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9 min read

The role of cross-functional collaboration in revenue marketing

Team alignment

The revenue marketing approach is a big milestone in marketing history. With this mindset, marketing has a seat at the table with the teams that drive success for the company, instead of being the team that “makes things pretty” and focuses on the upper funnel only. 

But: In complex B2B environments, marketing can seldom bring revenue on their own. They need to collaborate very smoothly not only in the triangle with sales and customer success (CS) to build a successful go-to-market strategy, but with all teams that shape the impressions for external stakeholders. 

Let’s discover some ways to get there. 

Big mistakes = big lessons

Several years ago I worked in a department in which sales and marketing were merged under one head. Alignment between the teams was definitely easier. One report to look at, one set of goals, one campaign plan. 

So when the sales lead of one of our biggest geographical markets was very excited about running a discount campaign for a month, I agreed to test it although I was skeptical of offering discounts too early in the prospect journey. 

But soon after we started the campaign, sales skyrocketed. Other markets already planned the same campaign approach. Sales and marketing agreed to repeat the campaign next quarter.

Shortly before the launch of the next discount campaign, the department head for sales and marketing was called by an angry Head of Customer Success. His metrics were also skyrocketing, but his were the churn rates.

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So what had happened? Sales and marketing were so concentrated on their “new” collaboration, that we simply hadn’t taken into account how the customer success teams had to handle the new type of “discount” customers. And they didn’t fit into a long-term subscription model and canceled the contracts after a short period of time.

So although most often sales and marketing alignment is in focus, it’s not done with that. 

Learning: Always consider all lifecycle touchpoints and be consistent in who to target and how. First action back then was to include the CSM team in the weekly market meetings.

Key players in cross-functional collaboration with marketing

The sales team 

This is the classic area of alignment needed. Marketing and sales work in similar areas and it’s sometimes hard to decide where one responsibility ends and the next one starts. This is why it’s so important to get into the details, decide on these items (and document them!), and agree together how to use synergy effects. 

In my experience, it always worked best to mirror the sales set-up and to allocate one dedicated revenue marketing manager to each sales team.

They can be the connector in both directions.

Marketing and Sales Alignment Playbook

The customer success team

As in my example at the beginning, customer success receives the work of marketing and sales a bit later. 

In order to make the customer happy, they need to know which messages/outreach tactics won them. And they’re of course a very important source for marketing as they’re so close to the customers and can give valuable insights. 

Never forget, it’s give and take – don’t suck them out like little vampires! 

The product development team 

Product development’s direct partner in crime is naturally partner marketing, but make sure to use partner marketing as your main connection point between product and marketing, similar to field marketers in sales. 

But don’t make the mistake of leaving this to that relationship only. Product management benefits from knowing about the broader marketing picture and can be a great collaboration partner for PR and social media.

How is product marketing connected with sales and marketing?
In PMA’s 2021 State of Product Marketing report, PMMs were asked about their job roles previous to product marketing. In this article, we’ll be taking a deeper look at the relationship between product marketing, sales, and marketing.

Challenges and how to overcome them

1) Knowledge / Lack of understanding

I believe a big potential for misalignment is the lack of knowledge. And the challenge is here most often that the different teams are not even aware of the knowledge gap. 

This is also known as the "Dunning-Kruger effect." It describes a cognitive bias in which individuals with low ability or knowledge in a particular domain tend to overestimate their competence and believe they know more than they actually do. 

And let’s admit it, we’ve all felt it at some time. Yes, we know what sales does, no need to ask them for details. And everyone is a bit of a marketing expert if you work in business, right?

This leads us to missing the important details that could make a difference. It can even be the other way around: Don’t we sometimes assume people know what 

marketing is all about and what our targets are?

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The way to overcome this is to be transparent from the beginning and explain

What marketing strategy are you following and why? With which data do you work on which hypotheses? And do the same to other departments, ask questions. 

Be curious and never assume you know already.

2) Time

For deep alignment, you need to take the time to understand (as in the point above), plan together, and challenge each other. 

In my personal opinion, the time in meetings has increased a lot in the last few years. Partly because of more remote work, and partly because of work environments becoming more complex. 

Still, regular meetings need to be established between the departments, and you should also plan workshops and retrospective meetings in advance. 

In order to use the valuable time efficiently, make sure to use the 1X1 of meeting rules: Put up an agenda, make and share notes, document action items and follow up on them. Share these notes not only with the participants but with all the departments. 

This way, you can ensure that the outcomes are spread within the departments and don’t stay within the heads of some representatives. In the best case, between meetings, you use a common project management tool to keep each other informed. 

Real alignment needs to be executed in everyday work, not only as a check-in when the next meeting takes place.

3) Conflicting goals

If marketing’s top goal for the year is to raise brand awareness in a new market, but sales’ top goal is to build pipeline in an established market, you can guess that there’s not much opportunity for working together.

Revenue and pipeline ownership: Sales vs. marketing
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The CS team aims – as the first priority – to avoid churn, and sales tries to upsell as much as possible. Although different sub-actions can be taken in parallel, the priorities for all teams need to be clear and transparent. With conflicting goals, you’ll never be able to get the most out of the resources you have.

To avoid this, top-level management needs to agree on the overall strategy. Of course, team members and middle management can do their part in talking with each other and preparing suggestions for their respective leaders. 

They can spot early when there are flaws in the overall strategy because they need to drill it down and execute. But if the strings aren’t connected at the top, it’ll be very hard for the whole company to untangle them.

A common framework for aligned goals is OKRs (objectives and key results). The OKR approach considers a bottom-up approach in the beginning, alignment on the top, and then drill-down to the team members again. Although the OKR framework has very clear guidelines, every company should shape them according to how it makes sense. 

When we introduced OKRs at my current company, we tried a textbook way but then found that the biggest value is the company OKRs, which are then executed in special cross-functional OKR task forces. 

The whole company uses the OKR for orientation, but not every team and team members need to have their personalized sets. You still need to consider time vs. value, because the three-month time cycle in OKRs isn’t much for planning, execution, and evaluation.

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4) Personal animosity

Let’s be honest, the hardest situations arise when there are core stakeholders who just don’t get along with each other and lack the professional attitude to separate personal feelings and work. 

You can’t please all of the people all of the time, but you do need to be able to work together effectively. Collaborations can still be taken care of by colleagues even when they’re not on the same page personally. 

“The fish stinks from the head,” and if leaders don’t act professionally, that’ll affect the teams that need to work together. If you discover this behavior in your leaders, you can check with your HR department or other persons of confidence. Depending on your relationship with your leader, you can also search for direct and honest conversations.

Whatever position you’re in, never accept bad-mouthing colleagues and other departments (I don’t mean harmless office chatter). It erodes trust, fosters negativity, damages reputations, and can severely affect mental health. And all this prevents true alignment. 

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No team can be successful in an isolated way. They need to work together so smoothly that the external stakeholders, aka prospects and customers, experience the most seamless customer journey out there.

The most important aspects when it comes to effective alignment are making sure to speak the same language, running in the same direction, and staying professional in personal interactions. 

Want to get your hands on a free alignment-focused playbook?

Aligning sales and marketing departments can generate 208% more revenue from marketing campaigns.

But many companies feel their marketing and sales teams are yet to achieve alignment.

That’s why we’re delighted to bring you the Marketing and Sales Alignment Playbook!

With insights from expert contributors, actionable advice and guidance, and example frameworks, our playbook has everything you need to get your marketing and sales teams truly aligned.

Why you should align your marketing and sales teams

Getting marketing and sales aligned has a wealth of benefits. In fact, effective alignment has been cited as the number one factor attributed to achieving revenue goals.

When marketing and sales know how to work together, the results are:

🤑 Increased revenue

✅ Improved customer retention

🎯 Better win rates

💫 Increased renewals

Need we say more? 👇

Marketing and Sales Alignment playbook

Written by:

Britta Agel

Britta Agel

Britta is the Global Revenue and Product Marketing Director at Spryker.

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The role of cross-functional collaboration in revenue marketing