Marketing & Sales Alignment

4 12 2009

Is the lofty goal of marketing and sales alignment too utopian? 

It seems to me that both parties want the same thing, we often take different paths to get there, but the destination is the same. But as is often said, it’s the journey not the destination that counts… so how do we make the journey better.

Philip Kotler, Neil Rackham and Suj Krishnaswamy wrote a landmark piece on Sales & Marketing integration in the Harvard Business Review. They talked about the relationship between sales and marketing being defined as:

1)  Undefined – When the relationship is undefined, Sales and Marketing have grown independently; each is preoccupied largely with its own tasks and agendas. Each group doesn’t know much about what the other is up to— until a conflict arises. Meetings between the two, which are ad hoc, are likely to be devoted to conflict resolution rather than proactive cooperation.

2) Defined – In a defined relationship, the two groups set up processes—and rules—to prevent disputes. There’s a “good fences make good neighbours” orientation; the marketers and salespeople know who is supposed to do what, and they stick to their own tasks for the most part. The groups start to build a common language in potentially contentious areas, such as “How do we define a lead?” Meetings become more reflective; people raise questions like “What do we expect of one another?”

3) Aligned – When Sales and Marketing are aligned, clear boundaries between the two exist, but they’re flexible. The groups engage in joint planning and training. The sales group understands and uses marketing terminology such as “value proposition” and “brand image.” Marketers confer with salespeople on important accounts. They play a role in transactional, or commodity, sales as well

4) Integrated – When Sales and Marketing are fully integrated, boundaries become blurred. Both groups redesign the relationship to share structures, systems, and rewards. Marketing—and to a lesser degree Sales—begins to focus on strategic, forward thinking types of tasks (market sensing, for instance) and sometimes splits into upstream and downstream groups. Marketers are deeply embedded in the management of key accounts. The two groups develop and implement shared metrics. Budgeting becomes more flexible and less contentious. A “rise or fall together” culture develops.

These definitions provide a great starting point. But transitioning to a more aligned marketing and sales relationship is a difficult  journey. But one of the most important things about any journey is having the right mind set. In reality we are all in sales, everyone of us… some of just don’t know it (or want to ignore it).  One doesn’t exist with out the other and both play supporting roles to the organization reaching it’s targets.

The right attitude always goes a long way…Start with the end in mind.