Why haven’t we solved Sales and Marketing alignment in ABM?
Despite account-based marketing’s maturity as a framework (it’s been around for 20 years now), organisations still struggle with aligning Sales and Marketing for successful outcomes.
The problem doesn’t lie with ABM. But it’s shed light on something that’s been hiding in plain sight for a while now. Within any given company, two departments are ultimately responsible for the same outcome of getting prospective customers to buy their products and services: Sales and Marketing.
Walk into almost any organisation and you’ll likely find a ‘them’ and ‘us’ mentality between the two functions. A lack of trust driven by entrenched attitudes or possibly some unsuccessful initiatives in the past. It results in Marketing being wary of asking Sales to take part in future initiatives, and Sales being reluctant to take themselves away from anything that’s not directly related to an opportunity.
Although the two departments are responsible for the same outcome, they’ll often have different leaders, different goals, and possibly a different ethos. This will understandably lead to separate approaches that can become a wedge that prevents them from working as one. But if an organisation is to grow, you can’t have one without the other. They need to work together effectively.
One way to overcome this is to create a single role that oversees both departments: a Chief Revenue Officer (CRO), for example. As the single point of leadership, a CRO can align both teams’ strategies and tactics to drive revenue growth and customer satisfaction. They can also foster a culture of collaboration and accountability across the entire ‘revenue organisation’.
But in the absence of being able to appoint a CRO, there are still ways to foster alignment for your ABM programme:
Secure leadership commitment to ABM
The key here is engaging senior leadership from both sales and marketing teams. This needs to be explicit in that they agree with the approach, budget, resources, and outcomes to ensure the programme has visible legitimacy within the organisation. It also needs to be implicit so that reporting lines can be used to make them aware of issues, making it easier to find a resolution.
Find an ABM champion
You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink! There’s no point taking an Account Rep who’s not completely bought in and trying to turn them into an enthusiastic supporter of the programme. A champion will be with you all the way. They’ll work with you to be successful and when they show great results, their colleagues will want to be a part of it.
Put a soft Sales and Marketing service level agreement (SLA) in place
This is something I use in every programme I work on: An explicit commitment to what Marketing will do for Sales and vice-versa. This can be light-hearted and not at all formal. But it needs to keep both teams on the same page to tackle the root causes of teams not passing the right kind of baton and not picking it up once it’s passed.
Get individuals to buy in
Take the time to put a ‘business case’ together for everyone involved. Why you’re doing it, what it’ll involve (at a programme and at a role/individual level), and what the expected outcomes are. We all have experience of individuals being invited to meetings who don’t really know what they’ve been invited to or why they are there.
For most, the challenge of aligning Sales and Marketing isn’t going away anytime soon. The key is to keep it in focus, make sure there are no assumptions, avoid taking anything for granted, and keep chipping away at it. But for anyone looking for a seasoned ABM partner that can help speed up the alignment process…