Four Things That Cause Marketing & Sales Misalignment and How to Fix Them

Four Things That Cause Marketing & Sales Misalignment and How to Fix Them
Savvy Guest - Mon Feb 07, 2011 @ 07:00AM
Comments: 60

We're thrilled to present this guest post by Carlos Hidalgo of The Annuitas Group. Read on for his prescription of how to fix the ails plaguing sales and marketing.

Marketing and sales alignment continues to be a major challenge for B2B organizations. Just last week, Forrester released a report showing that only 8% of organizations claim tight alignment between marketing and sales. Considering the volumes of content that Dartboard-CHidalgo.jpghave been written about this topic, one would think that the issue would have been solved by now. But it isn’t. And for many companies, the “alignment gap” seems to be growing. Perhaps the reason is that marketing and sales misalignment is not the core issue, but only a symptom of deeper problems. So maybe the question isn’t “How can we align marketing and sales?” Instead, we should be asking “What are the problems that are causing the lack of alignment?”

To answer this question, below are four issues causing marketing and sales misalignment and steps you can take to fix them.

1.  A Lack of Focus

Most conflict situations are the result of clashing points of view. Conflict continues when each side tries to convince the other that their view is right. The disconnect between marketing and sales is no different. Both sides spend an inordinate amount of energy stating their case, trying to get the other to see the world from their perspective. Unfortunately, the casualty of this internal tug-of-war is the buyers. They are the ones that often get overlooked and ignored.

Buyers don’t care about the internal frustrations within your organization. They want to have a dialogue with a vendor that can assure them they will get full value from their investment. They want a partner that helps them improve their business.  When marketing and sales organizations begin the finger-pointing, the buyers are the ones who get left out. Eventually, they’ll go somewhere else.

Getting both marketing and sales to focus on the customer is a major step in closing the internal gap. Here are two ideas to help shift the focus:

  • Have marketing attend sales reviews. Let them actively participate by asking questions so they can further understand the buying process. This will help them readjust their perception of the customer and enable better engagement with customers.

  • Conduct joint customer visits. This can also be extended to sales calls.  Marketing and sales should make a habit of visiting buyers and customers together. Asking the customer about their process, pain and vision for what’s next will allow both sides to see the world from their customer’s eyes.

2.  Pursuing the Wrong Goals

I hate to say it, but this one falls almost entirely on marketing.

Historically marketers rate poorly when it comes to establishing goals. Many marketers measure success on metrics such as the number of opens, bounces, click-rates, and downloads. While these measurements can help determine the relevance of content and campaigns, they are only a means to the end. More importantly, metrics such as the number of sales accepted leads, marketing contribution to pipeline and marketing contribution to revenue tell the true story of how marketing is doing.

Marketers are playing a more vital role in B2B organizations than ever before. It is imperative that they start measuring and tracking how their efforts impact revenue. After all, this is the language of CEOs. When they ask, “How are things going in marketing?”, they don’t want to know about opens and clicks. They want to know what has been done to “make the cash register ring”.

3.  Poor Compensation Models

The life of a salesperson is a 90-day roller coaster ride. Most companies develop their sales quota based on the 90-day quarter. This, of course, (for public companies) accommodates shareholder expectations and earnings reports. However even many privately held organizations live on a 90-day quota system. The problem with a 90-day system is that it rarely aligns with the buying cycle. In fact, many high-tech companies are engaged in a buying cycle that far surpasses 90 days, yet sales is still held to a quarterly quota. 

At the same time, marketing is tasked with delivering high-quality leads to sales. However most marketing people aren’t compensated based on how well they do in identifying or delivering those leads. If the goal of marketing is to deliver high-quality leads to sales, doesn’t it make sense to base a portion of their compensation on this metric?

This poorly aligned compensation model is another core issue that causes the rift between marketing and sales. The fix here is rather simple: align sales quota to buying cycles. If the buying cycle is 30 days, then develop a 30-day quota cycle. If it’s 120 days, then have a 120-day cycle. The marketing compensation model should include a performance-based component with the number of sales accepted leads as a metric. This will motivate marketing to deliver the quality leads that sales needs, leads that will align to the buying cycle and close more rapidly.

Adjusting compensation models to mirror the buying process gets marketing and sales “rowing together”.

4.  No Process

One of the biggest reasons marketing and sales fail to gel is that there is no defined process for managing leads. Without this process, sales and marketing fall into a vicious cycle, with sales rejecting marketing-generated leads, and marketing being frustrated with the lack of sales acceptance.

To alleviate this, implement a defined lead management process that focuses on:

  • Data (Includes customer and prospect data)
  • Lead Planning
  • Lead Routing
  • Lead Qualification
  • Lead Nurturing
  • Metrics (A good place to start is working with sales to establish a common set of KPIs that can be measured.  Ensure one of these is marketing’s impact on revenue and pipeline)

Developing this process should be a joint effort between marketing and sales. When both sides put aside their talking points and focus on developing a process for managing leads, a transformation takes place. Collaboration takes root, resulting in alignment. 

Establishing this process will also create a unified understanding of how leads are to be handled, which leads should be sent to sales, and which leads will be held back for further nurturing. An effective lead management process will enable both sides to do their jobs more effectively, and will improve the overall return on marketing and sales investments.

Marketing and sales will never view the world exactly the same way. But maybe by coming together to address these core issues, they can overcome the challenge of misalignment.

About the author: Carlos Hidalgo is CEO of The Annuitas Group, the leading provider of lead management process development.  In his role, Hidalgo and his team have helped their clients identify over $500 million of potential revenue by developing and implementing internal lead management processes.

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