This article was originally published on Forbes.
It’s the chronic, and often fatal, disease of business: sales and marketing misalignment. I, like you, have seen it done well and poorly in my career as marketing leader and CMO. I have also experienced the impact of poor alignment myself, as a consumer and as a customer of B2B goods and services. Although it has been an issue since the creation of the modern enterprise, there are reasons to believe that this chronic disease is getting more deadly.
1. Your Customers Are Changing
An increasing percentage of your customers, even technical buyers in B2B product categories, are wanting to disintermediate your sales team and gather information about products and services online and on their own, according to Forrester. In 2017, the percentage of customers expressing this “don’t call me, I’ll call you” preference was 68%. This represents a 28% increase over the 2015 survey just two years earlier. In fact, only 16% said that they find interacting with a sales rep superior to self-service research.
Mary Shea, Ph.D., principal analyst at Forrester Research , said it even more strongly. “If marketing and sales aren’t aligned and if they don’t collaborate, they will be disintermediated. By buyers themselves who find other ways to get what they need or by more agile competitors," she challenged.
The data would suggest it is already happening. This puts more pressure on marketing to facilitate increasingly sophisticated customers through a funnel (or around a pin-ball machine, to depict it more accurately) without direct engagement with sales.
2. Misalignment Hurts Your Customers
Forty-three percent of B2B marketing decision-makers report that their companies have lost sales as a consequence of not having necessary content at the right time for a specific customer and 77% of the rest have experienced costly delays, according to Forrester (Q1 2017 International B2B Marketing Panel).
This is further complicated by the fact that more people are involved in the decision-making process than before. Committees, panels, and groups are replacing individuals and making it more difficult to identify the influencers and meet all their needs. This is certainly true in B2B sales, but even consumers are sharing their e-commerce or subscription accounts with more people in their household and decision-making processes can fragment at home, too.
Despite this, shockingly, only 24% of organizations calibrate on the definition of target segments or accounts that will apply to both the sales and marketing organizations (per Forrester’s Q1 2018 Marketing Benchmark survey). How can we jointly hit a target, if there is more than one?
This lack of alignment is hurting your customers and impacting your top line.
3. You Are Wasting Money And Time
Sangram Vajre, chief evangelist at Terminus and former head of marketing at Pardot (now owned by SalesForce.com), asked a provocative question: “if only 1% of leads convert to opportunities, does that mean that 99% of marketing is wasted?”
Of course, it’s an unfair question as marketing is often responsible for strategy, channel, brand building, communications, and community engagement which may not directly relate to lead conversion, but if there isn’t cooperation on customer acquisition, where else in value chain might alignment be broken?
“Without shared goals and real-time data sets to drive decisions and investment prioritization, you have to wait for feedback from sales which may be late, anecdotal and with an agenda,” added Shea. “Marketing leaders can, and should, know what content, sales tools and campaigns are driving growth.”
If there is any doubt about what is driving your growth, then undoubtedly you are wasting time and money and that is impacting your bottom line. A bottom line that is getting more attention.
4. Your Boss Cares About It – Deeply
Forty-eight percent of CEOs say that poor alignment and collaboration will be a major marketing challenge over the next 12 months, according to Forrester. And those CEOs are looking hard at CMOs to lead the improvements.
The tenure of chief marketing officers is one of the shortest in the C-suite (per Korn Ferry) and there will be continued pressure and accountability around alignment, especially in times of transformation and change. Vajre agreed that high CMO turnover could be a sign of poor sales and marketing alignment. “If sales fall and budgets are squeezed, everyone pays,” he observed.
Shea concluded that “if you are doing sales and marketing the same way you did 3-5 years ago, you won’t survive.”
Now is the time to take your business’ vital signs and ensure that you have the alignment that you need to sustain and grow, putting your customer in the center of your strategy. As a starting point, look for evidence of customer preference changes in your business, create a common goal set and customer target, use real-time data for decision-making, and regularly report on joint progress.