In 2001, I became director of marketing for an enterprise software company.  My first day was the annual sales kick-off, where I was ready to go and excited to meet my sales counterparts. 

In an early effort to begin aligning with sales, I decided to eat lunch with the Western Region sales team and its vice president. When I sat down and introduced myself, the vice president shook my hand and greeted me with these words: “Welcome to the company.  I’ll be honest. Marketing has never made a difference for me and my team, and I don’t expect much to change.” 

With that I was put on notice. I had a very, very tough crowd!

Four years later, I attended my last sales meeting at that company. That same vice president stood up, told the story of the day we met, and then told the entire group that he was glad he was wrong.

How did this happen? How had we aligned my marketing team and with sales by the end of my tenure at that company? How was it that we were now working collaboratively? How did we find success when the beginning looked so daunting?

In short, we dropped the "and."

Historically, marketing and sales have been kept separate, viewed as two separate departments. They are even measured on different goals. However, as the B2B buyer has changed dramatically, this separation of marketing and sales is proving less effective. In response, leading companies are dropping the "and" in sales and marketing. As one vice president I spoke with recently said, it is now “smarketing.”

In one of his latest blog posts Gerhard Gschwandtner of Selling Power Magazine says, "Organizations that want to win must find a way to get sales and marketing to speak with ONE voice. Ideally, sales and marketing leaders should be able to complete each other’s sentences.” The key words here are “win”, “must,” and “ONE.” It is no longer effective to have the two separated. After all, the objectives of both groups are engaging buyers, creating new customers, expanding current customers and ultimately creating more revenue. Why wouldn’t they be doing so together?

So how does a company make the jump and transform to a place where they lose the and? Here are a few quick tips:

1.  Common Goals and Measurements

As mentioned above the ultimate goal of any company is to create revenue and profit. This can be accomplished in a variety of means (new customer acquisition, upselling/cross-selling, retention through customer service, etc.). Your company will meet its revenue goals faster and more efficiently if marketing-sales both have their eye on the measuring revenue and on those things that impact revenue, such as:

  • Contribution to pipeline

  • Lead aging

  • Pipeline velocity

  • Conversion metrics

Marketers may say, “What about impressions, clicks and opens?” The answer is that those metrics are good for measuring initial campaign effectiveness, but ultimate success (how campaigns generate revenue) is the metric on which both groups should focus. 

2. Unified Compensation

I remember working in one enterprise company where part of my quarterly bonus was tied to the number of press releases we issued.  (For the record, I am not diminishing the power and use of PR; I’m a big believer in it). The problem was that I was receiving a bonus for a tactic in which we had no means for measuring its effectiveness. Sales needed more leads, yet my attention was diverted so I could get some PR out the door and increase my paycheck. (Yes, ultimately even marketers are coin-operated.)

The goal of marketing-sales is revenue. So, both should have some level of compensation based on their attainment of the revenue goal.

In contrast to the press release focus I had in the company I mentioned earlier, another company I worked for provided commissions to marketing for each sale made. I bet you, as marketers, can guess where our focus was. Yep, you guessed it: quality leads delivered to the sales team, improving time to sale and sales enablement. Our common goals were netted out in a unified compensation plan.

3. A Collaborative Process

I keep reading posts and articles about how marketers need to include sales in defining what a lead is and that they need to help sales understand the lead-management process.  It’s as if sales is the new dorky kid at school, and marketing’s parents have instructed them “be nice to the new kids.”

Marketing doesn’t need to explain anything to Sales.  Sales knows what they want and what they need.  Both groups need to ask, listen, and get to work on the respective tasks that will generate revenue. Marketing-Sales is a joint value proposition whereby both have to roll-up their sleeves and jump in together. Developing a lead-management process is not a marketing function. It’s a corporate-wide process developed by ONE group made up of those with a marketing background and those with a sales background.

Buyers don’t care about the internal politics or alignment issues between marketing and sales.  They care about buying from an organization that knows them, engages them in meaningful dialogue, and addresses their challenges.  The only way organizations will consistently achieve this is by dropping the "and" and becoming "one."

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image of Carlos Hidalgo

Carlos Hidalgo is a life design coach, marketing and sales consultant, author of The UnAmerican Dream, and a TEDx keynote speaker. He has held corporate roles, started entrepreneurial ventures, served in nonprofits, and sat on many corporate boards. Hidalgo and his wife host The Life Design Podcast.