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Hammer and nails
January 5, 2021

5 Ways to Fix Sales and Marketing Misalignment

Hammer and nails

“Sales and marketing” ought to be an organization’s bread and butter — a complementary pairing in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Unfortunately, sales and marketing are often like oil and water instead: individual components that stubbornly refuse to blend.

Whether it’s poor communication, absence of agreement on priorities or wasted effort on both sides, the lack of alignment between sales teams and marketing teams can stunt a company’s growth and create an adversarial culture—especially in a virtual environment.

How do you fix this problem? That was the subject of the recent webinar, Tools & Techniques to Break Through Sales and Marketing Silos, hosted by SMM Connect and Training Magazine Network.

Five Ways to Align Sales and Marketing For Better Results

Allego’s Chief Revenue Officer George Donovan and Chief Marketing Officer Wayne St. Amand discussed how their collaborative approach to sales and marketing overcame the inherent friction between the two departments. This teamwork enabled Allego, which provides a learning and enablement platform for sales and other teams, to sustain record growth in customers and revenue.

Here are the five big takeaways from the session.

1. Sales and Marketing Must Listen to Each Other

In a live poll conducted at the start, webinar attendees were asked to identify their top sales and marketing alignment challenge. The leading response (68%) was “Sales and marketing don’t communicate effectively.”

Donovan was not surprised. “That tends to be the core of all the challenges,” he said. “If you’re not having conversations, you’re not aligning on key strategic and tactical decisions.”

Alignment on those decisions starts with an agreement on critical definitions, including:

  • Addressable market
  • Ideal customer profile
  • Service level agreements

St. Amand agreed — which in itself reinforced the overarching message about the value of effective communication. He said sales and marketing must operate with both a “singular purpose” and “a single unified way to measure it.”

“If you don’t have that,” he added, “then you are naturally operating in a silo.”

2. Communication Must Be More Intentional

For Donovan, a clear sign that Allego’s sales and marketing efforts would become more collaborative occurred not long after St. Amand began as CMO in May 2019. As Donovan recalled, “We had a conversation where Wayne asked me, ‘What can I do to make your life easier?'”

That approach — proactively beginning the conversation with the goal of understanding the other department’s challenges — is essential to eliminating silos. And research reveals that this shift is long overdue. One-third of sales and marketing teams don’t talk on a regular basis. Moreover, only 40% of sales leaders meet with marketing more than four times a year.

When meetings are held that infrequently, St. Amand noted, “They don’t feel like meetings at all — they feel like forced labor.” Issues that have been allowed to fester become a source not of collaboration but of confrontation.

3. Communicating During a Pandemic Requires Extra Effort

With COVID-19 forcing many companies to switch to remote workforces and virtual selling, the communication challenges have become even more pronounced. “When we talk now, it’s always through a screen,” St. Amand said. “It’s communication with a lot less fidelity than you normally get in a face-to-face meeting.”

All the more reason to be more intentional. And the communication shouldn’t just be leader-to-leader or leader-to-direct-report. “George and I talk pretty much every week without fail, but so do our teams,” St. Amand said. “Each of our individual team members, all down the tiers of responsibility — they’re talking to each other, they’re understanding each other’s pains. It’s so incredibly critical.”

4. You Can’t Sell Oranges if You’re Marketing Apples

Nothing speaks more to the fundamental misalignment between sales and marketing than another startling statistic from research: 70% of the sales enablement content that marketing produces never gets used.

This disconnect often starts with a fundamental disagreement about what constitutes a viable lead. “Sometimes sales and marketing operate with different datasets of customers and prospects, and they don’t always sync and talk to one another,” Donovan said.

One disruptive change has been the shift away from outbound to inbound marketing, which has sparked a role reversal. Often, prospective customers have already done most of their research — using marketing materials they’ve located on the web — before they make first contact with a sales rep. Resulting inbound marketing materials that are misaligned with the sales team’s goals can do more harm than good.

“In most organizations, it feels like sales is constantly dragging marketing along and saying we need this piece of content, we need this deck, we need this white paper, etc.,” Donovan said.

That reactive approach is unsustainable. “It’s great to give that lead flow to a sales team,” St. Amand said. “But if the sales team doesn’t have an agreed-to SLA, then that lead flow is not going to be prosecuted properly. It’s not going to get qualified. An absolutely symbiotic relationship has to occur.”

Meeting that goal requires the marketing department to anticipate the sales department’s needs. As an analogy, Donovan cited hockey great Wayne Gretzky’s explanation of what made him so successful: “It’s because I don’t go to where the puck is. I go to where the puck is going to be.”

5. Marketing Must Be More Agile

Anticipating where the puck is going to be requires a less static, more agile approach. Too often, marketing departments take a set-it-and-forget-it attitude toward creating content. “As marketers, we have to stop doing this,” St. Amand said. “We give our content to people and walk away and never return to that piece because we think we nailed it.”

If that sales content is even a little off target, it might as well have missed completely. Either way, the result will be no sale. So marketers have to take constructive feedback from the sales team, which is actually dealing with prospects in the field. This more agile approach results in “content produced by subject matter experts,” Donovan said. “It’s produced by your customers, it’s produced by your best and brightest salespeople.”

“At Allego, we use our own platform to watch game tape, to watch our stuff being used and collect metrics on how it’s being used,” St. Amand said. “After we re-engineered the Allego sales presentation, we released it knowing that within probably 12 to 15 days we were going to completely revise it again based on all the data we were gathering. We’re driving that iterative process so that we can build the best, most powerful tools to go win the market.”

The Next Challenge: Maintain What You’ve Gained

The agile approach to aligning marketing with sales is only beginning to get traction, as evidenced by another live poll conducted during the webinar. Just over half the respondents said the marketing and sales webinar was the first they had even heard about “agile content.”

But that also speaks to the point that the webinar started with: that sales and marketing need to do a better job of communicating with each other and being open to learn about new ideas and points of view. “We never claim to have this relationship between sales and marketing completely licked,” Donovan said. “But I can tell you that we work very hard at it. And we believe it’s a strategic differentiator for us.”

Learn More

For a deeper look at how Allego brought its sales and marketing teams into alignment, watch the webinar on demand today.

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