Why Disastrous Sales and Marketing Misalignment Persists (& How to Fix It)

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Jamie Shanks
Jamie Shanks


Sales and marketing teams both directly touch the customer, but for some reason, the average company just can’t find a common ground after that.

However, consider that more than 50% of the success of a social selling ecosystem within your company is going to start and end with Marketing! If Sales is to be successful, then we need to get aligned with our friends in Marketing.

(P.S. -- Would you rather hear me talk about this? Sign up for my keynote session at Digital Growth Conference with Forrester analyst Mary Shea here, in which I'll share a new charter for Marketing and Sales.)

Exploring Sales and Marketing Misalignment

Marketing teams around the world are busier than ever, scrambling to create digital content to be used on social media or for email campaigns or sponsored ads and so on.

Imagine to their surprise, after all this hard work, that the sales professionals at their organization are all but ignoring this content. In fact, according to SiriusDecisions, “Up to 65% of your marketing team’s digital content never makes its way into the customer’s hands.”

We’ve progressed a little in the past few years, but as Forrester’s Mary Shea outlines in her latest report, misalignment still persists. Three main reasons are to blame:

  1. C-suite progress is slow to move downstream. Eighty-two percent of CMOs have goals that are now directly tied to revenue and profit. However, just because the CMO has revenue goals tied to his or her compensation doesn’t mean the rest of the team is exactly jumping at the prospect.
  2. Marketers are risk-averse. As it stands now, marketers and salespeople are very different personality-wise. Where salespeople see a quota-carrying role as an opportunity, most marketers see it as a risk. In her report, Shea points out that compensation has been underused as a way to facilitate and motivate cross-departmental collaboration and communication.
  3. Sellers are near-term oriented. Marketers want to engage buyers through a more “strategic lens” whereas salespeople are still geared to transactional selling. But the goal is to be customer-, rather than conversation-focused.

The Root Cause of Misalignment: Blindspots

Where does this problem start? Simply put, sales professionals have no idea that there is a direct and indirect correlation among digital content shared to buyers reaching buyers’ hands, and increasing inbound leads. And that same confusion also exists at the top of the sales funnel, as sales professionals can’t see how content will increase the probability of winning a deal.

Is this surprising? No. Of course sales doesn’t know this.

Sales professionals are the masters at finding the path of least resistance, and only do activities with a “what’s in it for me” attitude. This is why no matter how hard you may have tried to explain the “conversion funnel” to the sales team, it hasn’t sunk in! If it had, you would have salespeople flocking to share content with their buyers.

This misalignment on value is actually a data-driven problem -- in other words, there are often blindspots in the data shared between departments. These blindspots are perpetuated as Sales has little to no visibility into Marketing's content production schedule or how buyers are interacting with this content.


However, as marketers know, buyers leave “digital fingerprints” on your website and on other digital assets. This pattern of digital fingerprints is called their “Content Consumption Story.” By analyzing which buyers consume what kinds of content, you can ensure your marketing team is producing assets Sales can actually use (and actively wants).

KPI Measurements Contribute to Misalignment

Sales professionals are paid against their number, rewarded against their number, given accolades such as President’s Club trips against their number, and of course, fired against their number. As a sales professional, my number the only thing I care about!

But most marketing departments measure themselves against Leads, Marketing Qualified Leads, Sales Qualified Leads, Sales Accepted Leads … call it what you’d like; it’s a solid leading indicator, but it's not sales bookings.

Now, before you blow a gasket and give me the excuse, “But I as a marketing leader can’t control the closing of a sale, I can only lead a sales professional to an opportunity,” I want you to check that impulse at the door. That impulse is the mindset of an individual, not an ecosystem.

Marketing leaders need to recognize that they're equal contributors, and therefore equally accountable, for sales success.

Your team will behave as per how it is measured. If you continue to give the marketing team leading indicator goals like Lead Volume, that’s the behavior you’ll garner.


3 Steps to Get Sales and Marketing on the Same Page

Naturally, throughout the Sales-Marketing alignment process, you are going to extract objective evidence, plot trends, and create a prescription to completely align Marketing to sales quota attainment.

But fundamentally, there are a few simple changes you need to make before anything else:

1) Drop the word content from your vocabulary.

Content sounds like you produce widgets, while insights are a form of intellectual property. Marketing leaders need to believe that the insights their teams build are so valuable that you could charge customers for the knowledge. Change the way your entire organization talks about insights, and treat these assets like you would a government-registered patent to intellectual property.

2) “Moneyball” your marketing.

Marketing is becoming a numbers game just like sales. Great marketing teams are objectively looking at their production capabilities (like an ad agency would), and the results their work is having on sales. If you take this scientific approach to your marketing, you’ll realize you can control everything -- like a production line of an automobile plant.

3) Make the first move to extend the olive branch.

As a marketing leader, you’re co-captain on Team Revenue. Yes, this is a joint exercise, and you might think it's just as much sales leaders' responsibility as your own to kick off the alignment initiative.

But guess what? I’ve trained way too many companies to know that sales leaders don’t think they need Marketing as much as they do. It’s you, the marketing leader, who is going to prove objectively that your team is directly and indirectly fueling sales growth. Of course, Sales and Marketing alignment in world-class organizations is also orchestrated by Sales Enablement and Sales Operations, but I recommend that the head of Marketing make the first move.

Want to hear more on this topic? Register for the 2017 Digital Growth Conference.

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