Most of the marketers I work with have gotten the message: Sales and marketing alignment matters. They’ve accepted the evidence showing that well-aligned organizations perform better. They understand that sales and marketing alignment means that sales and marketing are moving in the same direction and working toward the same end in a coordinated way. But what’s harder for many is making peace with this reality: Sales and marketing reporting should not be identical – even when each is intended to drive aligned contributions.

In order to be effective, reporting should provide at least one of the following:

  • An understanding of what is happening (or what is likely to happen), which can be used to make ongoing adjustments. Think about the information needed to decide what actions to take next.
  • An accounting of what has happened, which fairly and fully captures the contributions the functions being evaluated have made toward an outcome.
  • Simply put, reporting needs to either help you adjust as you move forward or accurately recap what got you to this point.

    Most sales reporting – especially sales dashboards – are not designed to help marketing accomplish either of these things. Most frequently, sales dashboards focus on how much business has closed, is near to closing or needs to close in the current reporting period. They show what sales needs to accomplish between now and the end of the quarter. And there’s nothing wrong with that for managing sales. But for marketing, this isn’t enough to drive better decisionmaking.

    One of the big mistakes I see marketers make is to just plug into the measurement system sales has in place. Marketers tend to think this approach shows that they’re revenue focused and aligned with sales. But what really happens is that these marketers give up the tools and insight they need to manage their function.

    The truth is that sales and marketing are responsible for doing different things to further the organization’s goals. And these different things develop results according to different timelines. Concentrating performance measures solely upon the revenue booked during the current quarter obscures how marketing’s input from prior quarters has affected current outcomes, and how today’s marketing activities will impact results in the future. Without this perspective, it’s impossible for marketers to make the adjustments needed right now.

    Alignment isn’t an end in its own right: It is a requirement for achieving greater sales and marketing effectiveness. Aligned functions won’t be effective if marketing lacks visibility into how its actions contribute toward aligned goals – and what to adjust. The recommendations I give to marketers around reporting are as follows:

    • Maintain marketing reporting that shows how marketing is contributing toward aligned goals.
    • Ensure there are clear connections that allow sales and marketing data to be reconciled so as not to create divergent versions of the truth.
    • Use data to educate the organization about how marketing contributes and how marketing results are produced.
    • Ultimately, alignment works best when everyone has the information they need to do their respective parts. Sales and marketing need to align on business goals, and use reporting to help guide the processes for meeting those goals.