During my 20-year career in B2B, I've witnessed a disjointed sales and marketing team be the cause of limited growth within an organization I was a part of far too many times. As a result of these shortcomings, I've become passionate about finding solutions that ensure they work collaboratively.

Alignment between sales and marketing delivers faster growth.

At no time during my career has this been more apparent to me than last week while attending the SiriusDecisions 2017 Summit in Las Vegas. The conference brings together some of the top minds within B2B to unveil the latest insights in sales and marketing focused on helping companies improve their growth strategy.

There were many different tracks and sessions focused on the concept of aligning sales and marketing for accelerated growth. I loved this quote from Andrea Soltsyiak, Global Head of Demand Management Operations, SAP, "Marketing no longer hands leads to sales, they are involved in every step of the process."

Companies looking to drive success need a B2B Engine that is:

  • Aligned
  • Scalable
  • Predictable
  • Measurable

The architects of the engine are sales, marketing and product, and the choices these teams make as a unified group, will have an enormous impact on their success.

The common denominator linking these things together - data! Companies need to be a data-driven organization. Data is driving the way companies work together internally and how they want to reach customers externally.

The transformation is underway because B2B buying behavior is changing.

The growing complexity of the B2B buying process including the proliferation of new digital and offline channels, and the ability to scale data and analytics has fundamentally changed the nature of customer relationships. Customers are delaying interaction with sales and are increasingly unresponsive to traditional tactics such as outbound phone calls and emails. They want to buy products and services the way they want to and on their terms.

In response, B2B marketers have increasingly turned to Account-Based Marketing and Sales approaches to drive better understanding of the specific needs of their target audiences and to align with the digital customer journey.

That's why these teams need data to better grow customer relationships together.

Sales and marketing professionals need to better connect and align their go-to-market activities to drive growth in their business: from segmentation and targeting to content development and contact strategy, from nurturing and engagement to closing and supporting their customers. The effectiveness of all of these activities increase significantly when driven by real-time, connected data

At this stage in the game, those who use data effectively to align their efforts will be the winners and those who do not will be the losers. Businesses are demanding more intelligent, data-driven, real-time insights to realize a higher return from sales and marketing investments.

But data quality is still an issue.

In fact, according to new research, year-over-year, the current state of data quality has remained "questionable" at best, declining slightly by 10%. What's more, nearly 1 in 4 marketers lack confidence in the quality of their customer and prospect data within their sales systems, while 40% of marketers don't feel as though their sales teams have the right account intelligence to engage with prospects.

There is an opportunity not only to align the disparate data teams are using but to then leverage that new unified data to move away from traditional prospecting to understand their potential opportunities.

The promised land is Sales Acceleration: creating a faster path from prospect to a profitable customer by leveraging data and analytics. With the goal being to deliver refined and connected information, enhanced by software, to make it:

  • Real-time and actionable
  • Accessible at the point of interaction - regardless of channel
  • Personalized for each individual and context
  • Integrated with mission-critical systems

Data should be leveraged by both sales and marketing professionals to guide interactions with prospects and customers across the full life-cycle. This includes data created online, through third parties, and by both sales and marketing through their interactions with the customer.

Sean Crowley, VP, Integrated Marketing, Dun & Bradstreet, summed up the need for shared data between sales and marketing brilliantly in his session when he said, "There's a tremendous opportunity to leverage data and analytics, in real-time, and substantially change the way sales and marketing are aligning to accelerate revenue." Due to the investment D&B has made this year in the Sales Acceleration space with the acquisition of Avention and the launch of D&B Hoovers, Sean was one of many speakers all over this meaty topic at this year's SiriusDecisions Summit.

It's one thing to attend a conference and learn about why integration is so critical to your organization. However, implementing what you learned once you get back requires high levels of due diligence and follow through.

To end the event they played the Elvis song, "A Little Less Conversation." Besides the fact we were in Vegas, it was a fitting takeaway to the hundreds in attendance; time to put these frameworks in action.

Published on: May 26, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.