78% of Sales & Marketing Teams Fail to Collaborate: A Call for Alignment

In a recent meeting that initially seemed poised to bridge the gap between sales and marketing strategies, I immersed myself in a discussion led by a seasoned marketing manager and her team, solely focused on marketing metrics and digital strategy. The objective? Finalising the quarter’s marketing budget, yet noticeably absent were the voices of our sales team. The business is outside FMCG and relies on a dedicated sales team. It requires customers to book a telephone appointment with sales specialists.

Throughout the meeting, conversations orbited around digital metrics: website traffic, engagement rates, SEO standings, and the fixation on keywords and search terms—critical elements for enhancing online visibility and bolstering brand awareness. Undoubtedly, these metrics are pivotal in today’s digital landscape, where businesses strive to capture consumer attention amidst a sea of online content.

However, what struck me was the singular fixation on these metrics to the exclusion of other critical aspects. As discussions progressed, I raised a fundamental query: where would the lion’s share of the budget be directed, assuming it would naturally align with our overarching goal of driving appointments for the sales team to convert to sales?

The unanimous response was unexpected: “Content creation and link building to drive more traffic.” While these strategies are undoubtedly crucial for building an online presence, the focus on traffic growth, without a specific plan for driving the “right” traffic, appeared to miss the core purpose of marketing within the business – to facilitate sales opportunities.

Intrigued by this emphasis, I delved deeper, probing how many sales were directly attributed to our previous quarter’s marketing efforts. Astonishingly, the team could not provide a definitive answer. This revelation underscored a concerning trend: amidst the pursuit of digital metrics, including SEO keyword rankings and search terms, the direct impact on revenue generation—the ultimate measure of marketing success—had been overlooked.

Further investigation revealed that some keywords and search terms targeted by our SEO efforts were no longer relevant to the current product offerings. Moreover, they differed from terms aligned with how our customers typically search for the firm’s products or services. This disconnect highlighted a critical oversight: while the marketing team and the agency they employed were striving to rank for specific keywords, those efforts could translate into something other than meaningful customer engagement or sales conversions.

What also struck me was that all the metrics and reports presented in the meeting had been created by the outsourced marketing agency, whose evaluations heavily leaned on the gospel of Google. It became evident that many of the agency’s conclusions led to recommendations for increased marketing spend and justified their success. Call me cynical, but aligning agency metrics with spending proposals raised questions about true ROI and strategic alignment with sales objectives.  

Statistics corroborate this disconnect. According to HubSpot, 40% of marketers identify proving the ROI of their marketing activities as their top challenge. Moreover, only 22% of businesses report alignment between their marketing and sales teams (Marketo). This lack of alignment can lead to disjointed strategies, where marketing efforts may not effectively support sales objectives.

A Practical Example

Let’s consider a practical example of a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign to illustrate how a minor tweak to the marketing team’s metrics could change the tone of the meeting.  

Suppose I am trying to determine how much money in pounds I need to spend to sell 100 units of my product. If we know the product demo-to-sale conversion rate is 20%, and we also have data on the click-through rate (CTR) and conversion rate from website visitors to demo sign-ups, we can calculate the necessary traffic and associated costs.

  1. Sales Target: 100 units
  2. Demo to Sale Conversion Rate: 20% (or 0.20)
  3. Number of Demos Required: To achieve 100 sales at a 20% conversion rate, we need 500 demos (100 units / 0.20).
  4. Visitor to Demo Conversion Rate: Suppose the average conversion rate from website visitor to demo sign-up is 5% (or 0.05).
  5. Number of Website Visitors Needed: To get 500 demos with a 5% conversion rate, we need 10,000 website visitors (500 demos / 0.05).
  6. Cost per Click (CPC): Suppose the average CPC in the industry is £1.
  7. Total Marketing Spend: To generate 10,000 website visitors, the required budget would be £10,000 (10,000 visitors * £1 per click).

By incorporating this calculation into planning, we shift the focus from abstract metrics like traffic growth to concrete metrics directly correlating with sales outcomes.  

This change provides clearer insights into how marketing spending drives revenue, enhancing strategic alignment and ensuring marketing efforts effectively support sales goals.

Moreover, the digital marketing mix encompasses various channels, including direct traffic, optimised content, social media, and other avenues. While I acknowledge that some sales likely stemmed from these channels, the team only had top-line traffic stats courtesy of Google. They lacked concrete data on how many sales directly drove by their specific efforts across these channels. This gap in understanding highlights the need for more precise tracking and analysis to ensure that every marketing pound spent contributes effectively to sales.

Case Study: An Example from Another Industry

Consider the case of a B2B software company that realised its marketing efforts were not translating into sales. By incorporating sales team feedback and shifting focus from pure traffic metrics to lead quality and sales conversions, they achieved a 30% increase in qualified leads and a 20% boost in sales within six months. This case underscores the universal importance of aligning marketing efforts with sales objectives.

Effective sales and marketing alignment is not just about shared objectives but also about collaborative strategy development. Research from SiriusDecisions highlights that tightly aligned organisations achieve 24% faster revenue growth and 27% faster profit growth over three years.

Moving forward, it is imperative for organisations to recalibrate their approach.  

This involves not only integrating sales considerations into marketing strategy discussions but also fostering a culture of collaboration where both teams work towards shared revenue goals.  Investment in training and technology integration, addressing the perception gap between sales and marketing functions, and prioritising measurable outcomes over vanity metrics are crucial steps towards achieving this alignment.

Conclusion

In conclusion, while digital metrics, including SEO and keyword rankings, are invaluable for tracking online performance, their true value lies in their ability to translate into tangible sales results. By bridging the gap between marketing metrics and sales realities, organisations can unlock untapped potential and drive sustainable growth in today’s competitive landscape.

Recommendation

If you are a Head of Sales, Sales Director, Managing Director, or an Interim CRO, and sales is a concern, sit in on your next marketing meeting.  The insight might just prove illuminating.

Sources

These sources provide the foundational statistics and insights used to highlight the disconnect between marketing metrics and sales realities, the importance of aligning marketing and sales teams, and the broader implications for business growth.

  1. HubSpot – Proving ROI Challenge
  2. Marketo – Alignment between Marketing and Sales Teams
  3. Ascend2 – Importance of Understanding Customer Journey
  4. SiriusDecisions – Impact of Aligned Organisations on Revenue Growth

About the Author

Trevor is the Managing Partner of NorthCo, a fellow of the Institute of the Motor Industry and a member of the Institute of Interim Management. Trevor is a respected C-Suite leader, Chairman and professional Interim Leader. For over a decade, he has provided interim leadership solutions to private equity, venture capital, and asset-backed firms. Whether it’s to stabilise a business during a turbulent trading period, fill a temporary skills gap or support a management team to navigate challenging situations, Trevor’s wealth of experience and proven track record in delivering value creation and retention plans demonstrate his ability to lead and support operational management teams effectively. To find out more about his approach, explore his LinkedIn profile and read what others say about Trevor.

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