Some years ago, Elon Musk wrote an email to Tesla employees outlining ways the company could differentiate itself from competitors. “We obviously cannot compete with the big car companies in size,” wrote Musk, “so we must do so with intelligence and agility.”

Part of “intelligence and agility,” insisted Musk, was resisting the tendency to create divisions within Tesla, a problem that often infects companies as they grow in size. 

Managers should work hard to ensure that they are not creating silos within the company that create an us vs. them mentality or impede communication in any way. This is unfortunately a natural tendency and needs to be actively fought. How can it possibly help Tesla for depts to erect barriers between themselves or see their success as relative within the company instead of collective? We are all in the same boat. Always view yourself as working for the good of the company and never your department.

Elon Musk

Interestingly, Steve Jobs encouraged a similar philosophy at Apple many years previous. 

Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, with the company on the brink of bankruptcy. Soon after, Apple began working on a new device that Jobs would cleverly describe as “a thousand songs in your pocket.” That device, of course, was the iPod.

The iPod was famously dubbed “the Walkman killer,” a reference to the previous market share king in portable music players, the Sony Walkman. But how was Apple able to leapfrog Sony, a huge corporation that dominated the market, owned its own music company, and itself had come up with the Walkman? 

Because Jobs embraced the “no silo rule.”

In his biography about Jobs, Walter Isaacson explains:

Why did [Sony] fail? Partly because it was a company, like AOL Time Warner, that was organized into divisions (that word itself was ominous) with their own bottom lines; the goal of achieving synergy in such companies by prodding the divisions to work together was usually elusive.

Jobs did not organize Apple into semiautonomous divisions; he closely controlled all of his teams and pushed them to work as one cohesive and flexible company, with one profit-and-loss bottom line.

Walter Isaacson

Isaacson goes on to describe how Sony, like many companies, also worried about cannibalization. Building a new music player and service that encouraged people to share digital songs would likely hurt the company’s record division.

As these two stories illustrate, the no silo rule was inseparably weaved into the company doctrines that helped lead to Apple’s and Tesla’s success. It’s a rule that holds true in many growing B2B SaaS organizations.

Alignment in B2B SaaS organizations

In SaaS organizations, we have often seen that usually, the marketing team’s aim is to generate leads and to increase brand awareness, basically for the targeted audience. The sales team’s aim is to close leads. So, the incentives, the objectives, and the teams are sometimes not aligned. So, how do we close the gap and make that make the collaboration?

Embrace the ‘No Silo Rule’!

Leading companies like Apple and Tesla—those who exceed their revenue goals—are more likely to understand their target market, more likely to focus sales and marketing efforts on current customers, and much more likely to be in the advanced stages of go-to-market maturity.

Leading companies are also much more likely to have high levels of sales and marketing alignment. Aligned companies grow faster, win more often, and achieve higher profit levels. Those are huge rewards, so it understandably takes a major effort to achieve sales and marketing alignment.

It is important to use the same data across your company and make sure it’s clean, accurate, and up to date. Understand your ideal customers. Find other accounts just like them. Engage them with a pitch that’s relevant and timely. Keep your customers happy. And work together on all of this!

Unsurprisingly, especially in 2021, success comes back to data. You can be the leader in your market if you first spend the time to ensure your data is going to give you the right answers. You might need more data, you might need better data, but you definitely need good data. For alignment to work, you also need both sales and marketing working from consistent data.
That means finally living up to the talk about a “single source of truth” and eliminating disconnected systems and siloed data. It also means agreeing on what pipeline means and how it’s measured, how an ideal customer is defined, and how both teams are measured.

Alignment is a journey. If you’re convinced of the need to further align your teams, start talking with your counterparts in sales or marketing. Because no matter how good your data or processes or products, if you aren’t talking and coordinating, your results will be far less impactful than they could have been!

Follow these 4 key points to better align your Sales and Marketing Operations.