Sales Management

12 Steps to Sales & Marketing Alignment

Lately I’ve been thinking about the topic of Sales & Marketing Alignment (S&M A). In some circles, this seems to be a hot topic, banal for others.

It occurs to me that it may be a solution looking for a problem definition. Kind of like world peace, or even the hereafter. For some, S&M A means one thing, yet for others something completely different.

Let me give you an example. Sales tends to be driven by the number ($$$), where ‘conversion‘ means from non customer to customer, or annual spend from X to Y. It might even mean adding new lines of business to a customer, or even converting some New Product Introduction (NPI) to them. Conversion means revenue.

For marketing, this is not the case. Talk to a marketer, and they’ll tell you that conversion means that you we’re able to get the ‘buyer’, to take one of the hoped for next steps in an information cycle. Clicking on something, downloading, subscribing, providing demographic info, even as simple as paging to a specific article or like. None of these are revenue, yet each represents a form of success for marketing.

Clearly on two different wavelengths. Yet both are essential to driving revenue.

Yet its not about the lexicon, its about productivity - the economic yield from investments in sales and marketing activity.

Here are some things that sales and marketing might need to be aligned on.

  1. The aforementioned Lexicon; definitions, terms, acronyms. What really is a Lead anyway? What makes it qualified for sales attention? What is the acceptance process? Do your scoring algorithms really work? What does frequency and volume of website / conversion touches really tell you?
  2. Priorities - their collective activity must produce Revenue else the enterprise will fail.
  3. Roles - who exactly does what
  4. Goals - what does each role need to produce as an end result
  5. Metrics - how shall the activity of each be measured? Who decides?
  6. Reporting - who should get to see the Achievement against Plan?
  7. Accountabilities - What are the rewards and consequences for Outcomes?
  8. Timing - Sales runs 30/60/90 days, while Marketing needs be 12/24/36 months. Coordinating these is essential to solid cooperative operation.
  9. Expectations - what does each group really expect from one another?
  10. Arbitration - when gridlock happens - who decides? One article I’ve read recently points at the CFO!
  11. Messaging - What is an effective sales message vs a brand message?
  12. Buyer Persona for Marketing have different requirements and focal points than Buyer Persona for Sales? Hint: AIDA is not Buyer Decision Process
  13. Recruitment - are you hiring too many standoffish Lone Wolf types in sales, or too many prima donnas in Marketing? Or do you truly have a team culture fully committed to the company mission first, careers second?
  14. Culture - is collaboration and collegiality more important then internal competition? Too many risk takers or too few? Is time about now, or only about the future? Revenue generation is a team sport!

Yet there is one overarching theme here that must be addressed. What is the main benefit of Sales & Marketing Alignment? And how does that benefit relate to impact of misAlignment?

Some people such as the folks at would have you focus on lead quality and lead scoring. Some of the conditions to deal with questions like: are the leads good enough for sales? Are they ‘ripe’ or receptive enough? Are they too late or too stale to be acted upon. They have some expertise - they could be right.

For others, its a question of wasted effort, which could be seen as a Cost issue, or more significantly a Productivity issue. Depending on whose stats you look at, as much as 80% of all marketing collateral goes unused by sales say the folks at - a serious consumption gap. Why is this? Can’t find it when needed? Doesn’t make any difference when they do? Not granular enough? Not used by sales at the right stage of the sales process? No standards for use? One can hazard many guesses about the size of the consumption gap.

Maybe its simply timing. The leads are provided on quality, on time, yet sales acts too late to get any traction. Fresh leads gone stale. Not a Marketing caused problem, yet marketing’s conversion to revenue stats will suck, as will their Lead Cost per Revenue Dollar, Cost Per Order Dollar - so they receive the consequences of the problem. Sales already has &/or is the problem. The BottomLine is that the Company suffers.

What have I missed? What would you remove? Or do you think S&M A is a misguided holy grail not worth the ink its getting these days?

The New Quotas are UnFair

At one time or another, and hopefully not too often, the sales quotas will need to be reset. Typically this happens every year to meeting changing company goals, yet it does not happen in all companies, or in all offering lines.

When it does happen though, regardless of how much expectation setting you do in advance, you can count of a few things:
  • someone will not ‘get it’
  • some will get it, and find every loophole and unintended consequence of plan oversight
  • a bunch of people will not like it
  • someone, or many someones will declare it to be unfair

Many companies use relatively simple over/under metrics to calculate their payouts. Smarter companies use more integrated techniques that include performance against potential in categories such as volume, growth rate, margin, churn rate, new product introduction and more.

Back to our base case.
You are a new to the company in the role of First Line Sales Manager, responsible for 8 - 10 sales people. A group of reps are jumping up and down about fairness, or rather the unfairness of their quotas. While you’ve anticipated some resistance, this group is particularly vocal, persistent, and in fact down right ornery about it.

It would be easy to lean on the authority of your position, and simply push back - “my way or the highway”. Your spidey sense is telling you to look before you leap.

  • What are the measures you would use to assess their claims?
  • How do you really know if they have a point or not, whether their claims have any merit?
  • How would you construct your case once you are clear?
  • If they had merit, how would you deal with Corporate?

Please share your experiences, lessons learned, and how you’d deal with things now.

End Game

Its the End Game!

At this point in time, I’ve examined many many sales methodologies, and have found them to be quite useful. Each provides some unique insight int human nature, the seller / buyer conversation, and insight into organization behaviour that is worth knowing.

And there seems to be an endless volume of approaches, systems. methodologies and so on. Each proclaiming to be the answer to what ails you. Sounds good, yet talk is cheap.

Here’s a startling fact. The only material change in ‘Sales’ over the past 10 years is an increase in the NoDec rate, or No Decision rate. It is up by 10% to the detriment of Wins and clearcut Losses.

That tells me that in spite of all the Sales 2.0 bruhaha, what has changed is buyer behavior. They cannot or will not decide. When that happens, regardless of the quality of the sales process, nothing is going to happen.

Why is that?

My theory is simply this. We are at the end of career cycle for most baby boomers. In the end game, mistakes are fatal to the outcome. In any endeavour, mistakes at the beginning can be recovered from. In the end game, rarely.

So for the millions of Baby Boomers in positions of authority, change is a dirty word, change equals risk. And when the finish line is in plain sight, why would anyone put their remaining career time, pension, separation bonus, and so on at risk? Personal, Financial, and Professional Career rewards are minimal at best compared to the downside.

So nowadays, nobody makes a compelling decision that leads back to themselves. Instead they invent committee process, matrix decision algorithms, seek total agreement and consensus, before moving forward. The most probable outcome of this type of process is Indecision, lengthening sales cycles, and more often than not, Decision Avoidance.

Fear is a powerful motivator in the end game.