Customer value is the key to sales and marketing alignment

August 11, 2020

Customer value is the key to sales and marketing alignment

With lockdown measures easing, some businesses are emerging from survival mode and starting to pursue growth. On the front line of businesses are sales and marketing teams; the chief drivers of economic recovery. But the world around them has changed. Customers and prospects are less interested in being sold to than ever. Budgets are tight and time is scarce, meaning that buyers will stay deliberately hidden until they are ready to engage. 

In this environment, the hard-sell or scattergun marketing approach can shatter relationships. Instead, businesses need to meet buyers on their own terms. This means delivering real value through informative, inspirational insight. However, to be effective, sales and marketing first need to rethink their own relationship.

Sales and marketing: defined by disagreement?

The familiar story is that sales and marketing are often misaligned. However, our latest commissioned research conducted by Forrester Consulting* shows that this perception does both teams an injustice. There is actually a huge amount of agreement on all of the most important issues. 

87 percent of respondents said that collaboration between sales and marketing enables critical business growth. In addition, 90 percent of sales and marketing professionals agree that when initiatives and messages are aligned, the customer experience is improved.

However, while the teams are ideologically in sync, this does not translate to their  day to day operations. 90 percent of sales and marketing professionals say the two teams are misaligned in a number of areas spanning strategy, process, content and culture. 

To succeed in driving the growth that businesses so desperately need, this disconnect needs to be addressed.  But people have been trying to resolve the differences between sales and marketing for decades, with mixed success. So how can we move the dial now?

The four pillars of sales and marketing alignment

In our recently commissioned Forrester study, we uncovered four key areas that create stronger and more sustainable alignment between sales and marketing: Strategy, Process, Content and Messaging, and Culture.

Across these areas we found there are elements of existing alignment, but also some key issues that are preventing sales and marketing from delivering maximum customer value:

  • While there is good alignment on strategy, sales and marketing are measured in different ways by different people
  • Despite some good alignment on process, the systems they use are different
  • While there is some alignment on content and messaging, they each create content without the other’s input
  • Despite confidence about wanting to align culture, the day-to-day relationship is too passive

Start thinking value

While there can be an operational divide between sales and marketing, enforced alignment will not solve the problem. Instead, both groups need to better understand the trials, tribulations and triumphs of the other.  A good starting point is to understand how each team’s actions contribute to the shared goal of delivering  value for customers and prospects..

Beyond this, we  believe there are three ways that sales and marketing can overcome their differences: 

Accept that customers and prospects are not just leads. Buyers do not want to be targeted or sold to. They want  valuable experiences built on empathy, engagement and value-add. This means a shift in mindset for sales and marketing. Together they should spend time understanding their customers, mapping out what these experiences should look like and defining how they are jointly activated.

Think about long-term success, not the target. Generally speaking, sales work towards short term goals whereas marketing has a mix of short and long term objectives. However, to be successful, the key is working together to agree a set of broader, aligned objectives.  The value of sales and marketing lies in their different skill sets working together at each point of customer interaction to achieve these. Together they deliver value; apart they destroy it.

Customers don’t accept the way things are, nor should sales and marketing. Sales and marketing are challenged by different KPIs and expectations. But they can overcome this by  developing a common view of each customer and defining an approach that creates success for everyone. The first step on this journey is a common platform. However this may require both teams to lobby IT, or other decision makers, for a solution that facilitates joined-up customer-mapping and goal-setting. 

By working together on these three areas, sales and marketing alignment will go beyond collaboration. It will deliver a positive impact on customer experience and revenue performance.

Download The Four Pillars of Sales and Marketing quick guide.

*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.