Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Marketing and Sales Alignment: Putting the Whole Puzzle Together

There's no longer any doubt that a high-performing B2B demand generation system requires a coordinated effort by both marketing and sales. Changes in the attitudes and behaviors of buyers have made it essential for marketing and sales efforts to be tightly integrated.

Most of the discussions about marketing and sales alignment have focused on the lead managment process. In this area, alignment primarily means that marketing and sales have agreed on:
  • What constitutes a "sales-ready lead"
  • How the "hand-off" of leads by marketing to sales will be handled
  • How sales will follow up with the leads supplied by marketing
  • When leads will be passed by sales back to marketing for additional nurturing
  • How new leads acquired by salespeople (through prospecting) will be handled
Having marketing and sales aligned on a well-designed lead management process is important, but that's not the only place where marketing and sales need to be on the same page. In other words, lead management is only one piece of the marketing-sales alignment puzzle.

There are three other critical pieces of the puzzle - value creation, target market definition, and messaging.

Value Creation

Value creation refers to how you create value for customers. It's critical to have marketing and sales aligned on this issue because it's the foundation for your entire demand generation process. To create alignment, marketing and sales should agree on the core value propositions that you will offer to potential buyers. (For a list of questions that can help you define core value propositions, see this earlier post.)

Target Market Definition

Your target market definition includes both the kinds of organizations that will make your best prospects and the identity of the individuals within those organizations who make or influence the decision to purchase your product or service. Marketing uses this definition to design lead generation campaigns and programs. If marketing and sales use a common target market definition, there will be fewer disagreements concerning the quality of leads produced by marketing.


Messaging refers to the content you use to "tell your story" to potential buyers. Messaging is embodied in all kinds of communications vehicles, including traditional marketing collateral documents, white papers, e-books, webinars, and sales presentations. There is often a huge disconnect between marketing and sales when it comes to messaging. Various studies have shown that between 50% and 90% of the collateral materials produced by marketing are not used by sales, and the American Marketing Association has reported that salespeople spend 30 hours per month searching for or creating their own sales materials. These problems can be avoided if marketing and sales agree on the major components of your company's messaging.

The Whole Puzzle Matters

Aligning marketing and sales across all four of these issues is not easy given the culture that exists in many companies. But consider how much better your demand generation would perform if you marketers and salespeople had a common view of:
  • How you create value for customers
  • What kinds of organizations make your best prospects and who the key players are within those organizations
  • How to effectively communicate your value to potential buyers
  • How to manage leads effectively throughout the buying process

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