Is your business just talking the talk on sales and marketing alignment?

Our new study shows there’s a big gap between perception and reality when it comes to aligning sales and marketing efforts

January 17, 2017

One of the biggest problems with surveys is that people have a tendency to tell you what they think you want to hear. And this is particularly true when surveys ask marketing and sales about how well they work together. It’s one thing to talk a good game on sales and marketing alignment – it’s quite another to put that game into practice: embedding it in the everyday behaviours of both teams, taking practical action and seeing tangible results. New research from LinkedIn shows just how big the gap between perception and reality can be when it comes to sales and marketing working together. It also shows the value that both departments are missing by failing to walk the walk.

It’s one thing to talk a good game on sales and marketing alignment
In our survey of over 7,000 sales and marketing professionals, we found plenty of positivity about how the two teams align: 79% of businesses believe a collaborative relationship exists, and 74% believe that collaboration has improved in the last year. However, when we analysed the actual behaviour of sales and marketing teams on LinkedIn, a very different story emerged. In EMEA, analysis of LinkedIn data for just under 200 large and mid-sized businesses shows that 55% of sales and marketing professionals aren’t even connected to someone in the other department on LinkedIn. If they are not part of one another’s networks, how serious can they really be about aligning their efforts?

Look closer at our survey results and there’s more evidence that too many businesses are simply paying lip service to sales and marketing alignment: only half have mapped out their buyers’ journey – and only just under a quarter are consistently working together through all stages of it.

Of those saying collaboration had improved, only 25% talk about a significant improvement. Just as worryingly, 35% say they don't know how to measure the impact of sales and marketing alignment – and therefore can’t say whether it’s delivering business benefits or not. In 49% of businesses, sales and marketing continue to use different metrics – and this lack of a common language impedes the ability to collaborate.

But walking the walk is a lot more worthwhile
Ask sales and marketing teams why it’s such as struggle to turn good intentions into actions – and you’ll most likely be told that ‘it’s complicated’. However, does every aspect of sales and marketing alignment have to feel like a UN negotiation? We decided to analyse LinkedIn data on the impact that simple, actionable steps can have on the effectiveness of both sales and marketing. To do so, we looked at both departments’ interactions with more than 40,000 LinkedIn members - and the results are dramatic. They show that effective sales and marketing alignment doesn't have to be some vague aspiration – nor does it always require complex organisational change. Co-ordinating the way that sales and marketing approach prospects on LinkedIn is enough to deliver significant, measurable improvements.

Prospects who have been exposed to a company’s Sponsored Content on LinkedIn are 25% more likely to respond to an InMail from a sales rep at that company – and the lift in response rate increases with how frequently that prospect receives marketing content. Prospects who have received Sponsored Content are also 10% more likely to accept a connection request from sales, establishing them as a likely sales qualified lead and moving them further along the path to purchase.

The benefits of practical sales and marketing alignment don’t just flow in one direction. When marketers start to leverage their sales reps’ wider networks they are able to drive significantly greater engagement with content – and drive far greater organic reach. Sales reps’ connections are over twice as likely to engage with Sponsored Content – and they are almost five times more likely to share it.

How to drive more effective sales and marketing alignment
Co-ordinating sales and marketing activity on LinkedIn is definitely amongst the low-hanging fruit when it comes to sales and marketing alignment. However, there’s significant room for improvement in the number of businesses doing it effectively. In our study, a third of the prospects that sales reps reached out to had already been exposed to Sponsored Content. That’s promising – but there are still companies leaving big gains in engagement and lead generation out there.

What’s the simplest way to align sales and marketing activity on LinkedIn? The obvious starting point is encouraging the two departments to connect. In fact, companies that have a higher proportion of sales and marketing employees connected on LinkedIn are 25% more likely to succeed in warming up prospects prior to reps reaching out to them. Is asking your sales and marketing teams to connect to one another on LinkedIn all you have to do to build more effective sales and marketing collaboration? Of course not. Is it a great place to start that’s likely to lead to some early, easy wins? Of course it is.

The relationship between sales and marketing is often described as a marriage. And just as in marriages, things start to go wrong when two sides aren’t completely honest with each other – when they start living in denial. When businesses enthuse about how much they value sales and marketing collaboration, but fail to do anything practical about it, they start to fall into this trap. As with marriages though, taking some small, practical steps can make all the difference. It’s time for action – not just words.

For a deeper dive into the research, download the guide, “The Payoff of Improved Sales and Marketing Alignment” today.