Lately I’ve been tackling the issue of how to achieve better alignment between what sales needs and what marketing delivers. At the core of this issue is the need to modernize the sales professional’s toolkit with skills and capabilities that enable them to achieve a greater measure of influence with their customers and prospects – early enough in decision cycles to make a difference. Your marketing team can – and should – play a critical role in enabling this transformation. If you let them.

One Flag

After my first quarter as the head of marketing I attended a quarterly executive leadership meeting and was asked to review Marketing’s accomplishments for the quarter. All our “harvey” balls were green across the screen. We had exceeded every one of our marketing goals. As I came to the end of my presentation, the head of sales stood up and said, “That’s great, Dave, but North America missed its revenue number. You don’t succeed unless North America succeeds.”

He was right, of course. I had stepped into the trap that ensnares many marketers: By focusing so tightly on funnel math and on building new pipeline by filling red jars with red beans and yellow jars with yellow beans, I had missed the key fact that what the sales organization really needed from marketing was to accelerate existing pipeline and help convert it to revenue.

And, of course, we could have deployed tactics to support that. But I had not accurately aligned my team’s priorities and objectives closely enough to those of the business. In my sales colleagues’ eyes, I had failed along with them. And I had.

The principle of “One Flag” requires that marketing and sales be willing to win together and lose together. Marketing needs to stay close to the pulse of the business and their plans must be able to flex and adapt along with changing needs of the business. To be clear, this is not about marketing taking orders from sales, but rather recognizing that the days of “set it and forget it” marketing plans are over.

If your business is at all like mine, you may be asked to realign marketing tactics to help close particular gaps in the business. In my case, we often re-balance how much resource we align to things like demand generation versus deal acceleration, for instance.

To accomplish a “One Flag” environment, it is important for sales and marketing to trust each other. Trust comes from being accountable and present. Trust requires a mutual understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities. As we’ve seen too often, sales does not always understand the power of what modern marketing can deliver. I’m not suggesting that this is a fault thing. Rather, I know for me personally, I hold my team very accountable to demonstrating and articulating the unique value they are delivering to the business every day. When done properly, marketing ends up a vital and strategic partner and always has a seat at the table. And for the sales leaders reading this, if you don’t include your marketing leader in your forecast calls, off-sites and other activities, I challenge you to reconsider – you’ll likely be glad that you did.

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