Recapping the Latest TMA Event: Ensuring Alignment Between Sales and Marketing

Earlier this month we held one of our regular Technology Marketing Alliance (TMA) events,  which brings together senior technology marketers from around D.C. to discuss pressing matters in the world of tech marketing. For this month’s event — titled “Ensuring Alignment Between Sales and Marketing” we partnered with the Institute for Excellence in Sales. Our panelists included:

  • Darrell Gehrt, Vice President of Sales, Mobile Division, Cvent
  • Patrick Smith, Senior Vice President and CMO, Cvent
  • Tripp Brockway, Vice President of Sales, TrackMaven
  • Gary Newgaard, Vice President, Public Sector, Pure Storage
  • Allison Dawson, Head of Public Sector Marketing, Pure Storage

Let’s take a look at some of the key takeaways from this month’s discussion.

Alignment is critical.

Panelists agreed that sales and marketing must be aligned from the get-go. They felt strongly that in order to truly be successful the two groups need to have a cohesive strategy. There may be a lot of things the marketing team would like to do, but if those activities do not fit with the strategy, structure, and approach of the sales group they are not going to produce the kind of results the sales group needs to be successful.  

And while it may seem like common sense, marketing and sales need to be in lockstep agreement on what kinds of pipelines their organization needs. It’s not just about the number of leads, it’s about the quality of those leads. Further, the two teams need to understand who is driving the pipeline – marketing, sales, or inside sales? Everyone agreed that marketing executives need to ask themselves what they can do to ensure the health and quality of their organizations’ pipelines.

Not just aligned, but partners.

Beyond just being in alignment, sales and marketing teams need to be true partners. As partners, they need to work together and adopt a long-term view of success.  

Sales leaders on the panel maintained that creating, advancing, and closing opportunities is critical, but they also recognized that they can’t do it all themselves and that marketing partners are indispensable. Sales should take on a more consultative role and provide marketing with messaging that resonates with audiences. As Patrick noted, “You need to sell what someone actually wants, not what you think they want.” Doing so requires sales and marketing to work together to provide the right content and messaging.

As for thinking long term, it’s no surprise that both groups are usually looking one to two quarters ahead. Sales teams are measuring how they are doing against their pipeline, while marketers are focused on preparing the market for what’s coming. Viewing the future through slightly different lenses could potentially lead to friction, but in a well-aligned organization, both groups remain aware of the challenges each faces.

Gary and Allison articulated this well. Gary focuses on measuring how the sales team performs against the opportunities in their pipeline and what can be done to advance those opportunities. Meanwhile, Allison focuses on ensuring marketing is on the leading edge of what is being developed. Even as she remains aware of the sales teams’ needs, she continues to warm up the external audience for future offerings that may not necessarily fill the pipeline at this very moment but will soon prove valuable.

Communication ensures alignment.

Everyone agreed that constant communication is necessary. They mentioned working side by side and talking with their counterpart at least every other day to set objectives and metrics and measure against those metrics.

For Tripp, it’s not just lip service, either. He shared with the panel how he and his head of marketing have truly formed a friendship – dining together frequently and deciding upon collective goals to reach their objectives. The two have developed metrics together that they both agree to and work towards. He admits that while this situation is working at TrackMaven, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing in previous positions.  

The voice of the customer belongs to all.

The voice of the customer is not something that belongs to just one person or group. In some companies, it may be driven by marketing, but it should be viewed as a shared responsibility. Sales is an important stakeholder — participating in focus groups, surveying customers, and ultimately deciding what the voice of the customer sounds like.

Present a unified front.  

Overall the session really came down to both teams being in lockstep, knowing where the other one stands at all times, and coming together to present a unified front. Sales and marketing need to partner and have co-ownership of the pipeline. Furthermore, while each team may have their own numbers they are trying to hit, the teams cannot operate in silos and celebrate when one makes their goal and the other doesn’t.

One of the panelists shared a great example. A few years ago a during a company-wide meeting the organization’s marketing lead celebrated having green by all of his numbers, yet everything next to sales was red. Not only does this make for an incredibly awkward situation, it also shows a clear lack of alignment between the two teams. Suffice it to say that when that marketing lead left the sales lead took the opportunity to start fresh with the new sales lead, ensuring alignment and that an awkward situation like that didn’t happen again.

As usual, it was a lively discussion and we’d like to take this chance to thank all of our panelists for coming out and sharing their wisdom. And, finally, I’d like to encourage everyone to consider nominating their sales executive for the IES 2018 Sales Excellence Award.

Let’s talk.