Technology Alone is Not the Answer for Marketing and Sales Alignment

We’ve been talking about sales and marketing alignment for the past couple of months and the conversation seems to resonate with people here and on LinkedIn. There’s been a lot of agreement with the topics that I’ve been covering. And our clients have responded positively to similar discussions.

Now it’s time to share some thoughts that everyone may not agree with. They should agree in principle, so I’ll build a case to prevent being too divisive.

In our virtual, digital, hybrid world of buying, selling and marketing, many organizations are turning to technology to solve their pipeline problems. The vendors help this perpetuate this by not just implying that their platform will create sales and marketing alignment, but it even appears as a bulleted feature.

No implementation of technology is going to magically bring sales and marketing together.

Can You Buy Better Leads with Tech?

The sales leader thinks if their team can get better leads, then they will generate more revenue. That’s probably true. How can they get better leads? There are lots of vendors that will help sales teams source better leads. These range from the old school list providers to revenue data solutions that identify buyers with current intent. But there is nothing inherent about these solutions that will align sales and marketing. Only the leaders can make that happen.

Checklists, online forms, whiteboards and even virtual workshops don’t cause collaboration. They merely support it. You can bring a functional leader to the table, but you can’t make them think (differently).

Can You Buy More Leads with Tech?

The marketing leader thinks if they can generate more leads for sales, then sales will close more deals. That’s not necessarily true. Many marketing organizations are compensated on generating more leads and more MQLs. Increased volume of leads sourced solely by marketing, at the expense of qualification, does not get more wins for sales. That is the core of why sales and marketing alignment is important.

But whether better leads or more leads is the right answer, how can these two teams come together and solve their pipeline challenges?

Strategy Before Technology

But back to technology. There’s an approach to solving large business challenges that involves strategy, people, process and technology. That order is important. Never buy the tool or technology first. Start with what are you trying to do. Who do you need to do it? What steps do they need to take to get it done? And what technology makes it happen. Doing this in reverse order is shiny object syndrome.

The environment of 2020 should have cured us of buying tech because it is cool. With limited resources — including budgets — organizations were forced to focus on their mission-critical priorities. Purchasing tech was part of that, especially if the mission-critical priorities related to operating in a remote or virtual environment. These strategies and plans were in place before buyers made their technology purchases.

Expected Increase in Sales Tech Budget

We’ve been talking about sales and marketing alignment, but it’s not the high level problem that organizations are looking to solve. Alignment is part of a solution to a larger problem. They want to drive more pipeline and revenue. The majority of sales leaders have seen an increase of budget and they are spending some of that increase on tech. The sales budget for technology is expected to grow 5% in 2021 over the actual amount spent in 2020. Some of that increase is surely dedicated to generating pipeline.

increase sales tech budget 2021

Slight Increase in Marketing Tech Budget

And the latest Gartner CMO budget data was just released this week and technology continues to be largest expenditure of the marketing budget, with a slight increase to 26.6% in 2021. However, the proportion of company revenue allocated to marketing had fallen from an average of 11.0% in 2020 to just 6.4% in 2021, meaning the amount budgeted for technology has gone down in real spending power.

While marketers are only spending 8% of their budget on demand gen programs, they are still supporting pipeline performance by spending almost 23% of their budget on marketing operations and analytics.

Marketing Budget Allocation 2021

And the Answer is…

Marketing leaders have been buying, owning and managing technology in the stack for more than 10 years. The explosion of sales tech is much more recent, but it is following the path of martech. There are lessons the CMO can share with their sales counterparts.

The reliance on technology across the entire funnel from marketing automation and account based platform through sales engagement and enablement tools and ultimately landing in the CRM is another reason why sales and marketing leaders must come together for strategic collaboration to increase pipeline and revenue. Especially before investing in technology.

This post originally appeared on the Gartner Blog Network.

Jeffrey L Cohen

Jeffrey L Cohen