The COVID crisis has shown us that everything is connected to everything: how we run our business, how we connect with potential customers and customers, how we react to changes, how we live our lives.
And in order to function at this connection level, alignment is required.
Any action we take to counter the pandemic, for example, should be well coordinated with every other action – to ensure that they all fit together and support each other.
If we look at the global responses to the COVID crisis, we can see that the measures taken in different countries are not well coordinated or not appropriate to the challenges at hand. The goals seem to vary from non-overwhelming national health systems to mere tracking of infection numbers and various responses in between.
What does this have to do with the alignment of sales and marketing?
Misalignment, coupled with moving targets, happens every day in business
Measuring things that we can measure instead of things we should measure is a challenge that every sales manager is aware of.
Actions taken in marketing do not always match actions taken in sales. Sometimes these respective actions are even counterproductive: They block each other and create no other value than keeping everyone busy.
Low sales productivity, ineffectiveness in lead generation, and below-average win rates for Las Vegas players are symptoms that we have become used to. Before the pandemic, however, these symptoms were masked by good economics, which allowed companies to get their sales numbers without major problems. Even as companies hit or increased their top-level numbers, the way in which those numbers were achieved did not improve.
One of the main causes of productivity and performance problems is lack of alignment with vision, strategy, and goals. This leads to ineffective marketing automation, inconsistent messages on the buyer journey, disrupted sales processes, and poor process integration between sales and marketing.
Whether your enablement initiative is in sales, marketing, or somewhere in the middle, a strategic sales enablement function effectively aligned with your business goals and challenges and supported by cutting edge technology is the foundation for the Solving your alignment challenges along the buyer’s journey.
Two dimensions of alignment: horizontal and vertical
Horizontal alignment refers to the adaptation of teams, functions and processes to a cross-functional level – a prerequisite for effective collaboration. It is the form of alignment that activation leaders should focus on because it sounds like a no-brainer. “Nothing new, I do it all the time.” I hear you.
Why do so many leaders struggle to get it right? Because they are only trying to solve the problem at the operational level.
Horizontal alignment requires effective vertical alignment. In other words, the horizontal alignment only fails when there is no shared vision of success that all teams can agree on throughout the buyer’s journey.
Vertical alignment is about aligning activation with buyer journey, business strategy, and executives’ stakeholders and sponsors.
This form of alignment is often underestimated and much more difficult to achieve because it requires different skills and takes a lot of time.
However, vertical alignment from marketing to sales to service is vital if you want your enablement initiative to move your performance pin on the buyer journey.
Three critical alignments for activation success
Let’s look at the three most important success factors through the lens of alignment.
1. Effective activation requires aligning the buyer’s journey
Buyer journey orientation refers to how well your internal sales processes, from marketing to sales to customer success, are coordinated and connected to the buyer journey (vertical orientation) and with each other (horizontal orientation).
It’s important that buyer trips are coordinated with customers for the most relevant sales and purchase scenarios – supported by customer experience, marketing, sales, and customer success.
Such alignment levels require that enablement sponsors and top management stakeholders have top priority and lead accordingly through the Advisory Board or the Sales Enablement Steering Committee.
That leads us directly to the second critical success factor.
2. Alignment with business strategy and other strategic initiatives is the secret to sales promotion success
Company alignment and sales strategy (vertical alignment) is a work that must be done during the charter or business plan activation phase.
Alignment with other strategic initiatives is also important. One possibility is to put sales promotion under the umbrella of a strategic initiative (vertical orientation) that has already been implemented.
However, this method is only beneficial if the umbrella initiative is a leading company-wide initiative, such as global digital transformation. I don’t recommend it if the umbrella is just the CRM initiative. In this case, it is important to align yourself horizontally with the CRM program.
3. Effective sales promotion requires the coordination of executives and stakeholders
This type of vertical alignment is critical; This means that leaders have a clear understanding of their role, their goals and the problems they are trying to solve.
Adapting to and meeting the expectations of their executives is not the greatest challenge executives face. It gains access to these executives. And that requires specific skills – professional sales skills to be precise.
As an enablement leader, focus on clear and relevant business messaging (rather than programs that you want to execute) and the difference your strategy makes to your leaders’ goals. This can help you get on executives’ calendars, have important conversations, and align with their expectations.
Additional resources for aligning sales and marketing
Three steps to better alignment of marketing and sales
Marketing and sales orientation pays off in the recession
Five ways to improve product marketing and sales collaboration to increase sales