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Driving Sales and Marketing Alignment


Last month Fosters Research released their survey on how effective B2B companies are aligning the sales and marketing functions. Their survey found that only 8% of the surveyed organizations believe that they have a tightly integrated sales and marketing teams. Nearly 7 out of 10 evaluated their performance as average or worse.  

The report titled B2B Sales and Marketing Alignment Starts with the Customer found the top three reasons for failing to achieve alignment are: 

  • Long-term thinking by marketing vs. short-term thinking by sales (58%)
  • Different goals and measurement (46%)
  • Not enough time to integrate (45%)

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.

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.”

When respondents were given five options for desired level of alignment, the most popular 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.

Here’s what I’ve learned over the years: The only effective way of aligning sales and marketing functions is to ensure that both develop a common shared understanding of who their most valuable prospects and customers are and how and why they choose to buy. In other words, if alignment initiatives are ever going to be truly effective, they must be centered on the customer’s buying decision process. It requires a framework and a process - and the ability to get deep inside the heads of your prospects, to understand what they truly value, and to act accordingly.

 I have observed companies which have achieved outstanding alignment and have done it by:

·   They have developed detailed profiles’ on their ideal customers and their key decision makers.

·  They map their customer’s/prospect’s buying process.

·  They understand the critical business issues their customers face.

·  They insure that their “core competencies” (what they are really good at) address their customer’s/prospect’s critical issues.

·  They understand and monitor their customers/prospects industries to identify significant issues and trends.

·  They align marketing and sales initiatives around the customer

Sales and marketing alignment is absolutely required for a competitive advantage and to build revenue.  Market and Sales need to stop focusing on what makes them different from each other and rather focus on how together they can provide the best buying experience to your customers. The alignment begins not with strategies, tasks and activities, but rather with the philosophies and values of the sales and marketing leaders and the person who is in the position to hire both.

 We are all sales people. We are all marketers.

 About the Author:  Ken Wilson: Strategist, marketing guru, educator, facilitator, author, university lecturer and consultant, he can be reached at ken@wmg-mn.com  or 763-476-2216.

Copyright ©2018 by Ken Wilson    All rights reserved. 

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