Sales and marketing alignment is hard in small and large B2B companies. The challenge for large enterprises is too many cooks in a kitchen, while small businesses tend to lack budget and resources.
I was asked: “what’s the best way to integrate sales and marketing efforts within a large company?”
Honestly, there is no best way for sales and marketing alignment in big enterprises. It depends on the company culture, products or services, B2B customers, or the challenges you try to address.
Here is a better question to address the alignment of sales and marketing teams: How Can I Facilitate Sales and Marketing Alignment within a Large Enterprise?
Within a “big” marketing team, roles, responsibilities, and processes are specific; it’s about different teams working together. You facilitate the conversations and collaborations at regular meetings to move things forward.
For example, I own email marketing. Based on our enterprise marketing strategies, I need to run a sales enablement campaign to address target audiences’ pain points which may accelerate the purchase decision. After evaluating various content pieces, I need the content team to customize 1 to 2 case studies.
I can “facilitate (or influence)” a conversation by asking the content team to modify the content for my email marketing campaigns.
Here are a couple of possibilities for how that conversation would go:
- I can tell them what I need. They will create it for me. Happy ending.
- I can tell them what I need. They won’t or can’t do it.
In the second case, it’s tricky. If I choose to modify the content on my own, how should I communicate it to them even if we have shared goals?
How should this be stored in the content library? If it’s stored in the content library, will other people be able to use the content which has not been formally created by the content team?
If I do this once, can other groups do the same thing and start modifying the content as they see fit?
See how many questions come up when you step outside your lane in a big enterprise?
This can also be an issue if marketing and sales have different target customer bases. Sales may work closely with B2B buyers who can open a purchase order, while marketing targets their marketing outreach to end-users.
There is no easy solution when you work in a big enterprise.
You can consider two approaches when it comes to the actual integration process: top-down and bottom-up.
This is driven by top management. The VP of Sales and CMO get together and define 1-2 big initiatives that sales and marketing need to work towards together. The initiatives are derived from sales plans and marketing strategies. It’s even better if your B2B marketing strategies are engendered from sales plans.
It can be account-based marketing (ABM), data integration, marketing support, sales messaging, etc., but ultimately it’s something coming from the top.
I’ve discovered that a top-down approach is ideal for integrating sales and marketing.
Because top dogs are aligned, worker bees will follow in whatever direction they deem fit.
A task force is set up or a virtual team is identified to move things forward. Many issues are brought to the table to discuss as a team. Then, solutions will be discussed to address any thorny issues.
It doesn’t mean there is no drama. Plenty of drama. There will still be lots of back-and-forths because not everyone will agree on a singular approach.
My recommendation is to talk it out and collectively determine the goals and objectives that you want to accomplish. Whatever decisions you make need to serve the main purpose of your goals and objectives. Again, it’s about facilitating conversations to align sales reps and marketers.
Also, you need a final Decision Maker. If the team is equally divided on two different suggestions, you need someone to break the tie.
If you are working with the sales team directly or are about to work with them, there are times when sales alignment is led or driven by you.
You work directly with the sales team and determine what needs to be done for better integration. In this case, the biggest benefit is that the scope is smaller, and you have a lot more control over what to do and how to do it. As a result, it’s much more manageable.
The key to bottom-up is that you need sales buy-in. Buy-in is also an essential piece of sales and marketing alignment. (In other words, getting the team’s commitment first and helping them see what they can get out of it.) Taking time to get buy-in and commitment up-front will carry you a long way.
One of the drawbacks of bottom-up is that the sales team may sometimes change their minds after a decision.
This is especially common when sourcing a platform for the sales team. After a final decision, they may want to add more features. Sales would insist on things like, “What do you mean that we can’t add that feature?”
This is less of an issue in a top-down approach because a specific process is followed. However, in a bottom-up approach, you are working on it independently, or with a small team, so you are not necessarily engaged with senior management. As a result, sales may think it’s easier to make changes even after making the decision.
Close and clear communication is essential, and being nimble is vital when working with sales.
So, these are the two approaches I’d personally recommend, but let me know what you do to align marketers and sales reps within a big enterprise. Love to hear from you!