Marketing and Sales Alignment for Grown-Ups

Lisa Dennis


EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is part of our “Smarter Sales and Marketing” series, a regular feature where technology marketing and sales experts will be sharing insight, tools, and best practices to help today’s leaders better integrate marketing and sales strategies for maximum success.

As I was thinking about the topic of marketing and sales alignment, I wondered if everything hasn’t already been said…

marketing and sales alingment There are literally piles of technology solutions that claim to do the alignment for you. There are hundreds and hundreds of articles on the top five, ten, twenty ways to “align” the two teams. Good research data abounds from all the industry experts on how alignment, and misalignment, will impact the business. There are a thousand opinions about the age-old tug-of-war on lead generation, passing and conversion. Yet this is still a major challenge for too many companies.

Maybe it is just time to grow up.

We are trying to fix a challenge that is really organizational in nature. Most of the time, they are separate departments who are trying to hit the same goal. Think about it: same goal, two departments – going at it from different perspectives, opinions, and skill sets. Am I over simplifying the problem? Maybe. But the fact remains, even now when the buying premise has changed so dramatically, marketing is one department and sales is another. It doesn’t work as well as it should. And it’s a very old organizational model. Period. An entire industry has sprung up trying to address this basic challenge. One goal – one target – two departments. If you think about it, most of the tools, processes, and technologies are about the “hand-off.”   How do we streamline, fix, integrate, upgrade, aggregate, consolidate, manage, measure, and motivate the hand-off?

What if there was no hand-off?

We keep focusing on how we hand off to each respective team when the person that orchestrates the only hand-off that counts is the buyer. They are handing off to us when they engage with us. Before that, they are on their own journey, doing their own due diligence while we wrestle with our internal struggles and keep churning out leads, content, emails, and sales calls. In many ways, alignment is really about blurring the boundaries between the two functions. Enablement – be it marketing or sales focused – is the cross-roads that brings the two together. But I have witnessed too many enablement efforts that ultimately are not bi-directional, resulting in one side making a LOT of effort, and the other side skimming the top of those efforts and leaving the rest.

So let’s grow up and admit that “blurring the boundaries” , and “aligning the teams” are challenges that keep bumping up against the reality that having two separate, organizational functions isn’t working. I have talked in the past about how selling is a partnership but I think now that what has changed is that we must focus on partnering with the buyer  which means fundamental changes in how we fuel their initial journey, listen for their experiences,  share what we know and communicate how we can assist.

Partnering with ourselves should be a given.

That means really thinking about and actualizing what marketing and sales alignment is really about. Chipping away at what it isn’t might be a good place to start:

  1. It is not about technology.
  2. It is not about lead ____ (feel free to fill in the blank).
  3. It is not just about the sales function.
  4. It is not just about the marketing function.
  5. It is definitely not about more content.
  6. It is not about more tools or less tools.

It’s not about any of these things. It’s about being ONE.

There is one buyer between us and a sale. So let’s really go one-to-one. Let’s combine marketing and sales into a single entity. Remove the organizational barrier and redefine the strategies, tasks and activities. Be one in the way it matters to a potential customer. It should be seamless, collaborative and relevant. The customer should not feel or notice the hand-off – because there should no longer be a hand-off.

One head is better than two.

As I was working on this post, I did a bit of preliminary review of what has been written on alignment. I found an article in the Harvard Business Review written back in 2006 that made a great point:  “All too often, organizations find that they have a marketing function inside Sales, and a sales function inside Marketing.” What does that tell you? Nine years later, this is even more true with the use of field marketing teams and  sales enablement teams all trying to work in the field. Maybe we should stop trying to kind-of work as one team and just be one team. If we did that, what should the imperatives be? Consider these:

  • Jointly define the customer value conversation and build all interactions around that. It should no longer be about orchestrating two integrated conversations. It’s about the only conversation the customer wants to have – which is about their needs.
  • Install leadership who have served in BOTH marketing and sales roles and make it a condition of employment at the director level up.
  • Make sure everyone on the team has joint experience, whether they come in the door with it, or they acquire it during their tenure with you.
  • Redesign the compensation structure for everyone, with individual and team performance metrics tied directly to revenue generation and meeting quota. Move from marketing team and sales team to Revenue Team.
  • Redesign communications so that everyone on the team knows what’s happening in the field, and how prospect/customer interactions are going.
  • Be transparent with metrics so everyone is looking at a clear set that defines the entire group’s performance on a monthly basis.
  • Coordinate prospect and customer outreach so everyone knows what is going out and how it reached or didn’t reach the targets, and how the prospect engaged.

If you looked at redesign from some of these imperatives, what might your ONE organization look like? Let’s just grow up already, and redesign the function to reflect the current reality out there defined by our prospects and customers. It isn’t about aligning with ourselves, it is ALL about aligning with them.


lisa dennis - marketing and sales alignmentAn experienced salesperson and marketer, Lisa Dennis is president and founder of Knowledgence Associates, a sales and marketing consultancy. Pairing hands-on marketing and selling of information and high technology products and services, she understands what the customer imperative needs to be for communicating information about products and services to varied audiences. Lisa’s philosophy is that the core of successful marketing and sales initiatives is “doing the homework” – making sure that the information side of programs and campaigns are solid.

Prior to founding Knowledgence in 1997, she held publishing, product management and marketing/sales roles at Bolt Beranek and Newman, Thomson & Thomson (a member company of The Thomson Corporation), The Center for Business Intelligence, and World Congress. You can follow Lisa and Knowledgence on LinkedIn and Twitter.

b2b sales, b2b technology buyers, lead follow-up, lead management, marketing and sales alignment, marketing strategies, sales and marketing alignment, sales and marketing strategies

Contact Us Contact Sales
Conversion Pixel