Gartner’s research reveals that organizations prioritizing Go-To-Market alignment are nearly three times more likely to exceed their new demand generation targets, while Forrester’s findings indicate that highly aligned companies experience 19% faster growth process and 15% greater profitability. Conversely, the absence of such alignment carries substantial consequences, putting both company performance and job stability at risk. This is evidenced by the relatively short average tenure of CMOs and CROs, which often falls below 18 months.
It is natural to expect that framework between sales and marketing is improving over time. However, I believe that the opposite is true, as recent trends pose increasing challenges.
- A growing number of buyers prefer to navigate a significant part of the buyer’s journey without direct sales involvement, leading to potential silos in planning the front stages of the journey.
- The rise of product-led growth often prioritizes marketing over sales, further straining the alignment.
- The role of the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) now includes overseeing marketing functions, but many CROs lack the necessary experience to effectively manage this aspect.
- Economic uncertainty pushes organizations to maximize efficiency, resulting in reduced marketing budgets and heightened focus on sales.
As we delve into a framework for success, I will concentrate on the initial stage of the buyer journey, which is centered around demand generation process.
The alignment encompasses six primary activities that foster open communication, align goals and metrics, and promote a culture of collaboration:
- Leadership Alignment: Setting a unified tone and demonstrating visible synergy among leaders.
- Integrated GTM Strategy: Creating a unified strategy and coordinating efforts for a cohesive and effective attack.
- Performance Connection: Establishing joint metrics that span the entire buyer journey.
- Integrated Goals: Collaborating on joint planning and budgeting processes.
- Team Building: Defining clear expectations and fostering regular communication within the teams.
- Joint Storytelling: Coordinating go-to-market presentations and packaging to convey a cohesive message.
By implementing these activities, organizations can navigate the challenges, bridge the gap between sales and marketing, and achieve a more harmonious and successful go-to-market strategy.
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Leadership Alignment plays a crucial role in establishing a strong foundation for the entire go-to-market (GTM) organization. To achieve it, the following practices can be implemented:
- CMO-CRO Collaboration: Close collaboration and alignment between the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) are essential. Any disagreements should be resolved privately, and regular in-person meetings should be conducted to foster a strong working relationship. It is critical for the broader GTM leadership team to witness a united front, which helps build trust and confidence.
- Servant Leadership Mentality: Leaders should recognize their responsibility to serve one another. This approach establishes a two-way street of support, where success is seen as a collective effort.
- Joint Events and Activities: Bring the entire GTM organization together. Instead of separate Sales Kickoff (SKO) and Marketing Kickoff (MKO) events, consider hosting a combined Revenue Kickoff (RKO). Offsite planning sessions should always include cross-functional representation.
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Integrated GTM Strategy
It’s crucial to shift the focus from individual, siloed planning. It is an ongoing process that requires continuous communication, collaboration, and shared ownership of the overall GTM objectives. Here are key steps:
- Landscape Agreement: Engage in discussions to define and align on target markets, segments, and the ideal customer profile.
- Develop Joint Buyer Journey Maps: Collaboratively build out buyer journey maps based on different segments. Agree on the stages, identify primary revenue leaks, and establish joint GTM priorities for the combined team.
- Collaborative Storytelling and Positioning: Marketing should take the lead in crafting the story and positioning. However, Sales plays a critical role in providing relevant input and insights based on their market interactions and customer feedback. This collaboration ensures that the story resonates with the target audience.
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By aligning metrics and measurement practices, organizations eliminate discrepancies and create a shared performance language. Here are key considerations to establish a strong performance connection:
- Integrated Revenue Operations (RevOps): Ideally, organizations should have an integrated RevOps function that supports the unification of sales and marketing operations. This avoids having separate Sales Ops and Marketing Ops teams using different methodologies, metrics, or calculations. A unified approach streamlines processes and ensures alignment in performance measurement.
- Metric Alignment and Attribution: Rather than engaging in prolonged debates about attribution models, it’s beneficial to not over-work or over-think. Whether the decision is a simple approach like first touch or last touch, or a more complex model, the key is to agree on the performance goals based on the agreed upon definition. This alignment enables consistent and fair performance evaluation across sales and marketing.
- Accountability and Understanding: Marketing should be held accountable for their efforts, and it’s important to strike a proper balance between “marketing influenced” and “marketing sourced” metrics. Sales teams need to understand that certain brand activities may not have direct attribution, and there may be gaps in tracking social interactions. Building mutual understanding and empathy allows for a more comprehensive assessment of marketing impact.
By aligning goals, targets, and compensation, organizations establish a shared purpose that drives sales and marketing collaboration. Here are essential considerations:
- Pipeline Goals and Allocation: Start by setting pipeline goals for the business, taking into account the agreed-upon metrics and measurements discussed earlier. Once the goals are defined, allocate the pipeline split between sales and marketing accordingly. This ensures that both teams have a clear understanding of their responsibilities and targets.
- Collaboration with CFO: To maintain alignment between goals and budgets, it is crucial to work together, not separately, with the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Through a coordinated process with the CFO, sales and marketing can ensure that their joint plans are financially feasible and aligned with the overall budgetary considerations of the organization.
- Avoid Battles: It’s important to avoid falling into the trap of budget battles or competing for resources. Instead, foster a culture of collaboration where the CEO and CFO support the joint planning of sales and marketing goals.
Team Building is a fundamental aspect of fostering a successful and collaborative relationship between sales and marketing. To establish a strong foundation, it is essential to set clear expectations and work towards joint success. Consider the following strategies:
- Marketing’s Credibility: Marketing can enhance its credibility by diving into the business and gaining a deep, first-hand view of the landscape. This can be achieved by acquiring similar enablement and certifications as the sales team to demonstrate a commitment as a trusted partner.
- Sales Realism: Sales can contribute to team building by being realistic with their expectations of marketing performance. Recognize that demand generation and lead generation initiatives involve testing and learning, and not every strategy or campaign will yield immediate success.
- Establish Process & Structure: Foster collaboration by establishing cross-functional teams with representatives from both sales and marketing. These SWAT teams can be formed for specific initiatives or projects and should have clear decision-making processes in place, such as utilizing the DACI (Driver, Approver, Contributor, Informed) model. Implement mutual scorecards and conduct regular surveys to provide visibility into the relationship status and highlight areas of progress and improvement.
Presenting a unified narrative about the go-to-market motion and performance will strengthen the alignment and collaboration between the two teams. By avoiding separate narratives, you can mitigate disconnect and tension. Consider the following strategies for effective joint storytelling:
- Standardized GTM Template: Develop a standardized go-to-market (GTM) template for board of directors (BOD) presentations. This template should be used to present GTM performance as a cohesive story rather than separate sections for sales and marketing. By presenting together, you demonstrate a united front and emphasize the collective efforts of both teams.
- Unified Presentations: Collaborate on presenting at company meetings and town halls to showcase the combined performance of sales and marketing. This approach helps to align perspectives and avoid any perception of one team overshadowing the other.
- Recognize Team Contributions: Always acknowledge that success is a result of the collective contributions of the entire go-to-market team. While sales plays a crucial role in closing deals, it’s important to highlight and appreciate the efforts of individuals from both sales and marketing who contribute to the overall success. By recognizing the contributions of all team members, you foster a culture of inclusivity and collaboration.
Sales and marketing, as two integral components of an organization, often find themselves either as the best of friends or the worst of enemies. The age-old criticisms between these two groups are all too familiar in the business world. However, to transcend these stereotypical perspectives, I am reminded of a profound quote from Patrick Lencioni’s renowned book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable”: “When there is trust, conflict becomes nothing but the pursuit of truth, an attempt to find the best possible answer.” In many ways, the six-activity framework and fostering harmony between sales and marketing is all about trust. By building trust and establishing open lines of communication, both teams can move beyond their preconceived notions and work together towards a shared goal of success.
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