Is the Marketing or Sales Leader More Likely to Initiate Alignment Efforts?

Sales and marketing leaders coming together to create alignment is not something that just happens. These two functions have spent too long in their separate silos, doing their separate jobs and achieving separate results. This really is the heart of the problem. Same as it ever was.

So what does it take to change?

It takes one of those two leaders to decide they want to make a difference in their organization’s results. The CEO may demand an increase in revenue, but they are not going to play kindergarten teacher and ask the leaders to figure it out. Each functional leader knows how to play their part in company growth.

Either leader can take on sales and marketing alignment, but which one is more likely to succeed?

Why the CMO won’t

There are CMOs out there that would call the sales leader and ask to collaborate on demand generation. However, it is unlikely. It’s not impossible, just improbable. There are three primary reasons why this is not going to happen.

  • Marketing is already generating leads for sales. Marketing is measured and compensated on the volume of leads generated, even though more of a collaborative effort would improve overall results. And there’s often little real incentive to improve the quality of the leads. Everything is fine in marketing.
  • Demand gen is a low priority. In the 2021 CMO Budget Survey, B2B CMOs are only spending 7.4% of their marketing budget on demand generation (see figure below). This is not a priority in their organization, so they are not going to reach out to their sales counterpart to improve lead flow or quality.
  • Marketing has no demand responsibility. The portfolio of the CMO has grown over the years and may already include branding, communications and customer experience. If this marketing leader doesn’t even have demand as part of their remit, there’s little that alignment can serve either function.
sales and marketing leaders have different budget allocations priorities

Why the CSO will

The sales leader focuses on sales. Period. If you were to look over the shoulder of the most successful CSOs you would see a simple dashboard. It is not their job to scroll through screens of metrics, digging into every nuance on the sales process. They watch the big picture, which is usually indicated by a handful of trending numbers. So if there is a strategic move that improves sales — for example, reaching out to marketing to collaborate on generating more pipeline — they are going to do it.

  • Pipeline and lead gen are top initiatives. One of top initiatives that sales leaders say is most critical to their success is pipeline and lead generation. That’s what 49% said in the survey results shown below. That is a very clear understanding that the organization needs a volume of leads — but enough quality leads, I would argue — to meet their sales numbers. Reaching out to the CMO is a strategic move that can materially impact pipeline.
  • CSO is always focused on revenue growth. Whether the example CEO in the beginning of this post has tasked the sales team with increasing revenue or not, sales culture rewards exceeding targets. Revenue always needs to grow and sales leaders will drive that growth by working more tightly with marketing.
  • Sales priorities have the loudest voice. Traditional organizations are driven by sales. The sales leaders get their way with regards to resources and initiatives. The survey data below shows that 21% of sales leaders say that aligning with marketing is a critical initiative. In many organizations that sentiment will take some priority and the CSO will take that action.
sales and marketing leaders have different initiative priorities

What happens now?

If you are a CMO who wants to prove me wrong, I dare you. Reach out to your head of sales and include them in your lead qualification definitions, your creation of target account lists and your technology decisions. If you are a CSO who wants to prove me right, be my guest. Spend more time with your marketing counterpart to improve the quality of leads handing off to sales team.

But if you are part of an organization where marketing, sales and CX have already come together into a single function, as we expect to occur in 25% of organizations by 2023, please let me know. It would be great to hear from companies where sales and marketing alignment is no longer an issue.

This post originally appeared on the Gartner Blog Network.

Jeffrey L Cohen

Jeffrey L Cohen