The Commandments of Sales and Marketing Alignment

Erik Laurijssen

By Erik Laurijssen, CMO and Vice President, Platform, Alliances, and Channels, Luma Technologies

Although many companies worldwide are making an effort to align their sales and marketing operations, most are not achieving the level of alignment they desire. Part of the problem with the growing discussion around alignment is that the definition varies from company to company. Vendors are the worst by claiming only their solution can fix all alignment issues. The truth is that true alignment is achievable, but it doesn’t come in a bottle.

Ultimately, there are two key elements to gaining true alignment. First, you need the input and support from a broad range of stakeholders including the headquarters’ sales and marketing team, field sales and marketing, channel partners, and other contracted representatives such as franchise or independent agents. 

Second, you need to recognize that technology will play a key role in aligning your teams. Having said this, technology alone will not deliver the desired improvements promised by sales and marketing alignment. This is because technologies often are sold into marketing departments as some magic fix. If there are differences in approaches and beliefs between departments, software deployed by one of those departments, usually marketing, will not fix the problem. It could in fact be counter-productive by inflaming the situation.

Without a doubt, all sales and marketing teams understand the same corporate goal: to increase revenue. Unfortunately, this is occasionally where the two departments begin and end their agreement. So, what are the steps needed to bring about true alignment? 

Here are five commandments of alignment:

Commandment 1: There Shall Be Understanding Between Departments

Although alignment is not something that can be dictated by senior management, it can be facilitated with the right approach. Instead of just giving an overall direction to increase revenue, senior management must take an active role in confirming how departments define their roles and their understanding of other departments. Although not a long process, this upfront and periodic check-in will help ensure everyone in the organization is on the same page. As part of defining the exact expectation you’ll need to look at each department and what each role (i.e., channel partners, corporate marketing, field sales, etc.) will deliver. 

Commandment 2: Marketing Extends Beyond Your Front Door

In the United States, KFC/Yum Brands currently is being sued by its franchisees that believe the company’s marketing direction is hurting their profits. Without a way to influence the marketing efforts, the franchisees have decided to mount an expensive, public legal battle with their corporate entity.

The people in the field or in far off regions interact with customers and prospects daily, so why don’t they have a more active role in deciding how to market and communicate with the people they know best? This doesn’t mean in the case of KFC/Yum Brands that the franchisees should have total say on the company’s marketing, but having an accurate way to provide feedback, share results, and measure the impact on field marketing improves sales and morale. This brings us to commandment three:

Commandment 3: Empower Is Not The Same as Autonomy

The goal is to leverage your field staff and channel partners because they are the experts on their prospects and customers. By providing customizable templates, preferably ones that can be highly personalized or localized, the field is enabled to match their materials with what will work in the field. Because relationships are key to closing deals and retaining customers, the personalized approach is the most effective. 

But what about the corporate messaging and protecting the brand? Thus, the need for defined templates that cannot only be personalized or localized with the option of an approval loop (preferably automated) to ensure messaging and brand requirements are always met. It is no secret that materials in the field, where the selling is happening, often doesn’t look nearly as good as those at the corporate offices. Clearly, this needs to change.

Commandment 4: Embrace Technology, But Don’t Count on One Fix

If someone tries to sell you one technology that is supposed to fix every difference in mind-set and approach between your broad range of sales and marketing professionals, both in-house and out—RUN! Without a doubt, multiple platforms and technologies will be needed. It may not be what you want to hear, but it is the truth. Integration between technologies is necessary for:

1. Collaborating through multiple departments, channels and locations

2. Implementing at headquarters and through multiple channels

3. Accurately measuring what is working and what is not.

When assessing which technology combination to choose, ask these five simple questions:

1. Will this automate and/or reduce the cost of a painful and/or expensive process?

2. Will this integrate into my customer relationship management (CRM) system and important tracking systems?

3. Does this address the needs of our representatives beyond the walls of corporate headquarters?

4. Is it measurable?

5. How will we know if it is working or if it is easy enough so that it is even being used?

Commandment 5: There Shall Be Repeated Measurement

Measurement through all implementations is king. For example, simple knowing click-through rate for PPC won’t give you an accurate understanding of whether your dollars are well spent. You need to ask yourself, “What is the conversion of those visitors and how many of those make it on the sales forecast?”

My mantra is measure well and measure often. Supporting an open, well-integrated group of technologies is invaluable. When your marketing and sales software feed data into each other, you can measure a single grouped set of data. This will enable your extended teams to know which approach, campaign, or materials is most effective. This ongoing measurement enables the sales and marketing disciplines to work as an ever-improving team.

What Does Better Alignment Bring?

Aberdeen Senior Research Analyst Chris Houpis’ recently published study, “Sales and Marketing Alignment: Collaboration + Cooperation = Peak Performance,”shows that optimally aligned organizations perform significantly better in truly measurable ways. For example, this September 2010 study states on average “Best-in-Class Companies” saw annual revenue increase 47 percent compared to the least aligned companies, or in Aberdeen’s term, the “Laggard Companies,” which on average actually decreased by 4 percent. This same report also states companies with the most alignment between sales and marketing reported having 47 percent of their forecasted pipeline the result of marketing’s efforts. Compare that with the least aligned companies reporting only 5 percent of forecasted pipeline coming from marketing’s efforts. 

These statistics, and the five commandments, highlight real-world advantages of moving an organization to true sales and marketing alignment. That’s my opinion, what’s yours? Let me know at Twitter@lumacentral or post a comment on our blog at

Erik Laurijssen is CMO and vice president, Platform, Alliances, and Channels at Luma Technologies, a provider of a SaaS platform for on-demand field marketing.