Sales and Marketing Alignment vs. Integration, Part 2: Driving Change

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Rachel 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 second part, driving change. You can read part 1 here, and be sure to watch the webinar to get the whole story.

RACHEL: We’ve all heard about the importance of alignment before. So how would you define integration versus alignment?

JAY: I’m going back to my high school geometry days, where they would tell you that two lines can be infinitely parallel, but never intersect. You think about that for a minute. You’ve got alignment there, but at what point do they ever come together? I’m a big sports fan. I love sports analogies. And this is a perfect place for us to think about alignment versus integration using sports. Alignment would be, from a sports analogy perspective, a baton relay race, versus integration, which is more of a team sport.


So alignment means that once my work is done, I hand it off. Then I can rest and just cheer on the next runner and hope they finish first. This is what happens a lot of time in the marketing and sales alignment mentality. Marketing people generate the lead, hand it off to sales, and sales takes it and runs with it. I’ve talked to countless marketers who say that at that point, they don’t really know what happens. They hope for the best.

Sales, maybe they’re not even the anchor leg. Maybe they’re the third leg that kind of sets up for the win. And maybe they close the deal, but then they hand it off to customer service. Sales never really knows what happened – they don’t see the long term value or lifetime value for a customer. It’s better than a strict silo mentality, but that handoff doesn’t really work. When you’re integrated, you’re approaching the game differently. You realize that you’re involved in every play until that ball goes over the goal line.

But if I’m doing that, I have to understand what my role is. If I’m an offensive lineman, my role on one play may be simply to stand up and block and protect the passer, so that I can give my quarterback time to pass the ball. Now on the next play I’m still a lineman, but my role may shift a little bit, where I’m now pulling off the line and setting up a runner to come around the end so he can get good yardage.

So in many respects, when marketing and sales are integrated, each team has a role from the top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, bottom of the funnel – that entire transition.

RACHEL:  I love the sports analogy. I think it really helps make things clear. Here at Act-On, our marketing department sits within the sales department. So after you pass off leads to the sales department, your job isn’t done. Having that level of integration and being able to hear their conversations, we know when something isn’t working and it gives us the ability to stop, revise our play, and then move forward. So now that we know the difference, how do organizations move towards that integration versus the alignment?

JAY:   Before we get into the tactical, there has to be a mindset shift in both marketing and in sales. The first thing is to understand that we’re dealing in a different reality today. Yes, there are some tried-and-true principles, like if you follow up quickly, you’re going to get more sales. But we also have to understand it’s a different buying environment. We have to understand that the buyer has access to more information, which gives them more power than ever. That’s a huge shift that we’ve never dealt with before. And so for a variety of reasons, the game is different.

That’s the first thing that we have to understand. And then of course the buying journey is also much different. The other thing that we have to think about is that we’re all part of the revenue-generating team. And this is probably more of a shift for marketing than sales. Marketers have to realize that their job is to generate revenue just as much as sales’ is.

These are just some of the shifts that both marketing leaders and sales leaders have to start thinking about, centered around questions like: “Where is the buyer? What is the buyer thinking? What is my role in the generating of revenue?” I don’t know if you have any other thoughts on that, Bill, but that’s kind of my take.

Business People In MeetingBILL: The only thing I would add is, of course, it’s always going to start at the top, whether it’s a chief revenue officer or a CEO or the sales and marketing leaders. I think there’s still a lot of sort of legacy behavior and preconceptions around the role of marketing, the role of sales, and top of the funnel, bottom of the funnel, and so on.

To make this integration happen, it has to be viewed like a true change management exercise. Of course it’s all rooted in understanding your customers, and understanding how the dynamics play out with your particular type of sale, how many buying influences, and really rooting your decisions around what’s happening with how your ideal customer – your sweet spot customer – makes decisions.

JAY: So true.

RACHEL: So now that we’re talking about it from more of an organizational level, what are your suggestions for marketing leaders and sales leaders specifically? What would they need to do to achieve this level of integration?

JAY:  So when we talked before about why sales is frustrated, I talked from a marketing perspective on the things we do to frustrate them. So now let me talk about things that marketing leaders can do that have worked well. First of all, I always tell them, don’t just seek to get buy-in. Instead, collaborate. There’s so many times that I have seen marketers develop a program, develop a concept, develop a communications strategy – whatever it is. They bring it, it’s 90 percent done, and, “Oh yeah, we’ve got to get sales to give us the buy-in.”

Well if you’re on the sales side, the last thing you want to do is take the time away from selling to review and approve something. But really, the response I’ve seen a lot is, “Why didn’t you ask us to help you develop this? It could have been a lot better.” So as a marketer, if you’re listening to this and thinking about your next program, start with a blank sheet of paper, bring your salespeople to the table, and collaborate with them. That’s one thing you can do.

Secondly, provide information. My father loves to say, and it’s a great quote, “In the absence of information, the imagination takes over.” So marketing should also provide insight on the buyer, such as where buyers are going and what trends are happening in the buying community, as well as what campaigns are going out. Whether you do this through campaign playbooks or internal newsletter doesn’t matter, just provide the information. Don’t act like the door is closed and they’ll be told what they need to be told – when they need to be told.

Ask for sales to help in things like developing the process. Ask for sales to help in understanding how to qualify leads. Ask for their feedback. I’m amazed at how many marketing people do not spend time asking, “Hey, how did the sales call go? How did this campaign work?” If you’re in marketing and you’re not doing things like listening on sales calls or riding around with your sales people, put that into your calendar. You should be in the field listening and watching and asking sales people about what their experiences are at least twice a year.

Maybe this goes without saying, but provide them quality leads. Put a process and a system and a strategy in place that’s going to give them qualified opportunities, so they’re not wasting their time chasing tire-kickers. Spend time understanding the buyer. I did a workshop last week with 27 marketers in the room. And I asked, “How many of you are using a buyer profile, buyer type, buyer persona, as the basis for how you’re creating demand generation programs?” And three of them put their hands up out of 27. There’s a huge need there for marketers to help initiate the understanding of where the buyer is. Marketers should have sales involved in every stage. And in the same way, they’ll start asking you to be involved in every stage.

Graphs of financial analysis - IsolatedFinally, sign up for a number. Marketing, you should have a quota. You should have a revenue quota. You should have a conversion rate quota. You should have a top of funnel quota. Just like sales does, you should have a quota so that you’re being measured towards and working towards a revenue goal that will help overall. So those are just a few very practical tactical things that I’ve coached marketers to do. And when I see them doing these things, it’s amazing how things start to move along with this idea of integration.

RACHEL: Great. Thank you, Jay. Bill, do you want to go ahead and take the sales leadership perspective?

BILL: Yeah. I think first, sales leaders have to stop thinking about marketing like an ATM. When I need you, when I need the right leads, I’ll show up and punch the digits and hopefully get the right combination of things that I need, and off I go. You have to invest your time and your team’s time. When I initially engage with a client, I have conversations that start with the CEO, as well as with the sales leader.

But one of the things I look for is, where is the marketing leader in the conversation? And I always know it’s a healthy place, when the sales leader says, “Hey, before we have that conversation, I need my marketing partner because we’re joined at the hip in this thing.” So you have to start there, stop treating marketing like an ATM.

The things I look for is, are there plans and purposeful planning meetings or review meetings? One of the places I think is really important for sales leaders is systems integration. I’m assuming most of the people listening to this call have sales leaders who have invested in CRM of some shape or form, and marketing leaders who have invested in marketing automation. And I’m kind of astonished at how frequently the two systems aren’t integrated.

Get those systems integrated. Make sure your salespeople have fully adopted the requirements that are necessary to make CRM powerful in this process, to give visibility to both sales and marketing. Make it efficient so you don’t have to be in so many meetings, and marketing has full visibility. If you don’t have adoption on your CRM tool, and that CRM tool isn’t integrated into the marketing automation platform, that’s a great place to start. The whole idea of “garbage in, garbage out” is so applicable here.

I was looking at an Aberdeen study from 2013, and there was some interesting data around just the use of automation and tools. A top performing company is two times as likely to collaborate on lead management issues, and that information is often coming from the automation tools they have in place. Top performers are almost two times as likely to have integrated sales and marketing technology platforms.

So all these things that sales leaders need to do certainly starts with this mindset, changing behavior. And then, how do you leverage the tools that you likely already have in place to make it efficient? And finally, make sure that you have good visibility and collaboration, and that it’s happening without having to take you and your team away from selling time.

Stay tuned for part 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.

Sales and Marketing Align