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Experts Share Biggest Faux Pas for Sales and Marketing Alignment

May 24, 2017
4 min read
To succeed, businesses must align their sales and marketing teams. Here's what leading sales experts had to say about alignment myths and tips to improve.

Making sure that sales and marketing work well together is a top priority for organizations. Without alignment, performance suffers, and companies lose out on what’s most important – namely, winning customers. Why is it so difficult? What are the mistakes being made?

To get additional insight and perspective on this ongoing problem, we asked sales experts to share what they consider the biggest faux pas that companies make when it comes to sales and marketing alignment. Here’s what they had to say:

Tiffani Bova, Sales Futurist, Salesforce

Keeping sales and marketing working against each other. Sales teams need support from marketing to be fully prepared and effective – even if they don’t want to admit it. However, without executive support to increase integration, collaboration and aligned metrics between these two groups, you will have a more difficult time delivering a strong customer experience.

Jonathan Farrington, CEO, Top Sales World

The most obvious disconnect for frontline sales professionals and marketers is that they have no idea or experience of the challenges the other faces on a daily basis. I suggest that they regularly spend a day working in the other’s shoes. The sellers will realize just what it takes to create a steady and continuous stream of quality leads and the marketing team will gain an insight into the pressures of needing to hit quota every month, quarter and year. 

David Brock, Founder and CEO, Partners in Excellence

The real issue is less sales/marketing alignment and more integration.  Both sales/marketing play critical roles through the entire buying process.  Integrating what we do to create the greatest value is critical to success.  We need to think of interleaved marketing and sales processes.

Tamara Schenk, Research Director, CSO Insights

The BIGGEST faux pas is to align two functions to each other instead of aligning these functions in a way that facilitates the customer’s journey. Getting this right is a huge challenge, because it means changing the perspective. Once the customer’s journey becomes the design point for both marketing and sales, essentials like lead scoring definitions become much easier.

Deb Calvert, President, People First Productivity Solutions

The biggest faux pas is the illusion of alignment. Take lead generation via content marketing. Too few sellers really know what the content is about and how to build a conversation from this springboard. Opening with "I noticed you downloaded our white paper..." is not adequate alignment between sales and marketing.

Richard Harris, Owner, The Harris Consulting Group

I have three big faux pas that companies make in regards to sales and marketing alignment 1) not having sales people go to tradeshows (my biggest pet-peeve ever!!!) 2) expecting SDRs to do market research and come up with their own messaging (2nd biggest pet peeve) and 3) marketing not asking or being allowed to sit in on sales calls.

Steve De Marco, VP, Worldwide Sales and Alliances, Xactly

The biggest faux pas is building a wall between your sales and marketing teams. Companies need a bi-directional and coordinated effort between the two organizations. Sales must give marketing feedback on what’s working and what’s not – and marketing needs to educate sales regarding their campaigns and messaging. You can’t have marketing simply toss the leads over the wall.

Alice Heiman, Founder and CSO at Alice Heiman, LLC

Lack of communication and understanding. Here’s a $90,000 faux pas. Sales organization requests some collateral as a leave behind for clients. Marketing doesn’t ask a single question, produces spiral-bound beautifully printed books that cost about $10 each. Not at all what sales wanted. The collateral sat under their desks for months until finally they were thrown away.

Max Altschuler, Founder and CEO, Sales Hacker, Inc.

One of the biggest faux pas in sales and marketing alignment is not tying marketing to a revenue number or just asking them to deliver a total number of leads. You need to understand lead needs per category (need X amount in SMB, Y in MM, Z in Enterprise based on target rev number and amount of sales reps). On top of that, revenue number ensures quality.

Liz Heiman, Chief Strategy Officer, Alice Heiman, LLC

The definition of an Ideal Customer. Marketing tends to identify anyone who has “converted” as a lead. Sales reps want leads that have indicated interest, a need and ideally a budget. Sending sales teams off to chase anyone who agreed to a meeting as the result of a download is a waste of time. Agree on the definition of a qualified lead.

Nancy Nardin, Founder and President, Smart Selling Tools

The biggest mistake is when companies don’t make the adjustments needed so that sales and marketing feel like one team. The definitive word is “feel.” You can incorporate account based marketing, you can come up with a common definition of a lead (or an MQL, SAL, SQL), you can institute a service level agreement between the two organizations, it won’t fundamentally change things if the overall feeling is anything but mutual respect and a shared definition of success.

Time and time again, it’s been shown that high performing organizations have better alignment than underperformers. According to SiriusDecisions research, sales and marketing alignment can drive between 5 and 36 percent of an organization’s growth. It’s critical that executive leadership works to get the two teams functioning well together. As always, thank you to all of the sales experts for sharing their thoughts for this post.

  • Forecasting
  • Sales Performance Management
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Jennifer Dignum
Senior Product Marketing Manger

Jennifer Dignum is Senior Product Marketing Manager at Xactly Corporation. As a seasoned marketing professional and independent consultant, Jennifer has over 15 years of experience working with both private and public companies across a broad range of technology industries.