The Basics of Aligning Sales, Marketing, Operations, and Finance to Grow Profitable Sales
The concept of aligning sales and marketing has been well covered among the thought leaders, pundits, gurus, and analysts that cover these functional areas. Yes — we all know that changing buyer behavior requires tight alignment and that the hand-offs from lead to opportunity to close have to be carefully coordinated for maximum impact. In theory, it all sounds so simple, but in reality, it continues to be extremely challenging to execute. But the costs — inefficiencies, duplicate cost, and dropped balls — are simply too high to give up trying.
When trying to tackle a problem this big, it is helpful to take a step back and break the issues down into smaller pieces to identify the root causes and potential solutions.
Possible causes for lack of alignment in area processes
- If your sales team is working with another department — marketing, for example — the marketing team may not have the right resources, support materials, or mindset they need to work effectively with the sales team. It is not unusual for marketing to work in a vacuum, quite removed from the real market, and to have a distorted view of reality.
- The group interacting with the sales team may not be aligned with the sales process because they are either unfamiliar with it or are using their own process. We see this often in operations and finance, two groups that play an important role in the order management and fulfillment process but may not understand the impact they have on the overall customer experience and the relationships that sales is trying to protect and grow.
- The department that is working with sales is failing and could be causing a loss of business at the sales level. We see this often in marketing, especially when a marketing team has not evolved with the changing behaviors of buyers. They hang on to their old ways and do not produce enough opportunities to feed sales, or they set the wrong expectations with customers that sales cannot fulfill.
- The interacting teams want to change to help the organization grow profitable sales, but they have not established verifiable outcomes and are lacking a change management plan that would align their business goals.
Questions to uncover alignment issues across functional areas
- What functional areas interact with the sales team? What is the level of support they provide, and is there mutual agreement on the level of support? Are there service-level agreements and metrics to drive accountability? Are these functional areas aware of the sales process, are they aligned, and do they have the skills to execute?
- What is the impact on business of other departments working with the sales team? Is it time- and cost-efficient? Are goals and outcomes being achieved? What is the customer satisfaction rate?
- Do other functional areas follow a different process than the current selling process?
- What are the metrics for measuring success?
Once you answer the questions above, you can begin to create a more unified process to ensure efficiency and effectiveness with support across functional areas. Consider the following guidelines:
Four steps for improving alignment across functional areas
- Review the current sales process and metrics of the sales organization to establish a baseline across interacting areas.
- Map out the functional group’s process and how it aligns (or does not) with the sales process. Understand how they are doing things and their “informal process” to begin planning a more concrete process.
- Identify gaps and opportunities to align the groups’ processes and approaches. To create a more collaborative effort, the groups must identify powerful, predictive, and verifiable outcomes and indicators in the business and sales process.
- Define a single change plan for the groups to follow to begin to align.
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