My favorite catch phrase is “sales and marketing alignment.” What exactly is that? Sales and marketing agree perfectly to every action conducted by both groups? That may be what's in the textbooks, but I think today's b2b marketing executive is looking for more than that -- or they should be.
I think aligning sales and marketing has much more to do with shared measurement with plain and simple vocabulary.
How many marketing managers and executives are compensated on revenue? Are you? I am. So are some of the people on my staff. In point of fact, I looked up a colleague of mine recently and his title had changed to “chief demand officer.” This is an interesting trend, and if you are not already looking into how you compensate your marketing staff, then I would suggest it.
If you want two organizations to work closely together, then one way to make sure they DON'T is to give them different success metrics - right? One is measured on brand awareness and the other on quota. Most folks would agree that brand activities eventually lead to revenue… but when you have people side by side in the trenches, this doesn't float. Common measures mean common goals, which require common vocabulary.
I can't tell you how many times I've brought sales and marketing together to review lead flow. Inevitably it always comes down to vocabulary. What do you call an inquiry, a prospect, interest and ultimately the golden ticket…. a lead. It seems so simple, but time spent on really gaining agreement and common understanding of these terms and how they fit into an overall lifecycle can save you a lot of time and heartache later, not to mention transform a campaign into a success.
Pulling both of these ingredients together into a shared dashboard has been the cornerstone in this process, based on my experience. Recently we've been running campaigns for Parallels Desktop to Mac Enterprise Edition, and we use a shared dashboard in Salesforce, which was defined by both members of field sales and field marketing working together. It was “approved” by the VP-sales and me and then modified as we went along. The funnel is clearly defined, targets are identified. Units, revenue, deal size, close rates, open rates and call rates are all in there. It has been an excellent source for us to set expectations, monitor progress and even argue effectively!
Finally, the real definition of alignment is being able to argue effectively about a common goal, using the same words and definitions, make progress and get to resolution. Maybe marriages should be built on dashboards, too?