In many cases “sales and marketing” are co-joined when describing the revenue generation function of companies; the implication is of an efficient and effective whole. This article seeks to explore the reality of that assumption and suggest some ways the concept can be made more real.

How do you measure Alignment?

Whilst businesses who make and ship products routinely measure the effectiveness of the resources they deploy, the same rigour is often not applied across the more difficult to measure revenue generation functions.

This is because it isn’t easy; measurement points are open to interpretation:-

  • What exactly is a lead; at what point is it “sales ready” and how does it reach that stage.
  • What sales stages does that lead progress through and how is progress verified?

The challenge of applying an absolute measure to an often complex and variable business development process is a significant but not impossible challenge for ambitious companies.

Is Alignment Natural?

We believe that there are some fundamental experiential differences between marketing and sales professionals.

Marketeers often have formal functional education, are asked to promote their companies brand values and articulate product / service strengths, often at feature and function level. They spend the majority of their time in company offices and relatively little time in day to day customer engagements and so their perspectives are often unchallenged in the “real world”

Salespeople, by contrast, often have little to no formal functional education but have good communication skills and strong domain knowledge. They experience their companies brand values alongside their customers with whom they engage in discussions to apply products / services to meet each customer’s needs. As they conduct day to day business they develop a clear “real world” perspective.         

These experiential differences are amplified as marketing and sales operate with very different planning perspectives. Marketing can form well structured plans for their activities; campaigns that secure funding are planned ahead of time and create “resource scarcity” as they place temporary high demand on resources. By contrast, sales’ ability to plan is determined by their customers and prospects; they have to respond to the buying cycle and, in complex sales situations, have periods of “opportunity scarcity” followed by periods focused on closing deals – creating the classic revenue generation wave.

These factors, we suggest, make alignment between marketing and sales an unnatural state i.e. achieving and maintaining it requires considerable conscious effort.

The Foundations of Alignment

In order to align Marketing and Sales to a common purpose we suggest both functions participate in four foundational activities:-

  • Develop a Compelling Message: a distinctive, buyer oriented, differentiated message  
  • Define the end to end Process: segment / describe / attribute responsibility / measure
  • Measure and Manage Inputs: consider inputs as well as outputs from each stage
  • Test and Refine Initiatives: be evidence led and try new approaches to find what works

Each of these four activities should be completed in collaboration with key participants and then implemented within teams to validate. In this way the level of alignment builds and the level of achieved performance increases.