HomeBlog Aligning Sales and Marketing Planning: Three Key Phases

Aligning Sales and Marketing Planning: Three Key Phases

May 15, 2018 | By Mike Belden

  • At Summit 2018 in Las Vegas, Steve Silver and Craig Moore of SiriusDecisions introduced a new model that helps organizations align their sales and marketing planning processes
  • Failing to align sales and marketing during the planning process results in disconnects during execution
  • Sales and marketing leaders must agree on points of intersection during the planning process and participate in joint planning sessions as a checkpoint

During their keynote presentation at SiriusDecisions Summit in Las Vegas, Craig Moore and Steve Silver introduced the SiriusDecisions Sales and Marketing Planning Models, which provide a three-phase methodology for keeping sales and marketing aligned throughout planning.


“Sales and marketing are often handed a set of business goals, and then independently develop their operating plans,” said Craig. “But failing to align these planning efforts at the outset often leads to execution misfires, wasted efforts and missed business objectives.”

During planning, a company’s high-level business strategy – the three-to-five-year growth plan that establishes the strategic priorities for new markets, new buyers, new offerings, acquisitions, or productivity gains – is translated into an executable fiscal-year operating plan for achieving specific objectives (e.g. revenue, bookings, profitability, customer retention, product mix). The plan’s operational elements should include a wide range of sales and marketing sub-functions, disciplines, campaigns and programs, all of which need to be aligned to maximize results.

Unfortunately, most organizations conduct their planning in disconnected silos, and sales plans tend to be finalized at the last moment, which makes it difficult for marketing to align its plans with sales. According to SiriusDecisions research, only 14 percent of b-to-b organizations report having an aligned planning process, and only 55 percent report delivering their sales plans before the start of the fiscal year.

“Even when organizations get their final plans out to the field, many then make further adjustments to their territory and quota assignments,” said Steve. “Nearly one-third of sales organizations estimate they lose at least one month of productivity re-evaluating their account and territory assignments after the start of the year.”

Phase One: Business Alignment

During the first phase of the Sales and Marketing Planning Models, specific business goals for the functional groups are agreed upon and shared across sales and marketing, so that everyone involved in the planning process understands what the revenue engine is aiming to achieve. Sales and marketing must have a shared understanding of the overall company goals and total addressable market as well as any changes to the go-to-market architecture (e.g. audience framework, offering map, buyer’s journey map) and routes to market (e.g. direct, indirect, e-commerce).

“The key to success during the business alignment phase is to make sure sales and marketing are marching towards the same objectives,” said Craig. “We are simply making sure that we have a common understanding of business goals, definition of the target customer, what we are selling them and how we are going to reach them. This is the easiest part of the alignment process – but just think about the confusion that can be avoided by taking this step!”

Phase Two: Functional Interlock

In the second phase of aligned planning, sales and marketing develop separate coverage and campaign plans that are aligned and overlapping, then allocate resources to ensure they are in a position to achieve the business goals defined in the first phase.

Sales leadership starts by considering whether any adjustments are required to the fundamental sales structure (e.g. geographic/regional, account size, industry, product, hybrid). Marketing then adjusts its campaign architecture to map to the sales coverage structures, and both sales and marketing adjust the roles within their organizations to align with the agreed-upon priorities and the available budget.

Sales operations then creates detailed sales coverage and production plans, including territory assignments and quota allocations, while marketing conducts demand modeling to determine what it needs to source and influence for each segment to align to the sales plans – and the timing for marketing activities.

The functional interlock phase should be a highly collaborative, interactive process where sales and marketing planners identify gaps between their respective plans and make the necessary adjustments. “Try not to overcomplicate the process – especially the definition of market segments,” said Steve. “It’s tempting to try and define many small segments, but you can end up with sales and marketing resources spread too thin.”

Phase Three: Execution Readiness

This phase is a checkpoint to evaluate the sales and marketing plans and ensure that each organization has the people, processes, data and it needs to execute its plan. Make sure that the demand management process is well defined and ready to support the intended level of demand. Sales and marketing need to agree on their sourced and influenced demand commitments, how they will collaboratively manage demand, as well as the metrics and reporting mechanisms they will use to track their performance vs. plan and make adjustments throughout the year.

“You need to understand how you will measure and manage progress along the way,” said Steve. “Not just what are the specific metrics, but how you will track them and what will be the system of record – and how often and in what context you will review the metrics to track progress or identify issues. For that, you need both formal and informal communication checkpoints. At a minimum, sales and marketing need to include each other in their respective quarterly business reviews. Having a defined communications cadence helps build greater agility into the organization and allows you to adapt to unexpected events.”

To wrap up, Craig pointed out that introducing a structure for aligned planning can make planning more efficient as well as more effective. “As sales and marketing progress through their respective planning processes, specific touchpoints and interactions must take place,” he said. “But when you break it down into steps and phases, it becomes much more manageable.”

The SiriusDecisions Sales Planning Model

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Mike Belden

Michael Belden is Practice Director, Editorial, at SiriusDecisions. He has more than 15 years of b-to-b marketing and communications experience.
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