Sales-Marketing Misalignment Hamstrings CRM

If you talk to any sales consultant — or marketing consultant, for that matter — you’ll probably get an earful of comments laden with the jargon of “sales-marketing misalignment.” To the layperson — or business person who refrains from paying for expensive consultants — all this means is the ongoing conflict between sales and marketing, the single dumbest reason that otherwise worthy businesses struggle.

The classic symptoms: Sales spends a lot of time prospecting because it doesn’t trust the leads marketing’s handing over; marketing complains about the sales team’s inability to close the leads that it hands over; and both sides have a near-pathological aversion to actually talking to each other about this disconnect.

This is an obvious problem, but it’s one that goes unaddressed at all too many organizations. It has real implications for revenue — and it also has dire consequences for CRM. While the two sides are warring over who’s to blame for lackluster sales, there’s little chance they’ll get together and cooperate around customer data that can benefit both sales and marketing.

Prisoner of Dysfunctional Personalities

CRM is supposed to be a unifying technology that collects customer data in one place, so that all parts of the business that need it can access it and use it. It’s supposed to break down information silos within the organization.

However, when sales and marketing are at war, this is not likely to happen. The part of the business that “owns” CRM is likely to guard it jealously. Similarly, marketing may hold data it collects via marketing automation close to the vest and fail to share it with sales. You end up with the silos being rebuilt. Why? Because personalities within the organization don’t get along and don’t trust each other.

This is a pretty petty reason to allow your investment in CRM to erode away to nothing — but it happens all the time, in all kinds of businesses. Friends of mine who are sales VPs or CMOs acknowledge how corrosive and destructive misalignment is — but they continue to engage in behavior that deepens the sickness in their organizations.

If you’re in charge of CRM in a business like this, you are a prisoner of the personalities you work with — and unless someone at the top acknowledges and identifies this problem, your success will always be at the mercy of two misaligned organizations.

Tear Down That Wall

To break down the wall between sales and marketing, the two sides have to realize the value of information instead of data, and they have to recognize the productivity that CRM is supposed to bring to their rules. What does that mean?

First, the two sides need to realize that for the data they have in CRM to be useful, it needs context. That context must be provided by sales; through real-world experience, sales knows what a qualified candidate looks like. That context must be provided back to the marketing team, which can then look for leads that fit the profile described by sales.

Second, sales needs to realize that its team members make money by selling, not by prospecting; if marketing is doing its job, sales can focus on selling. Replicating marketing’s activities isn’t productive or lucrative.

Chief Mediating Officer

That’s the simple, short-term solution — but because sales and marketing leaders are so often large personalities, the answer may be more structural. Responsibility at an executive level for all revenue-generating customer activities should be housed in one C-level person, to whom sales and marketing report.

This executive’s job is to make sure that sales and marketing are operating as efficiently as possible — and that means operating together, with identical goals, internal communication and extensive sharing of information. Doing so would require maximizing the use of CRM — and would help the business realize the unifying vision of CRM that its proponents so frequently tout.

If the relationships within your organization are dysfunctional, you’ll never be able to build great customer relationships. CRM is not capable of defusing internal strife and ego-driven drama. If you want to realize the value in your CRM investment, make sure that the people who use it are functioning well together.

CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz is a speaker, writer and consultant on topics surrounding buyer-seller relationships. He has been a technology journalist for 17 years and has immersed himself in the world of CRM since 2006. When he's not wearing his business and technology geek hat, he's wearing his airplane geek hat; he's written three books on World War II aviation.

1 Comment

  • What a wonderful article! CRM is supposed to be a unifying technology, indeed. One of the simple (from a customer point of view) solutions to prevent sales and marketing being at war is having marketing inbuilt with the CRM itself, dont’ you think? This way, everyone has clear access to all the data, preventing the situation you described. Agile CRM (where I work) integrates marketing automation with the CRM, providing automatic lead scoring via marketing campaigns as well. Such a system greatly reduces the disconnect between leads/lead scoring/lead conversion mechanisms, and marketing. It also makes people function independently, while being aware of others’ actions- probably something that is easier for folks than being forced to work together, eh?

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