• Sales and marketing alignment is a challenging but worthwhile pursuit that can generate double- and triple-digit improvement in vital key performance indicators (KPIs). 
  • Because of the channel’s added complexity, channel sales and alignment holds even greater potential for synergies than with “plain vanilla” marketing. 
  • Focusing on “three Cs” can help channel sales and marketing leaders achieve successful alignment that benefits their companies, sales partners and customers.
  • Interviews with channel experts identified 10 actionable DOs and DON’Ts that can help channel sales and marketing practitioners achieve key goals including predictable sales funnels, focus on metrics that “move the needle,” collaboration and shared goals and outcomes, among others.  

NEWSFLASH: Sales and marketing alignment gets results!

OK, that’s not exactly news. In 2013, a study emerged that yielded a now-infamous trifecta of statistics touting the benefits of sales and marketing alignment, and the sales and marketing worlds have been chasing the brass ring ever since:

  • 67% higher probability that marketing-generated leads will close
  • 108% better lead acceptance
  • 209% stronger contribution to revenue from marketing-generated leads

Those stats live on today in presentations, articles and cocktail conversations. Since then, studies have examined the benefits across a dizzying array of dimensions. While the numbers may vary depending on the research and the industry, they all point to the same overall trend: massive gains from sales and marketing alignment. That’s true when selling to end users and recruiting channel partners.

Today, with buyers completing more of their buying journey before they speak with a sales representative, the competitive gap between companies that successfully align sales and marketing and those that don’t will only grow.

No Easy Undertaking: Successfully Combining Sales and Marketing

Achieving sales and marketing alignment – or “smarketing” – is a complex undertaking that boils down to three Cs:

  • Communication: Left to their own devices, sales and marketing teams have no idea what the other is up to. When they do, they often don’t understand why. These blind spots do not form foundations suitable for delivering the consistent customer experience your firm needs to compete today. Bridging this gap is essential.
  • Collaboration: Most of the time, marketers and salespeople are dealing with customers at different stages of the customer journey, or the sales funnel, or the buying cycle, or whatever term you prefer to describe the process of nurturing prospects and converting them to customers. Once those lines of communications are open, it’s essential to get your team actively working together to provide the right information – and human interaction – at the right time. This means leveraging marketing analytics to identify weak points in that journey, sharing what salespeople learn in their interactions with customers, trying and testing ideas that delight customers and shorten sales cycles, and bringing about shared success.
  • Common Goals: Speaking of shared success, it’s virtually impossible to bring sales and marketing into alignment if they have competing or disjointed goals. All too often, sales and marketing departments don’t operate like they’re on the same team. Marketing teams think sales teams botch follow-up on the leads they give them, and sales teams think marketing sends them lousy leads. Sure, lead qualification and scoring can help to deliver accountability on both sides of that equation, but you want your teams on the same page, not policing each other or butting heads. After all, for all the complexities of your products and services and communications and interactions, the end goal itself is simple: winning and retaining customers. The goals for each department need to align along that same, simple axis.

Channel Marketing and Sales Alignment Examples from Channel Leaders

I know what you’re thinking: That may all be true, Laz, but it’s far easier said than done

My answer: Absolutely

Sales and marketing alignment is indeed challenging, but it’s still a vital undertaking for your long-term competitiveness. So, we dug through our contact list and called on some friends we have in the channel who focus on this alignment every day. Here are some examples they shared on how they define successful alignment, along with a few anecdotes to help you along. 

Dina MoskowitzIn the Channel, it’s About Partner Success, Too

Channel practitioners have an advantage over other marketing and sales pros when it comes to sales and marketing alignment in that their channel models are designed to help sales partners succeed. Ultimately, that focus can help drive success for the provider, the channel partner and the customer.

“Successful marketing and sales alignment means that your internal team is aligned with your partners’ and customers’ success,” says Dina Moskowitz, Founder and CEO of SaaSMAX, creators of the Partner Optimizer partner discovery platform. “It indicates that your organization invests in the processes and tools to reduce friction and inefficiencies, and it instills a corporate culture that encourages collaboration and communication.”

Theresa Caragol, Founder and CEO of partner performance company AchieveUnite, agrees. “Marketing, digital marketing specifically, has become much more important,” she says. “If you believe that is happening because of COVID and the new way of work, then it furthers the importance of sales and marketing interlocking. Marketing, sales, and – if you have it, a channel or partner ecosystem – all need to be interlocked together in order to be successful. The degree to which that interlock happens is the degree to which companies that have partner and channel strategies are successful.”

PRO TIP: Since marketing enablement is incorporated into channel partner onboarding and channel partners also interact with your channel sales teams as they’re coming up to speed, a natural sales and marketing opportunity exists during onboarding.

Theresa CaragolSales and Marketing Alignment Creates a Predictable Sales Funnel

“Ultimately, the definition of success of marketing and sales alignment is a predictable sales funnel,” says Rachel Turkus, Director of Digital Marketing and Demand Generation for communications solutions provider NetFortris. “Alignment means so many things – messaging syncs, timing calendars, open honest communication and most importantly transparent reporting.  All these things – when done right – lead to a predictable sales funnel.”

Note that Turkus didn’t say that a successful marketing funnel delivers predictability. Customers may start in a marketing funnel, but ultimately, it’s the ability to forecast revenue through your sales funnel that signals that you’re achieving scalable, reliable alignment.

Metrics that Matter Need to Be Specific and Aligned

That reliable sales funnel that NetFortris’ Turkus cites is driven by metrics for processes beneath those top-line sales conversions. The better you dial those metrics in and successfully align them for both sales and marketing, the stronger your performance.

Jennifer Schulze, Vice President of Channel and Field Marketing at information management solutions provider OpenText, defines success as “having common metrics and goals. Not just high-level metrics and goals but having those on a deeper level: for individual partner types, according to how you go to market in various regions, and also according to what you don’t do.”

Jennifer SchulzeThose goals need to be in alignment. Paul Mora, Head of Global Enterprise and Channel Marketing at mission-critical communications and analytics provider Motorola Solutions, defines successful alignment as “shared goals clearly visible to both teams [with] full alignment on what success looks like.” Motorola Solutions connects people and technologies to make the world safer through a powerful ecosystem of critical communications, video security and analytics and command center software.

Carlo di Colloredo-Mels, Senior Director of Global Partner Marketing at end-to-end enterprise automation platform provider UiPath agrees. “To me, successful marketing and sales alignment is when marketing has a metric that is completely aligned with the sales goals,” he says.

Collaboration is the Lynchpin for Sales and Marketing Alignment

“[Successful sales and marketing alignment] starts with the people being completely aligned through the organization,” says Kathy Mazza, Regional Vice President of Channel Sales – Strategic Masters for software-as-a-service (SaaS) communications solutions provider 8×8. “Marketing has one direction, sales has another, but they’re absolutely intertwined – which starts with collaboration.”

Kathy MazzaEven when divisions between sales and marketing appear to be more traditional on the surface, collaboration drives success. “Successful marketing goes hand in hand with sales alignment,” says Steve Farmiloe, Senior Channel Sales Manager for AppSmart, a marketplace and master agency for technology services. “The role of marketing is to position and message the unique, crisp, compelling value proposition. Sales then spreads the word. When marketing and sales are in alignment, revenue quickly follows.”

Sales Needs to Own Its Part Throughout the Cycle

Breaking down walls isn’t just a matter of marketing accepting input from sales. Sometimes, sales needs to keep from creating scenarios that drop “do this” bombs on marketing teams.

“Field Marketing should never operate in a silo independent of the field,” says Oanh McClure, Director of Alliances and Channels for cloud security provider Zscaler. “In order to have proper alignment, there must be agreement as to who the audience/target is, who will support it, what is the messaging, what is the positioning, etc. Oftentimes, sales passes ownership of an event to marketing, and then after it is executed, sales will complain that marketing made too many executive decisions. Sales needs to own their part and effort in the conversation.”

Oanh McClureSales and Marketing Must Value the Other

Aaron Acree, National Director of Master Agents at cloud communications company Nextiva, notes that sales doesn’t happen without marketing. “If there’s disconnect between the two, then partners are going to get confused,” he says. “Alignment will lead to less confusion across the board.”

That cross-unit respect is a two-way street. MeiLee Langley, formerly of Nextiva, says that marketing needs to “make it easy and make it quick” in order for successful alignment to happen. “Be willing to listen to sales and accept their feedback,” she says. 

Aaron Acree“Marketing and sales is like a marriage,” says Samantha Bontemps, Senior Channel Marketing Manager for communications provider Vonage. “You’re in a mutual partnership and you have to work to achieve the same goals. True marketing and sales alignment comes into play when you have a team that works together well. It’s important that you have an interactive, involved dialogue between these teams where everybody can bring their ideas to the table.”

10 DOs and DON’Ts of Channel Marketing and Sales Alignment

With their viewpoints on successful sales and marketing alignment in place, we asked these same channel sales and marketing pros for tips that can help you kickstart or give new life to your sales and marketing alignment efforts. 

Here are 10 DOs and DON’Ts we culled from those discussions.

Tip #1: DO Start with Communication

The overwhelming consensus from our group of experts was that opening lines of dialogue between sales and marketing is the essential component in building sales and marketing alignment. Keep the interaction positive and help your teams understand the challenges the other team faces, focusing on collective goals and each team assisting the other.

“I would start by getting marketing and sales into a room and discussing the measurable objectives of each department,” says AppSmart’s Farmiloe. “Then I would ask each to communicate how the other department can help in the achievement of those goals.”

Steve FarmiloeTip #2: DO Focus on Building Trust

“The biggest hurdle [in sales and marketing alignment] is developing the trust,” says Langley. “When marketing comes in, sales can wonder what they’re bringing to the table. Instead of becoming defensive, humble yourself. You have to earn their trust and respect.”

MeiLee LangleyThat same skepticism also plays out in reverse in some instances, particularly when marketers hand off hard-won leads blindly and don’t have visibility into how they are handled. A vital part of cross-departmental interaction should focus on delivering visibility and transparency between departments so all parties can see the hard work of the other team toward their common goals.

Tip #3: DO Make Time for Knowledge Sharing

Most of us live in a fast-paced, whirlwind world. Time – or a lack of it – is a well-known obstacle to sales and marketing alignment. Make sure you establish time for your teams to not only talk about their challenges and objectives but to share knowledge as well. 

“Find/make the time to share strategic knowledge across functions,” advises SaaSMAX’s Moskowitz.

AchieveUnite’s Caragol agrees. “One hurdle that teams will face is if they don’t speak the same language,” she says. “Thinking everyone’s saying the same thing but not really being on the same page can be a huge hurdle. The importance of a common language is really critical.”

Tip #4: DO Leverage Portals and Platforms When Possible

From partner onboarding to sales enablement, portals and platforms can go a long way toward helping with channel sales and marketing alignment.

Paul Mora“Portals keep things consistent and set systems up that everyone can turn to,” says OpenText’s Schulze. “Portals also enable automation, which is vital for marketing.”

Vonage’s Bontemps agrees. “The portal is one of the biggest proponents of marketing and sales alignment,” she says. “We have to enable our partners and with the portal, we’re giving them tools to succeed and help them move the ball forward. Also, with a portal, it’s a one-stop-shop for marketing. You can load assets, data sheets, and email campaigns in there. The portal gives us a sort of common room where we can all meet.”

Shared insight, key performance indicators (KPIs) and campaign efficacy also deliver value. “One of our key tools includes campaign dashboards showing the impact of our efforts in terms of leads, data-driven and field results, and other programmatic impacts to measure ROI,” says Mora of Motorola Solutions.

Tip #5: DO Use Familiar Tools When Practical

Some portals and platforms facilitate end-to-end interaction and enablement. But in many cases, they integrate with major CRMs and sales-automation tools. Leveraging well-known platforms that your channel teams and partners are likely to have worked with can facilitate better campaign execution.

Rachel Turkus“My team is digital marketing and demand generation,” says NetFortris’ Turkus. “We try to use the tools that our channel managers are the most comfortable with – including HubSpot, Calendly and social – to highlight the channel managers themselves.”

Tip #6: DO Facilitate Education and Training

“I would definitely recommend educational programs like our Channel Acceleration Bootcamp [that enable] marketers, partnering professionals, and sales to be aligned,” says AchieveUnite’s Caragol.

She also notes that using automation tools also helps to drive knowledge exchange by osmosis. “Similarly, marketing automation platforms provide one integrated experience for multiple teams,” she says. “That’s going to drive cross-training by nature.”

Tip #7: DO Use Budgets Strategically

Carlo di Colloredo-Mels“The way you use your budget is crucial,” says UiPath’s di Colloredo-Mels. “When there’s a sales and marketing alignment, the conversation about budget is the same. Goals are aligned. Sales, pipeline, revenue — these are all benefits [of the process],” he says.

Tip #8: DON’T Point Fingers

It’s crucial that marketing and sales steer away from “the blame game.”

“Facts and data inspire constructive collaboration and successful sales and marketing alignment,” says Vonage’s Bontemps. “It’s hard to argue with numbers, and removing emotions from the table makes it easier for everyone to work together.”

Tip #9: DON’T Allow Poaching from the Sidelines

As we’ve discussed, successful sales and marketing alignment is all about the details, whether we’re talking knowledge exchange, goal setting, or testing and refinement. It’s difficult to sustain the open lines of communications and trust when one party opts out of portions of the process.

Samantha BontempsA classic example is the blind handoff of leads from the marketing department we discussed earlier. But it can happen in the other direction too, and it’s important to avoid situations such as when “sales doesn’t want to handle the nuances of execution, but critiques the result,” advises Zscaler’s McClure.

Tip #10: DON’T Be Afraid to Speak Up and Ask Questions

B2B sales and marketing is complex — especially when you’re selling technology solutions. Channel sales and marketing is even more complicated. Mesh them together, and opportunities for confusion abound — especially when you’re aligning departments. Make it safe for your teams to ask questions without feeling self-conscious.

Vonage’s Bontemps reminds us of a timeless piece of wisdom our teachers shared with us throughout our school years. “Don’t be afraid to look dumb and ask questions,” she says. “I guarantee somebody else in the room has the same question.”

Taking our best practices on the road? Here are our 10 tips to align sales and marketing – straight from channel leaders.


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