Forrester finds most b2b organizations not aligned

Cambridge, Mass.—Only 8% of b2b companies surveyed by Forrester Research said they have tight alignment between sales and marketing, according to a new report.

The report, “B2B Sales and Marketing Alignment Starts With the Customer,” was based on an online survey of 66 b2b sales and marketing leaders, conducted in October and November.

When asked to rank the level of collaboration between sales and marketing on a scale of 1 to 5 (with 1 representing no collaboration and 5 representing tight alignment), 45% of respondents gave their organizations a score of 3; 24% gave a score of 4; 21% gave a score of 2; and 2% gave a score of 1.

The greatest obstacles to achieving tighter alignment between sales and marketing are :

  • long-term thinking by marketing vs. short-term thinking by sales (58% said this was an important factor);
  • different goals and measurements (46%); and
  • not enough time to communicate and plan (45%). (Respondents were allowed to choose more than one answer.)

In my point of view, one of the obstacles that marketing and sales organizations face when looking to align is their own misunderstanding on what alignment should be based. They’re aligning around the wrong thing. For example, sales may ask marketing to start thinking about collateral support for helping to close deals.  Marketing, on the other hand, may want sales to come their way and think about trade shows and email campaign. They are just trying to get the other side to view the world their way. The truth is that the right thing around which marketing and sales teams should align are their clients. Marketing and sales need to collaborate on how to have the dialogue with the buyer.

There are three key areas on which this collaboration should focus:

  1. Identifying the ideal buyer profile.  Having this profile (or profiles—most companies will have multiple profiles unique to each service or product offering) ensures that marketing and sales will be engaging with the same targeted buyer.
  2. To create a map for each profile’s buying cycle. This is more than just time to sale. It’s a full understanding of the buying journey of each profile to whom your organization sells.  Understanding and defining the buyer’s journey will allow you to “walk in your customers’ shoes,” helping both marketing and sales to better understand what they need at each stage, and to engage them in meaningful dialogue.
  3. To develop your offer and content maps. These maps are guides that will enable you to deliver the most relevant content to the buyer at every stage of the cycle. Communicating based on an offer/content map will improve the alignment with your buyer, enable 1-1 engagement and deliver a more qualified and educated prospect to sales.

Without a common design point — the customer’s problem-solving cycle — all other efforts to align these two groups are like trying to mix oil and water.

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