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After what feels like decades of discussion around the importance of strong alignment between Sales and Marketing functions, to read the following statistics in the most recent Green Hat AMI B2B Marketing Research Report 2020 was somewhat surprising:

Only 46% of respondents saw marketing and sales as partners in strategic growth

25% saw Marketing as a revenue and pipeline generator

19% saw marketing as a cost centre and providing tactical campaign support

10% indicated marketing and sales do not work closely together

It would seem from these results that we are little closer to harmonising the relationship between two functions and that true sales-marketing alignment is still in the realms of distant, unattainable utopia for many organisations.

But what do organisations have to gain from closer alignment and why is this concerning?

In the midst of this pandemic-induced global recession however, alignment must be ensured, and for many organisations, who have already adjusted the scale of the sales and marketing operations and investments, it may be a matter of survival.

Organisations which fail to ensure a more strategic union risk valuable resources and effort are expended in areas which do not drive the right results for the right products, customers and markets. Those which relegate the marketing function to a supporting role on the fringes fail to gain the most from their marketing investments (and people) and are more likely to overlook some of the marketing issues which are impacting on the business and still need to be addressed.

Perhaps even worse, anything but a strategic alignment risks potential foregone revenue as inadequate resources are diluted away from the sources of best possible ROI, and these may be high opportunity costs organisations can ill-afford as the global economy slows.

A more strategic union of Sales and Marketing will allow:

  • Closer collaboration ensures a strong feedback loop to be created allowing spend and effort to be more rapidly re-deployed to the right areas
  • Collaboration ensures appropriate sharing of knowledge and mutual upskilling

For B2B organisations, with their unique sales-cycle chartacteristics, the cost of getting it wrong on alignment can be very significant in the current environment

A strong marketing team will be immersed in the product, able to articular the economic value of initiatives in terms meaningful to the Board and to other functions in constant dialogue with Sales but prepared to accept the natural tension between the two functions as a fact of life and make each decision with a high level of conviction.

Towards a more strategic working relationship and better revenue performance

There are specific tasks which can be initiated right now to help optimise the relationship and make each function accountable to the other and to the business:

  • Define the sales process and the key metrics (e.g. MQL, SQL) and set a benchmark for performance
  • Implement frequent and ongoing review meetings to ensure performance on these metrics are discussed and remedial actions taken if needed
  • Address any underlying issues through training, development and more discussion

Addressing the concerns head on is important for the Marketing trade

Of course there is a need to address the underlying concerns with Marketing which are reflected in these results. If Marketing functions are not providing tactical campaign support or generating revenue and pipeline then there is something amiss. Further, if there is little or no working relationship between sales and marketing then this should prompt Boards to address this as a priority in the current environment. It stands to reason that the current pandemic-induced recession should underline the need for all parties in the revenue-generation process should be pulling in the same direction. Right now, if teams are focussed on anything but customer retention, driving account value, cross and upselling, driving clear product propositions and supporting account-based initiatives to support and drive revenue, then their alignment with the needs of the business as a whole needs to come into question.

It is a common criticism however that some Marketers are somewhat inward-looking, do not have the required product knowledge, means to demonstrate impact or the ability to use the language of the Boardroom in order to influence, and these areas need to be addressed before the dial can shift on these results. In this context, trust and influence is most often earned, not freely-given.

Takeaways for management:

  • Sales and Marketing alignment should now be a critical requirement to optimise revenue generation
  • Understand the issues preventing closer collaboration between both functions and work to
  • If necessary, hard code alignment through the formation of working parties or project teams
  • If appropriate, an account-based-marketing approach can resolve some of the issues identified
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