One of the first things that have to happen before achieving Sales and Marketing Alignment is creating a better connection between salespeople and marketers. I’ve said many times that alignment is a people issue, not a technology issue. In order to understand how to fix the issue, we have to first understand why it exists. The core reason for why Sales and Marketing have a difficult time “getting along” is that they approach their jobs differently and don’t really understand their counterpart’s perspective. Marketing’s world view is around generating leads while Sales’ focus is on closing individual deals. While closely related activities, their difference is enough to cause a fundamental divergence in focus and priority of tactics.

Marketers judge their projects’ performance with a cold eye. But that performance focus doesn’t always look like action to their colleagues in Sales. [Harvard Business Review]

So if our organization is convinced that Sales and Marketing Alignment is imperative to survival in the B2B environment – where do we start? How do we achieve a better connection between Sales and Marketing? What is the top reason for misalignment? The answer. Communication. We have plenty of empirical evidence that communication between these two functions is often non-existent or sometimes extremely toxic. CEB has shown us that 87% of the terms Sales and Marketing use to describe other are negative. In a survey conducted by the authors of “Aligned to Achieve” there is even more clear evidence that communication between the two functions is a major issue. They asked the question – “What do you think are the biggest challenges in aligning sales and marketing?”. The responses are shown below.

Challenges to Alignment – What do you think are the biggest challenges in aligning Sales and Marketing?

  • Communication – 49%
  • Processes are broken/flawed – 42%
  • Measured by different metrics – 40%
  • Lack of accurate data on target accounts – 39%

What you will notice is not only is communication the #1 reason cited for misalignment, it is also arguably the reason for the following highly ranked responses. The irony of this is that at the core of being a good salesperson or marketer is being able to communicate well. Ha! You can’t even communicate with each other let alone with customers.

I think it’s then evident that communication is probably the best place to start if we want to achieve sustainable change in the organization as it relates to alignment between Sales and Marketing. Here are some practical ways to improve communication and achieve a better connection that are focused on driving revenue for the organization.

Schedule Regular Sales-Marketing Meetings

Use these meetings as a serious opportunity to talk about the health of the sales pipeline and not just a chance to socialize. The focus should be on common metrics like % to target revenue, average deal size, changes in % market share, etc. By looking at these common metrics you can begin taking a System Approach rather than a Functional Approach to connecting with customers. The goal of these types of meetings is to level-set so that both sides of the fence have an accurate picture of the overall state of the business and don’t myopically assume their piece is indicative of the whole. These meetings will also continue to promote a sense of Togetherness so that everyone can continue to have an aligned long-term line of sight to the overall goals of the organization.

Establish a Feedback Loop

One of the most important parts of effective communication is listening. Marketing needs to listen to Sales more. When you have a large sales force this can be challenging because of the sheer size of individuals. However, the insight that salespeople get on a daily basis is invaluable. As an organization, you must find a way to harness the power of customer insight and knowledge in a formalized way. It can be as easy as creating an online form that salespeople can submit through or have time during your Sales-Marketing meetings to receive organized feedback from your salespeople. As Nike tells us – just do it!

Use a Common Language

So often Sales and Marketing are talking about the same thing and don’t even know. In a recent blog I wrote for Quotable by Salesforce, I proposed creating a translation dictionary to help the two be able to understand each other. Having a common language is key to being able to have effective communication and share goals that are focused on driving revenue. To be able to understand what’s working and what’s not we have to be able to look at the same metrics. Service-Level Agreements are also another tactic that help promote using the same language and terminology.

Put Data First

Want to eliminate people making excuses and getting defensive? Put data first. Remove all the emotion out of things and rely on data to tell the story. This doesn’t mean removing empathy and recognizing that many times there is a story behind the data. What it does mean is that as a group we are going to agree that data wins over politics or feelings. It means setting an expectation that judgments about the business are not personal; they are about focusing on the things that we can do to continually improve business performance.

If leaders want to move down the path of better alignment between Sales and Marketing, improving communication should be the foundation of all activities. As communication improves, creating a sense of Togetherness will become much easier.

To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.

-Tony Robbins