How Marketing and Sales Leaders Can Create a Single View of the Customer With Data

There is no question that most b2b companies are sitting on an immense amount of underutilized customer data. This data is rich in its ability to help us understand our customers better and how they interact with us throughout their buying journey. Having this type of data is however not valuable until we are able to leverage it to create insights. Insights (not data) are what help us make smart and timely business decisions.

As DiscoverOrg so rightly shares in a recent article, there is a b2b “customer data tsunami” coming because of all the increased sales and marketing tech that companies are rapidly adopting. The true benefit of tech is not all the cool bells and whistles – it’s the data it provides. As these technologies help us to create a more seamless customer experience (CX), leaders must recognize the huge underlying opportunity that sits inside the massive amount of increased data points we will have about customers and their interactions with us. One major predictor of success for b2b companies moving forward will be their ability to leverage their customer sales and marketing data.

If we continue to look at data in silos we will continue to not allow ourselves to optimize the revenue generation process. Before investing in more sales or marketing data, we must first learn to leverage the immense amount of data we already have - together. Our ability to win business with the modern buyer is almost solely dependent on our customer data.

Let’s explore how sales and marketing leaders can begin the process of aligning their data to improve the revenue generation process.

Too many organizations lack synergy in their sales and marketing efforts because they don’t have the data they need to set goals, measure results, and refine their approach. This starts with having one view of the customer but ends with having one view of the results of your strategy.
— Antwoine Flowers, Ph.D.

Define a Single Source of Truth

Is not uncommon for companies to have data stored in different tools owned by different teams. This can cause sales and marketing to have a substantially different view of what is happening in the business. The differing views on data overtime erodes trust between sales and marketing leaders who may feel their counterparts are making the data look how they need it to so they look good. The only way to start building a high-performing Revenue Engine that has a complete view of the buyer’s end-to-end journey is to start looking at a uniform set a data that is consistently being pulled from the same data sources.

Creating this single source of truth is not as easy as unifying and cleansing the data. It really is about making sense of all the different data sources so you are able to develop insights about your customers. One factor about unifying the data that can get complex fairly quickly is establishing a stable identifier across different data sources. You may have several different tools that use unique identifiers for customer interactions, but without a stable identifier you cannot match your data together. This is where having a strong sales and marketing operations team member can come in very handy.

Some high-level steps to think about as you start the journey to creating a single view of the customer are:

  • Be sure to connect all your sources of customer data (i.e. email, CRM, web leads, etc.)

  • Determine a way to create unique and stable identifiers for people and company leads

  • Cleanse and standardize data to ensure it is reliable

  • Focus on creating actionable insights for both sales and marketing from your customer data

By investing the time and energy required to create a single view of the customer, leaders will enable sales and marketing to be able to work together better, create more personalized customer experiences, and develop a more efficient revenue generation process.

Focus on Metrics That Matter

Not all data is created equal. As most marketing teams are starting to realize, vanity metrics like clicks and likes are not directly linked to business outcomes. Thus, we must all focus on the metrics that show the highest correlation with converting buyers to customers. The first metric that we should always be focused on is revenue attainment. As calculating marketing ROI becomes more attainable, marketing leaders must take on the responsibility of having a direct impact on building customer pipeline.

Other metrics that are influenced by both sales and marketing and have a strong impact on revenue growth include:

  • End-to-End conversion rates

  • Sales cycle length

  • Average deal size

  • MQLs to opportunity ratio

By focusing on the same metrics that have the most impact on closing business, leaders can ensure team incentives are aligned and that we are laser focused on doing the things that have the most impact on the business.

Provide Formal, Regular Feedback on Marketing Campaign Results to Sales

Regular feedback on marketing campaigns is a must to ensure we stay agile as a Revenue Engine and can adjust when we see that things are not hitting the milestones that we expected. Not only should sales be included in the early stages of creating marketing campaigns but there should be regular updates to let them know the progress that is being made on our stated goals and objectives. This helps keep both sales and marketing accountable for their contributions to building pipeline and closing new business.

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The Journey to a Single Source of Truth

Wrangling all your customer data can be a daunting task – especially if you are a leader that is not an expert on data. It requires working with someone or a vendor that has a strong understanding of how data works and how to make it work for you. Of the 3 Pillars of Alignment Strategy (Data, Process, and Communication), data is the most important as it affects every aspect of how we interact with buyers as they consider choosing us to resolve their business challenges. By Investing in creating a single source of truth you will easily put yourself ahead of your competitors.

Learning More…

To learn more about how you can more effectively leverage your customer data to drive growth, be sure to join us at the upcoming 4th Edition of the Sales + Marketing Alignment Summit in Chicago on Thursday, 4/25. This unique event is the premier event series exclusively for B2B sales and marketing leaders focused on growth through the alignment of their teams.

Reserve your spot today at www.SMAsummit.com!

7 Conferences That Marketing and Sales Leaders Should Attend Together in 2019

Learning is always more fun with friends. With that in mind, I put together a list of conferences that marketing and sales leaders should attend this year together. As alignment becomes more important for B2B companies it’s key to make sure that leaders understand how best to work together and communicate the value of the other function to their teams. One of the best ways to do that is to attend events together where you both can learn new ideas and bring them back to the organization - together.

Take a look at the list and if you find one that’s a fit - tell them that Jeff Davis sent you!

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  • B2B Marketing Exchange (B2BMX) - February 25-27, Scottsdale, AZ

    Although an event for marketing executives, the conference has an entire track dedicated to revenue growth and sales enablement. Also, a great way for sales leaders to network with marketing executives and learn how to leverage marketing in their own organization.

  • Modern CX - March 19-21, Las Vegas, NV

    This conference focuses on Customer Experience and allows attendees to get access to rockstars across marketing, service, sales, and commerce. You can easily flow through different tracks to pick up some cross-functional learning and make powerful connections. It is all about CX, right?!

  • TOPO Summit - April 17-18, San Francisco, CA

    They make it easy by saying that this event is the “best sales and marketing conference in the world.” There seems to be a good variety of related topics such as account-based everything, sales effectiveness, marketing ops, and more.

  • The Sales + Marketing Alignment Summit - April 25, Chicago

    This event series is an intimate peer-to-peer learning opportunity for B2B sales and marketing leaders to get together and discuss the most forward-thinking alignment strategies that drive growth. Panelists include informed perspectives from several different areas of the business to provide a more holistic view of what leaders need to be thinking about as they transform their teams.

  • SiriusDecisions Summit - May 5-8, Austin, TX

    I like this year’s theme of “Why Together?” because it happens to be one of my favorite words. This event brings together sales, marketing, and product innovators and trendsetters.

  • Pulse - May 21-24, San Francisco, CA

    This is the biggest Customer Success learning and networking conference in the world. With providing an amazing CX and reducing churn being at the top of the list of things to be focused on, this conference can provide both sales and marketing leaders something valuable to take back to their teams in that regard.

  • INBOUND - September 3-6, Boston, MA

    Need time to step back and think about the big ideas that are going to transform your teams this year? Then, this is the event you need to be at. Sales and Marketing leaders can even sit next to each other for the entire event and be inspired together. Talk about “bonding time.”

  • Forrester B2B Marketing & Sales - November 5-6, Austin, TX

    This event leverages Forrester’s deep research and front-line knowledge to help B2B marketers and sales professionals transform their teams to meet the needs of the modern buyer and adapt to digital transformation. This is a great chance to get evidence to support your ideas or proof that you should be doing something different.

  • Dreamforce - November 19-22, San Francisco, CA

    Beyond being probably the largest conference I have ever attended in my life, Salesforce brings together every aspect of their ecosystem all in one place. There are also a ton of opportunities to pick up some cross-functional learnings and make game-changing connections.

Hope this list will inspire sales and marketing leaders to look at their conference schedule together and find opportunities to build a stronger relationship outside of the office. Let’s make transforming our business more enjoyable and focus on the opportunity of what can be.

If you are interested in having me speak at your next conference, meeting, or event make sure to learn more about my most requested speaking topics or contact me directly here.

Hope to see you at a future conference - learning together!


Top 9 Alignment Resources That B2B Sales and Marketing Leaders Need to Ensure They Didn’t Miss This Year

I‘ve had the pleasure of learning so much about how to strategically align B2B Sales and Marketing this year through too many different interactions to count. Whether it be through conversations with guests on TheAlignmentPodcast.com, talking to attendees after a keynote address, attending a conference, or reading great content published by others that have an interest in the topic, one thing stood out every time - alignment is no longer an option for B2B leaders.

With that in mind, I’d like to share some of the top resources i think Sales and Marketing leaders show be aware of it they are looking to transform their teams into a high-performing Revenue Engine where Sales and Marketing are aligned to meet the needs of the modern buyer.

A great book for Sales and Marketing leaders to be able to understand why alignment is so important and how to start the conversation not only together but with their senior leaders to gain support.

  • TheAlignmentPodcast.com

    A fast growing podcast for B2B leaders that fuses conversations with experts in sales, marketing, leadership, psychology, data science and more to create insights toward a more holistic and strategic approach to aligning Sales and Marketing.

  • Customers 2020: The Future of B2B Customer Experience [Walker]

    Study that demonstrates the rapidly changing demands of the modern buyer and how customer experience (CX) will be more important than ever in the near future to stay competitive.

  • AI Growth Summit (online conference) [InsideSales.com]

    Online conference sharing proven strategies from top companies and thought-leaders on how Sales and Marketing can leverage AI to dramatically improve their results.

  • Solving for Marketing ROI [LinkedIn]

    Resource that can help marketing leaders better calculate and quantify the ROI of the marketing team’s efforts and demonstrate the value that the team brings to the sales organization.

  • From Priming the Pipeline to Engaging Buyers: The B2B CMO’s New Role in Sales Enablement [Forrester]

    Study that highlights some practical benefits that the marketing team can offer Sales to help them gain new customers. Also, great content for sales leaders to better understand what they should be asking for from their marketing counterpart to help their sellers succeed.

  • How Sales Can Win Before 57% of the Buyer’s Journey is Over [LinkedIn Sales blog]

    Article that helps sales and marketing leaders think differently about how they can work together to get in front of the buyer earlier in the process and help them shape a vision for what business solution(s) they need.

  • Content Marketing and Sales Alignment: Bridging the Gap [Content Marketing Institute]

    Article and research on the benefits of Sales and Marketing aligning on content and its affect on overall strategic alignment between the two teams.

  • The Ideal Customer Profile: Why is “fit data” so important? [DiscoverOrg]

    Article on the importance of figuring out what a “good lead” looks like by creating an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) by focusing on “fit” data which should include input from both Sales and Marketing.

I hope these resources are helpful as you start planning out your journey to a more aligned sales and marketing team.

If you are interested in:

  • having me speak at your organization,

  • conduct an executive workshop, or

  • business coaching services

Excited to help B2B leaders get better at connecting with the modern buyer in a meaningful way and driving revenue growth for the organization.

See you in 2019!!!

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What I learned About the Future of Sales Enablement at #Transform18 hosted by Showpad

I had the pleasure of attending Showpad’s first ever US conference - TRANSFORM18. The theme was “Reimagining Sales Enablement”. As a keynote speaker and business coach focused on strategically aligning Sales and Marketing, I attended because I wanted to see what the future of Sales Enablement looks like. I wanted to learn from industry experts and sales enablement practitioners alike to be able to share this knowledge with sales and marketing leaders that may/may not be fortunate enough to have a sales enablement role within their organization.

The roster of speakers included knowledgeable folks like: Mary Shea, Todd Caponi, Roderick Jefferson, Tim Riesterer, and many more.

Below are some of my key learnings at the conference:

  • We must learn to amplify and complement what the buyer is doing early on in their self-directed discovery journey. (via Mary Shea)

  • 62% of B2B buyers say they can now develop selection criteria or finalize a vendor list - based solely on digital content. This means that we must ensure we are telling our company story via several different channels including third-party sites.

  • Status Quo Bias is real and it’s keeping your buyer from making a decision to buy. You must learn how to address this powerful human instinct and use it in your favor when connecting with buyers. (via Tim Riesterer)

  • You need different messaging when you are trying to “get” customers than when you are trying to “keep” them. Marketing can be a significant help to salespeople and account managers when connecting with customers in these two very different situations.

  • Buyer group stakeholders has increased by 75% (2009 - 2017) because buyers want to mitigate risk more and more before making a purchasing decision. Build deep trust with them so they all know that they are making the right decision to purchase your product/service. (via Tim Sullivan)

  • Buyers are not really good at determining what is truly causing their pain. We need to act like physicians/personal trainers and help them diagnose their true business issues. (via Todd Caponi)

  • We are not thinking machines that feel. We are feeling machines that think. This means that most buyers make initial buying decisions based on emotion then justify it with logic - even in B2B.

  • It is crucial for Sales and Marketing to align on metrics in order to be able to provide customers with the best customer experience (CX) (via Theresa O’Neil)

  • The #1 reason Sales doesn’t make quota is: inability to articulate unique value [Sirius Decisions] (via Pieterjan Bouten, CEO)

  • Sales Enablement practitioners are the “translators of dialects and languages” and help create synergy between sales, marketing, and product teams. (via Roderick Jefferson)

Hope some of the above learnings are valuable as you explore Sales Enablement and strategically aligning Sales and Marketing to drive growth.

See you next year at Transform19!

create togetherness.

Low Conversion Rates? Dig Into Your Revenue Funnel Data For Insights

You’ve got plenty of leads—maybe too many, in fact. You’ve got plenty of potential sales calls and appointments. But when it comes to looking at the numbers—to comparing your conversions against the number of conversions you think you should have—then it becomes a different story.

Welcome to the sales funnel conundrum, when the potential doesn’t match the reality and you start to question what’s going on. Well, in answer to that: There could be a lot of things going on, and it could be that some of them relate to problems in your sales funnel. 

The sales funnel is more often than not the place to start, and that’s because it’s a great way to pick apart your process and to find out what you’re doing and where customers are getting stuck. It has definable points, including top, middle, and bottom.

As I've stated before, to have a robust sales and marketing alignment strategy you must address three key pillars - DATA, PROCESS, and COMMUNICATION.  The graphic below will help you understand what’s happening and how to do a deep dive into your sales process. 

AI Gives Sales and Marketing Leaders X-Ray Vision Into Pipeline Activity

There's an old saying in geometry circles: every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square. It's true; all squares have the basic elements of a rectangle: four sides, four right angles. To be a square, though, all four sides must be of equal length; a rectangle only cares about equal length on its parallel sides.

What does this have to do with sales and marketing? All sales is marketing, but not all marketing is sales. When the two sides realize this point, it changes the fundamental nature of how sales and marketing work in a business.

In a B2B world, marketing effectively lays the groundwork for sales. It generates new leads into the system and works to establish the best conditions for sales to engage.

Sales, meanwhile, delivers the decisive step in the overall revenue generation process. Sales relates the company’s value proposition to the prospective buyers, handles objections, demonstrates the economic benefit and ultimately makes the final arrangements for the delivery of a product or service.

The two functions are inextricably linked, and yet are separate and distinct. Marketing's failures are a direct handicap to sales, while sales' failures make marketing's efforts a poor allocation of time and resources.

What is Sales’ Contribution? What is Marketing’s Contribution?

Some sales seem to occur without the marketing team having made a single contribution. It can be said for instance that in general a deal that was sourced and closed by an account executive without any involvement of the marketing team, can be attributed to Sales.

Conversely, certain deals are signed when the majority of the value was created by the marketing team. A highly qualified opportunity can require very little effort from sales to close.

In this light, marketing contribution is the incremental revenue generated by marketing activities. It can be measured intuitively: what would total sales had been had there been no marketing activity at all?

Sales contribution, is the exact opposite: what would sales have been had there been no sales activity?

By recognizing these two sources of contribution, marketing and sales, business leaders can better understand the factors that make up a good utilization of marketing resources and the sales activities that lead to the highest revenue.

Marketing should effectively tell the sales force where, how and when a lead needs to be worked on so it has the best chance of success. This includes determining lead/product fit but also the interest level and the revenue potential of those leads. Marketing is effectively the gauge by which sales effectiveness is measured; if the leads are all poor quality, there's a problem in lead generation, and the process needs to be revamped. If leads and opportunities are all of high quality and bookings are not growing, there’s a sales problem and the relevant processes, skills and activities need to be re-examined.

So, How Can AI Help?

With AI, sales leaders can have a 360-degree view of their entire revenue generation process and see the exact value created by lead generation, prospecting and sales activities.

From a lead perspective, AI can provide insight into several key attributes such as:

●      The quality of a given lead, based on hundreds of different                    factors

●      The precise dollar value of a lead, as opposed to a historical                  average

●      The expected level of effort required to convert a lead into an              actual opportunity

From a sales rep perspective, AI can also gauge the overall quality and contribution of the people involved; factors like work ethic, team mood, product knowledge and closing ability.

A 360-degree view can help you answer those difficult questions that can’t necessarily be solved with the human eye. Questions like:

●      What is the true value generated by marketing activities?

●      What is the true value generated by the sales development                  team?

●      What is the true value generated by the AE team?

When you know this, you can better optimize your sales and marketing resources, budgets, activities and give credit to the right team for the right reason. Then, you can drill down on the individual level and understand why some perform better than others.

We miss all of the shots we never take, after all, and having a handle on activity levels becomes an excellent gauge into determining if we're really getting the most out of every minute in play. So while the sales department does have the ultimate outcome of the sales contribution in its hands, it can't get very far without the marketing contribution. If sales departments aren't presenting the value proposition correctly or handling objections to the lead's satisfaction, then it really doesn't matter how good a job marketing did finding leads; the sales department couldn't make the final appeal.

Meanwhile, if the marketing contribution isn't up to par, the sales contribution is immediately hampered, spending its time, effort and resources pursuing people for whom no amount of sales efforts will convince the lead there's any value to the product or service offering. It's like trying to sell bowling balls at a fisherman's convention; sure, some of them may bowl, but why aren't you selling fishing gear to people who obviously want fishing gear?

In Sales, Uncertainty is a Certainty

Even with the best numbers, calculations about the fit and interest of leads and opportunities are not enough. Calculations about lead potential have uncertainty built right into the name: potential. Yet as is often the case, management with facts in hand tend to produce better results than management without facts. Uncertainty cannot be removed from the system, but it can be addressed, managed and improved incrementally.

AI makes it possible to measure the incremental value generated by every link in the sales and marketing chain. By applying machine learning and natural language processing (NLP), businesses can gather numbers that reflect reality, enabling you to make the right adjustments and get your sales and marketing teams humming in tune.

Therefore, whether you’re in sales or in marketing, base your discussions over actual contribution in numbers, not on gut feelings. Learn what's working in the sales and marketing process and what isn't, so that the most effective changes can be made on all sides.

About the Author

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Rob Käll is an accomplished entrepreneur with 3 Successful MM exits in 10 Years. His latest startup, Cien, gives sales leaders an immediate edge by using the power of AI to increase the productivity of their teams.

Automatically detecting problems, predicting outcomes and recommending the shortest path to success. A versatile leader that has served as Startup CEO, Corporate Exec and Technical Founder, Rob advocates a scientific approach to sales and marketing alignment. Connect with Rob on Linkedin and Twitter.

What I Learned at the TMSA Logistics Conference This Week

Every time I attend a new conference or get the privilege of speaking to a new group of people, I like to take some time to reflect on what I learned during that interaction. Embarking on this journey to better understand how to strategically align Sales and Marketing has put me in a unique position where I enjoy getting to learn from professionals and cross pollenate those insights, ideas and concepts to help us all increase our business acumen. 

One of those such chances was being selected by Brian Everett and the board of TMSA (Transportation Marketing and Sales Association) to be the opening keynote of their annual conference. I opened my session by helping everyone focus on what powerful partnerships have been able to accomplish in the past in order to set the stage as we all interacted with each other during the conference. My intent was to help us think about building partnerships across the aisle to help us drive better business outcomes. 

Beyond sharing my perspective on Sales and Marketing Alignment, I learned a ton about the trucking, logistics, and supply chain industry - what an interesting industry that affects all of our lives.  If if weren't for them, Amazon Prime 2-day shipping wouldn't work. 

Below are some of the highlights from my time at the conference:

  • Be sure the marketing teams chooses a marketing automation tool that connects with the CRM to ensure that marketing efforts contribute directly to sales and business goals. (via Jill Schmieg)
  • Sales and Marketing need to align their efforts to business outcomes and set performance targets (via Laura Patterson)
  • In order to get the attention of the CEO we must speak his/her language which means connecting our efforts to the growth of the organization. 
  • Influencer marketing can be a useful tool to accomplish your growth goals. Truckers themselves can become a significant partner in helping solve the lack of drivers on the road. 
  • According to Forrester, only 13% of customers believe salespeople demonstrate understand of their business challenges. (via Eric Maddox)
  • Freightwaves has become a leading digital freight news outlet with 2x engagement than its competitors (via Craig Fuller)
  • Due to regulations, companies must sometimes establish working relationships with direct competitors in order to ensure customers are serviced adequately.
  • Some of the top challenges facing the logistic industry include: fuel cost, business improvement processes, improved customer service, driver shortage and retention, technology disruption

Enjoy some of the pictures that I captured of my keynote presentation and the conference!

What I Learned at the First-Ever Sales Assembly Summit

I had the pleasure of being in the room with sales leaders from Chicago's top tech companies this week at the first-ever Sales Assembly Summit. It was an opportunity not only to learn what it takes to drive growth in an organization, but I wanted to hear the perspective of sales leaders on the topic of aligning with their marketing counterparts. I was pleased to see that the alignment conversation was one of the first sessions of the day. 

Below are some of the points that stood out to me during the summit that were relevant to aligning Sales and Marketing:

  • If Content is king, then Context is god. Marketing provides Content and Sales provides Context (via John Barrows)
  • We have to be able to translate marketing messaging to sales messaging to be effective at closing more customers. 
  • Both Sales and Marketing must continue to remind the customer why they bought in the first place to provide good CX and increase the probability of renewal (via Brian Study)
  • Be proactive in thinking what does day 2 look like for the customer to ensure good CX
  • Sales and Marketing should get together at least weekly (via Isabelle Papoulias)
  • Doctors are the best salespeople - they ask us questions and based on our response they make an assessment and tell us what to buy (i.e. medication, test, lifestyle change, etc.) (via Wade Burgess)
  • Average sales cycles continue to increase
  • Sales leaders must understand the sales process and what is going on throughout the entire pipeline. They must also understand at a high level what Marketing is doing to help support pipeline revenue. 
  • Marketing should be involved in the onboarding process for sales new hires and specifically should be contributing to the sale playbook where it makes sense such as messaging, value prop, customer personas, target profiles, etc. (via Dave Mattson)
  • We must be more transparent when selling to customers today as they have access to more information than ever before. The ideal customer rating is between 4.2 and 4.5 out of a 5.0 scale as customers find this range more believable and credible. (via Todd Caponi)

Looking forward to next year's event. Thanks to Jeff Rosset and Matt Green for cultivating a great event and community here in Chicago!

create togetherness.

 

How Marketing And Sales Work Together To Increase Lead Quality

Let’s face it, there often can be a disconnect between a business’s marketing and sales departments. According to at least one LeanData survey, more than 50 percent of sales and marketing professionals aren’t happy with communication and support from the other department.

Any business that wants to grow, however, has to get these two teams working together. Why? Simply put, salespeople have knowledge that can help marketers, and marketers have power and influence that can help sales. When you get these two teams aligned, sales can guide marketing and marketing can prepare leads for sales. Your business becomes more efficient.

How do marketing and sales work together to increase business leads? Here’s a look.

Sales Empowers Marketing to Answer Prospect Questions — for Better Campaigns

Because the sales team has direct access to new prospects, it has the firsthand knowledge of what questions commonly arise. By giving that knowledge to the marketing team, it empowers marketers to craft messages that better target their audience.

  • What to ask. Salespeople know what prospects are asking, so savvy marketing professionals tap into that knowledge. Marketers can ask salespeople directly, listen to sales calls, scan sales communications with clients, etc., to find out what prospects want to know. Are potential customers often wondering how exactly a product works, for example, or about what makes the company different? Do prospects want to see demonstrations of how to use a certain tool or examples of a device in action?
  • What to do. If marketing can answer questions for prospects before the sales team has to, it expedites the buying process and makes sales easier. That’s why common customer questions are valuable market research — information that fuels web copy, blogs, email newsletters, videos, etc. When the marketing team understands where its audience is coming from, it becomes better equipped to reach that audience.

Marketing Helps Overcome Prospect Hurdles — for Better Leads

The sales team also can be invaluable for providing the marketing team with common hang-ups that stall sales. When marketers understand what hurdles need to be overcome for a purchase, it has a great place to start with marketing materials.

  • What to ask. Marketers need to ask the sales staff about what prospects cite as reasons to delay or decide against a product. What issues are preventing them from moving forward with purchases? What holds them back? When marketing understands what clogs the sales cycle, it has fodder for marketing messaging — ideas for building relevant, compelling material that will reach the target audience.
  • What to do. Some of the most effective marketing channels will speak directly to prospects’ hurdles. If committing to a purchase is a deterrent, marketing might feature a free trial. If credibility is a problem, marketing could focus on building trust with testimonials, endorsements, before/after pictures of service, or a money-back guarantee.

Businesses that want to stay competitive and reach growth goals need to take the marketing-sales relationship seriously. By getting these two departments working together, everybody benefits.

This guest blog was written by Shanna Mallon. She is a contributing writer for Straight North, a leading Internet marketing agency in Chicago providing SEO, web development and other online marketing services. A freelance writer, Shanna has been creating online content professionally since 2007.

What I Learned About the Future of AI and Sales

I had the great pleasure of recently attending the AA-ISP AI Sales Summit. It was the first of it's kind and it definitely delivered a really insightful experience. I was interested in attending to better understand how we can leverage AI to align sales and marketing to make more efficient decisions based on data. 

Below are some of the things that I found interesting...

  • AI can write content that is nearly impossible to detect that it's not human. How does this effect creating relevant, on-demand content for customers?
  • Majority of lost sales are going to "No Decision" (Victor Antonio - keynote speaker)
  • Customer don't want more information - they want insights about their business.
  • We are losing quality interaction data by requiring sales people to enter it manually into a CRM system. The new corporate asset will be conversation data. (Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve)
  • It's not B2B or B2C - it's about connecting with people - B2P
  • Both Sales and Marketing must focus on Customer Experience (CX) to be successful in the future. We must remove the friction from doing business with us or customers will go with another provider. 
  • If we want to empower salespeople with new technology, we must start to speak their language and help them understand how it will help them sell more effectively. They want to win, hit quota, and make money!
  • AI can help with lead scoring which has implications to helping both Sales and Marketing sift through leads and take action on the ones with the most potential to lead to new business.
  • The CRM will become a nucleus or central repository for data throughout the entire company ecosystem. AI will sit on top of it and guide us to the optimal actions to take in order to achieve the outcome we want based on its learning over time. (We are in the future folks!)
  • Companies have a lot of data but most of it is "dark data" which can't be acted upon. (Arun Shastri - ZS Associations)
  • 61% of businesses said they implemented AI in 2017, up from just 38% in 2016 (Narrative Science Report)

 

Oracle Taught Me Customer Service Can Help Align Sales and Marketing

It was such a pleasure being invited to attend Oracle's Modern CX conference this past week as a marketing influencer. I was really interested in understanding how the principles of customer service (CX) could be applied to helping B2B organizations align Sales and Marketing. The I also learned a ton from interviewing CX thought-leader -  Shep Hyken. Be sure to check out our Facebook Live Interview where we discuss the conference, how CX has changed over the years, and his upcoming new book. 

Below are a few of the many highlights that I gained from attending the conference:

  • Marketing is active throughout the entire buyer's journey and can do significant damage if they don't truly understand the needs of the customer.
  • Knowing you product's purpose is critically important via David Beebe (Content Decoded)
  • We must invest in strong analytics to understand what is happening with our customers
  • Marketing should be a pipeline partner with Sales
  • The top 4 questions Marketing needs to help Sales answer every morning
    • Who should I talk to?
    • What do I need to know about them and their organization to have impact?
    • What products or solutions have they shown interest in?
    • What content should I use to support this conversation?
  • Marketing needs to provide data and context about leads to improve sales outcomes
  • "Do what you can't" via Casey Neistat (a little motivation for those they are determined as I to make alignment happen)
  • Value creation unlocks customer Revenue(if you offering value to your customers, they will give you their money)
  • CMOs are finally starting to hold revenue goals via Shashi Seth
  • The MarTech 5000 is real and only growing!
  • Marketing's new mission is to create clarity amongst all the noise

As leaders, I hope we continue to connect with and learn from those that are outside of our direct line of sight as many times they have perspectives that spark a new way of thinking. Thank you Oracle for such an outstanding conference and opportunity to connect with passionate CX professionals. 

create togetherness.

How Sales Can Win Before 57% of the Buyer’s Journey is Over

This guest post was originally published on the Linkedin Sales Blog

There has been a lot of talk lately about the news that CEB released some time ago that shows us that the typical B2B buyer is already 57% through the purchase process before reaching out to sales. Additionally, the average number of decision makers on a typical purchase has increased from 5.4 to 6.8 according to Brent Adamson, Principal Executive Advisor at CEB.

Many sales professionals and leaders perceive that these changes in the buying process are making it increasingly difficult to consistently hit revenue targets in B2B. I, however, see this as an opportunity for forward-thinking sales leaders to better align with their marketing colleagues to dominate the space where prospects are spending the majority of their time. 

While many sales organizations are only focused on aggressively bombarding prospects during the last 43% of the buyer's journey (which has become extremely annoying and ineffective), there exists a significant opportunity to get in front of customers before they enter the "buying window." This period is critical because it is when most buyers start to figure out what they need, want, and desire regardless of actual product or solution.

To make your product stick in the mind of the buyer, sales and marketing leaders need to approach them together during this period of the purchasing process before the buyer reaches out to sales. The goal of this outreach and content should be to generate higher-value conversations with prospects. This outreach should focus on helping decision makers clearly identify their business problem and develop a vision for how they will go about solving it. This conversation should not focus on product features and benefits, but on shaping the way the prospect sees their business issue and views potential solutions.  

Play Where There Is Less Competition

RAIN Group released research that specifically addresses the myth that buyers don't want to hear from sellers early in the decision-making process. In fact, their study shows that 71% of buyers want to speak with sellers when they are exploring new ideas to improve business results.

The problem that most buyers find is that the early stages of the buying process are extremely difficult, confusing and frustrating. This is because there is too much information — The Paradox of Choice. This overwhelming amount of information from sellers and other sources actually impedes the buyer in identifying which types of solutions they should pursue and ultimately makes the buying process much longer.

But what if B2B companies could help buyers navigate all this information and give them clarity about how to accurately assess their business problem and evaluate potential solutions? This kind of useful information would be a game changer for the buyer and a winning strategy for the seller. What's the best way to achieve that at scale? Aligning with marketing. 

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Alignment's Direct Impact on Revenue

Sales leaders must understand, now more than ever, how Marketing can help Sales achieve revenue targets. With this knowledge, the sales team needs to make clear asks from Marketing that have a direct and measurable impact on revenue. No longer can sales leaders not understand the entire revenue funnel — all the way up to the top where historically only Marketing has operated. Sales leaders must look at the entire revenue funnel to ensure that their teams are being set up for success. Understanding the complete funnel is about more than just lead volume. It is about ensuring that collectively both teams are engaging customers at the right time, with the right content, and the right messaging to provide value and ultimately close more deals. Getting this sequence of outreach right is best done when Sales and Marketing are aligned and going to market together. 

If sales leaders are not yet convinced of the importance of understanding Marketing's contribution to the revenue pipeline, they can look at the significant difference in revenue attainment that aligned teams achieve. A recent study published by Aberdeen Group, Marketing/Sales Alignment 2016: Who is Agile Enough to Win?, shows us just that. The study demonstrates the measurable difference in companies that "get" alignment and those that don't. The two metrics that are probably the most telling for sales leaders are (a) increase in average deal size and (b) team attainment of sales quota. What's even more incredible is that aligned teams saw over a three-fold increase in average deal size. This proves that alignment has a direct impact on revenue.

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Where Marketing Provides Value to Sales

For many sales leaders, having to understand how Marketing contributes directly to their team’s success may be a new concept. Thus, it’s important to empower sales leaders with the necessary information they need to evaluate if Marketing is providing them with the right things for their teams to win. Laura Ramos, principal analyst at Forrester, published a great paper, From Priming The Pipeline To Engaging Buyers: The B2B CMO’s New Role In Sales Enablement, that helps us understand the most important things that marketing leaders can do to help Sales be successful.

The research highlights the fact that although there have been significant advances in marketing automation which has improved the lead-to-revenue process, more work needs to be done on the part of the marketing leader to create a more interdependent relationship with sales that focuses on the customer (I call this creating “togetherness”). We learn that successful B2B marketing leaders are achieving this by doing the following:

  • Shifting from just passing leads to sharing more context of the buyer/opportunity

  • Making Sales the face that buyers see

  • Developing higher-value content that sparks conversation with the buyer

  • Supporting customer success management with ongoing marketing-lead communications

When we get more granular and ask how Marketing specifically can help Sales be more successful some very interesting things emerge from the perspective of marketing colleagues. I think capturing this information is vital because it gives the sales leader some tangible things to ask for as the two leaders start to develop a more interdependent relationship. It also empowers the sales leader with a language that uniquely speaks to the marketing leader in the way that they see the business. The only precaution I would give sales leaders in looking at the top 5 responses below is No. 3. Although in marketing terms brand awareness can be an important factor depending on the size and maturity of the organization, as a sales leader I would focus on marketing producing content that helps Sales have higher-value conversations with customers and helps prime the customer to be more open to have a conversation about how and why their business needs to change. More and more, the biggest competitor for B2B sales professionals is the status quo, not another product or service.

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I think this feedback is a great place to start the conversation between the head of Sales and Marketing to ensure that the teams are moving toward alignment and can take advantage of the significant opportunity that lies within the first 57% of the buyer’s journey that many consider to be lost. 

How I Achieved Alignment With My VP Of Sales As A Marketing Leader

I've talked to many leaders about the need to align B2B Sales and Marketing. Through those exchange of ideas, I've learned a lot about where a majority of companies are in their journey toward alignment. Now that a significant amount of attention has been directed at alignment, we are starting to see more research that helps us better understand its impact on revenue. This evidence has given more leaders confidence in taking an alignment initiative between Sales and Marketing serious. However, two major challenges persists -(1) knowing what good looks like and (2) knowing how to get started. Because of this, I wanted to share my thoughts on how I would go about aligning with my sales counterpart.

As the CMO, I think its important to have an idea of the areas that need to be addressed in order to achieve better alignment between our teams before having a sit down with my VP of Sales (let's call her Janice). I want to ensure that we can establish a clear roadmap, metrics and milestones to help us stay focused and in sync as we begin transforming the company.  Doing this work will also help us secure the support of the CEO (why not call him Mark) which is vital to the success of any alignment effort. 

The key areas that need to be addressed in any alignment effort are: Communication, Process and Data. These are the top reasons for misalignment according to a recent study published by Inside View. Using these areas of friction as a framework, we can start to organize our thoughts and efforts around what we need to be focusing on while hopefully causing minimal distraction for our teams.

So now that I have a general idea of the areas that Janice and I need to address, where do we actually get started? In my opinion, a broken process is probably the root cause of many of our problems. Then, let's start there!

If marketing is to effectively support sales, then we need to start by getting everyone on the same page regarding what success looks like. If you don’t invest the time to align on the big picture, then don’t expect to move the needle when you look at lead quality and quantity.
— Jim Dickie, Research Fellow at CSO Insights

Process - Focus on pipeline Revenue

One of the most impactful opportunities in an alignment effort is to focus on creating a robust prospect-to-customer process. The most effective way to do that is to ensure that both teams focus on the pipeline revenue. This laser focus on revenue ensures that everyone knows exactly where we are in hitting our revenue target and also know how their work directly impacts us achieving that goal. Marketing should be able to say "Yes! We are 98% to goal." just as the sales team already does (at least that's want Janice tells me). 

Janice and I would talk about each part of the traditional sales funnel and the resources/processes necessary to win at each stage. A very popular topic for both of us would be everyone's favorite topic - lead gen. I would want to go beyond just talking about how we are going get new leads and talk about the things that are going to enable us to get the right leads - quality over quantity. Some of the things we would cover would be:

  • Customer Personas - who are we targeting and what business problem(s) are they struggling with?

  • Positioning - What is the unique value that we offer that no one else can and how do we communicate that clearly and consistently?

  • Messaging - How do we speak the language of our customers so that it is easier to connect with them and start a conversation?

  • Market Intelligence - How can we empower our sales people to have higher-value conversations with prospects that position them as a strategic advisor rather than just a sales rep?

  • Content - How do we thoughtfully produce content that addresses the needs of the customer and key stakeholders at each stage of the buyer's journey?

Data - Insights enable growth

Janice and I are both data-driven folks so that's a great start. Data is in the DNA of the company. However, data is not enough to win. We need insights to help us make informed and intelligent business decisions. Before we get to that though we need to first ensure we are even looking at the same numbers. With all the new additions to our Revenue Stack (sales + marketing tech) we need to do an audit to make sure we are speaking the same data language. This tech audit also allows us to see where gaps and redundancies exists. And there is one metric that wins above all. We start every meeting together by addressing it. You probably guessed it.....Revenue!

Beyond just having data to be "data-driven", we would focus on using that data to produce insight into what is happening at all stages of the pipeline and how our teams can address any suboptimal performance issues throughout the buyer's journey. I would also want to focus on Marketing's contribution to revenue so that I can clearly evaluate the ROI of my team's efforts and specific campaigns. This is also a chance for Janice to determine where her sales team needs coaching. One example for me would be using customer LTV (Lifetime Value) as a benchmark when making decisions on whether to spend marketing budget on specific demand generation efforts. Here are some other KPIs we would cover in our joint sales and marketing meetings:

  • Revenue goal attainment

  • End-to-end conversion rates

  • Sales cycle length

  • MQLs to opportunity ratio

  • Opportunity to customer ratio

  • Top revenue-producing channels

  • Content utilization by Sales

  • Average deal size

When sharing data we would continue to ask each other "So, what does that mean for the business?" to ensure we are getting at business insights and not just doing a data review to check a box. These insights are the fuel for our growth. 

Communication - Collaboration is about People 

In order for us to win together, Janice and I are going to have to learn how to collaborate - for real. One thing that I have learned is transforming into a truly collaborative relationship takes time and has many stages. We can not just say we are going to collaborate. We must take into consideration how we as leaders can create an environment that supports this effort and provides the necessary resources to do so.  If we want Sales to tell Marketing what is/is not working but don't encourage honest feedback or give them an organized way to give it, then we really aren't serious about creating this communication link between our teams. 

1 The original Collaboration Continuum, which included Networking, Coordinating, Cooperating, and Collaborating, comes from Arthur T. Himmelman, Collaboration for a Change: Definitions, Decision‐making Models, Roles, and Collaboration Process Guide. January 2002, Himmelman Consulting, Minneapolis, MN.

1 The original Collaboration Continuum, which included Networking, Coordinating, Cooperating, and Collaborating, comes from Arthur T. Himmelman, Collaboration for a Change: Definitions, Decision‐making Models, Roles, and Collaboration Process Guide. January 2002, Himmelman Consulting, Minneapolis, MN.

And if there is no other area I get right around communication, I want to ensure I do whatever I can to get feedback from the sales team. What I've realized over my time as CMO is that sales is my fastest and cheapest market research. Speed to market is the vital differentiator many times in B2B. Having this close relationship with my sales colleagues is extremely important to me as a marketing leader. A side effect of this effort is that it also helps gain credibility and trust with Sales; something that many marketing teams don't have. 

Janice and I also discuss how often we would meet to check in on our progress on alignment. As folks who hate superfluous meetings this can be tricky. We both realized though that you have to inspect what you expect and the only way to do that is to have joint sales and marketing meetings on a regular basis. Meeting frequency depends on the size and maturity of the company, however for a new initiative like this I think monthly leadership and quarterly team meetings sound reasonable. The leadership meeting would focus on the data and figuring out if our alignment efforts are effective and positively impacting revenue. The joint team meetings would focus on major cross-functional metrics/insights, our attainment of our revenue goal thus far, and any wins achieved by cross functional teamwork to continue to promote cohesiveness between the teams. I would also use these meetings as a way to identify opportunities for the sales and marketing team members to work on special projects or find ways that they could actively learn from each other. 

After all that work Janice and I go to Mark as the "Revenue Engine" team and let him know how we plan to transform the organization. And because we jointly represent how the company makes money he gladly supports our efforts 100%. High five, Janice!

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Empathy creates unity

What Janice, Mark and I realized doing this work together is that we have to create more empathy between our teams so they understand and appreciate each other more. We realized that even we struggled to always understand what each was dealing with on a daily basis. How then, were our teams supposed to get it? We are all sure that this empathy is going to be the glue that brings our teams together and charge them up to achieve better results as a unified force.

I'm excited to "create togetherness" between our teams and drive revenue!

 

The 5 Basic Layers of a Good Growth-Focused Revenue Tech Stack

With all the new B2B tech coming at companies today, it's hard not to fall victim to the "shiny new objective" syndrome. It's also sometimes even harder to push back on demands to "Fix it Now!" by not just throwing tech at it. The problem you run into is that implementing new tech is not addressing the real problem - people. I've said many times, alignment is not a tech issue, it's a people issue. Thus, continuing to adopt new tech without addressing the people part of the problem is not a sustainable approach. 

With that said, let's talk about what types of tech are necessary to have a Revenue Stack (Sales + Marketing tech) that helps you sell more effectively by empowering the sales and marketing teams. I think its more important for us to focus on the categories of tools we need before diving into trying to determine the best vendor to use. Taking this approach allows the company to clearly understand where technology gaps exists. I think doing this type of tech audit before making purchasing decisions also will help to eliminate unforeseen duplication in technology which many times creates more confusion; making the selling process even more cumbersome. 

Below is a great depiction of the current revenue stack landscape from Nancy Nardin. As you can see the options seems limitless and they are growing. This is what is causing the "shiny new object" syndrome many B2B companies are suffering from. 

What makes a good Revenue Stack?

I've had many conversations with experts in the field of sales and marketing tech and below are the categories that I've seen are necessary to have an effective Revenue Stack. My intent with this list to help sales and marketing leaders be thoughtful when proposing new technology to "fix" the alignment issue.

  • Data - Clean data is the basis of any stack as without it we make poor decisions on outdated and incorrect information. We must also take into account that on average 6.8 decision makers are involved in the decision process. Add the fact, that several members of that team my change roles or responsibilities within the sales cycle making it more difficult to create consensus. The more proactive the team can be at getting ahead of those changes, the better.

  • CRM - This system might be the most valuable tool that a company can use to conduct business if used properly. Customer relationships matter most and a CRM can help you keep track of those relationships as well as every touchpoint you have had with a customer. This helps paint a clear picture of what's going on and also reveals opportunities that you may have otherwise over looked.

  • Marketing Automation - Beyond helping to save time and money, it's been proven to increase revenue and ROI. In addition, it allows the marketing team to focus more on an effective strategy rather than ensuring repetitive tasks are completed on time.

  • Onboarding/Training - Bringing in new sales representatives can be expensive and the time it takes them to ramp up to full-productivity is a significant amount of lost revenue. It has also been shown that 87% of training content is forgotten within weeks. This demonstrates the need for ongoing, dynamic training. This can be achieved with tech-enabled on-boarding tools that not only allow sales reps to take advantage of on-demand training, but help them be able to reference back to things they make have forgotten to get them up and running faster and provide them with a tune-up when they need it - without the need for a formal training session and time out of the field.

  • Account-based Marketing (ABM) - ABM has proven over time to provide significant ROI because it enables collaboration across the organization to meet the unique goals of the client. In the past, due to cost and complexity, ABM was left to large enterprises to focus on a few highly-valuable accounts. Now with new marketing tech and tools, organizations of all sizes can take advantage of this highly effective strategy to personalize outreach to targeted accounts.

Stop before talking to tech vendors

There is a ton of new sales and marketing tech available. And, there is more coming! However, we have to stop before introducing new tech just because it exists. The more cost-effective method that will lead to better long-term outcomes is to take a step back and look at where the gaps exist in what we currently have and then find tech that helps us fill in those gaps. In addition, leaders must be cognizant of how to communicate with the sales and marketing team the reason the new tech is being introduce and how it empowers them to achieve their goals more efficiently or effectively. 

Our friends over at Vendor Neutral have a free tool that short cuts your salestech selection process. You’ll get a customized report instantly, showing the technology to consider based on your unique needs. Powerful stuff. We encourage you to click here if you’re looking for a tool that can help you with your salestech buying decisions

 

A Military Approach to Alignment: One Team, One Fight.

This guest blog was written by Ted Corbeill

I am a recently retired Marine Corps Intelligence Officer who is leveraging military best practices to add value through Sales Enablement.  As I’ve worked to develop and run data-driven sales campaigns, I’ve experienced difficulties stemming from a lack of alignment between Sales and Marketing.  This lack of team work is something I’m not accustomed to, but something that could be overcome by adopting a military mindset.

One Team, One Fight

To coordinate military operations, Marines use the concept of "main effort" and "supporting effort."  The main effort is the commander's primary bid for success and tasked with accomplishing the mission (normally the infantry).  The supporting effort is responsible for ensuring the success of the main effort (normally includes logistics, intelligence, supporting fires, admin, etc.). 

During execution, the focus remains steadfast on mission accomplishment.  If the main effort fails, we all fail.  Therefore, when faced with a decision the supporting effort simply asks: How can I best support the main effort to enable them to accomplish the mission? 

Let’s apply this concept to Sales Enablement.  I consider the sales force to be the main effort and Sales Enablement to be the supporting effort.  Sales is the CEO’s primary bid for success to hit his/her revenue targets.  Sales Enablement is responsible for accomplishing the mission by ensuring sales professionals, the main effort, are highly trained, armed with competitive offerings, and focused on highly qualified leads to lead to a high likelihood of success.  If they don’t hit their numbers, everyone fails.

Two primary ways that Marketing can best support Sales

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1.     Focus sales related activities - My career in military intelligence taught me that timely, accurate, and relevant data is critical to successful execution.  It drives planning and operations; especially offensive operations.  Let me give you an analogy: you’re tasked to destroy an enemy position.  Without good intelligence regarding the enemy’s location, you would be forced to conduct “movement to contact” patrols (i.e., search the area until you happen upon them).  But if you’re provided timely, relevant, and accurate intelligence, you can plan a deliberate, targeting raid at the decisive time and place where you have the advantage and maximize your chance of success.

Sales can be thought of in the same way, especially with new client pursuits.  Without timely, accurate, and relevant data on sales leads, your sales teams are forced to conduct generic prospecting activities (e.g., cold calling). However with timely, accurate, and relevant market intelligence, they could plan a deliberate, focused sales engagement with relevant messaging targeting qualified leads. 

 

2.     Reinforcing sales related activities - Like supporting arms (artillery or air strikes), marketing can prep the objective to increase the chances of a successful engagement.  Sales campaign specific digital marketing messaging targeted at the campaign prospect list can raise buyer awareness and provide a warm call opportunity where the sales reps are following up and reinforcing the initial messaging.  In some cases, these marketing efforts can produce inbound leads that help support prospecting activities. 

Get Aligned in the Fight

Adapting a one team, one fight mentality can be an excellent way to achieve Sales and Marketing Alignment focused on achieving overall revenue goals.  It’s just one of many military best practices I’ve adopted to create sales enablement programs that drive revenue growth through data-drive insights, business innovation, and collaboration.  You don’t need to have served to adopt these practices at your own organizations.

 

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Ted Corbeill is a recently retired Marine Major who is leveraging his military experience to build and lead innovative sales enablement programs to drive revenue growth through data-driven insights, business innovation, and collaboration at DXC Technology.  Before being recruited by DXC Technology (then Hewlett Packard Enterprise), he was a Business Development Executive for a systems integration firm specializing in industrial automation. He is also a Founding Member of the Sales Enablement Society, Dallas Chapter.  Ted received his MBA in Management Information Systems from Iowa State University and his BS in Commerce from the University of Virginia.

The Moment I Knew Sales+Marketing = Genius!

One of the things that I thought a lot about last year was when did I take a stand to say that “Sales and Marketing not only should work together better but they must for the survival of the business.” After much thought, the catalyst event came to mind. This event was so pivotal for me because I not only experienced a change in myself but I witnessed a change in my colleagues as well. So what happened?

I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.

— Mother Teresa

Many years ago I was attending a typical sales meeting. These meetings usually were put together to talk about the state of the business, allow people on the team to network, share best practices, etc. Sometimes these meetings were fruitful and allowed for colleagues to think about the business in a different way; many times even energizing folks to get out there and sell better. More often than not, however, they were too frequent and a superfluous repetition of the same stuff we talked about in the last meetings.

This meeting, however, was differet - little did I know. Our manager had invited someone from the Marketing team to come talk about a new initiative that they were launching aimed at helping Sales become more efficient in selling to customers. While the strategy was not groundbreaking for most marketers it was a concept that wasn’t really common in Sales. What this marketer did so eloquently was explain why the Marketing team thought using this framework was important for the company, how it would help Sales sell more efficiently, and how it could be implemented by each individual in the room as soon as the next day.

The spark of change

And that is when it hit me. This wasn’t just some new strategy mandated from the Ivory Tower of Marketing because they didn’t have anything else better to do, No, this was a tool that could actually help me do my job better. Now it made sense. And not only did it make sense for me but I could see it also made sense for my colleagues. There was an excitement after the presentation that was not typical for a sales meeting. My colleagues were asking questions and trying to figure out with which customers they were going to target first with this new tool. And the questions weren’t those “I just need to seem engaged so my boss thinks I care and that I’m a leader” questions. These were genuine questions to gain a better understanding.
 

From this point on, I recognized the power of open dialogue between Sales and Marketing. What an opportunity to take advantage of! Each group has skills that are uniquely theirs and they should be celebrated, however when each group is able to understand more precisely how their actions impact the other group it creates a powerful synergy that leads to success.

Beginning doesn't have to be hard

Beginning the journey to Sales and Marketing alignment doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. It can begin with something as simple as a conversation to share ideas.

Empower people with knowledge so they may excel at what they are good at.
— Jeff Davis

Feedback is Bullshit Without a Loop

Many larger organizations by now know or should know they need to be more agile/entrepreneurial in order to survive. However, this can be extremely challenging in a larger organization for several reasons. One that seems more challenging than it has to be is establishing a structured feedback loop between Sales and Marketing. The reason this feedback loop is critical is that it allows the organization to iterate faster because Marketing gets real-time feedback from the best market research provider – Sales (which is also free). As mentioned in The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, it’s about getting “…through the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop with the minimum amount of effort”.

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This data is valuable and necessary. Who best to tell you what the customer really thinks about your product and what should be modified? Enterprise software like Salesforce has functionality that allows for this to happen. A company can start with something as innocuous as a general email address that Marketing can scan to get a pulse of what is happening in the market.

Acting on customer feedback is also key

  1. It allows the customer to know that you are listening to them and willing to respond with product/service modifications.
  2. It also demonstrates to Sales that the organization recognizes them as a partner in the business decision-making process. When Sales feels appreciated it is a tremendous motivator for them to be more invested in the entire selling process.

So…….no matter what method, having a structured feedback loop is important. Just creating a “process” is only one part of the story. In addition, the organization must create a level of trust within Sales to feel comfortable sharing both positive and negative feedback. Without a culture that rewards transparency you might as well not have a feedback mechanism because you will only get glowing reviews and other nonsense so people get recognized for sharing the best reviews from customers. This type of relationship is completely counterproductive and will be a waste of everyone’s time. If you want real feedback, reward real feedback. It will be invaluable to the success of the organization.

It’s like the old saying…Garbage In Garbage Out (GIGO).

Here's What Working at NASA Taught me About Being a Better Marketer

During my time in college, I had the honor of working at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. As a mechanical engineering student, it was my dream job. I would get the chance to work in the space industry, something my 7th-grade science teacher had inspired me to do. It was an opportunity to go to adult space camp. And boy was it fun! Where else do you get a chance to meet career astronauts, train on the shuttle simulator, and sit in mission control where the famous words "Houston....we have a problem" were spoken? And even though I gained a wealth of amazing and memorable experiences, the one that stands out the most was learning how to influence without authority. Of course, back then I didn't know what it was called—but now I understand clearly what lesson I gained from my internship experience.

You can't get things done without people

One of the things you learn very early on as an engineer is that it's a team sport—much like marketing. You simply can't finish projects working in a silo. Can you imagine how many engineers it took to build the International Space Station (ISS) or the Mars Rover?

In business, you typically "own" an aspect of a project and work with others to make it happen. Most projects in a business environment are consensus-driven.

I got the chance to work on testing the joint seals of the ISS to make sure they wouldn't let air in while in space. It was a complicated testing setup that required me to ask for help from many colleagues from different departments.

As I approached the middle of my project, I realized that I needed to have parts made in the machine shop. I was quickly warned that it would take forever to manufacture the parts and that I ought to take that into account for planning purposes. When I asked why that was, I was told that the machine shop workers belonged to a union and simply took their time. I was not satisfied with that answer.

Marketing is a team sport. Learn to work with others

A little respect goes a long way in building relationships

I was on a deadline because I had to return to college, but I had to figure out something about the parts because I refused to leave my internship without a completed project.

During my free time, I went to the office of the manufacturing facility manager. I explained that I was an intern and wanted to learn more about how the facility worked and how my project would come to life. He was shocked that I had asked, and surprisingly, he was more than happy to show me his domain.

What I learned from that tour was invaluable. One welder told me "You must be a new engineer. The others never come over here." And it was then that I not only gained respect from the crew in the machine shop, but also understood that in order to get things done, I needed to make my projects personal—not just a job number from some random engineer.

You have to understand how to execute the tactics to set the right strategy

From then on, I went to the machine shop on a regular basis. Sometimes I just said "Hi" and other times I asked the crew to teach me how the machines worked. I was not only building relationships with the people that I depended on to manufacture the parts I needed, but also learning exactly how the parts that I had designed on paper were built.

I was starting to understand the connection between design and product. By the end of my internship, my project was completed ahead of time. What's more surprising, I was able to get some of my projects pushed through faster than senior engineers simply because I went down to the machine shop floor and asked for a little help.

Marketers operate in a world that requires building consensus and getting people to do things without being their boss. It's a delicate balance of driving strategy and preserving relationships. It also requires the ability to communicate clearly and articulate your vision so that others can understand what you and the team are trying to accomplish.

Great marketers can balance driving strategy and preserving relationships.

A key aspect of creating strategy that many marketers miss is understanding the tactical implications of their decisions to the front line; in other words, understanding exactly how their ideas will be executed. While working at NASA, I learned a valuable life and career lesson. I now understand the importance of being able to work with people to achieve breakthroughs for the team.

Best holiday gifts for Sales from Marketing

For many sales leaders Sales and Marketing Alignment might look like a tall order that may have marginal impact on the business. We, however, have an overwhelming amount of data that suggest that alignment is one of the effective strategies in impacting revenue growth. 

In a previous post I shared a study that showed us that aligned business showed significant improvement on 6 key business metrics:

  • Growth in number of qualified leads
  • Increase in lead conversation rates
  • Growth in new account acquisition
  • Growth in customer retention rates
  • Growth in average account billing size (Increase in order size)
  • Revenue growth

Even with a forward-thinking sales executive, the question still remains - what should I be asking from my marketing colleagues as we move toward alignment. In any organization if you want salespeople to make a significant change in their behavior you are going to have to sell them on how it is going to help them sell more effectively. Thus, the sales leader must be able to clearly articulate exactly how completing alignment activities will help them achieve quota. 

What the CMO CAN bring to the table

In a March 2015 study authored by Laura Ramos at Forrester Research, B2B CMOs where asked what was the most important thing they could do to help sales succeed. I think this is a really poignant question as it helps sales executives know what exactly marketing can offer them and empowers them to explore how their marketing teams can offer the same benefits. The top five based on the study were as follows:

  • Increase the productivity of customer/opportunity acquisition.
  • Target the right accounts and help sales pursue them. 
  • Develop the right content to increase brand awareness
  • Supply sales with tools to frame conversations in customers terms
  • Bring customers together to explore topics and educate them. 
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Get your wishlist together

This list can be a starting point for a sales leader as he/she evaluates the proposal of aligning with marketing. Even with an overwhelming amount of evidence of the benefits of better alignment, leaders must still keep in mind that part of their job will be changing the hearts and minds of many who have a done it a certain way for a long time. If we focus on the opportunity of alignment we can more easily get our colleagues on board and motivate them to want to collaborate with each other.