Ever been in a meeting talking through leads and pipeline and heard…
- “We spend so much time and effort delivering leads to the sales team and then they don’t do anything with them.”
- “Well, marketing sends over all these leads that aren’t real. We can’t use them.”
Classic sales and marketing misalignment. It’s no wonder these two teams historically don’t get along.
This blows my mind because sales and marketing are trying to do the exact same thing: Drive revenue.
Yeah, marketers and salespeople think about how to do it differently. The tactics look different. The day-to-day looks different. But whether you’re crafting email copy and social media advertising or spending days pounding the phones, you’re doing it because you’re trying to grow the company.
It would even be nice if this was just a minor, internal issue that could be fixed without losing anything. But, sadly, this is a trillion-dollar problem from lost sales productivity and wasted marketing budget, according to a report from the IDC. Not getting this right could literally be the financial difference in scaling or not existing.
I don’t know about you, but there are a lot of things I could do with a trillion dollars. This isn’t a new problem, but it’s one you have to solve if you’re going to build a sustainable and growing business. That’s why I spoke to Mike Volpe, VP of B2B Payments at Capital One; Kyle Lacy, SVP at Seismic; Heidi Bullock, CMO at Tealium; and Guillaume Cabane (aka “G”), founder of HyperGrowth Partners, to understand how to better align sales and marketing teams.
Why Can’t Sales and Marketing Get Along, Anyway?
Okay. There’s a real reason why sales and marketing don’t get along.
Any typical B2B company uses two inputs for revenue: marketing and sales. As I’ve already mentioned, there’s still one overarching goal, which is growing revenue. Marketing generates a certain amount and sales generates a certain amount, and the results can vary pretty widely, based on your business.
The real disconnect stems from a lack of clarity around each team’s contribution to that overall revenue number. That’s because of five misalignment points:
Heidi’s Mindset: Marketing is Sales
The #1 thing that needs to change before you can have true marketing and sales alignment is mindset. Marketers need to stop thinking of marketing as a separate function from sales. The same thing goes for salespeople.
Back in the day, there was a clear line between the two teams. There’s a well-worn phrase I’ve heard often as a marketer: “Sales is your first customer.”
Not anymore. They’re not your customer — they’re your team. If you think you’re not selling when you’re in marketing, you’re just kidding yourself. And if you think you’re not a steward of the brand when you’re in sales—same thing.
“I believe in one revenue team,” says Heidi Bullock, CMO at Tealium. “If you’re in marketing and don’t think you’re selling, you’re in the wrong job. We’re all really in sales at the end of the day. We have different parts of the process, but internally, we all need to focus on selling.”
Fixing misalignment between sales and marketing starts with re-conceptualizing what sales and marketing even mean right now. Your business is increasingly all-digital. You’ve got marketers completely focused on checkout flow and payment (sales) and sales teams running email campaigns and social media blitzes (marketing). Stop thinking about them as completely different.
“A lot of people need to just step out of the weeds a little bit sometimes,” says Heidi. “I’ve always been the kind of marketer that works closely with sales because that’s what it takes to win. What’s the greater goal we’re striving for, and are you helping that happen or putting more roadblocks in the way?”
This is especially true if you’re running an ABM play. At Tealium, they have multiple segments of the sales team that work directly with marketing, not just for a classic inbound motion, but as they build a true ABM strategy.
Says Heidi, “I’m constantly asking, ‘What can we do to help this account either move forward or really gain traction within that account?’ Sometimes we’ll see an account where there’s a lot of marketing engagement, and so we know that’s a good time for sales to get in touch. Conversely, if there’s no engagement, then we ask, ‘Marketing, what can you do to create that engagement?’ That way it’s more of a team sport and we’re in this together.”
The data bears this out. According to Marketo, businesses are 67% better at closing deals when sales and marketing work together. And SiriusDecisions reported that B2B orgs with greater sales and marketing alignment achieved 24% faster revenue growth and 27% faster profit growth over three years.
If you’ve ever wanted to have your, “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose” moment for your business, it’s now. There is no sales vs. marketing. You’re all in this together.
Goals and KPIs with Mike: Set Goals and Scorecards Together
One way to encourage that mindset shift is to set goals and determine KPIs together. The more you start acting like one team, the easier it will be to think of yourselves as one team.
You’ve been in those meetings with Sales where you’re presenting what you think is a good metric that shows solid progress, but the sales team just doesn’t care. Or you’ve felt like you don’t have enough context on what the sales team actually needs to close the gap because all they’re reporting on is the final numbers.
At least with Zoom presentations, it’s harder to see the eye-rolls.
It’s not about understanding the two teams, but about finding a way to tie your goal back to revenue as a marketing leader, and quantifying how much you’re expected to contribute. Is it 50%, 75%? You should know how much pipeline you’re responsible for, and if you don’t, you have to talk more with your sales team.
There needs to be universal agreement about what it is you’re trying to do, and who owns what.
In every meeting, you need to be working together to close the gap between your percentage and their percentage, because otherwise, you’ll never hit that overall revenue number. You have to come up with one (and I mean one) set of goals and one (and I mean one) scorecard to measure those goals.
“A lot of the misalignment between sales and marketing comes from this place of marketing’s doing X and you think you’re working on the right stuff, but Sales thinks you should be doing something totally different,” says Mike Volpe, VP of B2B Payments at Capital One.
“There’s usually a better working relationship. I’ve definitely seen where marketing is hitting all their numbers and thinks they’re crushing it and everyone else says, ‘You’re doing all of the wrong things.’”
Back when Mike Volpe was CMO at HubSpot, they spent a lot of time working on identifying the metrics that mattered across the entire organization. Instead of trying to move every lever at once, they just picked the one they thought mattered the most. In this case, conversion.
“A lot of our success was building a gigantic top of funnel. But at a certain point, we had to look at something new. We decided to increase our conversion rate since that was our weak point and doing that was more than just aligning our entire marketing team. It took changing the way some things worked in sales,” he says.
That started with alignment at the leadership level, which cascades down. Says Mike, “We outlined the goals for the entire company, and then each department head would create a single goal for them. From there it went down the teams. For marketing, we focused on increasing that conversion rate and changed everything we did down to almost everyone on the team, from product marketing to sales enablement, to achieve that goal.”
- Adding budget and headcount to conversion-focused teams
- Shifting the type of content created from traffic-generating to sales enablement and conversion
- Adjusting offers and coordinating with the sales team on campaigns
Long story short, they tripled their conversion rate after making these changes in the course of a year. But it took the entire team to get there.
Kyle’s Process: Manage the Sales-Marketing Handoff
Let’s face it, though: Every CMO says they’re focused on revenue, but that means something completely different in every marketing department.
It’s all well and good to set goals and metrics together, but if there’s a gap between the processes marketing and sales uses, you’re going to lose leads through the cracks. There needs to be one process and one set of tools in the technology stack.
At Lessonly, they closed the gap by putting SDRs and BDRs on the marketing team. “We’re sales-led as our go-to-market model,” says Kyle Lacy, now SVP at Seismic. “So it forces alignment between sales and marketing, and it forces you as leaders to communicate with each other. You can’t have miscommunication when you’re doing a handoff when outbound BDRs live in marketing. It unites the top of the funnel.”
Their 40-person marketing team broke down into three business units: inbound, outbound, and marketing strategy.
- Inbound: Everything that hits the website, including inside sales and inbound SDRs, demand generation, marketing technology, paid advertising, and vendor support
- Outbound: Commercial and enterprise BDRs
- Marketing strategy: Branding, web development, field marketing, and customer marketing
This kind of structure doesn’t work for every type of company, but it does get me thinking about how to bring teams closer together, literally.
Kyle could have looked at the playbook that every marketing team uses and hired two demand gen marketers, three product marketers, and so on. He started with their go-to-market motion and what they needed so everyone on the team could own a piece of revenue, and went from there.
“We are revenue first,” he says. “Early on at Lessonly, which I highly recommend, is that we have one number across sales and marketing when we go to the board. Everyone’s spend is together, not by channel. So it allows business unit owners to be a little more creative in how they reach their number.”
One number, one process. The channels are what you play with.
Think about process and what that translates to for your team, whether it’s a specific structure or a different way of putting together campaigns.
You need to eliminate or streamline the weakest spots — the handoff — by thinking about one process for both teams.
Campaigns with G: Build Campaigns Meant for Both Teams
A typical quarter has marketing doing their thing and sales doing theirs.
That’s misalignment just waiting to happen, right?
With one set of goals and a shared set of processes, it’s time to look at the specific campaigns you’re running each quarter. The tactics are always going to look different, but if you’re working toward the same goal, then it makes sense to build campaigns that think through inbound and outbound motions.
Guillaume Cabane (aka “G”), founder of HyperGrowth Partners, puts it like this: “I read six emails from a company raising a huge multi-billion dollar valuation. And the emails are all about them and the product. It’s a classic mistake. They don’t know who they’re talking to. They don’t know what the pain of the customer is. And they’re not offering any insights or anything of value. So of course, the performance of these campaigns are bad.”
You know who does know your customer and their pain points? Your sales reps.
For marketing to create engagement and value, you gotta know your audience. And the best way to do that is to build campaigns together, with insights and feedback from your sales team, aka the people who talk to your customers every single day.
G and I did an amazing campaign back when we both worked at Drift, where we let people test responses to see how fast the team would respond to leads. That had nothing to do with the product or our company but everything to do with the customers’ pain. You would submit your information and we’d spit out all this useful stuff back to you — stuff that our sales team could then use to start a conversation.
So instead of leading with, “Our product is awesome, it can help you solve X,” we could say, “Hey, your site is converting 50% worse than it should. Here are three tips that might be able to help with that. Do you want me to show you?”
It’s a total game-changer, and it only works if marketing and sales are in alignment.
“When you think of B2B, people generally split inbound…and outbound. For most B2B SaaS out there, there’s a finite market of those companies in the US. The same base, same companies, and same people. You want to avoid the breakdown in experience between inbound and outbound,” says G.
“You want to know which ones are valuable, which ones are engaged, and how far into the buyer’s intent they are. And then you can decide how much marketing vs. sales pressure you want to apply.”
Marketing and Sales Alignment is Possible
The thing is, marketing and sales alignment is possible. It’s not this mythical beast. And the more aligned your teams are, the more revenue you’ll build.
For sales to succeed, marketers have to provide the right branding and air cover, and be thinking about where a lead goes once it leaves marketing’s domain. Similarly, you can’t build a brand if your experience looks one way as a subscriber and completely different once you’re in the sales funnel.
The only way to do that is to bring together:
- Mindset: One team.
- Goals: One goal.
- Metrics: One set of measured KPIs everyone agrees on.
- Process: One streamlined pipeline process no matter who “owns” the section.
- Campaigns: Connected campaigns that work from start to finish on the customer’s journey.
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