B2B marketers are constantly looking for ways to improve, optimize, and increase the ROI of the marketing they do all day, every day. We throw our best efforts into the digital void and hope they return as impressive revenue figures, productive KPI reports, and a positive impact on the bottom line.
How well the marketing team works with the sales team is one of the influential factors in this larger strategy.
And, as tons of articles in cyberspace tend to tell us, it’s true that sales alignment is very, very important. However, most of the articles that cover this topic do little in the way of explaining how marketers should actually go about “aligning” with their sales team.
Personally, I’m one of those B2B marketers who rushes to close the browser tab if I inadvertently stumble upon an article discussing sales alignment. But, professionally, I know that it really is a critical concern.
So why do B2B marketers often feel like we need a quad-shot cup of coffee whenever we see those two words next to each other?
I have a theory. It’s two-fold.
 All B2B Marketing and Sales Teams are Different
When articles talk about a proposed solution to sales and marketing alignment, it’s doubtful that one specific solution will work for every team. Across the board, B2B marketing teams vary drastically from one to the next, so alignment articles rarely hit on the unique disconnects that different teams grapple with daily.
Your people are different, your value proposition is different, your customers are different, your campaigns are different, and your KPIs are different. Companies in every B2B industry work so hard to differentiate themselves, and then we seem to expect the same alignment solutions to work for every team. By definition, one team’s solution should be different from the next.
 Most Sales Alignment Instructions are Superficial Solutions
Most articles on sales alignment provide tips that apply to the working relationship between sales and marketing. While these suggestions are all good things, they’re usually artificial quick-fixes or purely emotional appeals. For example, here are some most-commonly cited instructions from sales and marketing articles:
Most-common instructions from sales alignment articles:
- Have lots of meetings with your sales team
- Sit next to your sales team
- Train your sales team
- Send better leads to your sales team
- Talk more about ROI from marketing
- Use the sale’s team’s software and terminology
- Party with your sales team
Are any of these things necessarily bad, wrong, or harmful? Definitely not. But these are still only surface-level fixes, and acting a certain way won’t alleviate the root issue.
The root questions B2B marketers need answered are:
- What should we talk about in those meetings, specifically?
- How do we send better leads to our sales team?
- How do we accurately calculate revenue-based marketing ROI?
Creating a cross-team email alias, or listening in on sales calls, won’t answer these questions. The two teams might communicate better, but do those superficial activities impact the underlying strategy that dictates each team’s daily operations? I would venture to say no.
How Should B2B Marketing and Sales Alignment Work?
Rather than changing the working relationship between marketing and sales, I would argue that a longstanding solution rides on the functional integration between marketing and sales.
Each team is an extension of the other. B2B marketers develop the top and middle of the funnel, and the trade off to the sales team in the middle stage is primarily where the disconnect occurs. The marketing team uses their channels to generate leads/demand (paid media, content marketing, events, etc.), and sales uses their expertise to convert customers (email nurturing, phone calls, demos, etc.) Those efforts are strategized, performed, and evaluated independently of each other, which results in cross-team misalignment.
Both teams often find that quick-fix solutions don’t do much to budge the departmental inertia that comes as a result of each team’s siloed operations.
While both marketing and sales are working toward the same goal (revenue), do both teams report using the same metrics? Usually not.
Do both teams understand the start-to-finish buying paths of their customers? Usually not.
Are each team's efforts integrated into the same performance reporting system? Usually not.
Tracking Resolves a Multitude of Alignment Issues
The real solution, then, is tracking -- tracking of both marketing and sales touchpoints through the same platform, used by both teams. Full-funnel tracking through an attribution solution results in a comprehensive, integrated data set that mutually informs marketing strategy and sales strategy simultaneously.
Rather than drawing isolated conclusions based on siloed data, cross-team changes can be made based on data derived from actual customer journeys. Additionally, advanced attribution solutions can generate accurate revenue-based reporting, weighting touchpoints according to the relative influence of all marketing and sales efforts.
This is referred to as weighted, fractional, or multi-touch attribution modeling.
B2B marketing and sales teams that mutually take advantage of this type of tracking are almost automatically aligned. Members of the Bizible sales team discuss the advantages afforded to both teams through attribution.
The article linked above discusses nine ways marketing and sales mutually benefit from attribution and full funnel tracking:
- Shows insights into a lead’s complete history
- Informs on lead quality
- Displays marketing touchpoints by organization
- Streamlines the leads handoff between marketing and sales
- Enables collaborative forecasting between sales and marketing
- It’s a catalyst for account-based selling
- Increases pipeline velocity
- Provides ROI for events and conferences
- Helps sales stay aligned with their marketing team
It can be done, it has been done, and it can work for B2B organizations of all industries. Dana Silverman, Online Marketing Manager at LiquidPlanner, has taken full advantage of attribution. He says, “I’m now able to see what is driving the most SQLs, Opportunities and Closed-Won deals at the channel, campaign and keyword level.”
Everyone on both teams cares about those metrics. Marketers can use granular, revenue-based data to show clear marketing ROI and align with their sales team, both strategically and operationally. It’s the data that makes the difference.