When working with business owners I am frequently asked how to better align sales and marketing teams. It makes me cringe. Not because it’s a cringe-worthy question, but because I know that isn’t what they are really asking.
It’s become clear, in business-speak, “my marketing and sales teams need better aligned” is code for, “SOS, there is no organizational accountability”. So how do you get to your clients’ underlying issue? For me, 9 times out of 10 it takes one follow-up statement…tell me more about that.
In my experience what comes next is a conversation about a marketing budget that is growing like the 50/50 raffle at a Texas homecoming game while simultaneously seeing sales quotas consistently missed! The kicker, no one is at fault. The marketing team is blaming the sales team for not being able to close and sales members are busy trashing marketing’s lead quality to even think about dialing another prospect. Something has to give and this is where it gets tough.
This conversation typically illuminates the problem isn’t misalignment, it is lack of accountability. Clients don’t find themselves in my office because there were no warning signs. We start talking only after sales reps have missed quota more than once and there has been no coaching done to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Or after the marketing team has come back to ask for another few thousand dollars for the next “huge” campaign, only to be given the money no questions asked. They don’t seek my help when they are on a winning streak.
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So what is the solution?
Step 1: Realization
The traditional siloed structure of sales|marketing departments is our own fault. It exists because we built our business that way. Shake it up.
- Take a good look at your business. Start with your desired outcome and work backward to ensure you are maximizing all available efficiencies to achieve your goal. This is an enterprise exercise. Don’t be surprised to find you don’t have a sales or marketing challenge but a product development bottleneck. Everything is on the table, keep an open mind.
- Entertain combining Sales & Marketing departments and having senior leadership accountable to the same KPIs. It’s your business, do it your way! If it is truly an alignment issue…align them.
Step 2: Adoption
Now the real work begins…gaining buy-in. To do this you are going to have to talk about it. I prefer holding “town hall” all-hands meetings when possible. In preparation for the meeting, I review a sheet of best practices from previous engagements. Below are a few.
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- All people want 3 things; to be seen, heard, and loved. Be kind.
- Don’t put an end time on the meeting. Let it conclude naturally. This sets the tone as more conversational, less adversarial.
- Absolutely no slide decks! This is not a seminar.
- Have fun. All that matters are the people sitting in the room. Not their department title. Make sure they know their value. You could title your organization’s departments anything. Instead of the traditional (Product Dev|Marketing|Sales|Customer Success), it could be (Object|Stimulus| Capture| Bear Hugs).
- For the sales team, blow up the traditional sales funnel. The funnel mentality is limiting and forces salespeople to pressure prospects to purchase before they are ready. Introduce the sales griddle. You heard me right, Sales griddle. Why? There is always room for another pancake (prospect) on the griddle. And, the only way I know to ruin a pancake is to flip it too early! The take away for sales; always prospect, never pressure, enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Step 3: Action:
In step 2 you talked about it, in step 3 you have to be about it. This boils down to holding your team accountable. That was the problem, not misalignment, accountability. After you’ve had your team meeting, provide them with a new employee agreement outlining the new organizational structure and what they are expected to do moving forward. This agreement lays out clearly the incentives available for a job well done. As well as what will happen if they are not meeting expectations. Make sure you highlight the resources you will provide to help coach them and get them where they need to be.
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In business, just like life, the truth is undefeated. As the leader of your company, you need to be honest with yourself about the performance or underperformance of your team and address it accordingly. A leak won’t fix itself, it needs to be inspected and repaired, or the problem spreads.
Are your sales and marketing teams misaligned? Maybe. But before you spend additional resources, be honest with yourself. Just to make sure.