Once the total combined headcount of sales and marketing exceeds two (assuming that at least some of these individuals are in sales and some are in marketing), sales and marketing alignment becomes an issue for the company. And while the differences between the two sides may not be quite as bad as our 2011 congress, I have been at this long enough to know that the two sides have different personalities, different viewpoints, and a different flair to getting their craft done. Both sides want to succeed and deliver value, they are just different.
While this first opinion may be self-serving, it is also an opinion that was formed long before I arrived at ReachForce. Data is one of the keys to harmonious alignment between the two functions. To use a phrase made famous by the dairy industry, "Got Data?" is a pretty good way to build bridges across this critical aisle. Accurate and well-targeted lead data makes sales people happy. One good lead that is accurate and has a deliverable e-mail will connect sales and marketing far better than any powerpoint deck or process flow diagram. I have heard pro basketball players talk about the simplicity of great play. Good lead data is like that.
I like to think of this alignment by data at two levels: strategic and tactical. At a strategic level, marketing must understand the types of targets and audience segments that get results. Profiling the accounts that deliver revenue is the place to start in sourcing more leads that will perform in the future. I recommend a monthly review of data and a connection between the head of sales and the head of marketing to go through the results. I also suggest that every head of sales spend some time each week listening to sales professionals who are on the front line. While analytics will give some insight at a macro level, nothing beats the quality of what is really happening at the point of contact between your company and the marketplace.
At a pragmatic level, it is all about accuracy of contact and deliverability of the e-mail. E-mail has become so important to B2B sales and marketers that deliverability is a huge issue for all data. At ReachForce we look at three major points of value for data: inbound, outbound, and database. Inbound leads are extremely valuable, but depend on a customer to give you information. Because your visitor is probably more motivated to get your content than he is to give you contact information, scrubbing that data is key to making it useful. And once data is in the database, it deteriorates about as fast as hard butter in the summer time.
Of course, building and maintaining sales and marketing alignment is challenging. But remember what I have learned--deliver on the promise of high performance data and you'll go a long ways towards success.