In a recent independent research study, commissioned by my company, Sugar Market, previously Salesfusion, the topic of sales and marketing alignment was explored at a very deep level. Leaders in sales, marketing, and executive management were polled on their perceptions of how aligned or misaligned their organizations were and what specific barriers may be present.

The findings of this study were very interesting in that it hammered home the point that perception, in most cases, is reality.

Marketing and sales alignment is a hot topic in business today. Sales, with long-entrenched CRM systems, is looking to adapt to changes in business online buyer behavior. Traditional CRM is effective at tracking and managing traditional sales activity and forecast management, but is largely ineffective at managing online web interactions that occur at the top of the funnel.

Marketing is under intense scrutiny from C-levels on the ROI of the myriad of online campaign spending. Marketing is also rapidly adopting MAPs (marketing automation platforms) to track and manage their key activities. CEOs want their companies to perform at optimum levels from marketing through sales and client service.

While marketing and sales alignment is a hot topic, as is the enabling technologies, figuring out how to get it right at any one company is not so easy. Different departments have different visions as to why it’s not working to begin with. In the study that I referenced, three different roles provided feedback on their feelings around barriers to achieving marketing and sales alignment and the answers are very telling.

Firstly, across the board, all three groups note budget and economics as the primary impetus.

This perception may be rooted in the perception that marketing and sales alignment is achieved solely via technology and additional personnel. It is the second barrier listed that really highlights differing views of what is preventing companies form aligning their marketing and sales departments.

At the CEO level, the perception is that staffing is one of the main roadblocks to sales and marketing alignment. Overall CEO’s had the highest perception that their marketing and sales departments were well aligned. Their perception around what could be preventing optimal levels of alignment being directly tied to staffing may point to a misunderstanding of the processes that are fundamentally broken between marketing and sales.

Often this is conflicting goals and misaligned success criteria. Here’s the most common example of why marketing and sales are not working together at many companies today.

Marketing has historically focused on reach. Reach can be defined simply as the ability to contact the most people for the least cost with your message. Every marketer thinks this way at some level. It’s one of the main reasons ad rates have been set based on CPM over 20 years.

The more people that see you ad, message or promotion the better your campaign has performed. High open rates, click through rates and conversions are also a staple success criteria.

Sales, on the other hand, is only interested in engaging with people who have the capacity to buy. This means they have need, budget, timeline, and pain. Capacity to buy is the root of any sales qualification process and buying cycle.

So in short, marketing wants to talk to the masses while sales only wants to talk to folks who can and want to buy. These conflicting views of the world cause more problems between sales and marketing than other issue, process, technical or otherwise.

Looking at sales and their perceptions of alignment and what’s preventing it, it’s interesting to note that they reference integration of technology as a key reason behind misalignment.

This is not surprising as sales have, for a long time, leveraged enterprise technology to improve processes (CRM). From their point of view, marketing needs to be brought into the fold and either integrate with or use the primary sales management system. Marketing’s response to barriers to alignment include sales and marketing alignment as being an impetus to sales and marketing alignment.

Leave it to marketing to work in the abstract!

What marketing is really saying is that in order for alignment to occur, both sides need to meet at the same table and collaborate on how to optimize processes from lead management to ROI tracking. There’s a general acceptance by marketing that systems need to integrate and communicate but their perspective includes processes as much as technology.

CEOs think we need to throw more people at the problem, sales thinks we need to throw more systems at the problem, and marketing thinks it needs to throw more processes at the problem. Taken individually, none of these approaches will ultimately work but with the right people, properly trained in the technology, matched with the right technology and driven by the right processes, sales and marketing alignment is very attainable.