How to get serious about cultural alignment for sales and marketing
The experience of remote working highlights missed opportunities – but it might also show the way forward.
03 Minute Read
Although this work looked at EMEA region, these insights can be applied to any organisation across the world.
Research by Forrester Consulting commissioned by LinkedIn has revealed four pillars of sales and marketing alignment: Strategy, Process, Content and Culture. These are the areas where organisations tend to find gaps opening up between the perception and reality, between the principles the two teams share and how they play out in practice.
The pillar analogy is a very relevant one. The challenge of organisational alignment is that too much weakness in one of these areas can bring the whole project crashing down. And although it feels like the easiest to construct, the pillar of Culture is one area where things may wobble. Strengthen it, and you find building the other aspects of alignment a whole lot easier.
That strengthening process starts by looking beyond the top-level cultural principles where sales and marketing already agree. The real business of cultural alignment is in the detail.
Trust in principle – but toxic moments in practice
In the Forrester research, 80% of B2B tech sales and marketing leaders agree that they, “share a culture that is customer-obsessed” and 84% agree that they, “collaborate to deliver customer value.” On the broad cultural question of whether the teams trust each other, 90% agree.
Unfortunately, such broader agreement on vision and values isn’t enough to drive meaningful day-to-day alignment between sales and marketing. In our survey, 83% describe challenges in key areas of cultural alignment. Over a third go as far as describing antagonism between sales and marketing teams, an inability to communicate concisely and the fact that marketing and sales don’t see themselves as active partners, or communicate in one another’s planning process. Even if two teams share the same obsession with customer value, they’re unlikely to collaborate if they don’t see how they support one another in delivering it.
Culture’s role in the tech buying journey
Solving the culture conundrum is a particular priority in B2B tech. Complex, self-directed, digital buyer journeys have many moving parts. The only way to align with the many important moments they involve is open discussion and dialogue. A broad agreement about what you’re trying to achieve isn’t enough – because both teams have a lot of scope for interpretation.
The foundation for meaningful cultural alignment is empathy – an ability to understand what the other team is trying to achieve and why, and a willingness to adjust plans, content and processes to support one another’s objectives more effectively. Adopting colleagues’ challenges and success as your own gets a lot easier when sales and marketing teams communicate regularly – and can see one other as fully rounded individuals.
In the past, the major barrier to building these types of inter-team relationships has been time. Cultural initiatives like job swaps and away days tend to get short shrift from sales and marketing teams racing to hit that month’s targets. The irony of the switch to remote working is that sales and marketing teams are more invested in building closer collaboration – at precisely the moment when gathering face-to-face and building empathy in-person is no longer an option. Suddenly time is less of a problem than space.
Despite the challenges, it is possible to build closer connections remotely – and there may be more opportunity to do so. When sales and marketing teams know they won’t be running into one another in a corridor or cafeteria, communication quickly becomes less ad hoc – and more of a priority. As a result, sales and marketing are talking more often than ever before.
How do we turn this communication into sustainable cultural alignment? The answer is in broadening the role of communication and embedding a greater understanding of what each team brings to the table. Internal launches for marketing campaigns are likely to have a willing audience among colleagues focused on protecting pipeline. There’s also the opportunity to get creative with cross-team activities, such as virtual pub quizzes or dance classes, which leverage the desire for more human connections in socially distanced times.
Beyond this, organisations can invest in the initiatives that provide a foundation for alignment in the long term. Remote job swaps are still a valid tactic for promoting understanding. Including alignment-related questions on Employee Voice Surveys helps to track progress and emphasise that this is a priority. A wider Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging strategy can break down barriers by encouraging all teams to be more empathetic – and intentional in how they communicate.
Cultural alignment isn’t easy – if it were, far more organisations would have cracked it by now. However, there’s never been a more opportune moment for putting serious intent behind it. And the rewards for doing so have never been greater.
Culture is one of the four pillars of alignment revealed by the LinkedIn and Forrester research, alongside Strategy, Process and Content. Explore our insights on all four pillars and put together an approach that works for your organisation.
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