One of the biggest barriers to the marketing team’s ability to effectively influence revenue is often in their lack of ability to align with the sales team.  In most organizations, sales is the key function around which all else revolves.  It makes sense.  After all, if sales can’t sell your products or services, then you don’t have a company.  But many marketers see them as the enemy they are constantly fighting to get on board so they can be more successful.

The first step, as they say, is recognizing you have a problem.  The optimal marketing and sales relationship is not an adversarial one.  However, you need to recognize that it is your problem – not the sales team’s problem.  They could probably survive just fine without you – it would just make their job harder.  But most marketing departments would not survive without sales.  So you can’t expect sales to see alignment as a high priority or take action to remedy the problem.

The next step is to recognize that you have shared goals and start treating the relationship as such.  You both are trying to make more money for your company.  Start from that common ground.  Recognize that the sales team has access to key information that you need – what is getting your target audience’s attention and which of your messages/value propositions are resonating.  In return, you can help them be more successful at their job by providing better messaging, more qualified leads and nurture campaigns to keep prospects moving along their buy cycle.

Here are some specific ways you can align better with your sales team:

  • Attend sales meetings
  • Invite them to your marketing meetings
  • Invite sales feedback on your campaigns before you launch them
  • Give your sales team a way to give you feedback from customers and prospects
  • Go out on field visits to prospects with your sales reps (note – sales reps may have a very different view of the world than sales managers – take both views into account)
  • Create a shared marketing and sales steering committee to define the joint strategy
  • Setup Service Level Agreements (SLAs) between marketing and sales that clearly define the actions that are to be taken by each team, in what time frame and escalation points
  • Create a shared marketing and sales funnel with clear definitions and metrics for each stage
  • Share metrics and analysis with the sales team to provide value
  • Provide market research and further customer/prospect insights to the sales team to make their job more efficient
  • Focus on passing over more qualified leads to sales – put pre-sales qualification into place to ensure they will not need to waste their time on prospects that aren’t ready to buy

These are just a few ways you can start to work together better with your sales team.  Start looking at them as a partner with shared goals and you will find countless other ways to move forward together.


After a successful first half of her day and a good break, Janet is ready to tackle the tasks ahead of her.  At 1 pm, Janet reviews the latest campaign metrics.  She notices that one of her campaigns is not getting good response rates.  She calls the campaign manager into her office to brainstorm getting this campaign back on track.  It is determined that the messaging and offers should be tweaked.  The campaign manager goes off to make the changes and they agree to discuss the results in a few days.

Next she takes a look at the lead scoring results.  She notices many leads in “hot” status.  A quick look in the CRM shows that many of these leads have not been followed-up on by the lead qualification team.  She heads over to talk to the lead of that team.  The conversation is easy because the teams are in close alignment on strategy and incentives.  Everyone is working towards the same goals.  She determines that the issue is around having too many leads in hot status, but when the lead qual team follows up, not many are converting.  She discusses with her Marketing Automation administrator some changes she wants to make to the lead scoring criteria.  The changes will be made by the end of the day and they can review the results in a few days again to see if it helps.

At 3 pm, Janet interviews a couple of candidates for her team.  She is looking for a business analyst who can help with reporting and data quality.  This will be a key role to keep her team supplied with the right information and prospect data to be effective in their campaign efforts.  She is looking for someone who can not only crunch the numbers but also analyze the results and bring suggestions to the table.  She also wants someone who is familiar with data best practices that can keep their database clean and complete.

At the end of the day, Janet looks back at her dashboard to find some campaigns that are working well.  She shoots off some meeting invitations to business leaders to discuss how she might be able to replicate these campaigns with their content.  She updates the campaign calendar based on her earlier strategy discussions and shuts down her computer for the night.  She’s now off to watch her son’s soccer game secure in the knowledge that her marketing department is an effective and efficient piece of the company’s revenue engine.

Janet gets to the office around 7 am because she likes to work early to avoid interruptions and be done with work at a reasonable time so she can spend more time with her family.  However, her CFO feels the same way, so this morning she is accosted with questions as soon as she walks in about the effectiveness of her marketing spend.  Fortunately, Janet has this information readily on hand because she has a marketing dashboard that gives her real-time information about closed-loop marketing ROI.  She can tell the CFO exactly how much she has spent and what she has in both closed won and anticipated revenue for the month, quarter and year.

At 9 am, Janet has a meeting scheduled with her CMO to talk about the marketing strategy for the next quarter.  She walks in with information about what has been working for them and what hasn’t.  She also has some ideas about what they could try because she has been quietly testing out new strategies for the past few months and has information about what might work.  The meeting concludes promptly at 9:30 with a clear vision of the strategy for the next quarter and buy-in from the CMO.

At 10 am, Janet chairs a staff meeting where the Revenue Marketing team reports out on the status of current campaign projects.  With simple workflow tools and project dashboards, Janet can clearly see where everything stands and get tasks at risk of slipping back on track.  Everyone on her team has clear roles and understands how they are evaluating campaigns against revenue.

At 11 am, Janet sits down to review the latest content pieces the team has developed.  She has clearly defined personas and buy cycles for her prospects, so she knows what content will be effective in each stage of the decision process for each type of prospect.  That makes her job in editing the content easy.

At noon, she finally gets a break before gearing up for the second half of her day…

If you are like me, you don’t have much time to read books.  And when you do have time, you don’t want to read a business book.  We are in a world of constant information overload.  For marketers, quite honestly the best information on marketing is found on the web.  However, one of my co-workers recently suggested I write a blog post on my recommended books.  I thought through the books I have on my shelf and came up with this list of influential books which inform marketing both directly and indirectly for me.  And they are actually a pleasure to read!

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, Chip Heath and Dan Heath
This is a book on change management, which I feel is the least addressed issue in marketing.  We are constantly trying to get our internal and external teams to shift to a new way of marketing in a demand-gen centric world, yet we don’t fully understand how to do that.  This book lays a great foundation for why people resist change and some easy ways to overcome it.

Digital Body Language, Steven Woods
This is the first book that really addressed the concept of how marketing automation (MA) systems can replace the sales team at the front end of a sales process.   If you haven’t bought into the whole MA value proposition yet – this is a must-read.

Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi
A good marketer will always have a good perspective on sales, as well.  I love this book because it helped me put myself in the shoes of a salesperson and think through what it really takes to build a solid relationship.  Once you have the foundation of how to build a relationship “manually” you can think through how you can build and affect that relationship as a marketer.

There is No Secret Sauce, Adam Metz
Props to our own Adam Metz for this quick read on social marketing and how to get started.  Thanks for making this a short-and-sweet book Adam!  It’s kind of the Cliffs Notes version of a social media how-to.

Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff
I have to admit this is one that is sitting on my Kindle unread at the moment.   But I still include it as a must-read because it comes so highly recommended.  It’s on my to-do list!

I pretty much fell into my role as a marketing operations director running a demand generation team at my last job.  I was looking into marketing automation software and trying to get some leverage internally to sell it.  So I went to a recent hire who was brought on to roll out our CRM system (SFDC) globally across the organization.  He said he would help me if I helped him with this little project rolling out the marketing functionality of the CRM system.  I said “sure!” having absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into.  Within six months, I was rolling out an entire global marketing infrastructure.  It was trial by fire – fortunately I learn quick and it was the best thing that ever could have happened to my career.

If you are looking to hire a demand gen leader, it’s tough to find the right person in today’s market.  It’s a relatively new field and there just aren’t that many of us skilled in it.  You can either find someone who has done it before, which is a limited pool, or you can bring someone on your existing team up-to-speed by partnering with a consulting agency for initial expertise and learn from them.  In either case, here are a few of the essential skills to look for:

  • Analytical expertise.  Someone who is not only good with numbers, but who can also make sense of and act on those numbers.
  • Operational expertise.  Familiarity with process development and focus on continuous improvement is critical.
  • Change management expertise.  One of the biggest stumbling blocks on this journey is building an entire infrastructure only to find out no one is using it.  Look for a resource that can build consensus and align with the sales team.  Someone who has previous sales experience is ideal.
  • Business expertise.  By this I mean someone who has a good grasp of business goals and the ability to align marketing to meet those goals.  This does not need to be someone that knows the industry or your particular company well, necessarily.  But they should have the ability to understand the industry, your company, your products and your challenges fairly quickly.  Someone who can see the big picture and then align everything underneath with that big picture.
  • Leadership expertise.  Someone who can articulate the vision and value to the organization and get everyone behind it.  Don’t confuse this with a good manager – a good leader will gain followers regardless of their organizational reporting structure and has influence far outside of their own vertical in the org chart.

In continuing my post from last week, I wanted to share a recap of a couple of the other presentations from the @Marketo Revenue Rockstar tour in Chicago.  The first is from TPG’s own Debbie Qaqish (a.k.a. Lady Qaqish or @revenuemarketer).  I’ve seen Debbie speak many times on these topics but she’s always so engaging I never get tired of hearing her.

Debbie shared some insights on what it takes to become a revenue marketer.  She outlined a journey from traditional to lead generation to demand generation to revenue marketing.  There is a significant jump from lead generation to demand generation that takes the focus from leads and metrics like email opens to pulling leads through the sales process and metrics such as conversion rates and days to close.  You really have to have a marketing automation system with CRM in place to make this leap.  Then the jump from demand generation to revenue marketer is really characterized by making your process predictable, repeatable and sustainable.

According to a 2010 CSO Insights survey, sales are still having to generate most of their own leads and yet sales effectiveness is the #1 initiative for the VP of sales for several years running.  Which means most companies out there aren’t even at that demand generation stage.  Sales is crying out for marketing help and marketing needs to listen and respond.

The next presentation was from Ron Ens from the Lenskold Group.  As I’ve said in previous posts, I love numbers, so this was just a fascinating presentation for me.  The Lenskold Group helps their clients really dig into the metrics and measurement of marketing efforts.  He describes the maturity of measuring as a journey from tactical management, to lead quality, to strategic, to revenue and ROI.  You may think you are measuring revenue today, but trust me you can get much more sophisticated!

One of my favorite graphs Ron showed was a case study of a company who was looking at lead source (by last touch) and thought that their most effective tactic.  Yet when they actually looked at lead source through a shared attribution model, they saw that really direct marketing made a huge impact.  This is really a good example of that lead quality level of measurement – much more than just tactic by tactic.

At the strategic level, Ron’s team helps clients start forecasting revenue and gain insights on the right marketing mix and targeting/segmentation through either marketing mix modeling (using 2 years of previous data) or marketing testing (forward-looking).  And finally, at the revenue and ROI level, you really start to tie financial scenario planning into marketing – understanding both revenue and profitability (as Marketo is doing in their marketing efforts as noted in the case study in my last post).

Measurement, like the rest of your marketing efforts, should be a journey.  As Jon Miller notes, start small, think big and adapt quickly.

Hope this recap was helpful and inspiring.  Try to attend one of these great events or if you can’t there is also a live stream of the New York event on June 7th.

Everyone knows that marketing and sales alignment is important.  The big question is how to actually do this.  There is naturally some tension between these two departments.  Marketing feels that sales doesn’t effectively use marketing materials and leads, and sales feels like marketing doesn’t provide effective materials and leads.  But remember this first and foremost – the goals of both departments are the same.  To drive revenue for the company.

Here are a few simple ways that you can work on getting a little closer to your friends in sales:

  • Attend their meetings – listen to the issues they are talking about and the challenges they face every day.
  • Go on a few sales calls with them.  Get out into the field and hear first-hand what your targets are saying.
  • Invite a salesperson to have lunch with you.  Get to know them on a more personal level to develop a sense of trust.  They will be more likely to give you honest feedback this way to improve your work.
  • Send regular marketing updates to the sales team – keep them informed.
  • Invite a salesperson to your next marketing brainstorming session to get feedback on your ideas.
  • Send them a draft of your next campaign before you finalize it to get some feedback.
  • Develop a joint service level agreement (SLA) around leads.  That way you can be clear around what you will deliver, what sales will deliver, and avoid some of the tension.

Just keep in mind that marketing and sales can’t exist without each other.  It’s kind of like growing up with a sibling – you don’t have any choice but to live together, so you might as well make the best of it.