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While there have been indications that sales and marketing alignment has been improving – at least at B2B companies – this continues to be a pressing issue at organizations. A new study [download page] from InsideView and Demand Gen Report delves into the challenges to alignment, as well as what marketing and sales want from each other.

Communication’s the Top Challenge

The survey – conducted among almost 1,000 executives, primarily marketers (40%) and salespeople (50%) – finds that communication is the biggest challenge in aligning sales and marketing.

This does seem to be an issue that can be addressed, as the underlying attitudes are encouraging. For example, 58% of salespeople describe their relationship with the marketing team as good or excellent. And marketers are even more enthusiastic, with 77% describing their relationship with their sales team in those terms.

Moreover, 86% of salespeople respect their marketing department and 94% of marketers agree that sales is a difficult job. And few salespeople (26%) and marketers (16%) feel that they could do a better job than their colleagues in the other function.

But for salespeople there seems to be a more pervasive sense of disrespect coming from the marketing side: almost half (48%) say that marketing thinks they know better what works in the field.

While that’s worrisome, improving the communication between marketing and sales teams should lead to a heightened feeling of respect on both sides, given that both generally empathize with the challenges each face.

They also recognize each other’s importance. In fact, past research has indicated that 61% of marketers feel that sales assistance is critical in helping them achieve their goals. Salespeople in that study were more tempered: 36% said that marketing would be critical in helping them achieve their top mandate, although another 50% believed that marketing will be important but not the key to success.

Flawed Processes Also Harm Alignment

The second-most cited challenge to alignment is a process that is either broken or flawed, according to 42% of respondents.

Part of the problem here seems to be a disconnect between the teams in their views on pipeline meetings. Fully 45% of salespeople said that they meet with the marketing team to discuss pipeline on less than a quarterly basis. Only one-third (14%) as many marketers claimed that they meet with sales that infrequently.

Furthermore, just 37% of salespeople said that they meet with their marketing team to determine how leads should be scored, whereas 57% of marketers said they work with sales on that issue.

These discrepancies indicate that the two functions are working from different perceptions on critical issues concerning lead scoring and pipeline.

Indeed, research has shown that misalignment could lead to routing issues, as a report last year found that on average 1 in every 4 leads at B2B organizations is routed to the incorrect account owner.

Metrics Need to Be in Sync

The third-largest challenge to alignment in the report is sales and marketing being measured by different metrics, as cited by 4 in 10 respondents. This is an important point, as shared metrics can help improve relationships, something found in the marketing-IT relationship.

In the InsideView study, none of the top metrics by which salespeople are measured appear on the list of top metrics for marketers. Besides quota attainment, salespeople are being measured on new accounts, number of deals closed and renewals/retention. Marketers, for their part, are primarily being measured on lead-focused metrics, such as pipeline, lead quantity and lead quality.

It is notable that pipeline is the most common metric for marketing respondents, though. As the analysts point out, “that shift should bode well for future alignment, uniting both teams around actual pipeline.”

It’s worth noting that companies in the report who fell short of their revenue goals (“Laggards” – 22% of the sample) were more likely than others to not hold marketing accountable for pipeline.

Those who exceeded their revenue goals (“Winners” – 38%), meanwhile, were more apt to discuss pipeline more frequently than others.

How Can Each Team Help the Other?

A study released last year indicated that 2 in 3 marketers believe that they know what sales needs to succeed.

So what do salespeople say they want from marketers? According to the InsideView survey, they’re primarily looking for:

  • Better quality leads (55%);
  • More leads (44%);
  • Competitive information/intelligence (39%); and
  • Brand awareness (37%).

Prior research has also found better messaging and more qualified leads to be atop the agenda for what B2B salespeople want from marketers.

On the other side, marketers are mostly hoping for sales to have better lead follow-up (34%) and more consistent use of systems such as CRM (32%).

Questions over follow-up seem to be a persistent problem: last year, research into B2B alignment revealed that while 61% of sales leaders said their teams always follow up immediately with marketing-qualified leads, only half as many (30%) marketing leaders said the same.

It seems that many of these issues could be eased with better communication…

About the Data: The InsideView and Demand Gen Report study is based on a survey of 995 US-based sales and marketing professionals from a range of industries and regions. About one-third of respondents came from companies with fewer than 500 employees, while 41% came from companies with 501-4,999 employees and the remaining 26% from companies with at least 5,000 employees.

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