are doing is what is needed. I think inclusion is the answer, and companies should do more to help foster collaboration between the teams. This will help remove the "us and them" mentality that exists within too many companies.

Jeff Garrison

I see number 7 quite a bit in the small businesses that I work with. It takes energy to stand apart from the daily action to figure out why customers pick a particular company or sales person over another. Of course, once done, it creates minor course corrections in the discussion with prospects that can have a significant increase on getting appointments and closing deals.

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