Getting CEO support for a Sales and Marketing Alignment effort can be difficult. Although embarking on this journey to better alignment can be a large undertaking, it is worth it. The effect that better alignment has on long-term revenue growth is invaluable. Because of this, leaders must look at SMA as a long-term business improvement strategy. Even more important, you must learn to communicate the benefits of SMA so that the executive team clearly understands why it's worth it. SMA is not a Sales or Marketing thing - it's a revenue thing.
Sales and Marketing leadership cannot implement a successful SMA initiative alone. They need the buy-in and support of the CEO because the effort many times will require the way the organization does business to fundamentally change. Arguably, the key to achieving successful alignment is changing the way Sales and Marketing see each other. This is not about simply adding a sales enablement technology. No. This is about helping people see the value of their colleagues on the other side of the house. It's both a people and technology issue.
The Research Shows
Aberdeen Group recently released a report titled "Marketing/Sales Alignment 2016: Who is Agile Enough to Win?" In the report, they argue that Best-in-Class enterprises (top 20%) understand that "B2B success today requires changing the traditionally combative relationship between marketing and sales." A lot of this change is because of the wealth of digital information available about products and services. Conservative estimates have shown that customers are 57% through the purchase process before they approach a supplier [CEB]. However, other sources have estimated the amount to be as high as 70%. This is why companies must react with a highly coordinated response when the customer eventually reaches out.
The Aberdeen Group study shows us that among a variety of metrics that were strong indicators for success for all companies included, those enterprises with a strong internal sales/marketing relationship show a stronger annual performance improvement. One of the outcomes that should concern the CEO and marketing leadership is that the percent of sales-forecasted pipeline generated by marketing actually decreased. So even if a marketing team increases the volume of leads to Sales, if they are not quality leads it may end up in Marketing doing more work for fewer sales wins. This is a perfect example of learning how to work smarter, not harder.
Is SMA worth it?
I would say "yes" if things like revenue, average deal size, and team attainment of sales quota are important to you. The conversation to the CEO must be broader than just helping Sales and Marketing get along. The conversation with the CEO should focus on all the business performance parameters that are negatively affected by the current state of misalignment. Then the appreciation for how many metrics will improve with better alignment can be seen. Share this vision with the CEO and you will more likely achieve support for SMA in your organization.