What Role Can C-Levels Play in Marketing and Sales Alignment?

In a recent independent research study, the topic of sales and marketing alignment was explored at a very deep level and leaders in sales, marketing, and executive management were polled on their perceptions of how aligned or misaligned their organizations were and what specific barriers may be present.

The findings of this study were very interesting in that they hammered home the point that perception, in most cases, is reality.

Marketing and sales alignment is a hot topic in business today. Sales, with long-entrenched CRM systems, is looking to adapt to changes in business online buyer behavior. Traditional CRM is effective at tracking and managing traditional sales activity and forecast management, but is largely ineffective at managing online Web interactions that occur at the top of the funnel.

Marketing is under intense scrutiny from C-levels on the return on investment (ROI) of the myriad of online campaign spending. Marketing is also rapidly adopting marketing automation platforms (MAPs) to track and manage their key activities.

Chief executives (CEOs) want their companies to perform at optimum levels, from marketing through sales and client service. While marketing and sales alignment is a hot topic, as is the enabling technologies, figuring out how to get it right at any one company is not so easy – in part because different departments have different visions as to why it’s not working to begin with.

It’s important to note that sales and marketing alignment generally mean two specific things.

Firstly, the technology that each department uses must be aligned and integrated at a deep level. This will ensure that the data-level information is available for both parties to make informed decisions about go to market strategy. MAPs simply must integrate in a bi-directional fashion with CRM.

Second is process management. Having systems well integrated will solve one part of the equation. Business process management must occur or most of the data, which is rich on both sides, will go to waste.

In the study that I referenced, at the CEO level, the perception is that staffing is one of the main roadblocks to sales and marketing alignment.

Overall, CEOs had the highest perception that their marketing and sales departments were well aligned. Their perception around what could be preventing optimal levels of alignment being directly tied to staffing may point to a misunderstanding of the processes that are fundamentally broken between marketing and sales.

CEOs and other top-level executives need to get more involved in the actual processes of driving sales and marketing alignment because marketing and sales, having vastly different views on how each other should operate, may not be able to accomplish it on their own.

A top-down approach is needed in the same way it’s used when implementing BPM around sales, accounting, resource planning, and financial planning.

Some tips for getting C-Levels on board and actively driving the sales and marketing alignment process are:

  • Research: There is a wealth of industry research now available that provides irrefutable metrics on how companies that are aligned outperform competition in terms of revenue performance. Provide executives with the right research before asking for technology, people, and processes changes.
  • Demonstrate: Show executives the value of systems as standalone solutions and provide what-if scenarios assuming alignment of both systems occurs. In other words, bring more metrics to the table that state concrete examples. For example, Today we can make X number of outbound calls per day to qualified leads. If we integrated nurture marketing and lead scoring into the telesales process, our team will make X percent more calls per day and book X percent more meetings. 

Who drives getting the C-levels involved in this project can vary. Sometimes sales will drive it or marketing. Often this is dependent upon which department perceives the most pain.

Bring your metrics! Having executive-level buy-in to a major BPM project, like integrating marketing automation to a CRM system, is crucial to its success. CEOs and the like will have broader insights and management skills that can drive change in the manner in which it needs to be driven.

Marketing and sales will have much more myopic views of how to fix discrete problems. Sales, for example, will always focus on increasing lead volume. They will clamor for more qualified leads. Bringing metrics to the table will clarify the problems and opportunities for a CEO.

They may step in and drive a project to carefully evaluate active prospects and historical sales data that may be trapped in an ERP system that could be vital in identifying potential hot prospects. Having that broad-level view will ensure companies achieve true sales and marketing alignment.

Image via Shutterstock.

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