If you’re the CEO of a B2B SaaS business, you’ve likely noticed deal closure rates declining over the past few quarters. Multiple surveys have confirmed this troubling trend, with The Bridge Group reporting that SaaS win rates declined from 23% in 2023 to 19% in their 2024 SaaS Account Executive Report.

Clearly, something needs to change to reverse this sales slump. But what?

Some CEOs may think the answer is simply to push reps harder to cover more pipeline. Traditional guidance is to maintain 3X pipeline coverage to hit quota. So naturally, many leaders look to increase this to 4X or 5X. Just crank up the dial on marketing and SDRs to generate more leads and meetings to feed the sales beast, right?

Wrong.

This relay race approach is fundamentally flawed. When marketers toss leads over the wall to sales development, who toss meetings over the wall to sales, the result is that information and context gets lost. Buyers end up frustrated, ping-ponged around with disjointed, untargeted outreach that leaves them feeling like they’ve engaged with three different companies. Ramping up your pipeline target demoralizes your team, who resent you for raising the bar without providing additional people or budget. And it doesn’t do anything to fix the real problem:  poor alignment across functions.

The answer is to stop running sales and marketing as if it’s a relay race. What’s required is a cohesive, cross-functional team operating with a unified strategy and a single goal, not a mishmash of disjointed tactics. The solution is to align marketing, sales development, and sales around your buyer’s journey.

Why The Relay Approach to Align Sales and Marketing No Longer Works

Here are three reasons why the traditional relay approach just doesn’t work for B2B revenue generation:

  • thumbs downBuyers are more informed and impatient. Research by Salesforce found that 87% of business buyers  expect sales reps to act  as trusted advisors. SDRs blindly following up on marketing leads without thoroughly researching the account and personalizing their communications to each person in that account only turns buyers off.
  • There are too many fragmented tools and datasets. When marketing uses their MAPs, SDRs use their sales acceleration, and sales their CPQ, data falls through the cracks. Buyers have to re-explain their needs over and over, damaging trust.
  • No one owns the full revenue cycle. With siloed metrics like MQLs, SALs and deals closed, the incentives are misaligned. It’s a series of clumsy or non-existent handoffs — a series of dropped batons, rather than a coherent strategy.

Triple Threat

Six Steps To Upgrade Your Antiquated GTM Approach To A Modern Triple Threat

  1. Develop shared accounts across teams comprised of all three roles to encourage collaboration from initial research to closed/won. Accountability and coordination improves when multiple functions align around named accounts. This prevents accounts from falling through the cracks during handoffs, and ensures coordinated cross-functional strategies tailored to each account.
  2. Empower marketing to co-own all the stages of revenue generation, not just upper funnel lead generation and brand building. Marketing’s job doesn’t end when a lead is generated. Marketers need to be actively involved through sales development all the way through deal closure and beyond by creating content that educates and builds trust with influencers and decision makers beyond the buying committee.
  3. Make cross-functional metrics like pipeline, revenue and LTV the KPIs that guide strategies, not activity metrics like clicks, downloads, email opens or calls made. Evaluating your marketers, SDRs and salespeople on 3 different metrics will not encourage alignment. Judge success on business outcomes, not activity volume. This may require overhauling legacy compensation plans and changing ingrained behaviors.
  4. Incentivize joint success, rather than individual metrics. Compensation plans likely need to change to drive the behaviors you want. Foster collaboration through shared goals and awards. Celebrate team success rather than individual accomplishments.
  5. Build an integrated revenue tech stack to unify data and systems. Integrate key platforms like Salesforce, Marketo, Outreach and LinkedIn. When the tools each uses are tightly joined together and operate off the same data, they provide a single source of truth on buyers and accounts. Use workflow and AI tools like Zapier and Warmly to automate handoffs across teams and enrich data.
  6. Tear down silos however possible. Hire leaders that value team success above individual achievements. Co-locate teams to encourage working together and socialize together to build relationships and deepen trust.

Accelerate Change By Aligning Sales and Marketing Around The Customer Journey

This shift isn’t easy. It requires structural and operational changes that break down silos and reform processes. But the payoff is worth it. Companies that realign around the customer journey have seen dramatic improvements in win rates, sales velocity and customer retention.

For instance, by aligning sales and marketing SuperOffice increased new revenue by 34%. And a recent Hubspot report confirmed that organizations with good alignment not only achieve 27% faster three-year profit growth, they also close 38% more deals. Businesses with effective sales and marketing alignment achieved 208% higher marketing revenue than organizations with disjointed teams.

With this three pronged approach, you’ll benefit from tight coordination and contextual handoffs, while eliminating disjointed efforts. Your teams will move as one unit at the buyer’s pace, not at the cadence of each of their respective internal functions.

When marketing, sales development and sales operate as one team throughout the buyer’s journey, marketers feel valued, SDRs are less frustrated, sellers hit their quotas, and the company hits its growth targets. Now is the time for CEOs to avoid over-valuing experience and hire sales and marketing leaders that have the skills to drive change toward cross-functional strategies that put the customer first.

A Final Caveat: Why Marketing Shouldn’t Report to the CRO

Marketing shouldn't report to the CRO / SalesHaving marketing report directly to the head of sales might seem like a logical alignment, given their shared goal of driving revenue. However, aligning sales and marketing this way can inadvertently foster tunnel vision, prioritizing short-term sales objectives over long-term brand-building and customer engagement strategies. Marketing encompasses a broad spectrum of activities beyond immediate sales, including target market definition, branding, positioning, and customer engagement and advocacy. Placing marketing under the purview of sales typically focuses everyone on closing deals at the expense of investments in these activities, which are necessary for sustained business growth.

Moreover, segregating marketing from other functional areas, such as product development or customer service, can hinder collaboration and synergy across departments. Marketing plays a pivotal role in shaping product offerings, identifying market trends, and amplifying customer feedback—all of which inform strategic decision-making beyond the realm of sales. By siloing marketing within the sales function, organizations risk constraining its influence and impeding cross-functional collaboration essential for innovation and market responsiveness.

Finally, the hierarchy imposed when marketing reports to sales can inadvertently breed discord and competition rather than collaboration. Marketers, and particularly product marketers, need to have a market focus and synthesize information from a broad audience of prospects, customers, analysts, competitors, influencers and investors. Different data sources usually result in divergent perspectives. 

Placing marketing under a sales leader will exacerbate the natural tension between what’s necessary to win the market versus what’s necessary to win a particular deal. This can lead to conflicts over resource allocation, strategic direction, and performance metrics. A more balanced organizational structure, where marketing operates autonomously yet collaboratively with sales and other functional areas, provides a more harmonious environment required to maximize organizational effectiveness and achieve overall business objectives.

It’s Your Race to Win

Adapting your sales and marketing machinery to align with how buyers purchase today versus how you’ve always operated requires bold leadership and a customer-centric mindset. As the saying goes, if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got. And clearly, what the majority of companies have been doing isn’t working well enough anymore based on declining sales productivity metrics.

The relay-race approach served us well when products were simpler and sales cycles shorter. But today’s informed B2B buyer demands coordinated cross-functional strategies. As leaders, we must align sales and marketing based on how customers buy, not based on traditional sales and marketing structures.

Running this race together, not in independent lanes, is the only way to win today. Are you ready to re-align sales and marketing and transform it into a triple threat?

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