Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sales & Marketing Alignment: Define Before You Mandate!

I have just finished reading the CMO Council's "2011 State of Marketing" report where Chief Marketing Officers and other Marketing Executives highlighted by a huge majority that the top mandates senior management have for Marketing in 2011 is unsurprisingly to "Drive top-line growth" and "Grow or retain market share". Of course we already know that on the other side of the house Sales is also being told to get new customers while holding onto and selling more to existing customers. In other words the exact same message. So at least we have alignment at the mandate level!

 But herein lies a bit of a challenge, Christine Crandell writing in Forbes magazine argues that while just about every CEO desperately wants sales and marketing to align and team, "most are unclear as to the right questions to ask in order to understand how well Marketing and Sales are aligned". Crandell recommends adopting three metrics to measure alignment (which you can read more about in the full article) but leaving aside the prescription for a moment, I think there is a more fundamental issue to address. Erik Laurijssen, CMO, Luma Technologies in a article for Sales and Marketing Management states that "Instead of just giving an overall direction to increase revenue, senior management must take an active role in confirming how departments define their roles and their understanding of other departments." In other words, the first step on the road to Sales and Marketing alignment must be taken by the CEO and executive management. There needs to be a clearly defined and articulated outline of what successful alignment looks like. Once that has been clearly communicated and understood by both Sales and Marketing, then we can move to the metrics discussion Christine Crandell talks about.

If you reflect on this for a moment, I am sure you can recollect occasions where executive mandates were issued but with little to no definition of what success would look like on a tangible and tactical basis and indeed how it would be measured. And so it behoves all of us in executive management positions to take some time out to work through:

  • what will optimum Sales and Marketing alignment look like in our organization?
  • why it is important?
  • how will it positively impact our customers and prospects?
  • what difference will it make to our strategic and financial goals?
  • how will we define and measure success?
  • are we prepared to make the changes neccessary to ensure its success?
  • will we have the fortitude to stick with it during what could be a difficult transition phase?
And finally, given what we know about the changes in buyer behavior, do we really have any choice than to make this one of our organization's highest prioirities?

1 comment:

  1. Hi John - Thank you for a great post! I absolutely agree with the points you make!

    For the longest time I really struggled establishing that bridge between my marketing department, and sales. I feel we were quite good at providing collateral support, but where we weren't good at was understanding, for example, what type of leads sales needed. The biggest factor in my view that caused this was a complete break down in communication: I didn't know what questions to ask, and my sales VP didn't know what information to provide me with.

    After being a GM for nearly 3 years, and actually managing both sales and marketing which included going on sales calls and strategizing with sales, the way I looked at sales completely changed. I have a huge appreciation for what these people do, and personally feel every marketer should live the sales reality for a month before taking on marketing. This would include making cold calls, following up with leads, and going on sales calls. Being so close to sales made me ultimately a better marketer, I believe.