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Improve Sales and Marketing Alignment
to Accelerate Revenue

by Laura Patterson, President, VisionEdge Marketing


For many CEOs, revenue and growth are among the top concerns, especially in the current economic environment.  Having a well-oiled sales and marketing machine that works well together can make all the difference in how well you can address these concerns.  Your sales and marketing organizations are the most critical links to your customers. This relationship is the foundation for profitable revenue growth and is at the core of how well a company attracts buyers and sells to them. 

The ultimate success of any organization rests in the hands of the CEO, and therefore it is within the domain of the CEO to ensure the sales and marketing organization is properly aligned.  Ensuring alignment between sales and marketing is not a one-time event; it requires on-going vigilance because market dynamics, organizational changes, and regular “wear and tear” can affect alignment. Besides the organizational benefits, according to IDC, marketing and sales alignment offers was of the greatest opportunities to improve the revenue cycle. There are at least four areas where sales and marketing need to be aligned:

  1. Market and customer segmentation

  2. Go-to-market strategy, process, and planning

  3. Sales enablement

  4. Opportunity management

This last area, opportunity management, is one of the first places any organization can address to see relatively fast improvements and value.  What do we mean by opportunity management? Opportunity management is the complete process of tracking and managing new revenue opportunities (prospective and existing customer business) from the generation of the opportunity to their conversion into a customer relationship. When well-defined and properly implemented the opportunity management process provides insight into the efficiency of marketing and sales efforts.

Six Opportunity Management Best Practices

There are six best practices when it comes to opportunity management:

  1. Using the customer buying process as the foundation for aligning both organizations
  2. Tracking and scoring leads based on prospect behavior.
  3. Collaborating on defining a qualified lead to determine when an opportunity  truly sales-ready
  4. Measuring marketing’s impact on the sales pipeline and the number of open opportunities that result from marketing programs
  5. Using customer behavior to map the most appropriate next interactions
  6. Leveraging opportunity nurturing programs

The very first step any organization can take to improve their marketing and sales alignment is to define the customer buying process. This effort has implications for the remaining best practices as well as for the configuration of marketing automation, sales automation, and campaign management systems. 

A Customer Oriented Opportunity Management Pipeline

The notion of a sales pipeline, that is the flow of business opportunities, is very familiar to most organizations.  But developing this pipeline around the customer buying process may be new territory.  These two lists hint to the differences of a “sales” oriented pipeline vs. a “customer buying” oriented pipeline.

Scenario A: Pipeline Elements

  • Identify the buyer
  • Send an email
  • Call to meet
  • Assess the need
  • Determine the budget
  • Submit a quote
  • Deliver a presentation
  • Submit a proposal

Scenario B:  Pipeline Elements

  • Visit website
  • Download a document
  • Requests a call
  • Describes a project
  • Attends a webinar
  • Schedules a meeting
  • Provides specification and budget
  • Participates in a demo
  • Requests a proposal

Hopefully you caught the nuances between the two scenarios.  If you thought the difference was that in the second example the behaviors are what the customer does vs. the first example which is things the company might do, you are right on target. 

If you are ready to improve your sales and marketing alignment and want to use the customer buying as the foundation, here are eight steps to help you start. 

Seven Steps to Creating a Customer Buying Pipeline

  1. Define the customer buying process and each incremental behavioral commitment for each of buying segments
  2. Group the behaviors into buying stages that map to the buying process
  3. Validate the pipeline with customers and modify as needed
  4. Determine stage owners
  5. Map marketing and sales tools and processes to each stage
  6. Configure marketing automation, sales automation, and campaign management systems
  7. Monitor, measure and report results and payback and modify as needed

It is often ideal for marketing and sales to engage in this pipeline engineering initiative together.  There is also merit when using someone from the outside to facilitate the process to ensure it is collaborative, to manage the customer validation, and to support the system configuration changes.

Using a customer centric model is a valuable method for improving marketing and sales alignment, effectiveness and measurement.  It enables an organization to shift from a transactional focus to a one that is more customer-focused and designed to accelerate revenue.


The Author

Laura Patterson

Marketing Metrics in Action

Laura Patterson is president and co-founder of VisionEdge Marketing, Inc, a leading data-driven metrics-based strategic and product marketing firm located in Austin, Texas. Her passion and experience for connecting marketing to business results enables the company to specialize in consulting and learning services that help organizations improve and measure marketing performance. Laura’s newest book, Marketing Metrics In Action:  Creating a Performance-Driven Marketing Organization, has just been published by Racom Communications.

VisionEdge Marketing enables organizations to leverage data and analytics to facilitate marketing accountability and operations, measure and improve marketing performance, develop dashboards, and enhance marketing and sales alignment in order to accelerate revenue  and create a competitive advantage. For more information, go to

Many more articles in VisionEdge Marketing and Marketing Insight in The CEO Refresher Archives
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Copyright 2010 by Laura Patterson. All rights reserved.

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