Mo Money Mo Problems: New Age Impediments to Sales and Marketing Alignment

Before you read further or prepare to leave a comment below that I have missed the core elements of sales-marketing alignment, please read my previous work here:

I am a proponent, consultant, advocate for the core elements that have to be in place for sales and marketing alignment and those posts should help you see my point of view. In other words, yes I understand that things like shared expectations and responsibility are critical, but this post is focused on what I consider recent developments in the sales-marketing cold war.

First of all, let me say that a lot of companies are really trying. The relentless blogo-sphere rantings on aligning sales-and-marketing have brought more organizations to the table. Many companies have a qualified lead definition, have shifted real revenue-generation responsibility to marketing, track their efforts, and have generally attempted to become modern revenue machines. I love it. Marketing is at the big boy table. A giant first step has been taken.

Let’s explore some of the new issues hampering alignment but before we do — please take note: I will talk further about these issues with Jason Miller from Linkedin and Justin Gray from LeadMD on an amazing webinar on February 25th at 11am. This going to be a really cool format: We are hosting a debate. I will represent sales and Justin will represent marketing. Jason will attempt to moderate us. Both sides will be represented. Be there for the fight of the century.

sales, marketing, marketing automation

Ok, back to business. How about some crazy observations on the sales-marketing alignment issue.

Houston, we have a Kool-aid problem

This is a big one. Because the marketing blogosphere is so prolific, they have indoctrinated everyone into believing two things:

  • The buyer engages with sales when they are 70% through the buying cycle
  • Marketing will nurture these leads back and hand sales “ready to buy” leads.

Memo to marketers: Be careful what you wish for. Do you really want that much responsibility? You think THAT will get sales off your back? Well certainly, it’s better than before when we used to send the WORST leads to sales…but the expectations have been set WAY to high.  I walk into the companies and the VP of Sales is expecting the modern marketing machine to deliver buyers 70% down the buying cycle. First of all, it’s not true. You will interact with people will before the 70% mark and you should prepare the organization procedurally to execute. Also, in many cases, you WANT to get to people before the 70% mark. At 70%, you are in a competitive situation, pricing will be an issue, and sales has not had the opportunity to deliver the message.

Monthly quotas = BANT

Most SaaS inside sales teams have their reps on monthly quotas. There are a lot of arguments in the blogosphere about the relevance of BANT. Well, it is alive and well if the organization is building their team to make multiple transactions on a monthly basis. But don’t worry, marketing is going to “nurture” people until they are ready to buy. If a SaaS inside sales rep has a monthly quota and you are going to only send them buyers 70% down the buying cycle, what do you want them to do? Also, they have to spend the last week of their month trying to hit their number. The consequence is that sales has to gravitate and latch onto low-hanging fruit. Oh and then tell marketing they need more and better leads. Problem unsolved (see my later point on first call for help with this issue)

Decision makers don’t download whitepapers or sit through webinars

Well, they don’t. The CTO of multi-million dollar organization X can’t wait to sit through your new webinar on XYZ or respond to your monthly whitepaper offer! (sarcasm) The inbound marketing and revenue marketing movement is about champions and influencers. They download information, not the decision maker.  In the SMB, you will get decision makers, but after that you get the middle. I recently met a VP of Sales who said: “Marketing has to get me more decision makers.” A modern marketing machines at scale won’t do that. Thats just reality and it’s ok. There are ways marketing can get to decision makers but in my experience, this responsibility is on sales. Sales should be trained to leverage the interest from the inbound lead or webinar attendee and use that “in” to get higher in the organization.

The more they download, the less likely they are to be a good lead

Content consumption as a leading indicator in scoring can be curse for many organizations. Here is an example: For the highly technical solutions like open source, the person downloading multiple pieces of content is a sys admin or the guy who is the “do-er”. They rarely have budget or the ability or chutzpah to get a deal moving.  So, actually the more they download, the less likely they are that are a fit for sales. So send them emails all day and get them to your webinars. You will build a fanbase which is hugely important, but pass them to sales at your own risk.

The first call with sales is the under-analyzed yet critical juncture in the lifecycle of a prospect

“The leads suck”. The problem with the kool-aid is that marketers have been going to sales and saying the “leads won’t suck”.  The definition of what sucks and doesn’t suck is still a problem. Great marketers do send better leads today, but because we have advertised this trackable, optimizable demand generation process, organizations solve the conversion problem of moving leads to opportunities by always trying optimize marketing. In fact, the problem for many organizations whose marketing department is sending a regular batch of qualified leads is often the first call with sales. The more you analyze sales and marketing funnels…that first call is without a doubt the most critical point in the sales process. Most companies don’t think about it.

Unfortunately, the first call is rarely trained, rarely analyzed, rarely optimized and it is the “fall down” point in the revenue engine. Great companies train reps to identify where the buyer is, who the buyer is, and what they need to move forward in that first call. Once they understand this, they run appropriate plays that help move the buyer along. This doesn’t happen enough. Most of the time, organizations arm the team with a demo and hope the “product” excites them enough to move forward. Actually, that’s not selling and we gotta sell. Not a used car sales approach, but a buyer centric approach.

That is all for now. I am pumped up getting prepped for my showdown with Justin Gray on Tuesday February 25th at 11am PST. Sales and marketing alignment issues are alive and well and I hope healthy debate combined with suggestions for solving these issues can help.


Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic and a co-founder of Topo. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter