Sales and Marketing alignment: Are we there yet?

Sales execs have always boasted that they are paying for the rest of the company and the ones closing deals. Marketers have had to fight a rear-guard battle to justify their existence by comparison.

Sales and marketing departments have long suffered under the persistent cliché of the warring siblings of business life. And, as with many clichés, there is a grain of truth in that reputation.
At our latest client dinner we tackled the topic head on, but looking at it through the eyes of a CEO. We were lucky to have a guest, Stephen Kelly, provide his unique perspective having led the UK’s two FTSE100 technology companies; Sage and MicroFocus. With a long career in the UK and US in numerous technology companies, including Oracle and Chordiant, as well as leading the UK government’s Efficiency & Reform program as Chief Operating Officer, his experience in creating world-class sales and marketing organisations is unrivalled.


So why the ancient enmity?

Simple; hard cash. Sales execs have always boasted that they are paying for the rest of the company and the ones closing deals. Marketers have had to fight a rear-guard battle to justify their existence by comparison.
And then there’s the related point of compensation. Companies have always tended to reward sales-people on success and this has tended to create a highly competitive environment where anything is tolerated as long as it gets deals over the line. Charged with building brands, creating demand and keeping existing customers happy, marketers have tended not to have such directly correlated salary packages.

What about ‘time’? The points above have tended to drive another wedge between Sales and Marketing because the former need to deliver results over a short timescale and repeatedly while the latter might, in the past at least, have been given the luxury of a little more time to build out projects.
Perhaps the biggest cliché of them all is that sales performance can be clearly counted in terms of ROI while marketing performance has been perceived as fluffy and difficult to calibrate.
Today, arguing that Sales and Marketing remain at odds or that one trumps the other is, thankfully, becoming harder. Digital marketing technologies and approaches such as ABM are making marketing performance and outcomes far more visible. Retaining customers has become critical, especially in the technology sector where the shift towards cloud and apps has made it easier for customers to ‘up sticks’ to rivals.

Progressive companies are going further and changing their compensation schemes. They’re goal setting so that sales and marketing are on a shared-reward basis and the two either win or lose together. Some are even operating on a “two-in-a-box” manner where the old idea of Sales and Marketing being different teams begins to fade away. The focus is shifting to where it always should be – on the needs and desires of the customer.

With ABM in particular, sales and marketing are effectively aligned and pointed towards working together with a clear funnel and operations dashboards. This enables both camps to see what customers and prospects are doing, and what effect digital campaigns are having in communicating with key audiences.
The old fiefdoms are breaking down and, even if it’s too soon to paint a picture of sales and marketing teams holding hands while wreathed in affectionate smiles, then we can at least say that we have entered a new, more mature phase in their relationship. And not before time.

To discover more, listen to Stephen and my colleague, Clive Armitage, discuss the topic in more detail.

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