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How to Align Product, Marketing and Sales Goals

How to Align Product, Marketing and Sales Goals
Written by publishing team

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In every tech company, there is, at some point, the challenge that not every department is getting what they want. Product men want innovation, marketing men want vision and competitive advantage, and sales men want to pursue money.

Looking at statistics collected from various sources such as Salesforce, McKinsey, and others: 86% of employees and executives report a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures, and 97% of employees and executives believe that mismatch within the team affects a significant outcome or Project. Furthermore, while about 75% of employers rate teamwork and collaboration as “very important,” only 18% of employees get ratings for communication in their performance appraisals. To maintain status, according to McKinsey, knowledge workers spend an average of 14% of their work week communicating and collaborating internally.

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Near the last quarter of each year, companies begin planning next year’s goals, budgets, and roadmaps. Changes in business strategy often require fine-tuning, and sometimes reorganization of structures, affecting PnL ownership, GTM management, product decision-making, marketing and sales. During these times, the organization becomes more fragile, and the weight is placed on the leaders of these new teams, alignment and cooperation among them.

We might all agree that the best way to grow relationships is to have a common goal. As of today, we notice that quite a few organizations excel in collaboration and achieving goals. In general, they follow a customer-centric strategy, which lays the best foundation among all roles: product men aim for the best customer experience, marketing focus on best offers and value messages, and salespeople strive to keep customers happy.

  • What do some organizations do right and others don’t?
  • Why is the cross-company agenda so critical to business development?
  • How to align strategies, goals and plans moving forward?

Doing it right – presenting the strategy

Organizations like Amazon and Google are investing in their efforts to understand their customers deeply, these are the driving factors for their growth and GTM strategy. This focus motivates the product, sales and marketing teams to work together towards product launch, pricing, positioning, and customer journey design. Shared goals allow people to spend time communicating and collaborating, increasing innovation and improving workflow.

But other organizations point out a frequent mismatch between marketing and sales and between product and marketing. This argument sounds paradoxical, but the argument that “the sales team complains about weak leads and (the) marketing team complains about low closing rates” is well known to many, and is often the result of conflicting strategies and unclear goals. Other arguments could focus on quality control and authority. For example, production may want to be slower to produce a higher quality product, to reduce customer returns and complaints, while marketing insists that production should always be at capacity. In these cases, executive management usually steps in to achieve clarity, balance quality and cost, and refocus teams.

Compatible Agendas – Understanding Dependencies

Harvard Business Review (HBR) succinctly describes the joint dependencies “Product designers learned years ago that they would save time and money if they consulted with their manufacturing colleagues rather than just throwing new designs on the wall. The two jobs realized that just coexisting was not enough—not when they could work together. To create value for the company and for customers. You would have thought the marketing and sales teams, whose work is also closely related to each other, would have discovered something similar.”

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Starting my career as a market analyst, I spent 15 years leading marketing organizations, with a few years in between, and recently again, working with a producer hat. During conversations with our peers in marketing and tech networks about best practices and frequent mistakes, we all agree with HBR that the marketing function takes different forms in different companies, at different stages of the product life cycle, all of which can deeply affect the relationship between marketing, sales and product .

Recognizing that the marketing function must continually reflect and enhance business needs, and cannot be static, the idea is to create settings for disciplined communication and cross-tasking across cockpit departments (sales and product), when a customer-centric strategy is not in place.

Up and forward – next steps

So we hear that “a comprehensive, integrated customer experience is becoming an expectation for today’s customers, and the only way to provide that is through close alignment between the marketing and product teams” – and sales. However, the truth is that people get caught up in their daily to-do lists, responding to their managers’ specific agendas for each department.

Research by Chung-Jen Chen, published in IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, shows that products developed by cross-functional teams perform better on the market than others. Additional research by Abbie Griffin and John R. Hauser published in The Journal of Product Innovation Management showed that a critical factor in the eventual success or failure of a product was the marketing team’s involvement in research and development during the new product development process.

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This is the time of year for organizations to align with mutual results and improve the way they operate. An opportunity to discuss and formalize business processes, and focus leaders on improving day-to-day collaboration and communicating the bigger picture. In my experience, I have had the privilege of working in organizations that promote such a culture. In fact, aligned strategies increase ROI and collaboration, and constant feedback between teams increases market and customer understanding; Both are key to healthy relationships between product, marketing and sales.

wrap it

Having a customer focused business is the new normal and putting the customer at the center of business activities brings the collaborative approach involved in customer centricity.

For the business to succeed and continue to grow, today more than ever, it will depend on cross-functional teams, the alignment of people, and their understanding of their contribution to the company’s goals and strategy.

Football coaches got it right years ago. The Secret Combination of Strategy and a Winning Team: Trust, Program, Practice, Communication, and Fun. So, let’s make sure we define our common goals and plans, before bringing Messi and Ronaldo into the game.


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