Overcoming Barriers to Marketing and Sales Alignment


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I was delighted to spend about 30 minutes doing a video interview with John Golden from Sales POP! Online and Pipeliner CRM. We had a great conversation about marketing and sales alignment and some of the things I’ve learned about how to improve this for B2B companies. You can watch the interview here, or read about the highlights below.

Why such a problem? John asked why marketing and sales alignment was such a perennial issue and still a problem for B2B companies. My response was that barriers still remain because of the different objectives of each department. Sales is trying to make their number this quarter – especially in public companies where the stock price and executive jobs can be affected by the ability to hit quarterly revenue targets. By contrast, good marketers do want to support their sales counterparts today, but they are also looking out two, three or four quarters, and sometimes even years.

Another major barrier is a lack of credible metrics and tracking systems.  When it comes to the end of a quarter where the numbers aren’t made, sales is pointing at marketing and marketing is pointing at sales, and the CEO is often influenced by who is more persuasive.

Why is success leading to failure? One more problem we see is that past success can lead to failure. Sales, marketing and executive personnel have been doing things in a certain way for years. But what brought them success yesterday is not working today. This can be especially troubling if you have either the sales or marketing leader remains anchored to the past, while his or her counterpart in the other department is a change agent.

The past will hinder you if your focus is entirely on the sales process. Of course, we would like to manage prospects in a structured manner, but in today’s world the buyer is mostly in control. They will zig when you tell them to zag, and they will find out what others say about you regardless of how you try to hide it. You need to understand how the buyer’s journey is evolving. Accept this fact, or better yet, embrace it, and you will be ahead of the competition. Figure out how prospects like to buy and sell more by selling less.

The wrong model? Too many B2B companies don’t understand (or practice) the lead-to-revenue (L2R) model. L2R is everything that happens from the time somebody contacts your company, from a marketing and sales standpoint, until that deal is booked. With the right L2R model, marketing and sales knows exactly what their role is in the process, and how to best facilitate the movement of leads for maximum revenue output. Accountability is high because there are metrics at every stage and when something goes off track, it is much easier to bring it back to a high performance level.

There are other barriers, but the five mentioned above: 1. competing objectives; 2. poor metrics; 3. inefficient legacy practices; 4. focusing on the selling (not the buying) process; and 5. lack of an effective lead-to-revenue model – can put a big damper on marketing and sales alignment. Of course, this will also impact revenue growth.

As John suggested during our talk, it can be difficult to bring the marketing, sales and other executive stakeholders together to define and overcome these barriers. This is where you can use an outside diagnostician, otherwise known as a “lead-to-revenue expert”, to help you figure exactly what the problems are and create a plan to get you on a better path. We have experienced scenarios where the identification (and fix) of one key bottleneck can make a difference of more than 10 percent in overall performance.

Service Level Agreement. One last thought on overcoming barriers to marketing and sales alignment: Rather than leave the relationship between marketing and sales ambiguous, you should create a service level agreement (SLA) between the two departments. Your SLA should contain a few essential items.

  1. Number of leads required
  2. When they are to be delivered
  3. What constitutes a sales-ready lead
  4. How leads are distributed to the field
  5. How sales reps disposition leads
  6. How marketing’s contribution is measured through a closed-loop system

Much more about SLAs in a future post. In the meantime, knock down your barriers, operate in a unified and metrics-driven manner, and prosper. And when you have a few minutes, enjoy the SalesPop interview.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Christopher Ryan
Christopher Ryan is CEO of Fusion Marketing Partners, a B2B marketing consulting firm and interim/fractional CMO. He blogs at Great B2B Marketing and you can follow him at Google+. Chris has 25 years of marketing, technology, and senior management experience. As a marketing executive and services provider, Chris has created and executed numerous programs that build market awareness, drive lead generation and increase revenue.


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