Transparency between marketing and sales drives trust. Which creates alignment.

July 7, 2015/ 2 0

There’s an important line in a blog post by Christopher Penn, a noted digital marketing expert who writes regularly at

Trust is the foundation of a relationship, and transparency is the currency of trust. Transparency is the open sharing of information among parties involved.

This sentiment applies to the age-old misalignment between marketing and sales.  You’ve probably seen a dozen or even a hundred blog posts on “how to align marketing and sales,” but most of the ones we’ve seen cover tactical ideas like shared incentives or job-swapping. They just don’t seem to get to the root of the problem


To get to the bottom of “misalignment,” we have to go beyond the rational (marketing and sales have different incentives that pull them in opposing directions) and philosophical (marketing and sales take have divergent approaches because they have fundamentally different personality types).

We have to get to the emotional driver of misalignment which is often lack of trust.  While sales and marketing may share the same intent (grow revenue), they don’t trust the others’ decisions or methods.  “Sales is too tactical, chasing every deal,” says the marketer.  For its part, sales says, “Marketing doesn’t understand the customers’ realities.”


When there is mistrust, Transparency is the Great Mediator.  The Ultimate Problem Solver.  Here’s how transparency works in sales enablement.  (Hint, it’s works the same as’s product ratings):

  • Create a simple 1-to-5 rating system for products (marketing content and sales support tools).
  • Give users (sales) a simple and fast way to rate every product (product sheet, case study, blog post, video, etc.).
  • Enable marketing to see usage statistics (i.e. downloads, page views, time spent per page) for every product (marketing content and sales support tools).
  • Create a mobile app to make it even easier for sales to rate content and marketing to see the results.
  • Aggregate the ratings and display them where everyone–sales, marketing and executive management–can see, in real-time.

After 90 or 120 days of transparency, depending on how many salespeople and how much content you have, there will be actionable data.  Either marketing or sales–or both–may not like what they see, but the results will certainly trump the long standing, silo-driven battles between marketing and sales about what works and what doesn’t.

But it’s about more than data. Just having such a transparent system shows that marketing is willing to take candid feedback–and have it displayed where other teams and management can see it.  Sales will appreciate this open kimono approach as a gesture of good faith.  Likewise, ratings help marketing understand that sales’ feedback isn’t personal–it’s business. Ratings are tangible; anecdotes can be misconstrued in both substance and tone.

Just as importantly, the data will yield important insights on how content is delivered, shared and used.  On what devices do salespeople access content?  Their office desktop PC?  Their laptop from home?  Their mobile tablet on the road?  Their smartphone?  This information will help you format the content so that it is accessible and useful in real-world settings.

The bottom line is this: Using the right approach and sales enablement tools (and of course a dose of effective leadership) can increase transparency.  When both parties see the same quantifiable data (not just anecdotal information), trust is gained and the problems can really get solved.


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