Bringing marketing and sales together

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What is it about uniting for a common cause that causes such disunity? Why can't different groups within the same enterprise get along? I've seen this in my own work experience. Back in my daily newspaper days, we city-side reporters generally didn't have a lot of use for our banker's hours peers in features and business, nor our night-owl colleagues on the copy desk. So I guess I shouldn't be surprised sales and marketing don't get along at b-to-b companies. But I am because, in this case, each group's reliance on the other is so much greater, considering compensation and continued employment are at stake. Forrester Research recently delved into this disconnect in its report “B2B Sales and Marketing Alignment Starts With the Customer.” Of the 66 marketing and sales leaders who responded to Forrester's survey, only 8% reported “tight alignment” between the two groups. Jeff Ernst, a principal analyst at Forrester and the author of the report, said in an interview that the most surprising finding from the research was that even at companies that believe they're doing a good job of keeping sales and marketing in sync, the main focus appears to be on holding meetings in which both sides participate. “You could still be misaligned but doing a lot of communication around your misalignment,” he said. What the parties need to do first, Ernst said, is come to agreement on the “ideal customer profile.” Next, they should come to an understanding of the customer's needs and identify the stakeholders in the buying process. Taken together, these steps provide a “buyer-led alignment framework” for future action. So who should get things rolling? “It's much more likely the CMO has to take the initiative,” Ernst said. “The sales department has a number to hit and they are going to do whatever it takes to hit that mark, with or without marketing.” He added: “Too often, marketing doesn't have a deep enough understanding of the buyer's needs because they don't have enough interaction with buyers themselves.” The report cautioned against trying to take sales and marketing alignment too far: “Don't use unnatural acts to blend them together and make them more alike or you'll end up with average people, rather than great sales and great marketing people.” Not surprising, when respondents were given five options for desired level of alignment, the most popular choice (56%) was “closely coordinated activities across the entire revenue cycle.” A distant second (35%) was “a single, integrated revenue-generation engine.” The other three choices each generated response rates of 5% or less. In perhaps a good sign for future progress on better alignment, one choice garnered no votes: “full and clear separation.”
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