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Straight Talk with Jascha Kaykas-Wolff: Marketing and Sales Alignment

In this video Steve Farnsworth interviews Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, former CMO of Mindjet, (now with BitTorrent), about marketing and sales alignment.


It’s always in flux. It’s something that we’re collectively, both working on to be better aligned. It’s a little bit like Dancing with the Stars: Sales and Marketing. Sometimes one partner is a little bit stronger than the other. The end goal is to get the best score you possibly can from the judges, but we’re not always at a point yet where we’ve gone through the right training together and really have all that muscle memory to be a fantastic partnership.


For me in the times that I’ve gone through the process of organizing sales and marketing, it always fundamentally starts with understanding clear objectives between the value exchange between the two organizations. In practical terms, the value exchange is the point in time that marketing hands something to sales and the sales team believes that there’s value in it. In order to be successful, you’ve got to have a really strong comprehension of what that is, and then what the objectives around it are.

Every company is a little bit different. I’ll give you an example: I worked for WebTrends, a very traditional B2B company in the analytic space, with a very large average sales price for deals. Our value exchange was always around the sales accepted lead. Our goal in marketing was built around the objectives we set up to drive more sales accepted leads.

Coming to a company like Mindjet, where we’re a very high transaction B2B business, our hand-off looks very different, which is why it is so critical to understand what your value exchange looks like. Here, we look at both the hand-off of the sales accepted lead on a traditional B2B world, but we also have to look at it from a pure trial-acceptance perspective. As simple as it sounds, it’s the absolute most meaningful agreement you can get with the sales organization if you’re in marketing and it’s likely to be different company to company.

What are the biggest mistakes you’ve seen that hurt the process?

The promise of technology, hands-down, is one of the biggest inhibitors to success between the two organizations. There is a tremendous amount of really powerful value propositions that exist on behalf of software companiesthat are selling to sales and marketing. Pick your Salesforces, your Oracles, your Eloquas, your Marketos; the promises are absolutely enormous.

The promise is that when you select a software partner, whether it is on behalf of the sales team or the marketing team, is that it is going to solve all your challenges. This promise that software is going to fix everything for you or even make it incrementally better is one of the biggest fallacies that exist in our space. One of the biggest challenges between sales and marketing teams is thinking they can fix the problems that they have purely by investing in software.

What are the most important metrics to ensure alignment practices are healthy and on track?

The main way we measure marketing and sales alignment is by looking at the predictive metrics that show potential success of the value exchange between sales and marketing. In plain English, it’s the amount of opportunities that as a marketing organization you’re growing in your database that you have the potential to hand to your sales team.

The hard metric is the exchange from sales to marketing. The acceptances of the marketing lead to the sales-accepted lead. Then the next piece that’s equally as important is the engagement through the sales pipeline and the stages.

The marketing team has to be acutely aware of the quality of the opportunities after the acceptance and how well they’re helping the sales team move through to closed business. Then it’s the acceleration through the stages on the sales side that are the core areas that you have to set up your metrics against.

What metrics should bonuses be tied to for chief sales and chief marketing executives?

For us, it’s pretty simple; it’s the pipeline that is available for the sales organization and the closed business that you have. Period.

What practices do you recommend to foster successful marketing and sales alignment?

First, good executive alignment is important. It’s maybe said without being said that you have to have good alignment. Spending time together emphasizing the business is important. I like to spend time with our head of sales around the world and be with them during their forecast calls. Understanding what their pains are critical to having good empathy; that executive-to-executive understanding is Number 1.

Number 2 is a strong practice to build up an operations organization within marketing. One that is responsible for the cleanliness of the data that you have available to you, the reporting of the data and the analysis of the data that’s shared between the sales and marketing teams. I like the practice of bringing the sales tools, like salesforce.com, in addition to the marketing tools, let’s say Eloqua, together into an operations team to actually help run the business.

The third area I’ve been experimenting with more over the last couple of years is taking somebody who’s effectively a product marketer, a specialist in the value proposition and the company’s collateral, and putting them in the field marketing teams. Partnering them closely with the regional sales teams. What this does is it allows for both alignment at the executive level and alignment at the operational and data level. Then from a field-readiness perspective, it fosters great communication between the sales and the marketing teams.

Who should be included on the marketing and sales alignment team?

For me, I’ve always been comfortable with a separate marketing and a separate sales team, but I completely appreciate organizations that are structured under a CRO, or even a CMO, and have both of those teams that work from thereunder. You’ve got a couple of critical points-of-touch with your product marketing team, your field marketing team and your field sales organization. That’s a critical area where you have to foster great communication. You have to make sure that you’re organizationally aligned.

The second area is on the operations side. It’s critical to be able to understand and empathize with pipeline coverage how you’re contributing. It’s important to make sure the data that you’re using to operationalize your business is clean and accessible to all the different parts of the organization. Structurally, you can put that together in a lot of different ways, but you have to facilitate all those points of connections in whatever the organizational structure is that you have.

What trends do you see in marketing and sales alignment over the next 12 months?

Bigger and more sophisticated investments in marketing operations, and that would include analytics more broadly. The requirement for the marketing team to be sophisticated with their technology operations, but it’s going to be a growth area on the marketing side.

Great people that understand analytics setting up your Hadoop store that sits behind your firewall. That you’re flowing all your information from your product through to your marketing side and being able to use that to actually empower the way that the team works. I would consider that to be a pretty big investment area for a lot of marketing teams.

To read what other CMOs had to say, view our ebook, Straight Talk.