Challenges Aligning Sales & Marketing in B2B Organizations

Challenges Aligning Sales & Marketing in B2B Organizations

By Carey Houston

Right hand, meet left hand.


In many B2B organizations, there are real challenges aligning sales and marketing. We believe there are 3 key reasons why this happens, and 3 ways these organizations can work to address this misalignment.


Why is this misalignment happening?


1.Lack of alignment on the customer


In many organizations – especially ones with large or distributed teams – there can be a lack of alignment as to the customer being served. Marketing is working on a great new campaign for enterprise customers, while sales is working on a sales blitz to farm existing accounts and drive renewals before year end. Getting clear on specifically who is the ideal customer, which are the “best” projects, and how marketing and sales will treat prospects that fall outside that definition, is critical for gaining alignment.


2.Lack of shared understanding of the buyer journey


Sales typically has a strong sense of how the buyer buys – the steps or stages, timing, and who’s involved in what stage. However, in my experience, few marketers take or have the opportunity to learn this first hand, and thus lack the critical context of where their marketing efforts can best be leveraged to support a buyer through their buying journey.


3.Metrics that don’t incent collaboration


In many large organizations, there are no shared metrics that assess sales and marketing success. Marketing may be focused on the number of leads delivered to sales (MQLs); while Sales fusses about the quality of those leads. Instead, ensuring that Sales and Marketing win (or lose) together is a key step in gaining alignment.


So, then how to fix this misalignment?


1.Joint strategy and planning sessions – that start with the what (goals), who (customer) and how (buyer journey)


When preparing operational plans, have Marketing and Sales work together to define:


  • Clear goals
  • The ideal customer profile they will both target
  • The strategies and tactics they will use to get in front of those prospects
  • A shared understanding of how best to reach, engage and convert prospects to customers
  • And the roles of marketing efforts vs. sales efforts in achieving those goals


2.Shared success metrics


I strongly believe that success metrics must be defined such that Marketing can’t win if Sales doesn’t hit its revenue target; and Sales can’t win if Marketing doesn’t deliver on the support it needs. As a VP marketing, I like simple metrics and have typically preferred my personal performance be measured by revenue. Nothing like a clear metric to drive clarity in a broader team! If revenue isn’t your preferred metric, then be sure to include metrics that are true outcome metrics – not just those that measure activity (like website visits, event attendees, emails opened) and trace success all the way to closed opportunities to assess true ROI.


3.Regular and open cross-team communications


It’s key to have the Marketing and Sales teams aligned on strategies and metrics, but those, too, will be insufficient if there’s not a mechanism for regular ongoing communications between the teams. In my companies, we’ve typically had regular “schmarketing” meetings. bringing together Sales, Customer Success, and Marketing – to discuss how we can best hit our customer acquisition, retention and renewal goals. Getting the cross-team communication flowing freely is a key job for the leaders of the company, and will empower the rest of the team to share lessons learned, ideas, and feedback.