In our engagements with sales teams, we have encountered multifarious issues that impair sales team performance. Perhaps one of the most disproportionately overrepresented, however, is the problem of misaligned sales teams. Our data is not the only data to tell this story:numerous publications discuss the high cost of misalignment between sales and marketing teams. By some estimates, businesses lose an incredible $1 trillion annually due to wasted resources in sales and marketing. Organizations with well-aligned sales and marketing teams, on the other hand, surpass their competitors in revenue by 208%. In fact, sales consultants have found misalignment to be one of the top issues sales teams face.
Although sales/marketing misalignment is the most common type of misalignment in sales teams, alignment issues are not exclusive to sales and marketing. Our data has revealed that sales teams have challenges with misalignment in a number of areas and with a number of different organizational departments. These stories of five companies suffering from misalignment in sales, ranging from Fortune 500 to Fortune 10 companies, illustrate well its crippling effects.
Company 1:Internal Team Misalignment
Our first sales team experienced difficulty in selling a particular hardware/software integrated solution due to severe misalignment between its hardware and software teams. Neither team had a solid understanding of the other’s offering, and the teams lacked a cohesive message that would compel a prospective customer to buy the integrated solution.
In addition to needing cross-training between the hardware and software teams, the teams were largely inconsistent in collaborating and engaging with each other to sell the solution due to a lack of central leadership over both teams. Moreover, the teams had incongruous goals:the hardware team found it particularly difficult to position the software part of the solution, disincentivizing the team to sell the software.
Company 2:Leadership Silos
The second team faced difficulty from silos in leadership that created barriers to selling. The team was focused on outcome selling, but due to the siloed structure of the organization, the team was not empowered to make decisions. As a result, the team had to wait for leadership to make key decisions, wasting the time of prospective customers. Additional silos existed in knowledge management, and thus the sales and product teams were misaligned in their understanding of customer needs and products that met those needs. Communication and collaboration between commercial teams and product line leadership was lacking, so the teams did not have a clear understanding of the offering’s value proposition.
Company 3:Misaligned Incentives
Team three suffered from misaligned incentives, which made selling a comprehensive cross-brand solution extremely difficult. Different teams were selling different parts of a solution under different brands, but the way the teams’ incentive structure worked incentivized the different teams to compete with each other rather than collaborating and cross-selling a solution. As a result, the teams missed opportunities for upselling and expanding customer relationships. Moreover, a lack of thorough understanding of the solution’s value proposition discouraged some teams from selling the solution at all. Because they did not fully understand the value proposition, the teams found the solution difficult to sell, so they preferred to focus on selling other offerings in order to fill their quotas. The team needed education on how to position the cross-brand solution and an incentive structure that aligned them to sell together instead of competing internally for customers.
Company 4:Regional Misalignment
Our fourth example company was a global company impaired by regional misalignment. Some regions had no understanding of the organization’s sales strategy and roadmap, even claiming they were left out of participation in strategic initiatives.
Other regions had a poor understanding of the offerings themselves, how these offerings were delivered, and ultimately how to sell them. A lack of organizational focus around regions meant that the need for local solutions was not sufficiently met. Resources were another major issue, with some regions claiming they did not have the basic tools to be able to do their jobs. In addition to resources, the teams needed a combination of training to align around how to sell the offerings and training around how to customize solutions to each individual region.
Company 5:Sales-Product Misalignment
The final sales team had issues with misalignment between the sales team and the product and support teams. Product teams developed products without fully understanding what customers truly wanted, and support teams were unable to effectively support the products sold. Team members noted that products were difficult to set up, but there was little to no documentation or user guides explaining how to do so.
Misaligned sales teams occur frequently within larger organizations, and Fortune 500 companies are no exception. While misalignment between sales and marketing is often the focus for sales consultants, however, the examples above demonstrate a number of additional ways that sales team misalignment can hurt organizations. The solutions to misalignment problems are often relatively simple:training to ensure thorough understanding of offerings, communicative leadership, and incentive structures that prompt alignment can be the first steps to fixing misaligned sales teams. Thoroughly understanding the root causes of misalignment, therefore, is a critical first step.