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Episode 82: Blurring the Blackline

by Doug Davidoff | Sep 14, 2021 7:00:00 AM

The Blackline Podcast has always been based on issues between sales and marketing. That line is blurring - alignment is always improving - but alignment isn’t always (and shouldn’t be) a happy peaceful place. So what is alignment, and can you have alignment without conflict? Let’s find out!




Show Notes

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Main Topic: The blame game between sales & marketing (AKA sales and marketing alignment)

Sales and marketing alignment is a topic that has been discussed ad nauseum. But what is alignment?

Mike: “The right hand knows what the left is doing and they are all marching towards a common goal. There’s always some yelling at each other.”

Doug: “Alignment, to me, is when everyone leaves committed to the effort. When everybody’s open to the adjustment. We’re committed to the process, not the ego.”

Should sales and marketing be aligned?

Alignment is too often viewed from a low-conflict perspective. People correlate the two - if you’re in alignment, you’re “rowing in the same direction,” you’re in agreement, you’re happy-happy and avoiding conflict. But low conflict doesn’t mean high trust, and even elite rowing teams whose oars all hit the water together are demonstrating a sprint, and what you see is the outcome, not the process:

Doug: “You know what the sign of a high-trust organization is? High conflict. You know what the sign of a low-trust organization is? Low conflict.”

Alignment is something you see after the fact, but highly-aligned organizations don’t feel aligned in the middle of it. There’s lots of different perspectives, there’s a time for debate, there’s a time not for debate.

Doug quotes a book he’s been listening to, Effortless, which says “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” Imagine’s growth these past two years has been the greatest in history, but it was built off the prior two years which were incredibly disruptive. And everything happens slower than Doug expects. It’s all harder than he thought it would be.

Doug asks, “How is it that everything is taking longer but we’re getting there faster?” It’s the tortoise and the hare; alignment isn’t where there’s no tension, because without tension there’s no energy. But if you put too much tension, you accelerate faster, and then you break, because you’ve put stresses on the systems and people that cause lasting damage.

People talk alignment, then hypergrowth. No wonder people feel like they’re being pulled in opposing directions; alignment requires psychological safety, trust requires conflict, and the demand of “run now and break things” is like pulling the rubber band too far and too fast.

What one piece of advice would you give sales and marketing teams today to improve their attempts to be more aligned?

Mike: “If you’re in sales, go spend some time with the marketing team. Tell them what you’re being asked and tell them what you need. If you’re in marketing, go and spend time with the sales team to hear the questions they’re being asked.”

Doug: “Cross-discipline objectives and metrics. How often does each team have its own metrics that aren’t informative? There is no such thing as sales and marketing; they were created to manage organizations. They’re both responsible for revenue problems.”