Is Account-Based Marketing Possible Without Sales Alignment?

For this post in our ABM series, we caught up with Dave Rigotti, Marketo’s head of enterprise demand generation and ABM, to discuss sales and marketing alignment.

This blog post is the third in Alyce’s seven-part series on account-based marketing best practices. For this post on ABM metrics, we connected with Marketo’s head of enterprise demand generation and ABM, Dave Rigotti.

The notion that sales and marketing should be in alignment is a tale as old as time. Sales and marketing professionals know in their hearts and souls that it’s important to work effectively with their counterparts, to understand where they’re coming from, and to appreciate what each side brings to the table.

In practice, however, sales and marketing alignment often ends up feeling a bit nebulous. The idea itself is beautiful. It’s fantastic. It’s aspirational. But is it feasible?

Take it from Marketo’s head of enterprise demand generation and ABM Dave Rigotti: it is. And if you’re investing in an ABM strategy and expect to achieve growth-fueling results for your business, sales and marketing alignment isn’t just a nice-to-have – it’s a must.

Do You Have Alignment?

“If you ask someone in B2B marketing sales if they want alignment, they’ll say yes,” Dave explains. “Then, if you ask them if they have sales and marketing alignment, they’re a lot less sure.”

So, then, how can you tell if you have alignment? Is it something you just sense, or is there a way to know for sure?

“So much of sales and marketing alignment comes down to being on the same page about metrics and gauges for success. One way to tell if sales and marketing are aligned across a business is to ask the boss. The CEO will have a perspective on whether the teams are aligned or not,” says Dave.

What would your CEO say?

The Key to Creating Sales and Marketing Alignment

The key to creating alignment between sales and marketing to fuel an ABM program is to ensure each team has a shared understanding of a shared set of goals.

“Alignment is required if you want to deliver any kind of meaningful return in an ABM program,” says Dave. “The No. 1 question to answer is: are our marketing team’s goals aligned with our sales team’s goals?”

“Alignment is required if you want to deliver any kind of meaningful return in an ABM program. The question to answer is: are our marketing team’s goals aligned with our sales team’s goals?”

When you put it that way, this whole alignment thing sounds pretty simple, right? In practice, though, it’s not always the case that sales and marketing have a shared set of goals they’re working toward. As Dave explains, a team of marketers may tell you their goals are to generate leads and host an awesome conference. But, for sales, the goals are always about bookings, deals and revenue.

“Generating leads should be considered a ‘leading indicator’ instead of the actual goal of marketing,” Dave states. “The goal is to drive revenue. That’s why marketing exists – to help a company grow.”

At the core of sales and marketing alignment, each side has to be speaking the same language about goals. Dave doesn’t sugarcoat this concept when he says, “If marketing has one set of goals related to lead generation and sales has another set of goals related to revenue, real alignment is impossible.”

Incentivizing Alignment

If getting to a consistent understanding of goals is the first step, incentivizing all the players to achieve those goals comes next. Historically, sales and marketing professionals have been compensated quite differently – and this speaks to the all-too-common misalignment around goals. If B2B marketing leaders move to work toward the same revenue goals as their sales counterparts, shouldn’t there be a compensation adjustment to match?

“When it comes to compensation, you can say sales and marketing are aligned all day, but if both teams of people aren’t personally and financially accountable to deliver results on success metrics – and that shared revenue goal – it’s all talk,” says Dave.

When companies compensate marketing leadership in a manner that mirrors the sales compensation structure, it goes a long way to incentivizing alignment around shared goals and helping sales and marketing feel more like two halves of the same team.

Make Sure Alignment Isn’t a One-Time Deal

Now let’s say you get marketing and sales leadership aligned around the same goal – revenue. And you incentivize the alignment by moving marketing leadership to a variable compensation structure that matches the sales comp model. Should we check the box on alignment and call it a day?

Not so fast. Alignment can’t be considered a check-the-box task. The key to ensuring sales and marketing meet in the middle, especially when you’re building an ABM strategy, is to treat alignment as an ongoing skill to hone or relationship to deepen.

As an example, at Marketo, Dave is in contact with his peers across the sales and marketing departments practically nonstop. “This is the most aligned team I’ve ever been a part of,” he says. “We all attend the same revenue kickoff meetings. The head of our outbound sales development team and I have a weekly one-on-one, and I also have a weekly meeting with other leaders across demand generation and marketing operations to do a state of the business check-in. Plus, I have a one-on-one every other week with the head of enterprise sales. Then, of course, we have quarterly business reviews, and we’re all aligned across marketing, sales and the business. I’d say we have a good relationship with sales.”

Whether you’re embarking on an ABM initiative for the first time or ramping up your program, sales and marketing alignment is an absolute must. When you align around a shared set of goals, incentivize each side to be accountable for achieving them, and put in the time to ensure alignment isn’t a one-time deal, you’ll be well on your way.

The Moral of the Story

  • For ABM to be successful, sales and marketing alignment is a must
  • Building alignment starts with agreeing on a shared goal
  • To encourage stronger alignment, it’s important to incentivize each side to be personally and financially accountable for achieving the shared goal
  • Getting alignment in the first place is one thing; for sales and marketing alignment to work, you’ve got to stay aligned over the long term

Many thanks to ABM and demand gen expert
Dave Rigotti for his insight on this topic.

 Have your own ideas to add?
Comment below, or
drop the Alyce team a line to talk shop.

April 17, 2019
Mary Matton
Mary Matton

Mary Matton is the Growth Marketing Manager for Alyce, and is obsessed with all things inbound and demand gen. Outside of work, her #5to9 interests include perfecting her mobile photography, the quest for the perfect iced coffee, and spending time with the people most important to her.