Sales and Marketing Alignment isn’t some catchphrase we picked up on LinkedIn or heard about in a TED Talk. K&A takes Sales and Marketing Alignment seriously. And we’re convinced that Building Product Brand leaders must celebrate this mission as a strategic keystone. But what does the concept really mean?

When Laxman Narasimhan became Starbucks’ CEO seven months ago, he wanted to best understand the storied brand… not merely from the perspective of the chain’s manufacturing plants. Rather much more intimately, via hands-on barista training.

Yes, in person — behind the counter — at its stores.

“To keep us close to the culture and our customers, as well as to our challenges and opportunities, I intend to continue working in stores for a half day each month,” he wrote in a letter to Starbucks staff last month,” and I expect each member of the leadership team to also ensure our support centers stay connected and engaged in the realities of our stores for discussion and improvement.”

Of course, the strategy is not exclusive to coffee. Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank, the founders of The Home Depot, structured their brand around an organizational concept they promoted as “The Inverted Pyramid”… a way of thinking about one’s place in the hierarchy – in which the traditional leadership, is on the bottom — not the top.

Here’s how The Home Depot founders explain the strategy:

“If we broke down the management structure at The Home Depot on a blackboard, Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank would be at the bottom; the stores would be at the top.

The people at the stores are the most important — after customers — because they interface with the customer, and since Bernie and I really couldn’t begin to tell you how to wire a house, we are the least important when it comes to satisfying a customer.”

What these executives all share in common, is their commitment to Sales and Marketing Alignment… even if they’ve not called it that. All have climbed down from C-Suite silos. To focus and learn about — how their decisions affect behaviors — in critically important areas of their companies.

Taking the time to engage personally with customer-facing associates and observe how brand promises are being maintained in a company… is the essence of Sales and Marketing Alignment. Starbucks’ new CEO is learning about buyer behavior directly while at the same time, he’s observing how Starbucks’ baristas, shift supervisors and store managers do the thing — that Starbucks does best — make coffee.

And while it may help him make inroads with the chain’s labor relations… what’s even more important, is that he’s making understanding customer experience priority one.

The importance of understanding buyers’ behavior

Customers and prospects are complex and growing more so, over time. They have access to more information than ever before. They are influenced by their peers. And of course, by social and traditional channel media.

Because of this complexity, it is more important than ever for brands to understand buyers’ behavior — to create better — more effective, integrated marketing and sales campaigns.

How understanding buyers’ behavior can help to align sales and marketing

When sales and marketing are aligned, teams are working toward the same goals. This can lead to more sales. Improved customer experiences. And yes, increased brand awareness.

After all, when sales teams know what marketing is doing, they can help to develop more effective strategies. And when marketing understands how salespeople overcome objections, for example, in observations at the supply counter… they can create correctly targeted campaigns that are much more likely to convert leads into customers.

Once those two vital functions are working together, there are a number of joint pathways they can leverage… designed to more accurately understand prospects and customer behavior. And to become even more sensitive for mapping the “buyer’s journey” with even better empathy and relevance. 

One way is to conduct market research… through surveys, interviews and focus groups. The goal is to gather data on buyers’ needs, desires and pain points. 

Another way to understand buyers’ behavior is to analyze metrics, designed to yield insights into how buyers are currently interacting with a brand. For example, tracking which marketing channels are driving the most traffic to a website or social channel. And which landing pages or micro-sites are generating the most qualified leads.

Further alignment

When departments invest time in programs with each other, knowledge deepens about how each team’s roles, responsibilities and challenges affect efficiency. Or how existing processes may be creating unintended friction. Together, they can test and develop best practices and to collaborate better on brand missions. 

Consider a full interdepartmental exchange program — with regular sessions between sales and marketing representatives — that can be hosted to discuss current projects. To share ideas. Create opportunities. And to resolve issues. 

Our agency has mentored joint client teams to harvest the innovation for projects… and to provide shorter runways for new product launches. This has helped to ensure that both sales and marketing are fully integrated in both the planning and execution phases. Committed to each other.  So that they better strive in tandem toward mutual goals — leveraging the same metrics — and proof points, in measuring return on investment.

Starbucks’ CEO Laxman Narasimhan has the right idea. In leaving behind the silo of information where he lives and works, he’s developing a deeper understanding of what his company does. And how to steer it more effectively.

Similarly, Building Product Brands must seek to understand their buyers better — and by aligning sales and marketing — stakeholders can improve their teams’ overall performance.

After all, when these two departments are fully aligned, they can more effectively attract new customers. Close more deals. And generate additional revenue.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to design effective Sales and Marketing Alignment, it’s our forte. Send an email to Steve at to get the conversation started.