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Thoughts from Xactly’s CMO: How to Align Sales and Marketing for Revenue Success

Dec 12, 2023
4 min read

Xactly’s newly minted CMO, Jennifer McAdams, is bringing a fresh perspective to the role, with a primary focus on driving strong alignment between sales and marketing teams. I sat down with Jennifer (recently named a Top 50 Women Leader of 2023!) to discuss the age-old challenge of aligning sales and marketing, and to get her take on how to do this right (she recently discussed this with Forbes as well). Read on to learn first-hand how these two teams can work together harmoniously to drive revenue, close more business, and have fun while doing it!

What changes have you been working on since joining Xactly?

First and foremost, building a data-driven rapport with the sales teams to ensure that marketing efforts are in line with their needs and goals. By leveraging data, both teams can make informed decisions and optimize their strategies. Additionally, driving alignment across departments such as product, support, customer success, and renewals, to provide a cohesive approach to customer satisfaction. Improving lead scoring and lead flow has been a big one, ensuring that sales receive high-quality leads. Getting an understanding of market dynamics and effectively communicating value in order to create targeted campaigns that drive more sales. Lastly, implementing integrated marketing plans so that marketing efforts are coordinated across various channels, maximizing their impact.

Why is the notion that sales and marketing don't get along so prevalent?

This can be due to several reasons but in my experience, there is often a lack of alignment between the two departments, which stems from a lack of awareness among marketing leaders about the needs and goals of the sales team. Without a clear understanding of sales objectives, marketing strategies are probably not built to support them. Additionally, the absence of personal relationships and connections between the teams can happen, limiting communication and sharing of valuable insights and feedback. Another reason can be that sales teams may have specific needs and expectations that marketing struggles to deliver on, leading to frustration and a breakdown in cooperation. I’ve also seen salespeople dismiss hand-raisers identified by marketing, feeling that these leads are not of high quality or aligned with their target audience. Lastly, there can be a perception that salespeople do not value marketing efforts (especially during challenging times), which can lead to a lack of trust and appreciation.

What do you believe unites sales and marketing leaders?

There is a necessity for a certain level of understanding, particularly about the sales process and being in the field. Both sales and marketing leaders recognize the intricacies of sales and the challenges faced by sales teams. This shared understanding allows for better alignment and support between the two departments. I also think these leaders balance the expectation of rallying the company with their individual authentic styles. They understand that while the ultimate goal is revenue generation and business growth, they can achieve this through their unique strengths and approaches. Effective communication plays a huge role, as leaders can share insights, feedback, and information to better align on strategies. Additionally, recognizing that sales and marketing have different skill sets and perspectives. By leveraging these strengths, they can rally teams for improved results. Lastly, these leaders consider the possibility of aligning marketing compensation plans with sales. I’ve seen first-hand how by incentivizing marketing efforts based on revenue-generating outcomes, they encourage shared accountability for driving business results.

How important is it for the two teams to define and align on leads?

Defining and aligning on the definition of a qualified lead is essential. This empowers both teams to work towards the same goals, focusing their efforts on ensuring the right leads are pursued to increase close rates. Lead scoring plays a vital role in this, as this process enables both teams to gain insights into lead quality, lead ownership, and to prioritize follow-up efforts. This also provides clearer processes for the handoff of leads, ensuring that they receive timely and personalized follow-up, reducing missed opportunities. One consideration I’ve heard a few times is whether marketing should be compensated similarly to sales. We at Xactly know incentives play a vital role in motivating teams, so I think aligning compensation structures can help ensure everyone feels valued and is driven to contribute towards shared goals.

How do you encourage accountability and impactful results across teams?

I first want to emphasize the importance of open conversation and radical candor to address any gaps in performance. Doing so allows us to address challenges, identify areas for improvement, and collectively work towards solutions. It also promotes a culture of transparency, where individuals feel accountable for their actions.

Sales Performance Incentive Funds (SPIFs) are another great way to boost motivation and drive performance. By offering tangible rewards and recognition for outstanding achievements, we create a sense of urgency and focus that fuels productivity and encourages accountability across the board.

With that said, regular performance evaluations and metrics tracking have to be implemented to ensure success. Setting clear goals and KPIs allows us to measure progress and identify areas that require attention. By having marketing teams join sales QBRs, the team can be aware of performance and where the two teams need to focus.

By breaking down marketing and sales team silos, cultivating a collaborative mindset, enhancing integrated marketing plans, and establishing a process for sales to provide feedback on lead quality, teams can achieve common objectives, increase pipeline, and revenue growth. Winning together makes work more fun, especially during hard times.

  • Sales Coaching and Motivation
  • Sales Performance Management
Mary Jo Rose, VP of Brand and PR at Xactly
Mary Jo Rose
VP, Brand and PR

Mary Jo Rose is a creative, high energy communications professional. She has extensive experience developing compelling customer stories and vibrant brands.