The Sales & Marketing Alignment Pipedream

Ed Marsh | Jan 12, 2022

Aligning Your Industrial Sales and Manufacturing Marketing with the BUYER, Not Eachother

Introduction to SignalsFromTheOP

Guide to episode

  1. Sales and marketing alignment was proposed as a way to improve the collaborative function and effectiveness of the combined industrial sales and manufacturing marketing functions.
  2. The structure developed organically when buyers were dependent on the sales team to inform them, but as buyer behaviors changed, the linear structure - marketing then sales - doesn't match buyers journeys.
  3. Aligning them - or putting them parallel - doesn't help either.
  4. The solution is to integrate them.

Transcript follows

Hi, I’m Ed Marsh. Welcome to this episode of Signals from the OP. OP means observation post. It’s normally a couple of folks in a spot well ahead of your lines – they’re not distracted by your light and noise and can observe carefully for any enemy movement.

These videos are kind of like that – I’m lucky to be in front of industrial manufacturing lines. I’m not directly worried about HR, purchasing, supply chain, COVID manpower impacts, chip availability, or many of the other pressing realities you face. But that means I’m able to watch and listen in ways you can’t. I use these videos to share my observations and ideas so that in quiet moments you might digest them.

Today I want to challenge one of the recent sacred cows of revenue growth – the concept of sales and marketing alignment. I’m throwing the BS flag on it. Not because the spirit is wrong. In fact, it’s critical. But because the application is wrong and unless we change it, improved results are just a pipedream.

So what do we mean by sales and marketing alignment?

The concept is around trying to get the two revenue growth-focused departments working in concert. For too long they’ve worked in series. First marketing, then sales.

We’ve had sales chasing absurd metrics like the number of quotes or simple quota numbers that failed to account for important concepts like new vs. existing customers.

At the same time marketing has blithely floated along in their world tracking trade show leads, MQLs (marketing qualified leads), and website visits. In other words, metrics that allowed them to feel important, but which were divorced from reality.

Marketing, Sales are both contributors to consistent revenue growth, but this is obscured by the fact that in some years companies can hit sales targets basically by accepting orders – often largely from existing customers.

But if a company’s true vitality and resilience are predicated on its ability to consistently and predictably drive revenue – not just receive it – then we need to be more proactive.

And here we run into the changes in buyer behavior. You’ve heard the stats – 93% of B2B purchases start with online research, buyers are 70% through their buying journey before they want to talk to a rep, there are 10.2 buyers on the buying team, many deals seem lost to no decision (except not really), and more.

B2B sales in the industrial and capital equipment space isn’t going away, but it’s got to get much better at observing and interpreting individual and group digital body language.

Marketing isn’t taking over the revenue growth function, but its’ got to get much better at helping sales manage, advance, and close deals – and better at helping success up & cross-sell, not to mention retain deals. It must stop thinking of the world in the context of lead counts.

That’s the laudable premise behind the concept of sales and marketing alignment. In early iterations, it focused on developing mutual agreements between marketing and sales – for instance, what criteria need to be met for sales to consider something a legitimate lead, and in turn what efforts sales would make, over what time frame to contact and engage a lead before they abandon it.

You’ve sat in some of those meetings. After hours of debate and negotiation there’s an agreement reached, but two weeks later you hear the same refrain. The leads suck. And sales doesn’t follow up on leads.

The bottom line is that alignment doesn’t work. It’s a pipedream. Human nature, egos, staffing and resource priorities, and vague culture all conspire against some expedient fusing of the two functions.

If the solution isn’t alignment though, then what is it?

The solution is actually integration. That’s right, integration of marketing and sales.

Let’s unpack why.

Your buyer has a single experience with your company – it’s a journey for sure, but it includes research, and questions. They have to answer their own questions and they have to bring their colleagues on the buying team along with them. They need the help of marketing content initially, and then other marketing (we might say sales enablement) content later at different points in their journey.

At the same time they might want sales help early one – to understand ballpark pricing for instance – and then need sales help later on, even when they don’t want it – for instance to figure out the real cost of proceeding or not buying.

Marketing managed technology and content have to be thoroughly integrated with sales skills, tactics and insights to move deals through the largely opaque and virtual journeys they follow.

Even classic sales tactics like cold calling and emailing – which are often criticized but critical to success – rely on content, and insights and tools from marketing to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

Take a chatbot for instance – does a buyer care who staffs the live chat option behind it? Whether they have a marketing or a sales in their job title? Of course not. The buyer cares about speed, convenience, knowledge and efficiency.

Marketing and sales are not linear. They’re not even parallel.

Marketing and sales need to be thoroughly integrated to provide an appropriate buyer experience.

Sure, you need different skills. Sales managers to coach and debrief sales will have different skills than content editors. But your electrical and mechanical engineers have different skills and yet work in an integrated way to create your products.

As long as you persist in having a “marketing department” to generate some leads – trade show, trade journal, and even digital – and a sales department to sell deals, you’ll struggle.

It’s time to fully integrate the functions – that’s a premise of my Overall Revenue Effectiveness™ or ORE™ framework.

I’m Ed Marsh. Thank you for joining me for this episode of Signals from the OP. If you enjoyed it, please share it and subscribe – either to my YouTube channel EdMarshSpeaks.TV or at the related blog