Broadly speaking, I think there are 3 stages to the evolution of sales and marketing alignment around demand generation.
Stage one: complete separation. Marketing hopes that no-one asks what revenue it has sourced, or what impact it’s having on share of wallet in major customers, or where to look for a definitive database of target prospects with their campaign histories. Sales don’t really take any interest aside from asking for the occasional new product presentation.
Stage two: marketing is working ‘for’ sales. We realise that the direct route to showing the impact of marketing is to show how it has sourced/influenced sales opportunities. So we go all out to be helpful to sales, running campaigns and creating materials around the products we think sales want to sell. But sales don’t really believe it’s going to work, and don’t put much time into it. So marketing often ends up targeting the wrong organisations (sales don’t take the time to agree the target list), without any strong customer references (sales aren’t convinced about how they’ll be used/the value of using up ‘favours’ with a customer), and generating leads that aren’t followed up.
Stage three: this is where the equal partnership happens. The change often happens after senior management review a year’s worth of lead generation effort and realise that nothing happened with them. Marketing should be asking sales to agree to some SLAs (around approval of target lists and follow-up/feedback on leads for example) and asking for more time with sales management to understand their targets and bonus structures (so we can structure our campaigns accordingly). We’ll also be helping identify pinch points in the sales process and offering tools/training to help. And we should be gathering and feeding back valuable intel from the audience (drawn out of anything from inside sales conversations through to marketing automation systems).
Can you jump straight to stage three?
Well you could argue that it’s only by going through the previous stages that you build up the experience to get to the top.
Maybe that was true in the past, but I think there’s enough general awareness of the benefits of sales and marketing alignment now that it should be possible to spend as little time at stage two as possible. And enough people have gone through the process now that it is definitely worth trying to find a shortcut if you’re still at level one!
The simplest way to shortcut the process is to start small and build up an example of what great looks like in just one area (maybe working with a specific sector or proposition team). Then use the example to build momentum and starting acting like marketing is an equal partner to sales even if it isn’t true across the board. Ask for more time with sales management, agree some two-way SLAs and see what valuable customer/prospect intel you can mine from your campaigns. Then see what happens.
Of course, the challenge of scaling up from one specific area to having the processes in place right across the business is a topic for another day!