advertisement
advertisement

POV: 5 steps to achieve better sales and marketing alignment

Businesses are 67% better at closing deals when sales and marketing work together.

POV: 5 steps to achieve better sales and marketing alignment
[Photos: cottonbro/Pexels; Lukas/Pexels]

In my 30 years working to establish successful B2B marketing teams, the most clichéd (but somewhat accurate) statement is that sales and marketing are “not on the same page.” This is a problem. According to research from Marketo and ReachForce, businesses are 67% better at closing deals when sales and marketing work together.

advertisement
advertisement

Now, you could argue that there are many reasons why sales and marketing are not aligned. At a high level, it could come down to hiring and leadership. For instance, if the head of marketing is a brand strategist, what do you think that person will view as the most important thing to focus on? Conversely, if the head of sales has limited experience working with marketing, then do you think they’ll know how to take advantage of the wealth of marketing tools available to create the greatest impact on revenue? Likely not.

At my telecom company, Ciena, we view the tight partnership between sales and marketing to be a game changer. Winning business and achieving amazing outcomes start with purposeful and intense alignment between these two functions. In fact, since we started this journey in 2017, we have grown revenue by nearly 50% in a market that grows 1% to 2% per year on average. On top of that, we have gained market share in every market we compete.  

These results are based on critical and intentional decisions. To drive true alignment, behavioral and operational change has to be meaningful. Org chart adjustments alone won’t cut it. A cultural change and shift in mindset will create teams with unified goals that can force-multiply sales and marketing’s contribution to the company’s success.

advertisement
advertisement

Here is the road map we’ve developed to drive deep alignment. 

Empower Marketing Differently

One of the reasons marketing falls out of alignment with sales is because they give unequal weight to the core functions of brand and digital campaigns versus field marketing and customer engagement. There is just as much importance in empowering field marketing’s alignment to the revenue plan as there is in supporting the corporate objectives and long-term vision. The result is that sales feels that marketing is fully invested in the revenue goals of the company. Creating a great relationship between sales and marketing starts with marketing getting its house in order and priorities in balance. 

A Go-to-Market Engine

Senior company leadership must act and speak about sales and marketing in the same breath as a unified go-to-market force. Sales and marketing have often endured a prickly relationship because senior leaders often treat and resource them differently. Clashes erupt over strategy and funding, which results in lost time, lost energy, and frustration. Purposeful alignment and the development of strategy and funding centered around the customer and revenue plan eradicates this tension. The head of sales and the head of marketing must act and reflect to the whole organization the importance of their partnership. Together, they sit on the leadership team, and they both have a granular understanding of the business goals, allowing their organizations to take a combined and creative approach to support the company’s agenda. 

advertisement

Unified Tech Stack and Operational Strategy

While sales and marketing have separate tech stack requirements, the hooks and connections between these systems should be laser-focused on creating the greatest customer experience possible—from the first marketing touch through post-sales support. Sales data can give marketing insight into customer pain points, which can be preemptively addressed with prospects via awareness campaigns. At the same time, marketing data on how a lead has interacted with the brand can give sales a head start on the best approach to engage a particular customer type. At Ciena, sales and marketing leadership host a yearly summit to review tech stack and operational issues across the business. We meet frequently to keep each other informed and create workstreams, owned jointly, that drive meaningful changes and investment choices. 

Meaningful measurement

Transactional measurement systems no longer cut it. A more nuanced approach is key. For example, tracking “quality of engagement” scores can provide more complete and real-time pictures of the breadth, depth, frequency, and impact that selling has on customers. We correlate QoE with our marketing-engagement dashboard—also called an “EKG.” Combined, these tools give us a monthly, dynamic digital picture of every single touchpoint of each account. High engagement scores translate into greater interest, opportunities for “land and expand” revenue, and generally more successful outcomes. Lower scores tell sales and marketing that we need to revisit our account strategy; or they can signal competitive pressures. These are just examples of how combined and insightful measurements can have an effect on sales and marketing outcomes.

Rapid adjustment to Post-COVID-19 realities

Covid-19 had a deep impact on the operations of B2B companies. And, while some elements are returning to pre-pandemic norms, others have changed for good. Businesses will still need to sell, demonstrate solutions, and foster customer relationships virtually. This means sales will rely more heavily on marketing to reach potential leads digitally and guide them into the sales funnel, as well as helping to keep the attention of existing customers without as many in-person interactions. Deep alignment between teams allows these types of rapid adjustments to happen quickly and organically. 

advertisement

True alignment of sales and marketing is easier said than done. Some businesses may pay lip service to integrated functions without tackling the needed structural process and cultural changes. Taking a complete and intentional, top-to-bottom approach will allow businesses to reap the full rewards of their fully aligned go-to-market functions and put an end to the cliché that sales and marketing don’t get along.


Joe Cumello is SVP and CMO for Ciena, where he oversees all global marketing and communications activities for the telecom networking company.


advertisement
advertisement