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‘Aligned To Achieve’: Sales, Marketing Unity Crucial To Business

Organizations where sales and marketing functions are well-aligned can grow 20% faster and be 15% more profitable than those where sales and marketing are disconnected or—worse—at odds, said Tracy Eiler and Andrea Austin, co-authors of the new book “Aligned to Achieve: How to Unite Your Sales and Marketing Teams Into a Single Force for Growth” (Wiley, 2016).

Eiler and Austin, CMO and VP of enterprise sales, respectively, at InsideView, began working together when Eiler joined the software company nearly two years ago. At that time, Eiler found a marketing organization that avoided working with sales and a head of sales frustrated by the disconnect. After repairing the relationship, they spoke at conferences and found their tale resonated with others, leading them to write the book. 

Misalignment is “incredibly common,” Eiler said, with competition often fostered by a CEO who thinks it will boost performance on both departments. “It’s almost Darwinian in nature.” But that can lead to what “working around each other, rather than working together toward an end goal,” Austin said she has observed.  

CMO.com spoke to Eiler and Austin about the state of sales and marketing alignment in B2B and what it will take to improve.

CMO.com: Why write this book? Is it still that common to have a disconnect between marketing and sales?
Eiler: All the marketers I know, if you ask them what they worry about the most, they worry if they are delivering enough pipeline. But right next to that it’s “My relationship with my sales leader. Oh, my gosh, I don’t get along with him or her. Our teams are fighting.”

We know there’s an emotional component. There’s a career and job satisfaction component that’s undeniable. But more importantly, there’s a revenue impact in the business. IDC has data that says a misaligned organization can cost you up to 10% of your revenue and growth.

It’s a huge pain, and it’s worse than ever because the buyer is more in control and technology has just exploded. We think technology is enabling us to be more productive; that’s true, except there are so many choices. There’s too many different systems. It messes up our hand-off. It messes up our definitions and our metrics, and it causes all sorts of conflicts. We’ve got to get our arms around it.

CMO.com: How bad does it get at the average company?
Austin: There is a mutual respect between the two organizations, but at that human level, if you’re operating in a mode of distrust and fear—if sales are the bullies and marketing are the people who pick good colors—is that a good relationship? Are you bringing your best game forward? You’re operating in a state of fear instead of experimenting. If we don’t experiment in our business every day and try new things, we are stale.

We’re distracted with way too many decisions right now. I probably get 400 emails a day: “What about this technology? What about that?” I could easily go and get my own technology that does the things I want to run in sales or my own lead-generation organization. But isn’t it better to do that together, so we’re coordinated and communicating, running campaigns all the way from the top of the funnel to the bottom?

CMO.com: With all the data available, why does this misalignment persist? Can data bridge the gap?
Traditionally, marketers care about leads or people responses, and sales thinks about accounts and growing those accounts. If you think of those two fundamental points of view—in how we are brought up in our careers and how we think about what we do every day—that’s a fundamental point of misalignment.

It’s a great function to get us to work together, and we can solve the data problem. Together, we’re going to figure out the total addressable market, the ideal customer, all the accounts. We’re going to make sure they’re on the same database, that it’s refreshed continually and clean, and that we are really working on that focused approach together.

CMO.com: If you do nothing else, what’s the one thing a leader needs to do to begin fixing this disconnect?
The one attribute a leader has to have is courage. It sounds corny, but it’s true.

It’s pretty monumental to reach across the aisle to your sales and marketing counterpart and say, “Look, we’ve got to get in this together” when there’s been a history of conflict—and there often is—that goes back years.

Austin: I’m a big believer in not blaming, seeking to understand the why, and having an intellectual curiosity. I think it’s very convenient for sales leaders to not have that intellectual curiosity: What is our lead-scoring model? What does justify a lead? Let’s define those things together, versus, “That’s not my responsibility.” Quite frankly, that’s crap. It is my responsibility because my team is responsible for taking that lead and turning it into business.  

You [have to] have that intellectual curiosity to click down a couple of levels to really understand the mechanics under the business.

CMO.com: What that must happen to align sales and marketing?
Without question, you have to have the support of your leadership team. Tracy and I started this process together, and it’s not a set-and-forget; we actually have to revisit it pretty regularly.

We refer to our meetings every two weeks as “smarketing.” Our head of HR was saying: “Could we maybe do ‘sproduct’ so those are aligning?” It doesn’t quite roll off the tongue easily, but the point is well-taken.  

Eiler: I think in most companies it should start with sales and marketing, with the support of the CEO, and then you can go and tackle the IT or systems side of things, as well as your product team, to make sure that what they put in the product is what the market needs.

I’m biased, clearly. But if sales and marketing stand together and go together to your leadership team, saying to the rest of the organization: “This is what needs to happen”—whether it be a new product, or special partnership, or new system, whatever the thing may be—nobody can say no.

Sales is closing all the business. Marketing is finding new business for the future. If we’re together, it is an undeniable force. Andrea and I joke that we’re in collusion, but it’s true. 

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