The Real World: Marketing & Sales Alignment

Sales Marketing Alignment


This is the true story…of two organizational functions…picked to share an office (work together)…and produce results…to find out what happens…when marketing and sales stop pointing fingers…and start getting aligned…The Real World: Marketing & Sales Alignment


The Real World: Marketing and Sales Alignment

As a marketing (and former sales) professional, I have had the not-so-privileged opportunity to play a starring role in marketing and sales misalignment. What I have learned, and continue to learn, is that alignment does not happen overnight, but is critical to the success of a business.

One of my favorite parts of MTV’s hit show “The Real World” was the ever-so-entertaining “confessional booth” where cast members openly commented/insulted/trashed their roommates, with the freedom of knowing they would be long gone and out of striking distance whenever the episode finally aired on TV. While marketing and sales generally have more than a season together, I thought it would be equally entertaining to reenact marketing and salespeople doing the same thing, perhaps in a secluded conference room, armed only with a video camera and their opinions.

In this blog, I’ll cover three tips to help marketing and sales stop pointing fingers and start getting aligned.

The Real World: Marketing & Sales Alignment Confessional:

The MQL Handoff: Marketing just passed a qualified lead off to sales

Marketing: “Way to go marketing! We just sent another super awesome, totally qualified lead to sales and are one step closer to hitting our MQL goal this quarter!” 

Sales: “What does marketing think they are doing? I have absolutely no idea why this lead is qualified. Does marketing even understand who our target market is? Disqualifying this lead.”

How every marketer just felt reading that:

The Real World Confessional Photo

1. Unified Funnel = One View, One Interpretation

One of the key issues with marketing and sales alignment is that each team lives in their own funnel. Marketing has traditionally focused at the top of the funnel with inquiries and qualification, while sales have focused on the pipeline, opportunities, and other bottom-of-the-funnel metrics.

The core issue with siloed funnels is that neither team has any accountability for what the other team delivers before or after their funnel ends, which makes it easy to point fingers and allocate blame.

What do I mean by this? Marketing’s funnel ends at handing a qualified lead to sales, not what happens after the handoff. And sales’ funnel starts at receiving the qualified lead from marketing, yet they typically are not as involved as they should be in defining what “qualified” actually is.

Well-aligned organizations recognize the importance of viewing and measuring their marketing and sales funnel as a single holistic system. This creates equal accountability for both teams.

The Real World: Marketing & Sales Alignment Confessional:

Who Gets the Credit? An opportunity just closed from a demo request

Marketing: “Check out that demo request opportunity that just closed…that was all marketing! Maybe they should start paying us commission?”

Sales: “Why should marketing get any credit for that opportunity when all they did was put a form on a web page? I was the one who did the initial call and then had to practically do CPR to resuscitate the deal after the decision maker left the company! Marketing shouldn’t get credit, I did all the work!”

2. United Metrics = Honest Discussions

Marketing and sales have to create common processes and systems to create a single source of truth for their funnel metrics. This data alignment opens up the door for meaningful conversations focused on improvement rather than data credibility.

Leaders from both marketing and sales teams need to establish a regular cadence of meetings between themselves and their teams to make sure they are all on the same page. During these meetings, they need to review funnel performance, discuss where they are falling short and determine what strategic changes should be considered.

There are three types of meetings that leaders need to establish:

  1. Weekly Meetings
    • Focus: Are marketing and sales on track?
    • Areas of Discussion:
      • What happened last week?
      • How are we progressing toward our goal?
      • What has changed?
  1. Monthly Meetings
    • Focus: Deeper evaluation of progress and forward-looking analysis based on current metrics.
    • Areas of Discussion:
      • What happened last month?
      • What is forecasted to happen next month based on current funnel momentum?
      • What are the key areas for improvement?
  1. Quarterly Meetings
    • Focus: Discuss overall results and strategic adjustments. Talk about goals versus results and forecast based on current momentum and gaps.
    • Areas of Discussion:
      • What are current results compared to goals?
      • What is the forecast for next quarter?
      • What are key areas for improvement?
      • Are strategic changes needed?

When both teams are looking at the same data, communication barriers dissolve and contributions are realized. These meetings force both teams to move beyond complaining and pointing blame and start living in a better-aligned world. That means they now focus on how they can leverage data to build a collective strategy together.

The Real World: Marketing & Sales Alignment Confessional:

Who Gets the Resources? A new business development rep (BDR) is hired.

Marketing:Seriously? Why does sales get to hire another BDR? Marketing is sourcing almost 80% of all opportunities, so why wouldn’t they invest more resources into our already proven success?  Why is our budget so much less than theirs?”

Sales:I am not sure why marketing is so upset? We had extra budget…”

3. Unified Focus = Aligned Interest

Until both teams are focused on the same goals, alignment will never be fully realized.

Even though marketing cares about the business meeting its overall revenue goals (or at least they should), marketing will never be on the same page as sales until marketing’s own performance goals end with revenue generation.

This does not mean that marketing is out making cold calls, doing demos, or sending out contracts, but it does mean that the work does not stop at MQL. Marketing needs to be helping sales influence and convert opportunities to revenue.

After making that change, marketing and sales succeed and fail together instead of separately. Credit is shared and blame is no longer one-sided. Once a singular revenue focus is achieved, silos are removed and marketing and sales are now one team, with one goal: driving revenue.

# RelationshipGoals

All humor aside, misalignment of marketing and sales is one of the most important issues facing leaders in both professions today. According to Aberdeen Research Group, companies with strong sales and marketing alignment achieve a 20% annual growth rate while companies with poor sales and marketing alignment have a 4% revenue decline. Sales and marketing alignment is a critical element to your organization and the first step on the path to an ideal state, sales and marketing partnership.

Be Kind, Please Align

As we have seen in The Real World, houseguests do not have to be best friends to achieve success. The same is true with marketing and sales alignment.

Once both teams are on the same page, speak the same language and work toward a common goal, smack-talking confessionals end, and revenue growth begin.

The Real World: Marketing & Sales Confessionals sound all too familiar? Share in the comments below how your organization has overcome the negative perceptions between marketing and sales!

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