The people who build IT services companies and digital agencies are some of the most resourceful and tenacious entrepreneurs out there. They’re habitual optimizers who aren’t afraid to try a new approach or pursue a new opportunity, and then put everything they’ve got into making it work.
That “test and learn” mentality is why I’ve enjoyed working with them over the last 20 years. But there is one problem set I’ve seen these leaders consistently struggle to solve: achieving predictable, sustainable revenue growth.
I’ve also seen that the consistent roadblock to this predictable, sustainable growth is sales and marketing misalignment.
It’s not just that sales and marketing aren’t working together effectively (although that’s often the case)—but that there is no overarching strategy in place to align sales and marketing efforts to the best revenue opportunities for the company.
And when there’s no strategy for alignment, the only thing that grows is chaos.
When your sales and marketing teams are out of sync, every part of your business suffers. Here are five signs your organization is suffering from a case of sales and marketing misalignment.
You can’t count on sales and marketing to deliver a predictable stream of revenue.
It’s a struggle to set and hit quarterly and annual revenue goals. There are last-minute heroics to hit the numbers, and when those don’t work, there is finger-pointing between the sales and marketing teams.
You don’t have much visibility into the sales pipeline either— you don’t know how many leads are coming into the top of the funnel, how many of them are turning into opportunities and how long it takes them to do so.
You’d love to build a sales and marketing engine that delivers predictable revenue quarter after quarter, but it’s hard to know where to start and what to do with the people and the tools you already have.
There is friction between your sales and marketing teams.
Sales and marketing don’t show up at the same meetings, even when they’ve both been invited. They deflect ownership for problems or missed goals onto the “other side.” One of their budgets falls under more scrutiny than the other’s.
Friction is a warning sign that your sales and marketing teams are not working effectively together, and maybe even at cross purposes.
Friction is inevitable when sales and marketing don’t have clarity on their respective roles in achieving revenue growth and no overarching strategy to execute against.
You’ve fallen into a cycle of constantly hiring and firing salespeople.
A lot of technology and digital services firms fall into a pattern that starts in their early days. At first, the founders or the people at the top of the company are the sellers, even though they don’t have much formal sales experience.
Then the time comes to hire the company’s first “real” salesperson. And that salesperson turns out to be ineffective. Then another salesperson is hired, and maybe they’re okay, but not great. Subsequent sales hires range between adequate and awful, and no one stays particularly long. And the cycle continues.
Professionalizing a sales function in a services company isn’t easy and doesn’t always come naturally to founders and CEOs. But it’s critical to get it right.
And to do that, you need an understanding of which sales roles, tools, processes and technologies to invest in.
You’re relying on just one or two marketing tactics.
It’s pretty common for technology and digital services firms to focus on event-based marketing to the exclusion of just about everything else. Or maybe you’ve invested a lot of money in creating thought leadership content and are counting on inbound marketing to deliver your top-of-funnel leads.
Events can certainly deliver a lot of raw leads—but without a strategy, those leads might not materialize into any real opportunities. Inbound marketing can generate a lot of raw leads as well—but they might not be the type of leads you’re looking for.
Relying on a single marketing tactic isn’t going to drive the growth most firms are looking for.
And marketing is more than just tactics—it should be a strategic part of your revenue growth strategy.
You think that if you can get big enough, size will fix your growth problem.
So you chase opportunities to get as big as possible as quickly as possible. Maybe you’re always on the lookout for a new partnership that will come with a big untapped market opportunity. Or you’re focused on landing that big anchor account. Or rolling out a new service offering to help you move upmarket. Or acquiring another company. Whatever will move that revenue line up and to the right for the next few quarters.
There’s nothing wrong with pursuing growth opportunities. The problem comes with thinking about growth but not about scale.
Without a strategy, you have no way of evaluating and prioritizing opportunities on their ability to help you grow sustainably. And you have no way of ensuring that your sales and marketing functions are aligned to pursue these opportunities.
The Cause and the Cure
If these scenarios sound familiar, the first question you’re probably asking is, “How did we get here?” The next question inevitably is, “How do we fix it?”
Answering the first question is more straightforward.
If you’re like most technology and digital services companies, your sales and marketing capabilities evolved on an ad hoc basis. You started by creating a website and maybe hiring a salesperson or two. Then you sponsored an event that seemed like a good lead generation opportunity, and you had to implement a CRM system to keep track of those leads. Maybe after that, you focused on growing and enabling your sales organization, or you decided to create some content to position yourself as a thought leader.
All of this makes perfect sense for a services company in its early days. You had to establish the foundation, get the engine running and generate some leads and brand awareness. But what you probably ended up with are sales and marketing functions that have no overarching strategy and no organized way of identifying and pursuing the best opportunities for growth.
And that means you’re not only missing out on opportunities, but you’re probably also making the wrong sales and marketing investments.
As for the cure? That takes a bit more explaining. But take heart, there is a way to move towards more aligned and effective sales and marketing.