Businesses today understand that a positive customer experience is crucial for success. As a result, the topic of Marketing and Sales alignment, or the lack of it, continues to be a top of mind subject. Why does the importance of Sales and Marketing effectively working together continue to garner so much ink? Because the lack of alignment can negatively impact a company’s sales cycle and Marketing ROI.

The topic of marketing and sales alignment, or the lack of it, continues to be a top of mind subject.

Often the disconnect or lack of alignment between Marketing and Sales is attributed to poor communication. Various approaches and technology have been created to address alignment. Here’s the rub. Independent research findings published by the Gartner Group, Aberdeen Group, and Yankee Group have all reported that most senior executives have not found that investments in technology produced better alignment results. Why? Because technology, marketing, sales, or otherwise, will not fix a poor design.

Structure and function are closely related. How your company structures its Marketing and Sales organizations impacts the effectiveness of their communication, productivity, and innovation. The purpose of organizational structure is to clarify the division of work and ensure that work is coordinated in a way that best achieves the organization’s goals. Anatomically when structure is compromised, functionality is impacted. This is true for all organisms where “mutually interdependent parts maintain various vital processes.” Research suggests that most productivity and performance issues can be attributed to poor organizational design (overview of the research).

A ChiefOutsiders article concisely describes the differences between B2B Sales and Marketing. “The job of Sales is to ‘sell what’s in stock.’ They knock down the doors, overcome objections, negotiate prices and terms and often work internally to be sure their customer’s orders are filled.” Marketing’s job is to “understand the marketplace from the perspective of the customer…help lead the company where it should be in the future… direct the organization toward the customers and channels where the company can profitably compete… help the organization see how it needs to modify its product offerings, pricing and communication so that it meets the needs of the distribution channel or end customers, and ‘direct Sales as to where they be hunting and what ammo to use’.”

These definitions suggest an organizational structure where Marketing is the strategic arm and Sales in the part of the armory. When companies establish a function under the umbrella of Sales and Marketing, the very framing of the function suggests the organizational structure. Sales in front of Marketing. This is more than semantics; it is at the heart of the organizational structure issue. Before you make another technology investment under the pretext of improving Marketing and Sales alignment, you may first need to revisit organizational design and the flaw of NOW.

How NOW Exacerbates the Marketing Sales Alignment Problem

If you’ve organized Sales and Marketing tactically, chances are you are only exacerbating the alignment issue. What do we mean by organizing Sales and Marketing tactically? For example, if you think of marketing in terms of generation leads, creating content, or sales enablement, you are thinking of Marketing as a support arm to Sales NOW, which is very tactical. If you think of Sales and Marketing as hunters, closers and farmers, you are thinking tactically. Sales NOW is Sales’ job, and they certainly need Marketing’s support to do it. And this may be useful for the short-term, but it’s not marketing.

If you’re designed for NOW, you will be misaligned for LATER

If you’re designed for NOW, you will be misaligned for LATER

Marketing as defined by the AMA (American Marketing Association) is the discipline, practices and processes that create, communicate and deliver an exchange of value between customers, partners, stakeholders and the company. Marketing sees, leads, and directs the organization to a future state. Inevitably the Future will arrive. If you’re designed for NOW, you will be misaligned for LATER, and the perpetual cycle of Marketing and Sales alignment will persist. Design your Marketing to help you realize the desired future state.



Your Design Checklist for Alignment Success

Edwards Demming said “a bad system will defeat a good person every time.” Many organizations are quickly approaching the halfway mark for the fiscal year. For some this signals the strategic planning season. Hopefully, part of this work will include ensuring you Marketing and Sales organizations are designed for success. See if your organizational design passes this 4-point checklist:

  1. Your structure supports the strategic plan: For Marketing and Sales to be aligned, your structure and strategy must be in harmony. What you want your organization to look like in the future and your strategy for realizing this vision will both affect your design and all your subsystems, such as planning. If the structure and systems are not well designed, your strategy will likely fail. Therefore, strategy affects structural design. In turn, structure impacts strategy. A new strategy trying to thrive when shackled by an old structure will be hampered. When you are making any strategy changes, including a shift to a new stage of the execution life cycle, re-evaluate your structure. More often than not, changes are required.
  2. You’re organized for effectiveness: Effectiveness (which is doing the right things) includes innovation and adapting to change. To be effective, you must be flexible and have a margin for error. Efficiency is about doing things right. Efficiency without effectiveness can actually cause more problems than it solves. Often organizations fall into the trap of being efficient at the expense of effectiveness. Done correctly, marketing aligns core capabilities with growing opportunities and creates long-term effectiveness. Designing for effectiveness means your focused on “better,” not “more.” Remember to determine how the effectiveness of each organization will be measured within the context of customer-centric results.
  3. Your design balances long-term and short-term: The demands of today always overpower the needs of tomorrow. So when Marketing, your strategic arm, reports to the Revenue Now arm (Sales), Marketing will quickly succumb to the pressure of sales NOW, and will become a sales support function. Sure, Sales may receive what it thinks it needs in the short run, but this will likely be at the expense of the long-run. You know when the design is faulty, because there is a continuous game of musical chairs happening as the organization seeks balance.
  4. You’re organized with the customer in mind: How your organization will meet customer needs should dictate your structure. This often becomes a question of centralization vs. decentralization, or control vs. autonomy. Of course, organizations want both. Here’s a basic organization design principle: centralize functions that control systemic risk (accounting, legal, HR); decentralize functions that need to be able to make quick decisions in the best interest of the customer (Sales, Marketing, Customer Service). This necessitates making some “business rules of engagement” that establish parameters and thresholds around when moments of truth (customer interactions that have an effect on the future) create irreversible systemic risk.

If your organizational design meets all four points on this checklist, congratulations. If not, you now know some areas to address. If your design passed, the next most important step is to make sure you have the right people in the right function.

Want to find out whether your Marketing organization is up to the task of achieving excellence? Find out how well your Marketing organization stacks up on these thirteen critical capabilities.

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