Over the past 12 years, we’ve worked with hundreds of B2B growth teams at Intelligent Demand. This means we’ve seen every version of alignment dysfunction ranging from run-of-the-mill “who’s on first?!” all the way to “outright cold war.”
Along the way, we’ve learned how utterly critical stakeholder alignment is for successfully executing ANY and EVERY go-to-market strategy. If your GTM stakeholders (in product, marketing, sales development, sales and customer success) aren’t working toward the same goals in complementary and orchestrated ways, you’re signing up for confusion, wasted budget, wasted time, and career-limiting underperformance.
Said plainly: you will not achieve efficient growth without alignment. MIS-alignment is a tax you pay, regardless of your chosen go-to-market motion. Maybe paying that tax was okay during the go-go days of growth-at-all-costs. But you can’t afford it now.
In this article, I’ll explore the 9 main causes of stakeholder misalignment. I’ll offer some practical solutions for HOW you can fix (or better yet, avoid) each one. I’ll also offer my recommendation WHO needs to lead and own the improvement in each case.
- Lack of clear goals and objectives: Without clear goals and objectives, your stakeholders are very likely working toward different objectives (sometimes wildly different)—and pursuing them in ways that waste resources, reduce results, and harm CX. To fix this, you need to establish clear and measurable growth goals, success metrics, and growth priorities that are directly aligned with the company’s overall strategy. Then, these must be consistently communicated across all members of the entire growth team, starting with tight, demonstrated alignment from your executive leaders.
Who should be responsible: your CEO backed up by CMO and CRO
2. No single source of truth: If product, marketing, SDR, sales and customer success are all running their own tech, data and analytics stacks (read: preening themselves in their own results mirrors), that’s not going to help you get (and stay) aligned. Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen an MBR or QBR devolve into a passive aggressive, finger pointing, choose-your-own-truth blame storm? You must have a single, shared, credible source of truth about your company’s end-to-end revenue performance across brand, acquisition, retention/churn, and expansion. You do this by adopting and implementing a Revenue Operations mindset and approach.
At Intelligent Demand, we define RevOps as… an approach to B2B revenue growth where product, marketing, sales, and customer success teams commit to creating a single unified revenue process. They do this by fully integrating their goals, KPIs, data, technology platforms, workflows, processes, reporting and analytics to improve end-to-end alignment, orchestration, accountability, visibility, CX and revenue performance. The opposite of RevOps is when each department on the go-to-market / growth team runs its own technologies, platforms, data, reporting, analytics and businesses processes in a silo. SiriusDecisions/Forrester research confirms that RevOps is a proven way to drive efficient growth: 30% lower GTM costs, 20% higher sales productivity, 19% faster growth, and 15% higher profitability.
Think of it this way: your company should have one official set of accounting books, and one set of revenue/growth books too.
Who should be responsible: your CMO, CRO, and CFO backed by Directors of Marketing Ops and Sales Ops
3. Poor communication and collaboration: Poor communication and collaboration across your GTM teams almost always leads to misunderstandings and confusion that wastes time, wastes resources, and ultimately, damages credibility of your CMO, CRO and ultimately, CEO. Let’s be honest; cross-functional communication and collaboration hasn’t exactly been a strength of many companies to begin with. But to improve communication and collaboration, fix your GTM operating model — i.e. the cross-functional set of goals, roles, mechanisms, systems, analytics and ways of communicating progress your revenue team uses. This includes establishing clear lines of communication, meeting cadences for tactical and strategic growth engine reviews with crisp agendas and prepared attendees, and regular reports about actual results, and as-needed updates about shifts in strategy or direction.
Who should be responsible: your CMO and CRO, directed by your CEO
4. Lack of transparency: See above about no single source of truth. Don’t bother doing that if you’re not going to transparently share the ugly and beauty of whatever it reveals. If stakeholders are not kept informed about important decisions or changes within the company, it can lead to misalignment. To improve transparency, it is important to be open and transparent about company decisions and to ensure that all stakeholders are kept informed. A note about culture here: transparency is greatly aided when it’s supported by a culture rooted in learning, optimizing and using a growth mindset. If your GTM executives lop off peoples’ heads anytime they see something imperfect, you’ll kill transparency (and your culture too).
Who should be responsible: your CEO backed up by CMO and CRO
5. Conflicting priorities: If your company hasn’t been explicitly clear about its growth goals, revenue priorities and cross-functionally aligned go-to-market strategy, then you should assume your stakeholders are working at some level of cross-purposes. The reason I can safely assume this is because modern B2B revenue growth is an extremely complex, fast moving TEAM SPORT. In the absence of real clarity about the game being played and the roles each team has to fill, entropy ensues. The way to improve this is to establish a clear hierarchy of growth priorities, success measures, and then map out the integrated growth plays that your cross-functional stakeholders must/will execute to achieve those most important growth priorities. A perfect example of an integrated growth play is an account based marketing+SDR+sales play focused on your highest value, ICP acquisition target prospects.
Who should be responsible: your CMO and CRO
6. Weak collaboration: You can not take collaboration as a given. If stakeholders are not specifically guided to collaborate, then the positive, “can-do attitude” you feel at your Sales/Revenue Kickoff can drift into serious misalignment as your year unfolds. To improve collaboration, operationalize it. It starts with your CEO setting a clear and firm expectation of cross-functional alignment. Then, your CRO and CMO need to turn that expectation into culture by establishing the mechanisms for effective collaboration with clearly-defined cross-functional strategic and operational teams who own run regular meeting cadences (weekly, biweekly, monthly, quarterly, half year) with crisp agendas for reviewing and optimizing the results and impact your integrated growth program. Revenue Operations brings all of this to life with reporting and analytics that close the loop back up to your growth goals and priorities. And your CEO, CRO and CMO must stay engaged until collaboration becomes “the way we do things around here.”
Who should be responsible: your CEO sets and reinforces the expectation, your CRO and CMO own responsibility for operationalizing it
7. Poor leadership: This is both obvious and a little awkward to bring up, but we don’t duck hard topics at Intelligent Demand. So here’s the truth (that you already likely know): weak or poor leadership at both the top of your company and the top of your GTM teams often leads to misalignment. In fact, I’d point to mis-alignment as one of the greatest indicators of poor leadership. Leaders must lay out a clear vision, strategy and direction to follow — preferably one rooted in that company’s purpose, mission and values, and developed with the input and expertise of the team. How do you improve leadership? Well, there are entire libraries filled with books about leadership development. But that’s not really the unlock here. I think the fastest way to improve when it comes to leadership in the growth/GTM setting is a series of very honest conversations with the CEO, CFO and their growth executives (CMO, CRO, CPO, CCO) about mission clarity, role clarity and honest expectations. That can be scary. But it’s a game changer. An expert, trustworthy third party can help tremendously here. Reach out to me on LinkedIn for ideas and recommendations.
Who should be responsible: your CEO, CMO, CRO and their leadership teams
8. Lack of accountability: If your growth stakeholders are not held accountable for fulfilling their key roles, responsibilities and for owning and fixing their actions or lack of progress, say hello to misalignment. (Say hello to corrosive backbiting and plummeting morale eventually too.) Here’s the good thing though: we hire amazingly talented, ambitious people who WANT TO WIN. So improving accountability tends to happen naturally when you establish clear goals, success metrics, roles, and responsibilities, and regularly and transparently gather around a single source of truth inside a culture of learning and optimizing. If you DO THAT, you’ll naturally see a culture of accountability emerge. If there are persistent accountability issues, dig in with a desire to understand. Chances are high you are about to uncover and learn something important. If, after all of that, you still have a holdout stakeholder who won’t or can’t take responsibility for playing their role — address it head on and get them in the right role (or the right company). Onward and upward.
Who should be responsible: CMO and CRO backed by their leadership teams
9. Conflicting incentives: If you haven’t examined the compensation plans of your marketing, SDR/BDRs, sales, partner and customer success teams — through the lens of your GTM strategy and growth priorities — then prepare yourself for some eye openers. How many times have you seen this: marketing has no performance-based incentives at all, or is incentivized to deliver broad-based clicks, follows and other vanity metrics, or is incentivized to produce leads or MQLs en masse without regard for quality or fit with your company’s Ideal Client Profile? Then, your SDR team is incentivized on meetings or demos booked per week/month, possibly with some sort of kicker for closed won deals, without targeting that is aligned with your demand programs? Meanwhile, each regional sales team is essentially running their own private GTM strategy in their region, tied to monthly and quarterly closed won deals. And your CS team is held to an ever-shifting, nebulous grab bag of customer satisfaction, NPS retention, and OH YEH! NRR targets!? There isn’t one perfect answer to how you compensate and incentivize your GTM team. What makes sense will depend on many different factors. But the KEY is to analyze the plans in a unified way and ask yourselves: “Do these comp plans align our behaviors with our GTM strategy and growth goals — as an integrated team?”
Who should be responsible: CRO, CMO, CFO backed by the CEO
There you have it! These are the 9 biggest causes of stakeholder misalignment that stand between you and revenue growth glory. Trust me: addressing these issues and aligning your growth teams will pay for you, your wallet, and your company’s profitable growth.
Did I miss any big ones? Let me know below or reach out to me directly.
Here’s my recommendation for how to get started: once a year, as part of your annual planning process (or mid-year, if needed), conduct a fresh eyes review of your company’s growth goals, go-to-market strategy and integrated growth program — and as you do that, examine where your stakeholders are working efficiently as a cross-functional team, or not. Then, get your CMO, CRO, CEO and CFO together to implement the solutions outlined above to improve alignment — all in service toward your shared growth goals. It can be helpful to have an expert outside party do this for you, especially if misalignment is a real issue.
However you achieve better alignment though, improving in this critical area is worth it. Without alignment, you introduce growth-slowing friction into every part of your growth engine, fighting against it in everything you do.
But WITH alignment, you can achieve breakthrough momentum and growth. Alignment can be the “great force multiplier” inside your growth engine.