The process of creating demand and happy customers has never been more of a team sport than it is today. The buyer’s journey is one long continuum that requires marketing’s close alignment and collaboration with sales. And just as important to both marketing and sales is a solid foundational alignment with the finance team.
How does finance factor into the equation? To understand finance’s role, we first have to understand the sales and marketing relationship:
Sales and marketing must ensure that, at every point of the buyer’s journey, they share a common definition of lead stages, have a shared understanding of when a lead progresses to the next stage, and engage in frequent and transparent communication.
A common misconception is that marketing’s primary responsibility is to generate marketing qualified leads (MQLs) for sales. In actuality, marketing’s obligation to sales is to support revenue creation.
This obligation to support sales with revenue is why marketing also has an obligation to finance. Marketing’s demand forecasts directly impact sales forecasts, and sales forecasts directly impact revenue forecasts. Finance must trust that demand and sales forecasts are reliable, so the finance team can accurately report on predicted revenue.
The role of technology in trust-building
Creating reliable demand forecasts is challenging work for marketing leaders. Their accuracy depends on the data they have available in their marketing technology. But marketing technology is increasingly complex; it rarely integrates well with other tools without substantial effort and is expensive. In fact, marketing technology made up the largest portion of marketing budgets in 2021 and marketing budgets were 9.5% of company revenue in 2022.
Because marketing technology spending is so high, marketing leaders must justify their spend to finance and demonstrate their technology’s impact on the business. Marketing’s obligation to finance is to 1) become a reliable partner in financial planning and analysis to ensure the team allocates its technology budget wisely and 2) deliver reliable demand forecasts.
Ironically, delivering on each of these obligations requires strong technology. The execution, tracking, and measurement of demand generation and conversion is technology intensive. So intensive that marketing operations roles emerged in the past 10-15 years to manage these specific tasks, similar to how sales teams created sales operations roles years ago.
But marketing and sales technology differ in important and fundamental ways. It takes tremendous intentionality and trust to get the tools working together effectively. Trust that what marketing does flows seamlessly and transparently into the sales process and trust that what happens in the sales process is accurately documented and reflected in forecasts delivered to finance.
Building trust starts at the top
Marketing, sales, and finance have an opportunity to deliver exceptional results when they work as a coordinated team. But this coordination only happens if those at the most senior levels — the CMO, CRO, and CFO — build a culture of trust and respect.
Trust starts when teams are vulnerable and honest with each other. They admit mistakes and learn from their failures. Leaders who practice and encourage these behaviors across their teams promote accountability and discourage toxic habits like finger-pointing.
The following strategies can help leaders build healthy relationships between marketing, sales, and finance:
- Invest sufficient time into the relationships
Building trust doesn’t have overnight. It requires an ongoing commitment to the other teams, nurtured over time through open communication, regular meetings, and a willingness to collaborate.
- Learn what’s most important to the other leaders.
Put yourself in the shoes of the other leader. What’s most important to them? What are they accountable for in their role? How can your team better support the leader in achieving its team’s objectives?
For example, can marketing improve the accuracy of forecasts for finance so that the CFO can produce better budget reports for the CEO? Is marketing reviewing its spending frequently enough with the CFO? Is the finance team getting all the information it needs during these reviews? Are sales and marketing notifying finance long enough in advance when undertaking a new, expensive initiative?
- Understand the jobs of the employees who ladder up.
Finally, it’s critical to understand the world of the people who are doing the jobs that ladder up to each leader. For example, CMOs should take time to understand the everyday life of a salesperson. How do they spend their days? What are the biggest obstacles they face? What are they worried about? After gathering insights about the teams, marketers can consider how to use the knowledge to support the sales organization better.
Building a strong relationship between marketing, sales, and finance requires experienced and thoughtful leaders across all three teams. Authentic Brand’s fractional CMOs are experienced in identifying new marketing opportunities to build revenue and working alongside other C-suite executives to establish trusted, collaborative, and aligned working relationships. Reach out if you’d like to discuss how one of our marketing leaders could help align your teams and promote organizational growth.