Ask any practitioner in B2B Marketing what their greatest challenge is and chances are they will say ”how to align sales and marketing.” Why is this so difficult? I mean we are all after the same goals for our companies: revenue, profit, happy customers. And we all want to keep our job, get a raise or make a bonus.

But something always gets in the way. Is it because our departmental goals are different? Or is it the way we measure those outcomes? Is it something bigger and ethereal like our business perspective or is it the time horizons we work in?

How do I know this is a big issue? 4 of The Hottest B2B Marketing Insider Topics are on sales alignment including How To Align Marketing With Sales and Marketing Leads: Quality Vs. Quantity. The main points:

  • Sales is the customer of marketing. So help them to sell. 
  • Both quality and quantity of leads is important.

Recently, BtoB Magazine provided a snapshot of a Forrester report that stated that only 8% of companies surveyed feel a tight alignment between marketing and sales. The biggest hurdle to achieving integration was in fact long-term marketing thinking vs. short-term sales thinking (cited by 58% of respondents). This was followed by opposing objectives and even “not enough time.”

Additionally, Kris Bondi (@kbondi) VP of Marketing at Luma recently wrote about the Five Classic Mistakes to Avoid in a Decentralized Sales and Marketing Organization. She lists “not listening to the field,” “giving sales the wrong materials” and “keeping too much control” as some additional obstacles to sales alignment.

When I started my career in sales, we had colleagues who ”gave away the store.” So our company had to develop margin thresholds. Even then, some customers felt as if they weren’t exactly sold what they were promised. So we instituted customer satisfaction (this was before the Net Promoter Score) as a sales objective. Add the emergence of Sales 2.0 and I can tell you that sales people understand long term thinking.

So how can marketers help to see the sales perspective? Well I think nothing helps bring two people together more than the old adage of walking in their shoes. With that in mind, here are my B2B Marketing Insider tips to gain sales and marketing alignment:

  1. Go on a sales call. It’s important to hear how your product or service is sold by a sales person. Hear how it’s positioned. Listen to the questions, concerns and “objections” from the prospective customer.
  2. Learn how to deliver your company’s elevator pitch. You should be able to articulate your company or solution’s unique selling points.
  3. Watch a demo. For us software folks this is extremely important but no matter what you are selling, you should be able to stand at a company trade show booth and speak to an interested party about the major features and benefits.
  4. Speak to a customer. Get to know what they bought, why the bought it and why they are happy and willing to refer you to their friends.
  5. Get a revenue goal. I know this is scary for a lot of marketers but it is vital to help you understand the sales perspective. It doesn’t have to be big or a large part of your performance review but put it in there.
  6. Joint planning. If you both agree on the strategic objectives, you can take the different approaches you need to reach the common objective.
  7. Go out to dinner. Have a few drinks. Do whatever it takes to unwind and gain some rapport. Get to know your sales colleagues as people and it will be much easier when the budget gets cut and you need to have a serious conversation about which event needs to go.

But that’s just my view. I’d love to hear yours. 

You can also come here me speak at the Philly BMA event on Aligning Marketing and Sales To Increase ROI on Feb. 16th, 2011.