Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sales and Marketing May be Better Aligned Than We Think

When I was asked by Bob Johnson at IDG to be on a SMEI panel to discuss the divide between sales and marketing, I had a strong feeling of déjà vu: I can remember ten years ago being invited on another panel to debate the exact same issue. That event had been in London, hence there was an open bar before the panel convened; I recall the discussion getting very heated indeed.

As I prepared for the SMEI panel I began to wonder if the marketing/sales feud had improved much in the intervening decade, so decided to pull together a short survey to find out. Using social media I got just under 100 responses from an assortment of friends, followers and colleagues  – certainly not a representative sample, but diverse nonetheless.

Q: Over the last 5 years, do you think the relationship between sales and marketing has: 

Grown Worse:                                                 24%
Stayed about the same:                                   33%
Grown Better:                                                 43%

The results surprised me; I’d guessed that as we endure a drawn-out recession, relations between sales and marketing would have become more frayed. I was wrong, and by a large majority the audience at the SMEI event also believed sales and marketing were getting along much better these days.

I then asked was might be the root cause of any conflict:

Q: The main cause of conflict and disagreement between marketing and sales is (pick one): 

Lack on alignment on goals and objectives:        43%
Resource allocation:                                          11%
The quantity and quality of leads:                       23%
No clear demarcation of responsibility:                4%
Lack of processes to coordinate activities:         12%
Lack of professional respect:                               8%

By a wide margin, most respondents think that conflict is caused by a lack of alignment around goals and objectives. This view was echoed by my fellow panelists, Ann Marie Beasley from CA and Mark Blessing at Bright Computing.

I discussed how the most common model used for engineering alignment across sales and marketing – the ubiquitous marketing funnel – may be long overdue for an overhaul. Whatever model you use, successful alignment across the two organizations starts with a candid discussion on joint KPIs and metrics. Measured accountability, agreed and shared, is the root to success.

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