Sales and Marketing Alignment vs. Integration, Part 1: Challenges

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align-marketing-salesRachel Rosin of Act-On Software recently moderated a webinar conversation between Bill Golder, principal and CEO of Slingshot Growth Partners, and Jay Hidalgo, renowned sales, marketing and business coach. Their three-part conversation covered the challenges to marketing and sales and the need for integration, moving from alignment to integration, and ensuring accountability at every stage of the funnel. This blog post is an edited transcript of the first part, outlining the challenges. Be sure to watch the webinar to get the whole story.

RACHEL: The concept of marketing and sales alignment has always been a hot topic. That’s largely due to the fact that a company’s sales and marketing teams often have a very complex relationship, to put it lightly. But there’s an undeniable benefit to these teams working together and creating a symbiotic integration with one another.

According to a study done by the Aberdeen Group, highly aligned marketing and sales organizations achieved an average of 32 percent year over year revenue growth, while their less-aligned competitors saw a seven percent decrease in revenue. And alignment just scratches the surface of possibilities. Imagine what these teams could achieve if they were truly integrated and involved in each other’s success. So today we’ll be discussing why alignment alone just isn’t cutting it anymore, and why integration between the two teams is critical to success.

Bill GolderBill has spent most of his career in sales and sales leadership roles, including senior executive positions at FedEx Office, Office Depot, and the chief sales and revenue officer for Miller Heiman, as well as Bulldog Solutions. Bill is now founder and CEO of Slingshot Growth Partners, a consulting firm that works with CEOs and their management teams to help them achieve ambitious revenue growth targets.

Jay HidalgoJay brings more than 20 years of experience helping organizations and individuals work and live in a more productive and fulfilling way. His approach to coaching and teaching allows participants to become self-aware, obtain insight, and develop practical steps they can use immediately to become effective. Jay is also a sought-after speaker and trainer at various conferences, seminars and organizations, where he conducts workshops, interactive training on topics relating to marketing and sales, team development, effective communication, and strategy planning.

Today, we’ll be tapping into their expertise to discuss:

  • The state of marketing and sales as it exists today
  • The end of alignment and why we need to focus on integration
  • What sales and marketing leaders respectively need to do to achieve integration
  • Results they’ve seen from implementing these tips

So from where both of you sit, what is the state of the relationship between marketing and sales today?

BILL: I have a pretty healthy respect for how sales leaders like myself have frustrated the marketing side. I’ve certainly got an appreciation for the work that marketers do to attract and engage prospects and customers. So let me own this one and speak to it a bit.

Sales leaders largely come at this relationship from a viewpoint that marketing is there to provide us leads. And of course, we want every lead to be a great lead. We want them all to be awesome. The problem, I think, and where marketing gets frustrated, is that many sales leaders treat marketing like an ATM or a fast food window. Marketing is out of sight, out of mind – until sales need leads to fill the pipeline.

We expect marketing to deliver leads exactly the way we want, and exactly the right kinds of leads, and the right type of sales enablement tools, and the right type of sales collateral. And then we go away and do our thing, and we want marketing to stay in the background. So it’s no wonder marketing gets frustrated.

Then, marketing scrambles to deliver. They run around, they create some leads, they create some content. And they get a few reactions from sales from all that work. Certainly one of the common reactions from sales is, “Boy, those leads weren’t very good, the leads were crap.” Another reaction could be, “The tools that you created for me, the collateral that you created, they don’t really relate to my prospects, they don’t really help me in my conversations, and they’re not really helping me win.” Perhaps worst of all, one of the reactions is total silence. I’ve worked with clients in the past where marketing feels like they do all this work, and they send leads, or they create content, and then they hear nothing. It’s like it goes into a black box.

The bottom line is marketers get exhausted with this tyranny of the urgent demands that makes them feel like their time and talent is being wasted. Despite improved processes and protocols due to conversations and best practices on sales and marketing alignment, there’s still a silo mentality. Who owns the top or the middle or the bottom part of the funnel? It’s a legacy mentality that gets marketing leaders frustrated.

RACHEL: Thank you, Bill. Now I’m going to pass it to Jay. Jay, from your marketing background, how would you say that sales gets frustrated?

JAY: Well, I want to stop and say, thank you, Bill for representing the sales people and finally admitting what you guys do wrong all the time. No, I’m just kidding. [LAUGHTER] This is a great conversation. Like Bill, I have a unique perspective. Throughout my career I’ve spent the majority of my time working with and talking with marketers, but I do remember being on the sales side early in my career. I carried a bag for five years. And so I often go back to those early days before we had automation, before we had a lot of these things today. And thinking now as a marketer, why do salespeople get frustrated?

I remember in one of my first jobs, as a salesperson, we got these “pink sheets” from the marketing team. These were leads – nothing but a name, an address, and a phone number. Invariably we would follow up and they wouldn’t know who we were, or who I was. They wouldn’t know my company and they couldn’t remember requesting any information. I was spending so much time as a salesperson chasing all kinds of garbage.

So why do salespeople get frustrated? Because salespeople want winnable opportunities. They want to sell and bring solutions to their clients. They don’t want to spend time prospecting. They want to close deals and make their commission. What I’m seeing is that we in the marketing community are not positioning ourselves well to help our sales partners achieve those goals.

We don’t ask them what they want. We’re not finding out about their world, where they live, how they’re interacting with the customer. We don’t listen. I’ve been in so many conversations with the marketing folks that I deal with, where the conversation goes something like, “Well sales said, ‘blah blah blah,’ but…” And it’s almost dismissed as it’s just sales complaining, instead of maybe considering that it’s viable feedback that can be used. As marketers, we certainly don’t include salespeople in the development of the communication, and the programs, and the content, and all those kinds of things.

And when we don’t get the sales, who’s to blame? The sales team. We point the finger. They’re not following up, they’re not doing their job. And because we don’t talk to them, because we don’t include them, because we’re not responding to them, because we’re blaming them, we end up giving them a ton of garbage to chase.

If I’m a salesperson in that arena, I’m thinking, “You’re asking me to spend a lot of wasted time.” And none of us like to waste our time. And when we’re forced to do so, it becomes very, very frustrating. How’d I do, Bill?

BILL:I love it. It was awesome. [LAUGHTER] I think if you really want to get under the hood on what’s creating a lot of the frustrations on both sides, we also need to take a look at the buyer’s journey. What does it mean, especially in the context of B2B?

I’m a process guy. I spent a number of years at Miller Heiman. Before working at Miller Heiman, I was a Miller Heiman zealot. I used blue sheets in all my deals. I believe in sales process. I believe in the discipline of sales and marketing processes and rigors. And I also believe in the concept of a buyer’s journey.

What I’m about to talk to you about isn’t challenging the fact that people go through a natural cycle of how they make decisions. But what I do want to talk about is sort of the reality of what happens inside of a decision that involves a deal in B2B. One of the things we’ve done to hurt our sales both on the sales and marketing side – and I’m a part of the community that does it frankly – is that we get so academic about this buyer’s journey and the buying process.

arrow-graphicSo first, I reinforce the fact that everybody goes through a decision process that looks kind of like what you see here, which is:

  1. I start to contemplate change and why I need to change.
  2. I contemplate whether or not it’s a priority – whether I should move on it and take action.
  3. Then, I make a choice.

And hopefully if you’re on the sales side of the equation, I’m choosing your solution or option.

Regardless of the complexity of a decision, every human being goes through these types of stages. And whatever you want to call it, it’s “Why change, why now, why you.” Or call it awareness, intent, action. The problem is we’ve made it really academic. And of course, on top of that, you have sales and marketing operating in silos, building processes, and assumptions, and playbooks around this sort of academic mindset of a buyer’s journey.

I do a ton of win/loss reviews with my clients. It’s where I try to get a fundamental understanding of sort of why they win, why they lose. And so the dynamics of how deals play out in their world. One of the things I learned, whether it’s a win or a loss, is that if you really follow the trail of how an opportunity starts with an inquiry and gets to closure, whether you win or lose it, it’s messy. It’s most often not like this nice, linear process, with everybody moving in a predictable way.

This messy reality of what happens inside of a buying environment is at the root of what frustrates sales and marketers. And to some degree, we’ve become so academic about how we apply this principle of a buyer’s journey, we’ve forgotten how unpredictable people can be. And when an opportunity is created for a salesperson to pursue from start to finish, it typically now involves anywhere from five to six people.

So if you think about that and you say, people are more unpredictable in terms of how they move through that process, when they do it, and what influences it. And now you compound it and say there are anywhere from five to six individuals involved in a B2B decision, you’ve got five to six unpredictable, messy people that you’ve got to navigate as a salesperson to win a deal.

Here’s what it really looks like.


When we as an organization want to drive revenue, we think, “Okay what’s our ideal client, and what’s a marketing qualified lead?” Even sales will say, “Yeah, that’s a lead I would accept and pursue.” A lead is associated with a contact, and a contact is one person.

But that said, it starts with an individual who believes that it’s time for change. They come into our radar as a contact. That contact all of a sudden gets everybody excited, sales and marketing, excited. That’s a lead. It goes to sales. The reality is there’s at least four other people who have some level of influence on how a decision is going to be made, the timing of that decision, and whether or not this is even a decision that’ll ever get made.

This is where we’re up against the status quo issue. Those four other people can be in a variety of places. They’ve got their own agendas, there’s office politics, there’s risk aversion, maybe past experience with the firm that you’re representing. You name it, there’s all these things that now a salesperson has to figure out.

And the reality is, if you added those four people over into that journey, you might see five total people in five totally different places. Or a couple people aligned and a couple people not aligned. All of a sudden, marketing says, “What’s going on with that lead I turned over to you? It seems like that’s taking forever.” or “Why haven’t we closed it?” And of course marketing says, well that lead I thought was a great lead isn’t such a great lead.

This is a reality in the B2B buyer’s journey. There are multiple influences on a decision. If we all put that in a frame of reference of how we support each other and work together, it would really help us figure out how to collaborate as sales and marketing leaders.

Stay tuned for part 2 and 3 of this edited transcript, coming soon. And be sure to watch the webinar with Rachel Rosin, Bill Golder, and Jay Hidalgo to learn how sales and marketing can go beyond basic alignment to complete integration.