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B2B Roundtable: Communication And Metrics Unlock Better Sales And Marketing Alignment

Featured B2B Roundtable: Communication And Metrics Unlock Better Sales And Marketing Alignment

Sales and marketing are not aligned within most organizations, and it has been a common pain point for a very long time. However, that awareness has not prompted a sea change among marketers; it’s a complex issue to solve with several factors at play.


  • Robin Saitz, CMO, Brainshark
  • Laura Ramos, Analyst, Forrester Research
  • Alex Shipillo, Director of Demand Gen, Influitive
  • Tracy Eiler, CMO InsideView
  • Andrea Austin, VP, Enterprise Sales, InsideView
  • Evan Liang, CEO, LeanData
  • Adam New-Waterson, CMO, LeanData
  • Yaron Zakai-Or, CEO, SalesPredict

The misalignment stems from a lack of common metrics, differing personalities and miscommunication, and, in many cases, flawed or siloed processes.

Demand Gen Report recently moderated a roundtable discussion, in collaboration with InsideView, with a group of marketing executives to hash out issues including misaligned compensation, the role of data, and how technology can impact alignment, and discuss a way forward to true sales and marketing alignment.

Demand Gen Report: What is at the root of the lack of alignment between sales and marketing in so many organizations?

Yaron Zakai-Or: There’s a people issue and I think the people issue comes from a very fundamental topic, which is compensation. Sales and marketing are not compensated in the same way and that creates inherent misalignment. I know in some companies people are trying to bridge that by creating a more sales(y) compensation structure for marketing.

The other thing is technology. The fact that we have marketing automation and sales automation, those are two separate systems and in all companies there’s a question, “How do you transfer your leads and are all of your leads connected between those two systems?” The technology today disables, to some extent, good communication between these two different departments in most companies. So the technology needs to enable it a lot better.

Laura Ramos: Absolutely it’s a compensation difference, but I think it’s also goals and metrics. Marketing thinks about things differently than sales. So marketing tends to take maybe a segment approach and sales wants to know about their account. Sales is always worried about this quarter. Marketing is looking four quarters ahead. It’s those different kinds of perspectives that keep them from having the same kinds of perspective on what needs to move forward for the business.

The other thing that keeps the misalignment, despite all the advances we’ve made in technology automation, marketing automation, sales automation, is scale, particularly at large companies. Marketing has to be able to scale to deliver value to the sales organization, and a lot of companies think that the way that you do that is through programs and agencies and dollar resources rather than through technology and sophistication.

Zakai-Or: It needs to start with the management team — the CEO, CMO, product marketing and head of sales. When you’re in a competitive situation you need to have sales and marketing totally aligned because otherwise you are spending money on useless campaigns.

Tracy Eiler: I know that a lot of the folks in marketing don’t understand what kind of pressure sales is under. They don’t understand what it’s like to close a quarter and that you don’t eat if you’re not making your number. So I really try to make sure that our marketing folks understand what the sales cycle is like. It’s a lot of soft skills and it’s being curious about each other’s businesses and what we do.

Robin Saitz: It’s a complete people, process, technology thing. The technology that’s available now that wasn’t available 10 years ago or 15 years ago where when marketing was off doing branding and sales was off doing their sales and nobody was looking for that because there was no way to track behavior and everything else. The technology is like a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because now we can actually track it but its promise isn’t…the technology hasn’t sort of caught up to the promise of what we should really be able to do. There’s not a very good appreciation of the process transformation that has to happen in a company when they try to drive alignment.

DGR: How does the lack of alignment impact the business and the people?

Ramos: I’m starting to see CMOs take that to one more level. It is more so, I would say, at small to midsize companies than larger ones, because larger ones have a lot of mass that doesn’t want to move. Not only are we planning around themes, but we’re planning around accounts or industries or geographies where you need to penetrate and do targeting.

I believe that the vast growth and interest and early experimentation in predictive analytics is being driven around that. The technology does what you can sit down and do with sales if you just spend a little time, which is to say, “Here’s the patterns and here’s other things that look like that pattern that maybe you should be chasing down.”

DGR: Who should own sales and marketing alignment?

Saitz: It could be the COO. It’s a very operational kind of thing. A COO is looking across many functions. I think the CEO definitely should care about it, especially if they’re worried about sales productivity. It is such a big job to drive that alignment and to do that process change, that cultural change inside of a company, someone who’s cross functional needs to own it.

Eiler: My own personal experience, I’ve had the experience probably three times now where the CEOs actually wanted me to have healthy tension with my sales leader and they encouraged it because they thought it would be better performance.

DGR: What do we call that? Gladiator syndrome?

Eiler: Yes. It’s like “I want you to fight because that’s going to create better quality.” I call it draconian. I feel like in those situations I took it upon myself to make sure that I was in line with my sales leader. I tell my own team, “Guys, if there’s something that’s not working I think we have to have the olive branch.” We don’t carry the number. Sales carries the numbers so they get first pick.

Evan Liang: It’s got to be ingrained into the culture and so ultimately the person who’s responsible has to be the C-level person who’s trying to drive that.

Ramos: I think attitude is important. I’m looking for the case study of the company that really does run everything by the numbers. I think the metrics are important too here. Because I think if you really were in a situation where everything was decided by what do the numbers say then you get the personalities and this is the way we used to do it and all this kind of stuff taken out of it. It switches from subjective to objective.

Adam New-Waterson: When I got to Lean Data, one of the very first things that I did was change the marketing department’s goals to be entirely focused on either pipeline or revenue. Those were the only two things that I wanted our team measured on. We need to be responsible for all of it, the whole way through; otherwise we won’t actually meet our goals together.

DGR: What is the first thing organizations should do to align sales and marketing?

Liang: I think you start with the people, but then you have to try to find the quick wins. Try to show that when it works together it does really work so people can build upon that so the faster you get there the more you can start building the trusting relationship.

Andrea Austin: And don’t wait. I just put a meeting on the calendar called “S’marketing” and invited a bunch of people and guess what, that’s now a standing meeting. We don’t save topics for it, but we use that meeting to talk about campaign ideas, to measure activities, to connect on what’s happening in events and we brainstorm in there, vet things out, and then we present it back to the company or teams.

Alex Shipillo: A little while ago Robin talked about conversations. That’s what it really boils down to. So if you are able to break through that and have better, stronger conversations with marketing and sales counterparts, I think that’s really where you make the most progress.

Ramos: I think it depends a little bit on where you are in your maturation as a company, the kinds of people in the organization and things like that. If there is this culture of trust and let’s do things together … that’s great. But if you don’t have that, I think the place you want to start with is with the objectives, with the metrics. Let’s get the CEO in the room too and ask, “What do we want to achieve in the next 12 months, 18 months? Then work back from there and [figure out] what you need to do to get there and make it all about the goals and not about the personalities.

Saitz: When I walked into Brainshark I was told the marketing mechanics are great. But I did my own ‘listening tour.’ I knew we needed sales and marketing alignment. Then I came back and started looking at the waterfall more closely. So now we’re back looking at mechanics as well. We’re doing both. And now that we’re starting the FY16 planning process, it’s all about the objectives. I won’t do it by myself. I will do it with the CEO and the president cascading down to sales and marketing. We’ve already had one sales and marketing meeting together and then the plan will drive everything that we do.

DGR: What do you think are the most important emerging tools or existing tools that will help spur greater alignment?

Zakai-Or: Data is critical and it’s data using the same criteria to look at things. It’s the analytics and it’s the reporting. So when there’s a common thread of using the same data pieces, the same analytics, the same reporting I think that that facilitates a lot of the alignment.

DGR: There’s been a lot of talk in about predictive being the solution for sales and marketing alignment. Do you all agree with that?

Eiler: I think it helps with scoring and targeting and figuring out where to go next. It doesn’t solve every problem. None of our technologies do, but where you’re going to go next and where you should fish is so critical. There’s a huge tension area for all of us marketers to create so much content to help sales sell and help to market. We had an off-site meeting this summer, and the number one pain everyone was complaining about was, “We’ve created all of this great stuff and I still go talk to my sales friends and they say, ‘I didn’t know we had that thing.’” We’re really struggling with that.

Austin: We can’t keep hunting in Box and Chatter. It’s just too much. It’s too hard. It goes to that business impact of the misalignment because we talk about wasted resources and the scale that you were talking about before, Laura. When a marketing organization doesn’t have the resources, either the people resources or the financial resources to produce the content that is necessary and they don’t have the visibility to what actually works, they’re just always throwing it at the wall.

To be able to share content, to be able to deliver it up in the right stage of the selling process and then connect the use of that content back to the revenue that was generated from it, that’s big. That also helps guide the sale guys because then they know what’s working.

Ramos: With marketing automation I say there’s two big things that are missing out of the box. We’ve hit on both of them. One is the data. The other part of it is content. You decide who you’re going after and what are you going to say to them and what works. How do you get your arms around that without having to go to Box or some file share or email or whatever? From a technology standpoint, I think predictive analytics is a symptom of that need for … the data to be improved.

We did a research report last year where we looked at 30 business-to-business websites just using the website as an indication of what their content looked like, whether or not it engaged with people. We created 10 very simple criteria about whether or not it was engaging content. Did it talk about the problems that the buyers have, not about the company? Did it have video? Did it have things on it that people could interact with, all this kind of stuff? Was it educational? Was it interesting? Was there something emotional about it?

Twenty-six out of the 30 failed, because it’s all about them.

Shipillo: There are tools that we’ve been using that have helped us really do that. We’re big advocates for Full Circle Insights. That’s helped us really show the value of the marketing. For a lot of companies that’s a huge problem. Obviously, we’re fortunate that we’re very marketing-driven at Influitive and being able to show that very clearly in a way that’s easily accessible to the sales organization and the executive team means that there’s more respect around it.

DGR: What does success look like? Paint the perfect picture of sales and marketing alignment.

Shipillo: I think it’s solving each other’s problems. We just hired someone to do database operations and data strategy who sits inside of marketing. We just thought that we as a marketing team could attack that better and could solve those problems faster and quicker for the sales team and be an asset to it. I thought it was really cool. I thought the fact that we were going out and really as a marketing team saying we think this is the best place for the revenue team to move the needle quickly. I think that was exciting. I want to do more of that.

Ramos: That’s where I think it’s more important: to have those quick wins … because then everybody says, “Let’s keep doing that” as opposed to fighting about it. And then you build the picture. We got that quick win because we did this, but imagine what we could do if we could do this? Then win the next one, and the next one and the next one.