Marketing and Sales: Will They or Won’t They?

Our industry has been talking about sales and marketing misalignment for a long time, and for good reason. Eighty-three percent of “World-Class” sales organizations identified in our annual sales effectiveness study say that sales, marketing and customer service are aligned on their customers’ needs and wants.

And while connecting sales and marketing is a goal for many (at least conceptually), our studies have also shown that success is rare. Only 39% of companies strongly agree/agree that such alignment exists in their organizations. This is reinforced by data in our Sales Optimization survey in which product development and marketing were named as the two functions that needed improvement or major design when it came to collaboration with sales enablement. And, our recent Sales Operations Optimization survey showed that sales operations had less involvement with marketing automation systems than any other component of the sales tech stack.

Sales and marketing still aren’t on the same page in most organizations.

There are many reasons for the continued disconnect. Sales and marketing are measured on different KPIs. They often report into different leaders (though with the advent of CCOs and CROs, this is changing in some organizations). Perhaps most importantly, they frequently compete for the same budget dollars.

Above the Funnel Gaps

One of the most costly disconnects starts above the sales funnel. Less than a third of organizations agree that marketing and sales have a mutually agreed upon standard definition for leads and way to nurture them.

As a result, the age-old argument over leads continues. Sales says marketing isn’t providing enough leads and marketing says sales isn’t doing anything with the leads they send over. If you can’t agree on what a “lead” is, then you can’t resolve the argument, and both sides remain convinced they’re right.

In the Funnel Gaps

The gaps continue once opportunities are in the funnel and being pursued by sellers. Sales organizations list case studies/references, customer-focused presentations and ROI templates as the customer-facing content tools that need the most improvement. Further, only 24% of organizations said that they had a formal approach to value messaging. While marketing certainly is not solely responsible for these, they are certainly key drivers. Continued gaps in these selling tools are another symptom of siloed sales and marketing organizations.

But there are signs that the gap will narrow.

There are several trends that should drive a tighter relationship between sales and marketing in future iterations of sales organizations:

  • Sales Tech Stacks – both sales and marketing have moved from functions that were built on art and creativity or intuition into data-driven, operations-fueled departments. This includes the growing sales tech stacks within organizations. Marketing automation and CRM platforms integration can force common agreement on lead definition, lead scoring, sales process and a common language of sales. Sales enablement content management (SECM) platforms allow for greater tracking of content utilization, providing a value feedback loop between sales and marketing.
  • Sales Enablement – Fifty-nine percent of organizations now claim a dedicated sales enablement function. Enablement orchestrates (by our definition) content, coaching and training on a common platform of value messaging. By default, then, enablement will become a mechanism for connecting sales and marketing. Marketing owns value messaging and some content. But enablement orchestrates the integration with training and coaching and ensures proper delivery to the sales team.
  • Social Selling – Social selling is growing rapidly. When sellers work with social media, they are creating a personal brand and becoming individual content marketers. They need a content engine in the marketing organization to help fuel a steady stream of insights into the market. Today only 21.4% of organizations say that their marketing strategies and social strategies are aligned. This will need to change as social selling becomes more pervasive.
  • Customer Experience (CX) – Ninety percent of World-Class sales organizations have a clearly defined and well-communicated vision for the desired customer experience, versus 35% overall. CX is becoming a core strategy for many organizations. A true CX approach must align marketing, sales and customer service in order to measure and enhance end-to-end customer relationships. Marketing and sales siloes can’t persist if the organization orients itself around CX.


Questions for you:

  • How well aligned are your sales and marketing functions?
  • What evidence do you have for this assessment?
  • Is there a common definition between sales and marketing for SQLs and MQLs?
  • Is there a common language of sales among sales and marketing?
  • Does the organization leverage a value messaging framework across marketing and sales?
  • Do sellers have the content from marketing they need to successfully engage in social selling?


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