How to Grasp the Elusive Marketing and Sales Alignment

Regardless of your company’s size and industry, today’s business environment requires all of us to be fast on our feet. As business leaders, you must be able to react quickly and decisively to rapidly changing customer demands and competitive conditions. The more agile a company is, the faster it can respond to market dynamics and develop new products and processes, recognize new opportunities, and redeploy resources accordingly.

The degree of agility may be the difference between being a market leader instead of an also-ran. Agility requires proactive planning, business intelligence, alignment and collaboration among all the key functions to make the right decisions and turn opportunities into a competitive advantage.

Sales and Marketing are among the teams that must be tightly aligned and moving in step with each other.

Addressing Marketing and Sales alignment isn’t new. It’s long been and remains a hot topic. Why does Marketing and Sales alignment remain elusive? As we wrote in our blog in June, Is Your Marketing and Sales Suffering From the Fallacy of Now, some of the misalignment is caused by structure, focus, and communication. Market dynamics such as commoditization, the Internet, mobility and virtualization and changing business models also compound the problem. Companies attempting to resolve the issue often approach the problem by trying to tighten the alignment of marketing activities within the sales cycle, improving coordination around lead generation, and increasing sales force participation in the marketing process. Sadly these attempts often fail. Regardless of various approaches taken by companies to address this issue, the lack of alignment and collaboration between Marketing and Sales persists. What’s one step you can take today to improve the alignment?

Improve Alignment When You Focus on the Outside not the Inside

Today’s buyers are more sophisticated and today’s buying processes are more complex than ever before. The transactional approach of Marketing generating qualified leads that Sales then brings is history. The transactional approach allows Marketing and Sales to be inwardly focused. The transactional approach is what permits Marketing and Sales to operate as independent silos. This results in Sales immersing itself in the latest training, engaging in calling on customers and focusing on post-sale efforts and Marketing focusing on implementing various campaigns and coordinating a variety of tactics.

Companies who take a customer-centric approach over a transaction one look at the world through the eyes of the customer, what they want from you, what they expect from you, what they can count on from you. One way to become more customer-centric is to move from looking at the world from a selling perspective to taking a customer relationship lifecycle perspective. This approach provides an avenue for alignment by focusing both organizations on the same set of outcomes – creating, keeping and growing the value of customers.

The customer relationship lifecycle begins the moment a customer appears on the radar screen, moves into the lead-sales funnel, emerges as a customer and engages in a variety of experiences that result in them becoming an advocate. This lifecycle provides insight into which customers provide the greatest values to your company. IT provides both organization with customer-oriented vocabulary and a set of priorities.

Taking a customer centric approach enables the creation of a common set of metrics for both organizations which helps ensure alignment. Customer relationship management metrics include buying related metrics such as recency, frequency and quantity; cost related metrics such as gross amount of money spent on acquiring and retaining the customer through marketing dollars, resources spent generating each sale, and post sales service and support; and customer value related metrics such as the duration or longevity of that customer’s relationship with your business, the referral rate, and share of wallet. Establishing a common set of customer-centric metrics facilitates alignment and collaboration. You know the old adage, “people perform to how they’re measured.” If you want Sales and Marketing to be aligned, change what you measure.

Marketing and Sales Alignment is Good Business

While no one can offer any guarantees, aligning Marketing and Sales makes good business sense and ultimately impacts the bottom line. The Aberdeen Research report on Marketing and Alignment found that companies that are best-in-class at aligning marketing and sales experienced an average of 20% growth in annual revenue, compared to a 4% decline in laggard organizations. For many companies, this additional boom in sales more than justifies making the effort.

Laura Patterson

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