As marketers, we see the phrase "marketing and sales alignment" thrown around often enough to be able to roll our eyes in unison. But obviously it keeps getting brought up for a reason: Something just isn't working.
2022 marks my 23rd year of marriage, as well as 23 years leading marketing teams that work in tandem with Sales. In both cases, I've endured a tenure long enough to have the wisdom of a legal drinking age adult, so I've gained insights into the eerily similar ways you can keep those critical relationships healthy and long-lasting.
1. Work on your vows together
I'm not going to name names, but one of us in my marriage spent hours drafting a Rumi-esque trope celebrating our love and outlining our amore-fueled forever. The other searched "wedding vows" on the Internet and copy/pasted.
Wedding vows are the first official documentation of joint goals and alignment, not unlike the quarterly and annual revenue plans that dictate programs and results. Surprises at the altar (or board meeting) might heighten dramatic flair, but drama is rarely the key to hitting annual numbers or forging lasting happiness.
Marketers should start their quarterly plans by working from sales goals, building backward from required opportunities to upper funnel activities. Deep-diving into the current pipeline helps marketing teams know whether to allocate budget toward closing opportunities or driving acquisition.
Likewise, sales teams should factor in road map and marketing programs when deciding on quota categories beyond straight bookings or when setting up Spiffs (commission calculation)...
Marketing's confidence in driving incremental demand should serve as input into setting annual targets. It's not only about how many reps you can afford but also about how much opportunity you see in the market.
2. Align on the big stuff and then pick your battles
Before I got married, we had lengthy conversations about issues known to end marriages— religion, kids, money. What we didn't discuss was living room furniture. So imagine my surprise when, while furniture shopping with my new spouse, he began gravitating toward chocolate brown, heavy leather, brass-studded recliners. How could he not know we were destined for a marshmallow-white puff-of-pillows L-shaped sectional?
In the end, I got my sofa. He, however, got his pick of car.
Sales leaders are sometimes suspicious when I acquiesce on things such as funnel stage definitions and methodologies (AQL, MQL, SQL, SAL, etc.), or even which team sales development reps should report to. I'll often ask, "What would you prefer?" I'm flexible on those things.
There's no handbook for which decisions should be made by Sales and which by Marketing. Ultimately, what I care about is that funnel and pipeline stages give a clear, consistent ability to measure success and predict opportunities and revenue. As long as we achieve that, I'm not going to quibble.
Methodologies and metrics that you swore by in a previous position or that were touted by an industry influencer you follow are far less important than the harmony of the relationship between marketing and sales teams.
3. Learn that roses—and some tech tools—can ne meaningless and expensive
Nothing feels more meaningless than standard-issue Valentine's Day red roses wilting with jacked up holiday pricing. I don't even really like red roses, and I'm viscerally averse to price-gouging. It doesn't mean I don't appreciate a little attention every now and then. One of my husband's most romantic gestures was to recreate my wedding bouquet one anniversary. It was unique, it held special meaning, and it was filled with flowers I love.
Unfortunately, sales and marketing teams often adopt tools and technologies with about as much thought as goes into the February 14 6 PM Walgreens shopper's, settling on a waxy chocolate sampler. Just like overpriced roses do not a happy marriage make, investment in a costly tech stack does not automatically guarantee alignment.
Software license procurement in and of itself is not a magic pill. Too many people rely on out-of-the box functionality, methodology, and reporting; but successfully harnessing the power of such expensive platforms requires an adoption path as unique as your business.
I've lost track of how many of times I've exported out-of-the-box reports to Excel files for the precise lens required to align with a specific business. And although martech and sales tech, like romance, is paramount to a successful relationship, it needs to be approached with thought and consideration for the specific nuances of your business.
4. Honeymoons end, so plan for worse and show your best
Down quarters, crappy marketing campaigns (who, me?), a worthy competitor emerging from nowhere, COVID... Any relationship is much more about day-to-day reality than idealism. And much like the test of a marriage is more about the "for worse" than the "for better," Sales and Marketing alignment proves its mettle during trials and tribulations.
The good news is that tough times can bring you closer together. In 23 years, my husband and I have certainly seen our fair share. We've learned that when facing a period of trudging uphill, you should focus on your partner.
Move your attention away from the gorgeous ad campaign the team is so excited about. Instead, think about programs to run that might help Sales close pipeline against a formidable competitor. If your sales team has taken a beating for a quarter, rally the marketing team to run a "back with a vengeance"-themed sales kickoff. If there's a recession going on, pull up your britches, dust off the 4Ps from your marketing textbook, and revisit pricing, packages, and promotion.
And in this new scattered, separate-at-home reality that's void of ad hoc swivel chair conversations and joint customer visits, you have to make extra effort (beyond Slack messages) to connect with one another through understanding and empathy. For me, when I just can't take another Zoom call, Sales counterparts are happy to connect over the phone while taking a refreshing walk.
Bonus: be happily ever after
The gestures in this article say, "I've got your back, no matter what," and they can take the trust in a relationship to new heights. As a marketer working with Sales and as half of a married couple, the same basic human traits—alignment, empathy, compromise, appreciation, connection—are keys to a lasting, loving, and successful happily ever after.
More Resources on the Sales and Marketing Relationship
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