Marketing and Sales Still Lack Alignment

The share economy is booming, collaborative technologies abound, and the lines between marketing and sales are blurring. But, despite all this, the conflict between marketing and sales teams continues to plague many companies.

What’s the biggest contributor to the fractured state of this important relationship? The same as with any other relationship: lack of communication.  Nearly half of marketing and sales professionals cite communication as the greatest obstacle to true alignment, according to a new study from market intelligence provider InsideView.

Here, InsideView CMO Tracy Eiler discusses the continued struggle to better integrate marketing and sales organizations, and why marketers may need to be the ones to extend the olive branch.

It’s referenced early in the study that the misalignment of marketing and sales is an even bigger issue now than in the past. Why do you think this isn’t getting better?

It is an age-old problem, and it is getting worse, or more magnified. There’s more attention being put on this issue for a number of reasons. Companies are looking for higher revenue performance from their sales and marketing teams, and they know that if they have their sales and marketing teams operating in a very efficient way, they’ll make more money. They understand that misalignment is a differentiator, so they’re [shining a] spotlight on it.

In addition to that, there’s been such a rise in new technology, for marketers in particular. In theory, [marketers] think this technology will help us be more effective, but it also gets in the way of our ability to align with sales. Marketers measure different things and have different processes, but the access to tech doesn’t give them a place to meet in the middle with sales. Technology allows marketers to hide behind the numbers and not do the harder part, which is talking to sales face to face.

These are some of the reasons why misalignment persists, but it’s all opportunity based.

What is this opportunity?

We have so much focus on growth in our economy. Growing our businesses, obtaining higher revenue goals, having higher velocity in our ability to close business from the first touch to other prospects—all the way through to closing that first deal, and then the repeat business that follows. Those are all opportunities, and we know that the companies that have cracked that code of high velocity and growth really do well.

One of the things that’s fueling that opportunity is subscription-revenue companies, like all of the cloud or SaaS businesses. When you have that subscription model for revenue, it has a lot of benefits, but a lot of challenges, as well. You have to keep those customers really happy, because when they churn, it’ a leaky bucket in terms of revenue. Companies are paying a lot of attention to where net-new revenue is coming from, and tapping that customer base with renewal or subscriptions very strongly to make sure they don’t have to worry about, say, 10% churn a year.

So, when sales and marketing are tightly aligned—and I would include customer success and service in the sales category—you’re protecting that subscription revenue, and expanding the business of your existing customers, and you’re growing that net-new customer base.

You mention that SaaS and subscription-based businesses are doing well with alignment. Are there any businesses that are particularly prone to struggling with sales and marketing alignment?

I think so, especially if it’s an older business that’s been around for 50 or 100 years. There are lots of businesses like that in the United States. We all know that it’s harder to change when things are deeply established, especially when the people have been there for a long time, as well.

But, in the tech world people move around a lot, which is also a big challenge because you lose their knowledge. Companies that make a lot of acquisitions have another set of challenges. They can end up with several different CRM and marketing automation systems every time they make an acquisition.

Smaller companies with between five and 20 people have an opportunity to move much more quickly…. In general I see a lot of innovation happening in those types of companies.

Communication is featured prominently in the study. Do you have any insight into how marketing and sales professionals can break those walls down?

The phrase that I use is back to basics. Everyone is taught that communication makes the world go ’round. A practical example here is for marketers to go on sales calls. They might not have a real role there, but it’s going to put the marketer in the shoes of sales and give them some empathy.

One of the things I’ve done is to reach out to sales to work with marketing on lead definitions, and scoring and routing rules. It’s basic, but it’s at the heart of delivering value to the sales organization, and often at the heart of marketing and sales conflict.

It shouldn’t be a one-time thing, though. Marketers need to lead this charge. That may be controversial to say, but I believe marketers can’t expect sales to want to equally work closely with us. More and more they want to. But, in my experience, I’ve had to go beat down the doors of the sales organization, and talk to them to build trust. Sales are the ones who are carrying the revenue numbers, and have that pressure and responsibility that marketing doesn’t have. We have a lot of responsibility—don’t get me wrong; but if you’ve ever been around salespeople at the end of the quarter, then you know how tense that can be. Their performance is measured by one thing, and one thing only, and they’re going to lose their job if they aren’t achieving their quotas. That pressure is what makes me feel like marketers have to be extra empathetic, and extend the olive branch.

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