Who is getting sales and marketing alignment right

A radical shift in thinking to better align sales and marketing teams is key to tackling the modern B2B customer. Here are a few companies bridging the gap


The need for alignment between sales and marketing has become obvious. But as reports show, there is still a long way to go in achieving a radical shift in thinking to achieve a more collaborative relationship.

Green Hat’s B2B Marketing Research BMR Report 2017 found crossed wires between sales and marketing continue to result in missed quotas, budget shortfalls and organisational tensions. While 90 per cent of respondents felt aligning marketing and sales was significant, only 45 per cent had shared goals and marketing qualified leads (MQLs) regularly passed through from marketing to sales teams. In addition, only 44 per cent of B2B organisations surveyed are getting satisfactory lead follow-up, while a meagre 25 per cent have any plans for sales enablement.

This year, a raft of organisations have actively sought to align sales and marketing to drive innovation, customer experience and improve the bottom line.

Read more in our series on sales and marketing success:

For example, Konica Minolta director of marketing and innovation, Shane Blandford, said efforts to better align sales and marketing this year towards a more collaborative vision is paving the way for innovation, agility and digital transformation.

“Traditionally, it has been difficult for marketers to understand sales people,” he said. “But I did, because I’m a sales person by background. I could form a bridge between sales and marketing, because I could understand both sides.”

One of the strategic decisions Blandford carried through was to bring marketing automation and digital marketing in-house, a need he also saw arise during his time in the enterprise group.

 “At that time, we were more transactional and we used an external company, but I felt we needed to provide a more streamlined offering that provided value to our customers to retain them,” he explained. “We set up our own digital marketing team responsible for the website, digital marketing automation, content management and content building. Good content is the pillar around which you build your programs.”  

In January this year, Vodafone CEO, Inaki Berroeta, announced the decision to scrap the CMO role entirely in favour of merging sales and marketing. The telco appointed its director of sales, Ben McIntosh, to the newly created role of consumer business unit director, who will oversee sales and marketing activities as a more streamlined structure and seamless end-to-end processes.

“This change will set us up for future growth, and build on the momentum we are achieving in the market," Berroeta said. “The consumer business unit will drive our ambition to deliver the very best product, service and experience for our customers.”

And Lenovo’s head of digital and social marketing for Asia-Pacific, Danielle Uskovic, attributed her success in working effectively with her company’s sales team partly due to her own sales background in the communications technology sector.

“Salespeople need to be more like marketers in this new digital world, and marketers need to be more like sales people,” she said. “More and more of the sales cycle is becoming the marketing responsibility. But then for a sales person it is becoming more and more a part of their responsibility to position themselves as thought leaders and market themselves as such. There is definitely a blurring happening.”

More recently, Cylance senior VP of marketing, Shaun Walsh, revealed how the B2B company is applying innovative artificial intelligence techniques to sales and marketing efforts to enable its customers to successfully make purchasing decisions on their own time and using their own methodologies via the company’s website and online marketing.

“Many of these tools have taken the place of early stages in the sales process,” Walsh said. “However, there are a wide variety of activities, approvals, and processes in our selling motion that unquestionably require an experienced sales force.

“This includes managing contracts, legal review, purchasing, on-site proof of concept, interfacing with channel partners, and other deeply human processes. It may take longer than the predicted 10-year timeline to merge sales and marketing – at least with products being sold into enterprise IT environments.

For Cylance, the number one benefit of better sales and marketing alignment is about improving customer experience.

“It’s a simple marketplace reality that many products have similar capabilities and deliver similar value,” Walsh said. “Since we are all selling to human beings, synchronised sales and marketing efforts must understand at a deep visceral level how and why customers use and buy products, thereby enabling stronger customer referrals, shorter time to revenue, and improved customer experiences. In many ways, the core manifestation of brand is no longer a concept of a brand promise, but the delivery of a valued customer experience.”

As a result of better sales and marketing alignment, Walsh said Cylance has seen significant improvement in cooperation between sales and marketing due to shared information systems and shared dependencies.

“The single greatest unifier has been marketing automation software linked with CRM system Salesforce.com,” he said. “Together, these two classes of products have developed a winning formula, and those that embrace it gain market share and surpass their competitors.”

At a macro level, the fusing of sales and marketing is both smart and strategic, and the companies that do this better, regardless of their channel or the type of organisation, will achieve greater results than their competitors, Walsh stressed.

“For Cylance, which predominantly sells through channel partners, the more we synchronise efforts from end-to-end, the more effectively we can close new business, retain existing customers, and create customer experiences that drive referrals,” he explained.

“In a world in which customers have unprecedented ways to speak to each other via social media, Google search, and industry forums, the reputation of your product is strongest when delivered by existing customers. The closer sales and marketing get to functioning as a single operation, the better a company can leverage a community-driven approach to selling.”

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