Tired of Missing Revenue Targets? Fix Your Go-to-Market Alignment Issues

October 22, 2015

Alignment issues in your go-to-market strategy can wreak havoc on your business, which is why companies today are investing in salesforce automation (SFA) tools. These tools provide important insights into operations and can shed light on why deals are delayed, lost or won — key to the success of your business.

A sure sign that go-to-market alignment issues exist is when too many forecasted opportunities don’t close and when you start hearing excuses like:

  • Sales is overselling product capabilities, or worse, products that don’t yet exist
  • Product Management is too busy to provide competitive positioning/knock-offs
  • Product positioning is missing the target buyer and influencers
  • Marketing isn’t providing qualified leads
  • Products don’t meet customer needs or are not price competitive

These finger-pointing statements are indicators of poor alignment and communication between the product, marketing and sales organizations.

The simple fact is that gaps exist due to the boundaries between strategic planning (market and product strategy) and tactical execution (marketing communications, sales and customer relationships). These gaps negatively impact the company’s ability to meet revenue and customer acquisition targets.

How Do you Identify Go-to-Market Gaps?

Here are 5 macro level questions to assess and discuss gaps in your go-to-market approach.

  1. Is your target market size/opportunity aligned with your revenue and customer acquisition expectations?
  2. Is your product/solution aligned with the customer’s need/pain?
  3. Is your marketing strategy aligned with the business plan?
  4. Is your sales approach aligned with the customer’s purchasing process/preferences?
  5. Is your marketing plan aligned with sales requirements and sales cycle?

Each of these questions requires quite a bit of additional thought. You have to drill down into each area to form a definitive answer. Everyone on your go-to-market team has opinions and assumptions for each question. To test and verify them, you need to assemble the team (product, marketing, sales, service, support) to discuss and determine areas of alignment and surface areas where gaps exist. I am certain you will be surprised by some of the answers.

Only the best companies can answer these alignment questions confidently and take the required actions to bridge the gaps. Unfortunately, inconsistent answers to these questions are the norm.

What is Go-to-Market Alignment?

Go-to-market alignment means simply that every customer-facing employee and partner knows:

  • Who the company is selling to (…target customer/market)
  • What the company has to sell (…including solution differentiation)
  • How the product/solution is to be sold (… point of sale, service and support)

Any gaps in defining and internalizing these fundamentals will create friction and uncertainty, which will negatively effect your ability to find and close deals.

Maximizing customer and revenue attainment requires mastering, and continually updating these “who, what, how” fundamentals.

Steps to Ensure Ongoing Alignment

  1. Improve cross-functional communications. The foundation for good go-to-market alignment is communication. One could argue that effective cross-functional communication is the “elephant in the room.” Make a commitment to share information regularly and listen intently to your go-to-market colleagues. What you learn today will likely change what you do tomorrow.
  2. Establish a project to analyze the go-to-market revenue chain. Assemble a team of product/service owners and use the questions above to determine gaps. Product management is best positioned to lead. Determine how to fix the issue, prioritize it, assign it and monitor changes. Repeat.
  3. Expand the product management role to formally address and resolve go-to-market alignment issues. Often product management assumes this responsibility, but all too often it doesn’t receive the priority it deserves. It should be understood that this is not a coordination role, it’s about ownership, change and accountability.
  4. Establish a new position (director of revenue alignment) to identify and resolve go-to-market gaps and monitor progress. This could be someone with a marketing, sales operations or product management background. In all cases this role needs to be sponsored and supported by an executive, ideally the chief revenue officer (CRO).
  5. Make go-to-market alignment part of your culture. Ensure everybody in the revenue supply chain is responsible for identifying gaps and seeing that action is taken to address them. Establish a program to rotate functional roles (marketing to sales for 3 months, product management to pre-sales for 3 months, etc.) to ensure there is a hands-on understanding of the challenges each role experiences when facing a prospect or customers.

Reasonably good alignment (who, what, how) will likely be better than your competitors and will lead to:

  • Expanding and improving the quality of the opportunity pipeline
  • Improving customer acquisition and retention
  • Lowering the cost of sales
  • Ensuring realistic revenue attainment targets are achieved

Founder & President

Rick Berzle is a software industry veteran with 25+ years experience in CMO/VP Marketing positions. He is the Founder and President of <a href="http://www.gotomarket.com">GoToMarket LLC</a>. His company provides interim marketing leadership and operational marketing services to early-and-mid stage technology companies.