SiriusDecisions Summit 2015: It’s All About Alignment

Greetings from Nashville! Site of the 2015 SiriusDecisions Summit, and ground zero for some of the most influential marketers and sales executives in B2B. After a day’s worth of sessions, a clear theme has emerged: Alignment.

SD imageThree keynote speeches were dedicated to alignment and new models and frameworks were introduced to help provide the scaffolding for how to achieve it. Two out of three of these keynotes were focused on emphasizing the importance of alignment, and they were truly “preaching to the choir” as the vast majority of the audience at this show already understands the concepts … it’s the execution that is much more challenging. This is why the third talk on the topic, Compensation Dictates Behavior and is Killing B-to-B Alignment led by Tony Jaros, was so interesting to me.

Jaros calls out, right there in the provocative title, one of the biggest reasons why different groups struggle with working towards the same goals. As he accurately describes it, we don’t talk about money in polite society and, “…talking about how you get paid is the third rail of sales and marketing alignment.” The issue (to a large extent) is with variable compensation. In Tony’s words, the paying out full bonuses when the company has not met their profitability or revenue number is a practice that occurs all too frequently, because if the company does not meet revenue expectations, no one (perhaps short of the salespeople that hit their individual revenue targets) should get 100% of their bonus. Assuming, of course, we are all focused on increasing revenue and profitability. But is that a safe assumption?

If, for example, your demand generation team is getting rewarded for ‘net new’ leads regardless of quality then they are not going to worry about quality when they are generating net new leads. If your lead development team is rewarded based on dials, then they are going to worry more about dials than quality conversations and abandon potentially difficult calls sooner (rather than dig deeper into a prospect’s pains). Of course there are correlations to lead volume and revenue. And of course there are correlations between dials and appointments or MQLs or SALs or whatever your goal may be. But there are much more effective ways to measure and reward performance that are more aligned with how your compatriots are being rewarded.

Here’s the thing, though…it is really easy to agree to this mystical concept of alignment, but actually executing on it is another thing altogether. If you get your executive team in a room and ask if all the players should be working towards the same overarching goals, and be measured with the same performance metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) culled from multiple sources and formatted in a manner that all can agree is the single source of the truth they are going to agree. But how to get there? As I said to one of my colleagues here at the event, it is easy for me to promise to change my bad habits — but actually changing them is a different story altogether.

Alignment is a long and difficult journey, and there is going to be a lot of struggle along the way. As our hosts pointed out, it’s going to take more than simply changing someone’s compensation plan to get them to change behavior. Jaros said, “…transformation requires more than process and technology; human behavior must be carefully managed.” Change needs to be managed. The question you need to ask yourself after you leave here is, are we going to be able to induce change when we get back to the grind? When you return to work on Monday and your inbox is crying out for attention and your deadlines are looming, will you be able to find the time to follow through on these ideas and these concepts which you know to be true? Maybe, but maybe not. Maybe you need help.

Check out these posts on Change Management from the ANNUITAS blog.

Author: Jason Stewart @jstewart_1 VP of Strategy, ANNUITAS

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