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Sales & Marketing Alignment Isn’t the Answer

It’s become common—almost a fad—for sales and marketing teams to get “aligned”. There seems to be a belief that too much conflict between these groups isn’t healthy and they need to get on the same page. If they can only work better together, revenues will improve, marketing efforts will be more measurable…and gosh darnit, everyone will be happier…

But there’s often a fatal flaw to this logic. As much as we don’t like conflict and want everyone to work well together, sales and marketing are two distinct business functions. They can often have different objectives, strategies and tactical approaches. And the product of this conflict can be very healthy to the business–fostering new ideas and innovative approaches.

When you see this conflict and come to the conclusion that sales and marketing should be aligned, it’s often best to take a step back and determine what the real root cause is.

If you have strong and capable sales and marketing teams, any conflict they have is likely a symptom of a bigger problem where a robust strategy doesn’t exist, or doesn’t make sense. These teams are in conflict because they’re drawing their own conclusions and developing divergent approaches. Don’t focus on aligning them–focus on giving them a strategy that they can both get aligned to.

But if “alignment” is really just a way to get a weak sales or marketing team to do what they should be doing, you’re still treating the symptom and not the root cause. Aligning a weak team with the stronger team often just runs the risk of distracting the business function that’s actually working well. Focus on fixing the weak business function before you saddle a strong business function with problems they shouldn’t be worried about.

Either way, aligning sales and marketing is not the answer. But ensuring both business functions are capable and effective–with a solid business strategy they can get behind? That’s something everyone can get aligned to.

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