Room for improvement

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Awareness of the importance of marketing and sales alignment increased last year at technology companies engaged in complex sales. But this heightened awareness did not resolve matters; in fact, the alignment problem is getting worse. The inability of the two groups to come together continues to have a devastating impact on productivity and outcomes. Leads, resource time and dollars are wasted. At best, potential business is left on the table. More often, deals that should have been won are lost to competitors. Here are five key alignment areas:
  • Lead definition, volume and quality: Lead definition, lead volume and lead quality are all closely linked. When marketing is incentivized on lead quantity and sales on revenue, the two groups define leads differently. Marketing then delivers an avalanche of leads that do not fit sales' needs. Sharing a common lead definition correctly shifts the focus from high volumes at low costs-per-lead to the right quantity of qualified opportunities.
  • Lead measurement and accountability: Lead measurement and accountability for providing lead feedback are also closely linked. A best-practices view of lead measurement shifts the focus from top-of-the-funnel metrics to outcomes farther into the funnel.
  • The lead generation, qualification and nurturing function: Given dissatisfaction with lead quality, sales last year took marketing dollars and spent them on email blasts and low-end marketing automation tools. But responses tended to come from low-level decision-makers, and deals were of lower value. Inside sales shifted from being centralized in marketing to being centralized in sales. Lead generation, lead qualification and lead nurturing should be grounded in personal contact and reside in a dedicated group not owned by either team.
  • Technology solutions versus sales lead management processes: Many technology solutions (marketing automation and business intelligence tools) are being used to speed delivery of large numbers of poorly qualified leads. However, improved results are not based on technology but on consistently applying proven, repeatable sales lead management processes.
  • The alignment arbiter: Senior managers continue to believe the two groups should be trusted to correct the alignment challenge themselves. But this too often results in a game of Whac-A-Mole, with one team or the other addressing a single issue while the core problem—the lack of strong, centralized leadership—manifests itself elsewhere. What's needed is an alignment arbiter—a single, strong C-level or senior VP-level executive who mandates a new direction.
  • Correctly assessing core issues and implementing these best-practice processes will resolve the marketing and sales alignment challenge, as well as ultimately deliver dramatic improvements in sales, revenue and profits. Dan McDade is CEO of PointClear, an Atlanta-based prospect development company. He can be reached at
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