The Fatal Mistake in Sales and Marketing Alignment

Every year, companies spend millions on technologies and programs designed to help sales professionals produce better results. On top of that, they often spend just as much on marketing programs to generate new leads or additional business from existing accounts. When these investments fail to deliver the desired results, sales leadership often concludes that sales and marketing are out of alignment.

While this may be the case, aligning sales and marketing is just the start. According to Tamara Schenk, Research Director at CSO Insights, it’s just as important that they be aligned in the right direction.

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if sales and marketing are aligned to each other if they aren’t aligned to what the customer wants and needs,” says Schenk. Only when both teams have a common understanding of the customer’s journey and align to a customercore strategy can they produce the kinds of results the organization is looking for.”

The 5 Prerequisites of Alignment

Before sales and marketing can align to the customer’s journey, they must establish a foundation for communication and collaboration. This includes the language the organization uses to talk about the customer’s journey as well as the processes they use to manage the corresponding selling journey. The five prerequisites to creating proper alignment between sales and marketing include:

  1. A shared vision for how the organization creates value for the customer
  2. A shared strategy for providing that value
  3. An integrated sales and marketing process including lead definition and qualification gates
  4. Shared methodologies, e.g., a shared engagement principle
  5. Shared technologies

If the organization fails to meet any one of these prerequisites, communication falls apart, and sales and marketing remain unaligned. The closer sales and marketing are on these five prerequisites, the easier alignment to the customer’s journey is because what happens at each stage of the customer’s journey is based on a common understanding of the journey the selling team must travel to reach their shared vision of success.

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Alignment to the Customer Journey

The five prerequisites are relatively stable for the organization. That is, while the organization may make strategic improvements in their processes and methodologies, these adjustments should be made with forethought and proper planning. Customers, on the other hand, make every decision differently, every time. Once the foundation for alignment is laid, marketing, sales and sales enablement teams can work together to navigate the dynamics of the customer’s journey. These dynamics fall into three categories:


Change dynamics — When a customer enters the awareness phase of their buying journey, they do so because they want to change their current state for a better future state. Even if the sales professional has managed the account for years, the makeup of the buying team and/or the organization’s goals and vision for success can change. The selling team must work together to uncover and align to the desired future state for this particular opportunity.


Decision dynamics — As the customer progresses through their journey to the buying state, the members of the buying team can change. The sales team must work together to identify the perspectives of these new members and their role in the decision.


Value dynamics — All along the customer’s journey, the perspectives of the individual buying team members will change as well. Some of these changes will be obvious, but others are much more subtle. “Value confirmation conversations” can help the selling team confirm initial assessments of value as well as identify and adapt to these often-nuanced shifts.

Each of these categories shows how challenging it can be to interpret the dynamics within the customer’s journey. The five prerequisites lay the foundation by establishing a common language and vision for the selling team. This allows sales, marketing and sales enablement to work together and align to the customer’s journey instead of spending time interpreting the dynamics within their own selling team.


Credits: Miller Heiman

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