“I Hate It When Mom and Dad Fight”; Are Your KPIs Destroying Marketing and Sales Alignment?

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Kids are masters of misdirection and misalignment. At an early age they learn how to position parents against each other. They are experts at the divide and conquer routine. Just yesterday, while cheering on my Ohio State Buckeyes, I watched one such master. The mother was very explicit in her instructions to her son regarding which snacks he was allowed to have. A short time later he ventured off to the snack bar with his unknowing father. Once they returned the mom immediately noticed that the father had purchased exactly what he was not supposed to. It took about 10 seconds for the parents to discover their child had lied to the father. Shocker.

Of course, in retrospect, the mother should’ve had the snack conversation with the father. Mom and dad were misaligned, the son recognized an opportunity to divide the team, and as a result mom and dad bickered for the remainder of the second quarter. Misalignment is caused by a lack of communication, collaboration, and cooperation. Incorrect compensation can also throw a wrench into the alignment process. This is especially true when evaluating misalignment across sales and marketing relationships. Kid-and-two-parents

Misalignment with Marketing
Last week I was walking a sales director through LinkedIn best practices. As a sales director he wants to use social media to drive opportunities to his sales team. I was showing him how to leverage content to drive engagement and avoid the “contact me to learn more” social sales pitch in the actual LinkedIn post. I explained that they should have a landing page, blog content, or something other than an e-catalog as the call to action. He explained that marketing is measured on the activity to that single e-catalog link. E-catalog clicks are the only things that matter. Every call to action, be it social or email, goes to that e-catalog link because that’s what marketing is measured on. So there’s no incentive for marketing to provide support to sales outside of this link because content engagement is not valued.

As he explained “I complain about our marketing team and how they don’t do anything, but at the same time I understand why”. Because of this single marketing KPI, his sale reps are writing their own blog posts and posting to LinkedIn publisher. And while well intentioned, that’s not where the majority of sales effort should be focused. And because of this one ridiculous KPI, marketing and sales are not aligned, sales is going off message and brand not focusing on sales engagement efforts, and marketing is complacent.

Misalignment with Sales
Surprised, I relayed this story to a colleague. He’s found, in his experience, this is an epidemic. He was aware of one B2B software company where the sales reps were compensated more on deals where Sales was recorded as the original lead source. Alternatively, the compensation was less if it was a marketing sourced lead. He explained, “So, as you can guess, many of the leads that marketing sent over to sales mysteriously lost their original lead source.”

But once this was noticed, marketing leadership worked with sales operations to “resolve” that issue. However, shortly thereafter, the marketing operations team noticed that the vast majority of the leads sent to sales were closed in the CRM as “no opportunity”. Then upon further inspection, they saw that brand new opportunities were being created with the same companies and contacts. This happened over the course of a year and, of course, the result was a complete inability for marketing to do any kind of accurate ROI reporting.

KPI Alignment
So how do you solve this problem? The simple answer is, adjust marketing and sales KPIs. But that certainly begs the question, “which KPIs should be measured?”

IDC introduced the Customer Creation Scorecard. These eight operational KPI’s are organized into three categories: investment, staff efficiency, and productivity levers. These KPIs provide guidance on revenue spent on sales and marketing combined, investment per headcount, sales enablement scores, and lead management scores.

Companies should also evaluate joint performance KPIs. Conversion metrics should be tied to conversion ratios across demand generation, lead nurturing, onboarding, and advocacy. KPIs should also extend across channel productivity and lead source like websites, portals, blogs, events, webcasts, eCommerce, digital advertisements, and social media.

These metrics will provide a more holistic view of behavior and will also highlight opportunities for improvement across funnel stages, lead hand-off, content effectiveness, and forecasting. This evaluation also provides insight into channel reach and effectiveness.

But the specific KPIs should be agreed upon, jointly, by marketing and sales leadership. Marketing and sales leadership should collaborate on agreed KPIs, communicate the KPIs through documented SLAs, and cooperate after the KPIs are documented when there are discrepancies. Lastly, compensation should also be adjusted to align with the KPIs. How teams are compensated and credited is one of the greatest success drivers in the change management process.

Sales and marketing must function as a team in order to be productive and drive revenue. Effort should be spent focusing on the customer, not on internal bickering. Which KPIs do you utilize to encourage marketing and sales alignment?


Marilyn Cox

Marilyn Cox is the Director of Marketing for Second City Works - the B2B division of the famed Second City.

You know the buzzwords; inbound, outbound, content, demand gen, lead gen, martech, social media, account-based, advocacy, customer success, sales enablement, and analytics.She studies it, plans it, executes it, experiments with it, and loves it.

Through discovery, creation, and innovation she's learned to say "Yes, And".Like business, her career is one big improvisational act.

She leads all aspects of the brand and culture, developing and executing a clearly defined, integrated marketing communications strategy.Marilyn is responsible for planning, organizing, staffing, training, and managing all marketing functions to achieve objectives of growth, awareness, customer success and making work better.

Marilyn exists to empower sales and support the customer. When not geeking out over marketing analytics, she can be found daydreaming about her unrealized dream as a professional wrestler with the WWE.

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