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 Buyers 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. 

piechartsfordavis.jpg

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.

alignmentisworththeeffortchart.jpg

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.

lastchartforjeffdavis.jpg

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

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 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!

you me and we sharing faces.jpg

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. 

 

 

 

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

helping get up the mountain.jpg

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.

 

Ted Corbeil headshot.png

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”.

feedback loop.png

 

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. 
wishlist_for_santa.jpg

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.   

Is it time for a new sales funnel?

There has been talk lately of the traditional sales funnel being outdated as it does not truly capture the way in which B2B customers interact with sellers today. It has been estimated that buyers are 57% through the buying process before they reach out to vendors and that during that buying process the average size of the purchasing group is now 5.4 people [CEB]. With these two changes in the market it can be understood that the buyer's journey is no longer linear. 

In fact, more and more business are moving to a subscription business model where renewals and upsells hold significant importance. How does this change the way we look at customers? We can no longer just focus on closing a deal as the future value of the customer is too important. We have to reframe how we engage with prospects and look at establishing a relationship that will lead to future growth opportunities. This new model is referred to as a continuous engagement model. It focuses on 4 stages - Find, Engage, Close and Grow

 Figure: The Accenture Dynamic Customer Experience Model

Figure: The Accenture Dynamic Customer Experience Model

The benefit of this model is it more accurately captures the behaviors of prospect as they seek information from a myriad of sources to help them make informed decisions. Also, depending on the timing of their buying cycle they may engage with us via a webinar, email, event or demo then go silent and re-engage with us at future date. The current sales funnel might not accurately capture that interaction and consider it a closed-lost deal. However, if a sales team is aligned with their marketing colleagues we can discuss how to stay engaged with the prospect account that keeps our solution top of mind and continues to give them a compelling reason to interact with us. 

While I do agree the continuous engagement model more accurately depicts how prospects interact with sellers in today's market, I think it can be challenging to quantify the conversion rates for each stage thus making it more difficult for the sales organization to forecast what they need to do in order to achieve revenue targets. In contrast, this model does help each group, if they are aligned, better understand the "pull through" opportunity when the prospect engages with the company. 

Is the current sales funnel out of date?I don't think completely. However, what we do know is that more companies are acting like subscription businesses and so we have to adopt models that help us better understand our business and what is really happening with our prospect interactions. I think before moving to the continuous engagement model fully, an organization will have to commit to better aligning sales and marketing so that they can use the model to inform what decisions should be made at each stage of engagement and what action or content should be used to support that event in the best way. 

Creating “Togetherness” to Drive Revenue Growth

In today’s business environment it is becoming more and more important to have strong alignment between Sales and Marketing. The Aberdeen Group’s research shows that companies that optimize the marketing/sales relationship grow revenue 32% faster. This is clear evidence that the dysfunctional and sometimes toxic relationship between these two functions can no longer exist if the organization is to succeed against the competition. Some may ask then why don’t we just appoint an executive, like a Chief Revenue Officer, and make them work together?

definition of sma alignment.jpg

My simple answer is….management is not the only problem. There needs to be a fundamental shift in the way these two functions see each other and a clearer understand of their interdependence. I call it creating “Togetherness”. It’s that sense of understanding that we are all in this together and if we don’t work together well we won’t be able to generate revenue and then we all loose. It’s when Marketing thinks about the impact that their work has on generating revenue and ask how will Sales be able to execute this strategy. It’s when Sales interacts with customers, learns new insights and proactively thinks that I need to share this information with Marketing to add to the collective knowledge of the company. It’s when both Sales and Marketing understand that everything they do should be focused on generating revenue for the company. This is “Togetherness”.

Companies that optimize the marketing/sales relationship grow revenue 32% faster.
— Aberdeen Group, 2016

Having a career in both Sales and Marketing, I have seen first-hand the missed opportunities for each group to work together better. The majority of the times I have witnessed an alarming misunderstanding of the value their peers of the other function bring to the table. It’s estimated that Sales reps ignore 50% of marketing leads [Source: The B2B Lead]. Anytime you have either Sales or Marketing dismissing the work of the other, you have an enormous problem in your organization. The perfect strategy without execution is worthless. I cannot think of two business functions that need each other more than Sales and Marketing. So I propose doing more to help Sales and Marketing understand the value of their colleagues.

The perfect strategy without execution is worthless
— Jeff Davis

What can Sales teach Marketing?


One of the many missed opportunities that I have noticed is involving Sales early in the planning process for the brand/product strategy. Marketing usually knows the macro-level market better than Sales. However, when it comes to understanding the potential roadblocks to execution and the subtleties of tactical delivery, Sales almost always understands this better. Many times there are shifts in the environment that Marketing is not aware yet. By having Sales on board working in tandem, Marketing can avoid major avoidable missteps that can help them be more competitive.

I would suggest a few things to Marketing:

  • Include Sales early in the development of strategy for the brand/product
  • Review the viability of realistic execution when it comes to establishing strategies
  • Continuously elicit feedback from Sales and use this data to help evaluate business KPIs (key performance indicators)

There is a wealth of knowledge that both Sales and Marketing can share with each other. If the organization is truly committed to making this relationship work they must invest the time to share best practices between these two teams so they can learn to appreciate one another. When it comes to Sales and Marketing Alignment, achieving “Togetherness” is the ultimate goal.

 


 

 


 

What Marketing Can Do for Sales to Help Them Win! [Podcast]

I was extremely excited to have the opportunity to have a conversation with Will Barron over at The Salesman Podcast about Sales and Marketing Alignment. I had the chance to share my thoughts on how salespeople can leverage their marketing colleagues to close more business.

In this episode, I talk about the following:

  1. What exactly Marketing can do for salespeople, the information Sales can ask for and how Marketing can directly support Sales in prospecting.
  2. An overview of what Marketing is doing that Sales is simply just not aware of. (HINT: It involves helping close more deals.)

Hope you enjoy and share the episode!

The original podcast episode link can be found here

Alignment Is About People, Not Technology [Podcast]

Very excited to have the chance to share my thoughts on Sales and Marketing Alignment strategy on The Quotable Podcast by Salesforce. Take a listen...

We have to understand how the buyer goes through this journey with us and then adapt our processes to fit that.
— Jeff Davis

Focus on the opportunity of Alignment

As I dig deeper into understanding how to achieve Sales and Marketing Alignment, I find the need to remind myself that all is not lost and we should focus on what can be. I, like everyone else, has experienced setbacks, disappointments and downright failures - getting the dream job that turned out to be a nightmare, moving to a new city full of hope and excitement about a new chapter only to find it was completely different than what I expected, having a manager that was neurotically insecure and treated everyone in their path terribly, questioning my professional value...the list goes on.

What helped me move on was training my mind to focus on what I learned during those experiences and get excited about the opportunity for what was next - for me. I took that time of discouragement to learn how successful people did it with material like the YouTube video series created by Evan Carmichael. I became of student of success. 

I say all this to offer that CEOs and executives focus on the "opportunity of alignment" to help employees understand the vision of why things must and should change between Sales and Marketing. Yes, focusing on negative things is sticky and gets people's attention. It even gets people to act in the short term. Misalignment, however, is not a technology, product or process issue. It's a people issue. And, if you want to change hearts and minds, you need to "sell" what can be.

What if...

  • ...sales followed up on the majority of leads from marketing because they trusted they were high quality, worth their time and most likely would lead to new business. 
  • ...sales and marketing could go into large key accounts together, wow the team and close business.
  • ...marketing really understood the type of collateral support Sales needed and could focus their extra time on innovative marketing strategies that took the customer experience to the next level.
  • ...as a part of on-boarding each team learned how to leverage the other to be able to do their jobs even better.
  • ...sales and marketing received awards for working together to create significant business wins. 
What-If-Analysis.jpg

As leaders we must focus on painting a picture of what the B2B business world could look like if/when we get this thing moving in the right direction. I want to work in a world of possibility not dwindling options. Let's give people a vision to strive for instead of the fear of what is inevitable if we do nothing.

Utilize the power of - "What if?"

6 Business Performance Metrics of Aligned Organizations

When talking about aligning Sales and Marketing, it is imperative to focus on its impact on business performance. I continue to stress the need for all of us as leaders to propagate insights from credible research to the C-suite so that leaders of the organization can make informed decisions as it relates to sales and marketing alignment strategy.  This will assist in building a strong business case for allocating resources to improving alignment.

Arguably, there are no funcitonal areas in the organization more responsible for creating revenue than sales and marketing
— Robert M. Peterson, Ph.D et al

I had the privilege of recently reading a study conducted by Northern Illinois University in conjunction with Miller Heiman (Journal of Selling - Volume 15, Number 1). The study was titled "The Upside of Sales and Marketing Alignment". In the study, they were able to uncover 6 performance metrics that resulted from sales and marketing alignment. Detailed findings from the study can be seen below in Figure 1. They share that Sales and Marketing alignment leads to the following 6 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
 Figure 1: Likelihood of Improved Results Among Aligned Organizations

Figure 1: Likelihood of Improved Results Among Aligned Organizations

Marketing's role in Collaboration

The study also revealed that the best approach to lead generation involves both the sales and marketing function. With so many b2b businesses struggling to generate a significant volume of quality leads, this finding is extremely important. What this means is that Marketing can not successfully do this alone and needs input from Sales to get it right. This is where having a Feedback Loop in place becomes imperative. Salespeople are in the field/on the phone every day talking with prospective customers and they are many times the first to hear what is working and what is not. The organization must use this tribal knowledge to iterate on strategy to attract new and qualified leads for the business. The study also demonstrated that Marketing must go beyond just lead generation to acquire more customers and should also strive to:

  • Enhance the quality of customer relationships
  • Increase contact density
  • Build contact authority inside the customer's organization
The marketing function in an aligned organization does not stop at lead generation for customer acquisition. Rather, when working together with the sales team, it continually strives to enhance the quality of customer relationships, increase contact density, and build contact authority insde the customer’s organization.
— Robert M. Peterson, Ph.D. et al

Why Sales doesn't value collaboration

There were also some significant findings on why Sales is resistance to sometimes working with Marketing in a collaborative way. Salespeople will always defer to activities they view as adding customer value in the attempt to close more business. If Marketing is not able to communicate how the activities they do help in creating customer value, salespeople may "harbor prejudice, disrespect, and distrust for marketers." It then is the job of management to demonstrate the value that both teams bring to each other in order to encourage them in being credible allies. This effort must include more than just interaction and must be focused on actual collaboration which would entail information sharing, mutual understanding, and a common vision. This is why I believe my three-part framework for alignment is a credible start to moving the organization toward alignment. The framework focuses on taking a System Approach to the customer, creation of Shared Goals, and establishing a formal Feedback Loop for Sales and Marketing to share business intelligence. 

 Figure 2: A Sales and Marketing Alignment Framework

Figure 2: A Sales and Marketing Alignment Framework

Insight for the C-suite

I think at this point, many leaders in the organization know about the importance of aligning Sales and Marketing or at least have seen the increase in focus on this topic. What I think this study does is further help us understand the precise business metrics that are influenced by alignment. This makes having the conversation about business outcomes a bit easier. We can identify if these identified outcomes (i.e. revenue growth, increase in lead conversion rates, etc.) are important to the overall strategy of the business and then make a case for why putting more resources toward alignment is not only a necessary but imperative decision in moving the organization to where it needs to be to achieve business goals.  

4 Things Salespeople Can Learn From Marketing

I’ve always said that marketers can learn a lot from salespeople and the same is true in reverse. One difference that great salespeople have is that they understand the value of time. The key killer of using time effectively is lack of direction. Marketers have the discipline of thinking strategically about the business and taking the actions needed to respond. Salespeople should do this as well.

Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.
— Zig Zigler

Doing this exercise helps salespeople in that it forces them to think about their territory, identify high potential targets, and effectively go after the business.

What I propose is using the fundamental Marketing Mix framework (aka the 4 P’s) and transforming it into a tool for salespeople.

The 4 P’s for Sales

Product – Know you product inside and out. Good sales people are well informed about their product and understand the solution it offers to the customer.

Place – Know where your customers are…and then go there. Go beyond just selling to people where all the other vendors are and understand where they go to get information about making decisions about buying your products. Blogs, social media, physical locations, etc. If you are there you can be a part of the conversation. If you are not…your competition probably is.

Price – Understand the buying decision for your target customer. What “price” do they have to pay to buy your product? Their time? Reputation? Just the pain of doing something different? The better you understand what the customer has to give up in order to buy your product the better you can proactively respond to their potential concern or objection.

Promotion – How do you make the customer aware not only that your product exist but why they should care? This is really about consultative selling and positioning the product in a way that resonates with the potential customer.

Mind your business

Salespeople should and typically know their business better than anyone. But there is always time to step back and think like a marketer. It will help in being more focused and more strategic. In the end, it makes life easier and will translate into more sales.

 

 

Want to Better Align Sales and Marketing? Consider Storytelling

This guest blog post was written by Jeremy Shere over at tribknowledge.com

Ask anyone in marketing or sales if they think the functions need to be better aligned, and they’ll almost certainly respond with an unqualified “Yes!” Then ask how we ought to break down the barriers keeping marketing and sales at arm’s length, and you’ll likely get a litany of shopworn, if valid, ideas—marketing and sales need better channels of communication … we need to talk each other’s language … marketing and sales leaders need to spearhead the alignment.

 

And yet, these things rarely seem to happen. Why? Many factors contribute, but I’d like to suggest that, in many ways, it comes down to storytelling, or more precisely, a problem with the stories that marketing and sales leaders tell themselves about themselves and about each other. For sales and marketing to become better aligned, senior leadership, as well as managers and rank-and-file employees, need to revise these stories in a way that enables both functions to reimagine who they are, what they do, and how they can best serve each other to work toward a common goal.

 

Why Stories Matter

It’s something of a cliché that sales reps need to be good storytellers. And it’s the role of marketing, as commonly understood, to provide reps with the stories they need to close deals. I’m suggesting that in order to do this effectively, marketing and sales need to take a step back and reevaluate not just their respective roles but the internal stories they tell to reinforce and entrench those roles—stories that all too often serve to erect and solidify barriers.

 

Before drilling down into what that means and what it looks like, we need to consider how storytelling works and why it matters. Telling stories is a uniquely human endeavor. No other creature on Earth has the ability to imagine a scenario, bring it to life with language (written, verbal, pictorial, etc.), and share it with others who may respond with stories of their own. Every culture around the world features some form of storytelling, and there’s strong evidence that modern humans dating back to prehistoric times have relied on storytelling to solidify social networks by marshaling storytelling’s unique ability to elicit understanding, trust, and empathy. Storytelling may have evolved in the first place as a way to assert control over the environment by finding meaningful patterns in the chaos of nature. Furthermore, consciousness itself, our sense of who we are and how we want to be perceived, can be seen as a type of what psychologists calls “narrative identity,” comprised of the stories we tell ourselves, and others, about ourselves.

 

Companies large and small use storytelling for a similar reason—to establish an identity that resonates internally and externally. Companies craft stories to build and promote a brand; to foster corporate culture; and to inspire and motivate employees. And most companies understand that, at least when it comes to brand building, storytelling is a dynamic process. As the global economy evolves, so must the stories companies tell to remain competitive and meet the demands of a rapidly evolving customer base. But when it comes to internal storytelling, too often those stories remain stagnant as leaders fail to revise them to keep pace with industry trends. After all, it’s much easier to not meddle with the tried and true stories that make employees feel comfortable in their roles and that have served the company well in the past.

 

But the internal stories that companies rely on cannot be immune to the forces reshaping the business landscape, especially insofar as those forces affect buyer behavior. The storytelling impulse may be hardwired into our brains, but the stories we tell are not fixed. They evolve and change and can be deliberately edited and rewritten to foster behavioral and cognitive change. That’s how psychotherapists help their patients; a similar tactic can help sales and marketing find common ground.

We need to look hard at the stories we create, and wrestle with them. Retell and retell them, and work with them like clay. It is in the retelling and returning that they give us their wisdom.
— Marni Gillard

 Stories marketing and sales tell themselves about themselves

A typical story that marketing leaders tell themselves and their teams may go something like this … Our job as writers, designers, and other “creatives” is to use our skills and business savvy to produce content that helps sales reps connect with customers and close deals. Of course, it’s important that we work with sales, but while they’re focused on dealing with individual prospects and serving existing customers, we have a broader view of the market and are uniquely positioned tell stories that speak to a wide range of potential customers. It’s up to the sales reps to figure out how to use the brochures, datasheets, blog posts, and everything else we create for them. Sure, it would be great to collaborate more closely with sales, but we’re already pressed just to keep up with the projects coming down the pike.

 

Meanwhile, sales leaders tell stories that may go something like this … While we appreciate marketing’s efforts to create content for us, the truth is that those materials are often useless, focusing way too much on our company and our products and services and not nearly enough on prospects and their business. And so, we end up creating our own materials. We’re grinding every day to win new business and protect and grow our market share, fending off competitors, handling objections, and struggling to differentiate the products and services we sell. In the absence of relevant marketing materials, we do what we have to do to get things done.

 

See the problem with these stories? They’re self-focused, defensive, and aimed more at defending territory instead of reaching across barriers and sparking genuine collaboration. When sales and marketing leaders tell these stories often enough, they become entrenched and feed the forces of inertia that lead to both functions doing the same old thing for no better reason than that’s how it’s always been done. Even if sales and marketing leaders know better and recognize the need for change, they convince themselves and their teams that change is too hard and time consuming. And so, the status quo remains entrenched.

 

What happens when marketing and sales leaders revise their stories?

But even the most seemingly calcified stories are not immutable. Much like a good psychotherapist can help a depressed or anxious patient gain control over the negative thoughts clouding their mind by interrupting the narrative feeding those thoughts, savvy marketing and sales leaders can better align marketing and sales by revising the stories that define each functions’ boundaries. Doing so requires a new and frankly more honest and open approach to telling those stories.

story coming out of letters.jpg

A revised narrative—one crafted and articulated by marketing and sales leaders working together--might look like this: The overarching goal of this company is to maximize profits by selling as many of our products and services as possible. Everyone who works here is dedicated to that goal, and to that end everyone must recognize that our sales reps are the key players. By virtue of their direct and constant interactions with prospects and existing customers, our reps have the best and deepest knowledge about what matters most to those people and what it takes to convert a prospect into a paying customer. Consequently, everyone else in the company needs to be constantly engaging with our reps and sales leaders to learn from them. Especially marketing. Marketing directors, managers, writers, and designers need to use what they learn from reps about the swiftly evolving realities of buyer behavior and psychology to produce materials that truly support reps’ efforts to position themselves as strategic partners. In practice, this probably means producing fewer product-focused datasheets and brochures and blog posts and producing more content aimed at helping reps educate prospects about how industry trends will affect their business. Marketing can also use their storytelling and content production skills to create content that helps reps share best practices and learn from each other.

 

Now, this version of the story may seem reasonable in theory, but in reality, it often rubs against the grain, especially in organizations that pride themselves on being non-hierarchical and where no one function is more important than or subservient to another. But even the most advanced, liberal companies are hierarchical to one degree or another, and recognizing this reality doesn’t have to constrain creativity and block the flow of ideas. In fact, telling stories that embrace this hierarchy can unleash creativity and generate new ideas.

 

For example, if marketing was to fully embrace its role as an enabler of sales and to that end work closely with reps to understand what kind of content they need, marketing would get hip to new concepts and ideas for content. For example, marketers may learn that sales reps value learning from each other; newer reps, especially, are eager to learn from their more experienced colleagues. And so, marketers could then use their creative powers to create materials that facilitate peer learning by interviewing experience reps and creating stories in various media to share that knowledge and experience with the entire sales force.

 

Marketers may also learn from sales that email, while convenient, is often not an effective way to communicate with and enable on-the-go sales reps because the reps don’t have time to check and read all of their mail. So, instead of crafting and pushing out yet another email-based newsletter, marketers should consider other channels, such as audio and video.

 

Leaders must lead

The point bears repeating: none of what I describe above will happen unless marketing and sales leaders make it happen. No matter how much marketing and sales foot soldiers may grumble about their respective silos, the walls won’t come down unless their bosses and their bosses’ bosses take the lead in fomenting change. And to do that, senior leaders must change the stories that undergird and fortify the status quo.

 

Revising well-established stories is not easy. People tend to cling to the stories they know and resist attempts to change those stories or replace them with new ones. But the effort is worthwhile; true change, and better alignment between marketing and sales, can’t happen without it.


Jeremy Shere Headshot.jpg

Jeremy Shere is founder of and lead producer for Tribal Knowledge, a company that helps businesses reinforce sales training through peer learning by producing audio and video stories featuring sales reps sharing best practices and insights from the field.

Jeremy is also a published author and producer of the forthcoming "The Sales Training & Coaching Podcast."