3 Sources of Misalignment B2B Organizations Must Address
by DJ Shirley | Updated Nov 4, 2021
Why is cross-functional alignment such a difficult challenge for B2B organizations to overcome? And really, this challenge is not unique to B2Bs. Regardless of the business model, industry, or company size, alignment is a challenge every organization faces. When referring to alignment, we're talking about alignment between the different departments in an organization: marketing, sales, and service.
Alignment is synonymous with the sweet spot everyone wants. If your back and neck are aligned, you feel great, have mobility, and don't experience chronic pain. Inversely, if not aligned, it will impact many, if not all, of your actions throughout the day. Therein lies the problem, you (and we all do this, so don't feel singled out) continue through your day, week, and potentially year while ignoring the signals calling attention to your misalignment. But there is a misalignment tax paid one way or another. You experience the immediate short-term tax via the daily pain, which can turn into a permanent issue if not addressed
The misalignment tax holds true for organizations that trudge forward while not aligning with their counterparts also must pay a misalignment tax, which impacts 3 critical metrics:
- Revenue Growth
- Customer Satisfaction
There is no argument that alignment between teams is a critical area to address.
In a 2020 report by LinkedIn - 87% of sales and marketing leaders say collaboration between sales and marketing enables critical business growth.
Based on the report by LinkedIn and Digitopia’s own experience working with organizations to overcome these challenges. Here are 3 common sources of misalignment and steps you can take to address them so you can help your teams operate more efficiently and focus on growth.
1. Misalignment caused by role & department function:
People will hyper-focus on a function specific to their role because the lens of success is limited to the individual's contributions to the department's performance. The missing piece and primary source contributing to misalignment between departments is a lack of perspective devoted to how each team impacts the overall customer journey. You need to activate a process that fosters awareness and accountability across your customer experience.
To do this, you have to work with your department leads and take the time to zoom out and look at every lifecycle stage the buyer experiences. At each of those stages, you must define who's responsible, what is the major KPI to measure, and what are the supporting metrics linked to that stage?
Most importantly! You must have each of your department leads in the room for this exercise, and everyone has to agree.
"...in that conversation, there's going to be some disagreement, and you got to get aligned. Once you're aligned, you can't put that in the drawer and walk away. You have to meet monthly and ask: Are we doing this? Has anything changed? Do we need to realign?"
-Joseph Freeman, COO, Digitopia
This will allow you to create an overview of your customer experience from the lens of your life cycle stages that all departments easily understand. A byproduct of this process is gaining clarity around your primary bottlenecks and gaps at each level.
2. Misalignment caused by varying data:
Organizations of every size and industry are collecting data, and the volume of data is continually growing. However, misaligned data across teams has been a hurdle for organizations have faced for years because departments will utilize platforms and analytics that differ from their counterparts in the same company.
A typical example of data causing misalignment occurs between the marketing and sales teams. Your marketing team may be collecting information and labeling a prospect or lead with one status in their platform (Ex. Pardot) while your sales team is doing the same on a different platform (Ex. Salesforce). This also carries into your service department, which may be using a completely different platform with little to no data from the marketing and sales departments.
The impact of this misalignment results in:
- A less than ideal customer experience that leaves your prospect/customer frustrated because they don't feel heard since they have the same conversations with separate team members.
- An inefficient revenue pipeline that is a result of poor communication and data exchanges between departments. Departments have to allocate time to cross-referencing data between department platforms and continually cross-checking different nomenclature specific used by each department in the customer journey.
What steps to take to address misalignment caused by data:
A first step you can take to address this misalignment caused by data is to conduct a tech stack audit to review all of the applications used by your departments (if you don't have that outlined already). From the audit, you can identify overlapping tools and platforms and explore 2 options:
- Identify and transition to a platform that all of your key departments can use.
- Identify and activate a middleware provider to connect your varying platforms, so the needed data seamlessly flows between your departments.
Keep in mind - Your data needs to flow both ways. You can't have Marketing talk to Sales but not send data from Sales to Marketing.
Each option has pros and cons, but the best decision is dependent on your current tech stack and how ingrained your organization in each platform.
At the very least, you want your marketing and sales departments to be using the same data, nomenclature, and processes when it comes to your customer journey. It is understandable you may need your product/service department to use a platform-specific to your industry. If you can have your customer service/product team on the same platform, that is great but less critical than having marketing and sales synced up.
If you are able to align your data between departments, you are going to be able to:
- Create department and company level dashboards that accurately showcase performance.
- Accurately attribute efforts across the entire revenue pipeline, so you know which efforts within each department are yielding the highest impact.
- Allocate more effort towards department growth versus daily, weekly, and monthly reporting (and data troubleshooting). You get to have your people spend more time on what they are great at!
- Your teams can have more strategic conversations around growth versus debating who is dropping the ball and where the gap occurs.
By addressing the misalignment caused by varying data, you create a more collaborative culture across your organization. In addition, the experience across your customer journey can now offer the personalized experience you have been striving for.
Data leads into the 3rd source of misalignment among teams.
3. Misalignment caused by KPIs not interweaving across departments:
Every department has goals, OKRs, KPIs they are held accountable to achieve. However, similar to the first cause of misalignment, it is common for the goals of different departments to have gaps when evaluating the KPIs from the lens of the customer journey.
A common example you may have experienced is between marketing and sales. Marketing may have a KPI to deliver X number of qualified leads to the Sales team while the Sales team has a KPI to close X amount of new revenue. Both KPIs are hyper-relevant to the department, but there is a large gap between delivering qualified leads and closing a deal or selling a product to generate new revenue.
In extreme cases, multiple departments can achieve their specific KPIs, but the company may not achieve the forecasted growth projections because of the gaps left between the department KPIs.
Once again, a root cause of this misalignment is not zooming out and viewing all of the department's efforts from the customer journey's lens.
By always keeping the customer experience front and center when designing your KPIs, you can quickly identify gaps your customer may experience as they progress through the various lifecycle stages in the journey you have outlined.
How to Foster Alignment in Your B2B Organization:
Establishing alignment in any B2B organization is a major undertaking and will require time and commitment across your teams. Additionally, alignment is not a 'check the box' problem that can be solved and closed out. Maintaining alignment requires a dedication to proactively seeking out challenges.
3 key areas you must continually monitor to achieve and maintain alignment are:
- Fostering awareness within each department around how every role impacts the experience of the customer throughout the entire buyer's journey.
- Maintaining alignment between the data each department uses. At the very least, you need to make sure your marketing and sales teams are using the same platform and nomenclature.
- Continually validating the KPIs of each department are aligned, and you have action plans in place to bridge the gaps between core KPIs.
Activating alignment across your departments, your data, and your objectives is a huge first step in laying the foundation for a scalable organization capable of achieving predictable growth.
Establishing clear processes and data within your organization to empower your people are the 3 pillars of Revenue Operations.
Access a resource proven to help provide clarity across your departments and identify the gaps within your company's established roles and processes, you can review the deliverables outlined in our RevOps Strategy & Reporting Solution. A program designed to systematically address the hurdles preventing B2B organization from achieving alignment.
If you don’t want to wait and would like to talk with a RevOps specialist now, you can schedule a no obligations strategy session here.