A four pillar framework for sales and marketing alignment

August 27, 2020

A four pillar framework  for sales and marketing alignment

People have been trying to align sales and marketing for decades, with limited success. However, our new commissioned research conducted by Forrester Consulting reveals where the problems lie. 

An important starting point is to note that the fundamental relationship between sales and marketing is not broken. In fact, there is a huge amount of agreement on the most important issues. The challenge comes in translating this appetite for alignment into connected, day to day activity across both disciplines. To make real change, we need to get to the root cause of the problem; identifying the areas of disconnect and finding practical solutions.

The four pillars of sales and marketing alignment

Despite being ideologically aligned, 90 percent of sales and marketing professionals point to a number of disconnects across strategy, process, content and culture.* It is across these four pillars that sales and marketing need to enhance alignment to maximise customer value.

Strategy is best realised through measurement

There are some huge positives when it comes to strategic alignment.  For example, 86 percent of marketing professionals focus on the key accounts that sales is targeting. However, issues emerge when we look at measurement. In fact, 96 percent of respondents admitted that marketing and sales do not share the same goals or measure success on the same KPIs.

Tackling this means investing in a shared strategy that is rooted in the concept of customer and prospect value.  An aligned strategy starts with shared goals, evolves to jointly agreed programmes and campaigns targeted at the same audiences or accounts, and finishes with common or connected measures and metrics.

Processes are only as good as the  systems that underpin them

Sales and marketing have made some important progress in coordinating the processes behind their day-to-day operations. However, there is still room for improvement with a huge 97 percent reporting alignment issues on customer engagement and pipeline growth.

These issues arise because current sales and marketing processes are inward facing, focused on the team rather than the customer journey.  While marketing and sales are different functions, both must remember that they have a common goal - accelerating the buying process, creating value, and helping customers deliver success. We therefore encourage both teams to work on an integrated process focused around the buyer journey and we will be sharing further posts on how to enable this.

Messaging and content should support conversations

83 percent of marketers and sellers believe that their content is key to  inspire customers to engage with sellers. Taken at face value, this suggests there is little to be improved when it comes to content alignment. However, scratch the surface and a different picture emerges. Our research indicated that content and messaging is an area of significant challenge.  

97 percent of the sellers and marketers surveyed cited that content and messaging is misaligned. This is because marketing and sales apply very different lenses to the content they create. B2B marketers aim to translate product or service features into buyer value.  The best sellers on the other hand, start with the customer or prospects, laser-focus on needs and design an offering that meets those needs. 

To bridge the gap, marketing should consider including sales where they can as they determine core themes, campaigns and content strategies. They can then engage sales frequently throughout their implementation process to gather feedback, brainstorm ideas and maintain alignment.  Sales must be willing to engage in this process, adopt a longer term viewpoint and champion the view of the customer.

Culture is the foundation of trust and value

While sales and marketing understand the benefits of alignment, 93 percent cite challenges when it comes to culture. They report antagonism between the teams and claim that communication is an issue.

However, the huge positive here is that any cultural divide between sales and marketing is not a matter of ideology.  Rather it’s down to a lack of empathy. Both sides can start to fix this by participating in joint initiatives and understanding how the actions of both teams contribute to shared goals. We will be sharing more recommendations on this topic in future posts, so watch this space.

Download the full research Moments of Trust, Why customer value is the key to sales and marketing alignment.

*Source: A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of LinkedIn, 2020.

Base: An online survey of 395 marketing and sales directors and managers from technology,

financial services, and professional services firms in the UK, Germany, France, and Ireland.