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."

Get Aligned or Lose Your Competitive Edge

I do my best to share Sales and Marketing Alignment thought-leadership whenever possible. The video below is of Tracey Eiler, VP Marketing at InsideSales. She talks candidly about why Sales and Marketing Alignment is such a hot topic right now and why executives are being forced to address it or lose their competitive edge. 

Be sure to subscribe to The Alignment Blog Newsletter (here) to get monthly updates on curated content about Sales and Marketing Alignment. I hope you enjoy!

That Functional Approach to Sales and Marketing is Killing Your Business!

Let’s start by defining a System Approach (closed loop system) to Sales and Marketing alignment. 

A closed loop system tracks inputs from the front end, all the way to the results at the back end, and provides reporting for the entire process.

Why do I think a system approach is required to increase Sales and Marketing alignment? Well…today’s business environment is less about size and more about adaptability (even Charles Darwin would agree). How can you be adaptable if you are not able to work together efficiently?

Technology encourages competition


Technology has assisted in evening the playing field thus, giving smaller, more agile companies an advantage. We are no longer just able to put our heads down and “do our work”. It is imperative for the organization to achieve alignment in what needs to be accomplished for the survival of the whole. Arguably, this relationship is nowhere more important than between Sales and Marketing. Many Sales and Marketing organizations today work like an uncoordinated team during a 3-legged race at the family reunion. Even though the goal should be the same – to cross the finish line first – they have no coordinated effort and are only on the same team because they are forcibly linked together. What if the organs in your body worked together in that manner? Do you really think your heart is more important than your liver?

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.
— Charles Darwin

The key difference between a functional versus a system approach is not communication…but communication style. The vulnerability of operating in siloed functions is that the output is only as good as the input. It’s as simple as what we learned in high school algebra: f(x) = 3x +4. If you put ill-informed, inaccurate, biased information into the function how can you expect to achieve magically superior outputs?! This is essentially what companies are doing that allows one group to tell another group what to do without any established feedback loop. In addition, this myopic action also explains why the iteration process, if it even exists, takes an incredibly long time. Simply put, this type of relationship is unsustainable if attempting to achieve success.

Strategies to move toward a System approach to customers

  • Discourage relationship hierarchy between Sales and Marketing.
  • Create a method for honest/candid feedback between Sales and Marketing that includes more than just leadership.
  • Ensure that everyone’s goals and incentives are aligned.
  • Reward inter-functional work that leads to results.
  • Conduct alignment meetings regularly to review and adjust business strategy as needed.

 

What I learned at the Sales Enablement Society Meeting

I had the pleasure of speaking at and attending a Sales Enablement Society (SES) meeting recently. SES is an international organization that is dedicated to increasing the visibility of the Sales Enablement function in the organization as well as more acutely defining it's scope and relevancy in moving the company toward better alignment. It's exciting to see more people add to the conversation of how we can better align Sales and Marketing to drive revenue - so I couldn't be happier to be involved with them. 

I was able to share some research that I conducted as well as a recent article published in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) titled "How Aligned is Your Organization?". In my presentation I talked about some of the many reasons that sales and marketing professionals thought there was a "disconnect" when it came to working with their counterparts. Some of the reasons I received from the survey I conducted were:

Reasons for Misalignment

  • Goal misalignment between Sales and Marketing
  • Marketing and Sales don't really have an idea of what the other does on a daily basis
  • Management taking a functional approach instead of a system approach to achieve business goals
  • No established feedback loop to allow Sales and Marketing to iterate strategies based on customer feedback
  • Marketing not understanding the need for Sales to establish and maintain long-term relationships with customers
  • Marketing superiority, Sales pride

HBR takes the conversation up a notch and talks about the reasons for enterprise misalignment. The reason I share this information is that I want to continue to encourage us as leaders to raise the level of the conversation so that we can begin to develop frameworks that help us think more strategically and really move the organization forward in a thoughtful way. In addition, I think it will be these types of educated and informed conversations that will be able to get the attention of the CEO and get him/her to take action. HBR's reasons for enterprise misalignment included the following:

  • Enterprise leaders are unaware of the risks of misalignment.
  • Nobody “owns” enterprise alignment. 
  • Complexity makes enterprise alignment that much harder. 
  • Activity is mistaken for progress.

Beyond my presentation there was great conversation from some very passionate and knowledgable folks. Below are some of my key takeaways for the evening. 

  • The new selling ABC stands for "Always be Curious" when engaging prospects
  • Sales Enablement is critical to both organizational culture as well as sales culture
  • Culture is the way people in the organization think, act and interact
  • Encouraging a culture that allows new ideas to breathe longer is the only way to stay competitive and agile as an organization. 

I look forward to future Sales Enablement Society meetings and hope to have the chance to have more passionate conversations about how to move the organization toward better alignment. If interested in engaging more on this topic with your colleaagues and peers, make sure to check out their upcoming national conference in Dallas on 10/25 - Sales Enablement 2017

4 Metrics You Must Track for Alignment

One of the key distractors to achieving Sales and Marketing Alignment (SMA) is having misaligned goals between Sales and Marketing. It has been estimated that “most companies spend 30-40% of their revenue on Sales and Marketing” [Marketo]. With a spend that high it is imperative that these two functions be moving in the same direction and be able to assess what success looks like. If they are not able to set goals on the same metrics then there is no incentive to work together nor the ability to hold colleagues accountable. This is a dangerous combination for any business.

Most companies spend 30-40% of their revenue on Sales and Marketing
— Marketo

There has been a significant change in how customers buy. With the proliferation of information and influence of social media, customers are more savvy than ever about products/services and don’t engage Sales until much later in the buying process. The image above shows the shift in how the buying process has changed. With that being said, it becomes more important to focus on the customer journey to purchase and making that path as seamless as possible. Where many organizations struggle is the hand-off between Sales and Marketing. Many potential customers will fall out of the funnel for any number of reasons. And, unfortunately in today’s market there exist fewer opportunities to re-engage customers once they have had a poor buying experience. This makes it more important than ever for Sales and Marketing to be aligned through all touch points with potential customers and ensuring that they are getting the attention they require, are presented with the relevant information they seek, and are able to make a purchase when/where/how they want to. This can only be achieved when Sales and Marketing are in-sync.

Drive to Unified Metrics

Of course, there are going to be different metrics that each function tracks that uniquely impact their business. However, performance for the organization should start with looking at an agreed upon and unified dashboard that includes those KPIs that both Sales and Marketing should be held responsible for and need to keep top-of-mind as they go about their business. Leaders must establish a clear set of metrics that both Sales and Marketing leaders are aware of, track on a regular basis, and routinely use to make strategic business decisions. This will also allow sales and marketing colleagues to have a North Star when they are executing their assigned tactics. The question should be…”does what I’m doing help us achieve our goal of XYZ”.

The goal of Sales and Marketing Alignment is to create “Togetherness” where both functions are completely committed to make generating revenue the #1 priority
— Jeff Davis

So what exactly should be those imperative metrics that organizations need to be looking at to ensure SMA is achieved? Of course, this can be challenging for any organization because the way Sales and Marketing look at their business is fundamentally different. Marketing usually takes a long-term strategic view while Sales is more focused on short-term milestones and quota attainment. However, the one metric that should be consistent for any organization focused on SMA is Generating Revenue. End of story. Close the book.

The key metrics used to evaluate SMA performance should be broken down to reflect the Buying Funnel (i.e. top of funnel, middle of funnel, bottom of funnel). This ensures that you can see multiple data points throughout the system and leads to a clearer picture of where bottlenecks may exist

The Sales and Marketing Alignment dashboard must haves:

Percent Attainment to Target Revenue – All conversations should start with the review of where the organization is in regard to attaining the target revenue goal.

Lead Generation Metrics – These metrics should be focused on top of the funnel activities to ensure that the team is getting the attention of high-quality leads. Metrics should include: Increase in SQLs (MoM), Increase in total SQL volume (QoQ), % of leads per marketing channel.

Service-Level Metrics – These metrics should be focused on the middle of the funnel with the objective of getting leads to convert to purchase as quickly and efficiently as possible. Metrics should include: Lead Response Time, % of Leads that exit the Buying Funnel w/o Purchase, Average # of Follow-ups to SQLs.

Revenue Generation Metrics – These metrics should be focused on the bottom of the funnel and the ability to convert leads to purchase. Metrics should include: Average Sales Deal Size, Average Marketing Deal Size, Average Sales Cycle Length, Cost of Sales/Marketing to Revenue Ratio, Average Lead to Customer Close Ratio.

Focus on Strong Metrics

By focusing on metrics that are strong indicators of revenue generation, Sales and Marketing can start to increase the importance of shared goals that will make a difference for the organization. Then by promoting these shared goals throughout the organization the incentives of both groups will become more aligned and team member’s actions will begin to reflect this alignment.
 

What causes Misalignment in an organization?

As the conversation continues around the need for Sales and Marketing Alignment it is easy to focus on what tactics can be executed in order to achieve better alignment. There is great content coming out to help us better understand how to implement Account Based Marketing (ABM), the importance of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and more.  I, however, want to take a step back and ensure that we all understand what is causing the misalignment in the first place. I'm a firm believer that you can't fix a problem until you truly understand the underlying cause(s).

In a recent article published in the Harvard Business Review (HBR), the authors looked at what makes a truly aligned enterprise. In it they discuss alignment being a "tightly managed enterprise value chain" that links the enterprise's purpose, business strategy, organizational capability, resource architecture and management systems. What also came out of this article is four reasons for misalignment within the organization:

Four Reasons for Misaligned Enterprises

  • Enterprise leaders are unaware of the risk of misalignment
  • Nobody "owns" enterprise alignment
  • Complexity makes enterprise alignment that much harder
  • Activity is mistaken for progress

I think that all of these are accurate and valid reasons for why companies are misaligned overall and also highlight why the sales and marketing functions struggle to drive revenue together in the most efficient way. If we are to create a truly robust sales and marketing alignment strategy we must be prepared and willing to address these key issues that HBR has identified as the reasons for why enterprises are not aligned. 

HBR Value Chain.png

 

Asking the right alignment questions

Sales and marketing leaders must ask questions like "Does are CEO understand the risks associated with not aligning Sales and Marketing?", "Is our leadership ready to "own" making sure that all decisions made focus on aligning Sales and Marketing?", etc. This is the only way in which we can really start to have a productive conversation around what strategies need to be implemented to move the organization forward to better alignment. 

While the recent focus on new B2B tech solutions is exciting, many times as HBR states, this activity of adopting new tech solutions is seen as progress without establishing adequate KPIs and reviewing if progress toward driving revenue growth is really being achieved. 

Again, as leaders, let's start with asking the harder questions before potentially wasting time and money on short-term and short-sighted solutions. 

 

Framework for Success: Sales and Marketing Alignment

I think that most B2B leaders across industries would agree that Sales and Marketing Alignment is a necessary transformation that needs to happen. This is a historical relationship that has suffered for many reasons. As more and more focus and information starts to be generated about this alignment, my fear is that executives will lose sight of what is important - the shiny object syndrome. Thus, it is my intent to help drive for clarity while using the great research and insights we get from industry experts. We can have all the greatest insights, research, and thought-leadership, however, if we can't make it actionable for today's leaders then it becomes useless. We need to focus on creating a framework for success.

Organizations without strong marketing and sales alignment are 2.1x as likely to see both marketing and sales teams struggling.  --Aberdeen Group, 2017

 

With that thought in mind, I would like to ask the question -  "What are the common elements of organizations that are getting Sales and Marketing Alignment right?". The reason this question is so important is that we need to focus on those common traits that lead to success. This will allow executives to set business strategies that address these "universal" themes that have a higher likelihood of leading us to success than getting wrapped around specific tactics that may or may not be applicable for each individual business. When we are able to focus on indicators of success that are agnostic to our business we can then tailor strategies that uniquely address our business and then choose the "sexy" tactics that are aligned with those strategies. It takes a lot of discipline, however, for an organization to do this. It is much easier to give a knee-jerk response to the CEO or board by saying "we are going to add X tactic this quarter to drive revenue" when we all know that is not the root cause of the problem.

Common Elements of Successful Alignment

Aberdeen Group published a recent study titled "Foster Marketing and Sales Alignment, or Forget About Hitting Your Goals" that helps us identify some common elements of companies that are getting this alignment issue right. Keep in mind that Aberdeen uses a maturity class framework based on 5 key performance metrics to determine how aligned organizations are around sales and marketing.

5 key performance metrics to evaluate sales and marketing alignment of an organization (Aberdeen):

  • % of companies "effective" or "very effective" at managing profitable marketing and sales operations.
  • Current lead acceptance rate (sales from marketing)
  • Current % of revenue attributed to marketing
  • YoY improvement (decrease) in sales cycle length
  • YoY improvement (increase) in total company quota attainment
common-elements-of-sma-companies-300x194.png

By looking at Figure 5, you will find that the 2nd and 4th element have the highest difference. This is a clear indicator that there is a symbiotic nature to creating success on both sides of the fence. For instance, Marketing is able to be more successful with MQLs, lead gen, etc because they are communicating with Sales and better understand what they should be focusing on. In turn, Sales is more likely to be vested in trying to convert those leads into sales and they will have a higher likelihood of actually closing business because Marketing has already taken the time to "hear" what Sales thinks will lead to successful customers. What I also found notable was that sales and marketing teams are 53% more likely to ensure they are using a relevant value proposition compared to other less aligned organizations. This speaks to the importance of the organization telling consistent, compelling stories to potential buyers.

So, while the top two common elements with the biggest difference as compared to less aligned organizations (marketing success that fuels sales success and vice versa) may be a bit more challenging to execute immediately, the other three (1. relevant value proposition, 2. consistent usage of CRM and related tools and 3. alignment to buyer's journey) may be a bit more tangible as company executives look at starting the journey to better alignment. I think these common elements can start to be woven into the fabric of the business without a complete overhaul or fundamental change in strategy. This will help face less resistance from both groups.

Focus on Frameworks

As companies agree to take on the task of aligning their sales and marketing organizations, I think it will be very important for leaders to step back and really think about what are successful organizations already doing from a strategic standpoint and try to modify their organizations to mirror those traits. We must continue to push for relevant frameworks and best practices that help organizations customize what Alignment means for them.

Launch of The Alignment Blog Newsletter!

I'm excited to announce the launch of The Alignment Blog Newsletter! Its goal is to become the best-curated source of information for CEOs and Sales/Marketing leaders to stay informed about the latest thought-leadership on sales and marketing alignment. With the increased focus on helping these functions work together better to drive revenue, it is more important than ever for business executives to have access to data-driven content that helps give insight on how to do things differently. Subscribe here and share with other professionals that will benefit from this content. Stay tuned for more thought-provoking material soon.

What I learned at the Sales + Marketing Alignment Summit 2.0

Wow!  The Sales + Marketing Alignment Summit 2.0 just happened and I couldn't be happier with the outcome. We had another night of thought-provoking and engaging conversation about how to create a better connection between salespeople and marketers. I had the pleasure of being joined by three experienced professionals that gave us a perspective from Sales (Matt Caroll), Marketing (Nate Turner), and Organizational Change Management (Mariam Huss). I firmly believe if we are going to move this conversation forward and create sustainable frameworks that work, we need multiple, informed viewpoints in the room at the same room - not just Sales talking to Sales and Marketing to Marketing. The objective of the Summit was to explore two questions: "How to convince the CEO that alignment is worth the effort" and "How to deal with the "people part" of alignment". I think before we discuss more tactical solutions we need to deal with big, fundamental questions like these. Thus, in the spirit of creating a collective learning, I want to share what came out of our conversation.

Key Learnings from the Summit

Talking with the CEO

  • An alignment effort must come from the CEO. Sales and Marketing leaders cannot do it alone.
  • Culture change is hard and will not happen overnight
  • Sales and Marketing leadership must make a strong business case for alignment that shows the metrics of how the business will be negatively and positively impacted by the effort
  • Conversations with the CEO should include the positive outcomes of alignment, the negative impact of not doing something and how misalignment effects other areas of the business like product, pricing, customer service, etc
  • Strong communication from the CEO to the organization is necessary to get everyone onboard for this type of fundamental change
sales-and-marketing-are-fighting-300x245.jpg

The "people part" of alignment

  • Alignment is much more than just a b2b tech issue. People are at the heart of this issue. They use the technology.
  • Many in senior leadership perpetuate the negative perceptions of sales and marketing folks because of what they have been through in their career historically
  • Marketing must sell their strategies, initiatives, pilots to Sales and focus on what motivates them to take action - achieving quota
  • Marketing must do a better job of demonstrating to Sales how their efforts are impacting their business (i.e. better leads, shorter sales cycle, etc.)
  • Sales must do a better job of seeing Marketing as a partner and sharing their market intelligence so Marketing can make better decisions to help them
  • Leadership must make the conversations about cold hard metrics to reduce finger pointing. Focus on solutions not who's fault it is.

Final Thoughts

I feel optimistic every time I have conversations like these because I think when we commit to having real conversations with each other in a safe place we can make progress. The point is not to point fingers at who's doing it wrong - No! It's to say how can we help each other to make this easier and do out jobs better. Stay tuned for the next Summit. We will continue having events that provide compelling conversations that lead to actionable insights.

Create a Sales-Marketing Feedback Loop to Capture Revenue

I think of Voice of the Customer (VOC) when I think of the importance of establishing a Feedback Loop in regard to Sales and Marketing Alignment (SMA). Although VOC can be captured in many ways, I think salespeople are the most cost-effective manner in which to gather this priceless information about the customer needs, priorities, and perceptions of performance. They are the ones that interact with customers every day and can detect the minute shifts in the market quickly.

The “voice of the customer” is a process used to capture the requirements/feedback from the customer (internal or external) to provide the customers with the best in class service/product quality. This process is all about being proactive and constantly innovative to capture the changing requirements of the customers with time.

The job then of sales and marketing leaders is to create an environment where colleagues are continuously looking to add to the collective knowledge of the company by seeking more information from prospective and current clients. It is this collective or tribal knowledge that is the competitive advantage for the company. Marketing must play the role of an aggregator to not only collect insights from Sales and its own channels but to synthesize and disseminate these insights in a meaningful way that allows Sales to take action. If Marketing is able to proactively inform Sales about what they need to know in order to make compelling interactions with customers, they are contributing to an effective relationship that is focused on generating revenue for the organization.

From a tactical standpoint, the question may arise - "What are the best ways to capture this feedback in a meaningful way?" Depending on the size of the organization this may seem like a daunting task. However, in the beginning, you don't necessarily need to execute a complex solution. Here a few simple ways to begin the process of creating a feedback-rich environment:

Field/Phone Visits - When Marketing goes out into the field or gets on the phone with Sales it is always a great chance to really hear what customers are saying. It's also an opportunity to see how strategies are being executed in the field. Many marketers have never seen what it takes to actually pull through the strategies that they put down on paper. This tactic is also a great way to gain a better general understanding of what's working by asking Sales directly.

CRM - This tool should be the center of any feedback loop strategy. The CRM should not be looked at solely as an accountability tool but should be looked at as a way to share customer insights in an effective way that can be useful to Sales and the organization at large. Companies must ensure to be transparent about their motivation and use of the CRM to ensure that Sales will make it a priority and supply it with accurate, detailed information. If not, the CRM is worthless and might as well be an overpriced excel document.

Email - One quick and easy way to get people started giving feedback without overwhelming a single point of contact marketing manager is setting up a general inbox (insights@company.com). This is a way to be able to check on a regular basis and get an idea if any themes are being raised from Sales. It's kind of a crude but effective social listening campaign.

Surveys - They should be used with discretion, but can provide a forum that allows colleagues to give feedback more candidly and freely due to its anonymity. They should be short, concise and ask for feedback on a particular business issue. Broad reaching surveys tend to get overlooked or receive very general responses.

"We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less."  --Diogenes

This article was originally published on Linkedin

Creating a better connection between salespeople and marketers

One of the first things that have to happen before achieving Sales and Marketing Alignment is creating a better connection between salespeople and marketers. I've said many times that alignment is a people issue, not a technology issue. In order to understand how to fix the issue, we have to first understand why it exists. The core reason for why Sales and Marketing have a difficult time "getting along" is that they approach their jobs differently and don't really understand their counterpart's perspective. Marketing's world view is around generating leads while Sales' focus is on closing individual deals. While closely related activities, their difference is enough to cause a fundamental divergence in focus and priority of tactics.

Marketers judge their projects' performance with a cold eye. But that performance focus doesn't always look like action to their colleagues in Sales.  [Harvard Business Review]

So if our organization is convinced that Sales and Marketing Alignment is imperative to survival in the B2B environment - where do we start? How do we achieve a better connection between Sales and Marketing? What is the top reason for misalignment? The answer. Communication. We have plenty of empirical evidence that communication between these two functions is often non-existent or sometimes extremely toxic. CEB has shown us that 87% of the terms Sales and Marketing use to describe other are negative. In a survey conducted by the authors of "Aligned to Achieve" there is even more clear evidence that communication between the two functions is a major issue. They asked the question - "What do you think are the biggest challenges in aligning sales and marketing?". The responses are shown below.

Challenges to Alignment - What do you think are the biggest challenges in aligning Sales and Marketing?

  • Communication - 49%
  • Processes are broken/flawed - 42%
  • Measured by different metrics - 40%
  • Lack of accurate data on target accounts - 39%

What you will notice is not only is communication the #1 reason cited for misalignment, it is also arguably the reason for the following highly ranked responses. The irony of this is that at the core of being a good salesperson or marketer is being able to communicate well. Ha! You can't even communicate with each other let alone with customers.

I think it's then evident that communication is probably the best place to start if we want to achieve sustainable change in the organization as it relates to alignment between Sales and Marketing. Here are some practical ways to improve communication and achieve a better connection that are focused on driving revenue for the organization.

Schedule Regular Sales-Marketing Meetings

Use these meetings as a serious opportunity to talk about the health of the sales pipeline and not just a chance to socialize. The focus should be on common metrics like % to target revenue, average deal size, changes in % market share, etc. By looking at these common metrics you can begin taking a System Approach rather than a Functional Approach to connecting with customers. The goal of these types of meetings is to level-set so that both sides of the fence have an accurate picture of the overall state of the business and don't myopically assume their piece is indicative of the whole. These meetings will also continue to promote a sense of Togetherness so that everyone can continue to have an aligned long-term line of sight to the overall goals of the organization.

Establish a Feedback Loop 

One of the most important parts of effective communication is listening. Marketing needs to listen to Sales more. When you have a large sales force this can be challenging because of the sheer size of individuals. However, the insight that salespeople get on a daily basis is invaluable. As an organization, you must find a way to harness the power of customer insight and knowledge in a formalized way. It can be as easy as creating an online form that salespeople can submit through or have time during your Sales-Marketing meetings to receive organized feedback from your salespeople. As Nike tells us - just do it!

Use a Common Language

So often Sales and Marketing are talking about the same thing and don't even know. In a recent blog I wrote for Quotable by Salesforce, I proposed creating a translation dictionary to help the two be able to understand each other. Having a common language is key to being able to have effective communication and share goals that are focused on driving revenue. To be able to understand what's working and what's not we have to be able to look at the same metrics. Service-Level Agreements are also another tactic that help promote using the same language and terminology.

Put Data First

Want to eliminate people making excuses and getting defensive? Put data first. Remove all the emotion out of things and rely on data to tell the story. This doesn't mean removing empathy and recognizing that many times there is a story behind the data. What it does mean is that as a group we are going to agree that data wins over politics or feelings. It means setting an expectation that judgments about the business are not personal; they are about focusing on the things that we can do to continually improve business performance.

If leaders want to move down the path of better alignment between Sales and Marketing, improving communication should be the foundation of all activities. As communication improves, creating a sense of Togetherness will become much easier.

To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.  -Tony Robbins

Looking for a Keynote speaker on Sales and Marketing Alignment?

I'm excited to announce that I am now available to speak on the topic of Sales and Marketing Alignment at no cost. I've chosen to partner with FreeSpeakers.org to present "Togetherness: Achieving Sales and Marketing Alignment"  in order to help organizations and groups of all sizes understand the importance of aligning these two business functions.  Having worked in several sales and marketing roles throughout my career, I am committed to helping B2B companies truly understand how to leverage the strengths of these two highly interdependent groups to drive revenue. The goal of this presentation is to help CEOs and other customer-facing executives think differently about how sales and marketing should interact. With increased scrutiny for marketing to demonstrate the ROI of their activities and it becoming increasingly hard for B2B salespeople to even get in front of customers, the old way of doing business is no longer an option. This presentation focuses on using evidence-based research and empirical knowledge to propose real-world strategies and tactics that work.

The key objectives of the presentation are to:

  • Establish an understanding of the detrimental effects that occur by not aligning sales and marketing
  • Explore the key reasons why this relationship continues to be a challenge for most organizations
  • Examine strategies and tactics to promote cohesiveness between these two functions that will lead to improvements in achieving revenue targets.

If this topic is a fit for your next conference or event, feel free to request me to speak at FreeSpeakers.org. Take a look at me presenting at Ignite Chicago.

Best Social Selling Stacks for High-Performing B2B Salespeople

This guest blog was written by Mindi Rosser over at mindirosser.comYou’ve heard about social selling. You know you need to be active on social media to get the most from your sales efforts. But, you already have a way of doing things to get the sale. Is it even worth throwing social media into the mix? Or trying something different on social media? This article will demonstrate why social selling is worth the effort if done right and how you can put together a social selling strategy based on your experience.

The secret to doing social selling well is using the right social media stack (a group of technologies that salespeople leverage to execute, analyze and improve their social media activities) and tailoring it to the B2B salespeople. Here are some tools that salespeople can use that are effective in selling and that marketing can help salespeople actually execute.

According to CSO Insights, good social selling training increases win rates by 38% and quota attainment by 51%. If you are not yet comfortable using social selling, now is the time to get started.

You’re not interested in using social media for social media’s sake. You want social media efforts to help you get the attention of your buyers and move them through the sales process. Which social selling tools should you be using?

If you are just getting started on social media, there’s no point in building an elaborate stack, you want to keep it simple. If you are an advanced user, you are looking for ways to up your game and generate better ROI from your efforts. No matter whether you think you’re an expert or consider yourself a newb, check out the tools in each stack and exactly how to use them. You may find a new tactic to try with that tool.

The Beginner Stack

This stack is ideal for those of you who want to spend 15-60 minutes per day on social channels. You may not be extremely comfortable using social media, but you know it’s important, especially within a complex sale environment.

Here’s the stack I would recommend:

  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter

Yes, only two tools. If I had only two tools to use in my social selling efforts, it would be LinkedIn and Twitter. Here’s why.

LinkedIn

50% of B2B buyers use LinkedIn when making purchasing decisions Your buyers are on LinkedIn, and they are researching your company and looking you up on LinkedIn.

If your profile does not stand out, you are missing a huge opportunity to differentiate yourself. Personal branding matters. Make your profile about how you can help buyers, and they will take a call or book a demo.

With the new LinkedIn user interface, they can easily tell if you are active or inactive on LinkedIn by the types of activity on your profile. Be sure to engage regularly with your network to appear active.

Twitter

While LinkedIn is a one-to-one network, Twitter is typically used as a one-to-many network. Marketers tend to love Twitter because they can do more broadcasting and drive traffic to websites. For sales purposes, you can set yourself apart by using Twitter as a one-to-one network.

By monitoring keywords, questions and conversations from buyers, you can identify opportunities to engage with them. Being helpful—without coming across as too salesy—goes a long way on Twitter. Look for ways to be helpful, whether or not it results in a direct sale, and you will become a trusted source on Twitter. This video interview by the Salesman Podcast with Jamie Shanks emphasizes the importance of aligning with influencers in your industry and becoming part of the conversation.

Beginner Stack Checklist:

  • Post one status update per week on LinkedIn.
  • Like or comment on someone else’s LinkedIn status update daily.
  • Follow your prospects’ LinkedIn company pages.
  • Spend time going through your LinkedIn feed daily.
  • Tweet once a day about something prospects would find helpful or interesting.
  • Set up a monitoring system on Tweetdeckuse keywords, hashtags and search terms related to what you are offering
  • Check into Tweetdeck daily to see if there conversations where you can be helpful.
  • Follow prospects and prospect companies on Twitter.

The Intermediate Stack

If you have mastered the basics of social selling with LinkedIn and Twitter, you might be ready to add a couple new tools to your stack. These do take an additional investment, especially if you are springing for a Sales Navigator account on your own dime. But, a Sales Navigator account will help you shave at least an hour per day, once you have optimized your account.

Here’s the stack I would recommend:

  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator
  • Social Scheduling Tool

LinkedIn Sales Navigator

Sales Navigator is built on LinkedIn’s platform and is tailored to the B2B sales professional, who is trying to identify prospects at target companies, connect with them, organize them, keep in touch at the right time and get their attention.

If you are trying to close complex sales using only the free version of LinkedIn, you will lack advanced search, monitoring and messaging capabilities. You can technically work around these features on the free or premium versions of LinkedIn, but it’s not worth the trouble.

One of the benefits to using Sales Navigator is connecting it to your CRM and pushing data between the two platforms. On its own, Sales Navigator is powerful, but the real power is in the integration with your sales technology tools.

If you have a Sales Navigator account and want to use it like a boss, I would recommend this article by Tony Hughes. He shows you exactly how to make the most of your investment.

Social Scheduling Tool

We’ve discussed the importance of sharing relevant content across social media, but it can be challenging to remember to do this every day. That’s where a social scheduler can help.

Marketers like to give you their formulas for the amount and types of content you should be sharing in pretty ratios, like the 411 strategy, but what salesperson wants to plan their content with this formula? None that I know!

A better rule of thumb is to share some of your own content, whether this is your company’s content or your own thought leadership content, and other people’s content. As long as you are sharing both types, you can build trust with your prospects.

To share this content frequently, you need to use a social scheduling tool to sprinkle that content over a span of days. For many B2B companies, the work week is a typical 9-5, Monday through Friday work week. Set your social scheduling tool to post during those times.

Two tools I’d recommend are Buffer (the free plan works well for most salespeople) and Hootsuite (if you want an all-in-one tool that can schedule to all your social channels and monitor Twitter).

During the week, when you come across content that might be helpful to your prospects, add it to Buffer (if you know you want to share it) or to InstaPaper (if you want to read the article later and decide whether or not to share it.)

At the beginning of each week, check your social scheduling tool to be sure you have enough content in there to share to Twitter at least daily (if not 3-5x per day) and to LinkedIn at least daily. If you do a good job of filling up your queues as-you-go, you might not need to add more content to your queues.

The Advanced Stack

You’ve moved beyond the basics and mastered Sales Navigator and are sharing great content. It’s time to amp your stack and get the most from your social selling efforts. This is where personal branding and thought leadership can help top sales performers edge out their competition. When a prospect comes across you and a competitor on social media, who will they trust more? The one with a few pieces of thought leadership content, an optimized profile and a history of interacting on social media.

Here’s the stack I would recommend:

  • LinkedIn Pulse
  • Advanced Social Listening Tool

LinkedIn Pulse

When I suggest to salespeople that they need a personal brand and thought leadership content, I often get the line, “I don’t have time for that marketing stuff. I’m too busy selling.” I get it. B2B sales is challenging and takes a lot of time, hustle and grit.

LinkedIn’s study shows that 92% of B2B buyers engage with sales professionals who are known as industry thought-leaders.

You don’t need to generate a lot of content, but you will get an edge if you publish interesting content to LinkedIn Pulse. And, it’s not about getting a large number of views or engagement. It’s about having a relatively fresh piece of content that answers buyer’s questions or touches on a hot topic in the industry.

If you prefer to outsource the writing part, you could ask a content marketing or sales enablement team member for help in creating and/or publishing your content. I find that most marketers are more than willing to co-create content or ghostwrite articles. You can also repurpose content or interviews you have done elsewhere in the past 3-6 months.

As for frequency, I would suggest publishing one article to LinkedIn Pulse every 30-60 days. This demonstrates to prospects that you are current on what matters to them and how your company is best suited to solving their problems.

Advanced Social Listening

You are already accustomed to using Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to monitor online conversations, but you can take that monitoring to the next level with a tool, like SproutSocial. It is geared towards marketing agencies, but I’ve found that its functionalities are well-suited to social selling.

The best feature for social sellers is the Smart Inbox. In less than five minutes, you can set up some advanced searches with keywords specific to your buyers. Then, you can be alerted to any questions/comments/conversations on Twitter (and even Instagram) that use those keywords. This is one of the best ways to never miss a social conversation that pertains to you and your company.

When you catch these conversations, you can jump in with a helpful suggestion or an answer to their question. This is not the time for a company pitch. If your suggestion is helpful, they will check out your profile and notice which company you work for. This builds your credibility and that of your company. They will subconsciously associate your company with trustworthiness. And, that’s exactly what social selling is all about.So, there you have it. Six tools to use in your social selling toolbox. Which of these do you plan to try next? Any that you want to learn more about? Let’s discuss! You can tweet me @mindirrosser or connect with me on LinkedIn.


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Mindi Rosser is a social media strategist for hire, who specializes in helping brands, businesses and people look great online. As a digital native, she has spent nearly a decade working with B2B and B2C companies on developing and implementing strategic marketing programs. She also consults for The Conversion Company, an online marketing firm helping B2B companies and executives use social media to drive dramatic business results. Connect with Mindi on LinkedIn or tweet her (@mindirrosser) to chat about all things social selling. You can also follow her blog at http://www.mindirosser.com.

Alignment between Sales and Marketing starts with an integrative approach to new employees

This guest blog post was written by Aurelien Gohier over at btobmarketingsales.com. 

We know that company culture effects alignment between sales and marketing. I discovered Jeff’s writings by reading about the terrible effect that misalignment between sales and marketing could have on a business development - World War B2B: The misalignment of sales and marketing. I deeply care about this topic, for the very simple reason that all the companies I have been involved with in the past have suffered, in one way or another, from such type of misalignment, at different levels of severity of course.

I have only been active on the B2B marketing & sales scene since 2009, but there is one aspect that has always challenged me: why does it seem so tremendously complex to end this war between B2B marketing & B2B sales? I mean, I have mostly worked with intelligent people, capable of great things, kind hearted individuals, and despite this I have always seen my top of management struggling to ensure alignment between sales & marketing.

Jamie Shanks, author of “Social Selling Mastery” explains that “alignment between sales and marketing occurs when your team begins to create metrics around the handshake between sales and marketing.” and I cannot agree more with him. Indeed, having people working with the same objectives is a key to success. However, imposing common metrics on sales and marketing cannot be effective in the long run, without a consistent company culture.

Company culture should unify

What I want to highlight in this article is how company culture effects alignment between sales and marketing and most importantly how successful alignment starts with unifying new sales / marketing employees. Indeed, you can judge a successful onboarding process for new marketers when he/she can clearly answer the following questions after his/her first three months in the company:

  • What will I do to be able to deliver better leads to our sales team?
  • How do I track and calculate the revenue I contributed by those actions?
  • At which point will I consider myself a successful marketer?
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When I was hired by my current employer, I spent one month shadowing a sales person, physically meeting the client, attending all his internal meetings, talking to partners, attending strategic events and much more. This gave me a clear understanding of the sales reality and sales challenges, which made my first actions as a B2B marketer more accurate. Why? Because after this one month in sales I was able to answer the above three questions and had a clear view of the change I wanted to inspire in this company. This very simple integrative approach had a prospective impact on my credibility and effectiveness in my decision making as a marketer, as well as an impact on the marketing department's credibility collectively.

Of course this principal should be applied the other way around. Make your new sales people work in the marketing team for a couple of weeks, to allow them to understand what the marketing department’s primary challenges are, make sales and marketing informally brainstorm together to make the alignment stronger. Understanding each other’s pain points and challenges is key to a proper B2B sales & B2B marketing alignment.

No Magic Recipe

As Lauren Frye mentions in an article about “Why B2B Marketers Don’t Like Articles on Sales Alignment”, “when articles talk about a proposed solution to sales and marketing alignment, it’s doubtful that one specific solution will work for every team”. There is no magic recipe to making alignment successful, but what we know is that the B2B sales process is generally much more complex that in B2C, so it is even more important to be able to execute a cohesive sales and marketing alignment strategy for your B2B company.


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Aurélien has been working in the B2B Software Industry since 2009. Besides his position of Web & Digital Marketing Manager at ESI Group, he is Founder of BtoB Marketing Sales blog and of BtoB Marketing Sales Podcast. He is endlessly passionate about B2B Marketing and Sales, and his vision of those two domains are deeply humane but very focused on driving tangible results. Aurélien is a huge fan of ball sports, technology, music & an uncontrollable TV show addict. Feel free to contact him directly by email, on Twitter @Aurelien_Gohier and to follow his B2B blogs via LinkedIn.

Pipeline Marketing must include Sales in 2017

As B2B companies look into 2017 they should not only look at how Marketing can generate more revenue but how Sales can help pull through these strategies. It will make the job of both functions easier if they have a conversation about the pipeline marketing strategies that will be used. This knowledge can help Sales understand more clearly how they can benefit from the activities that Marketing plans to execute. The 2016 State of Pipeline Marketing Report (sponsored by Bizible, Heinz Marketing, Radius, Reachforce, and Uberflip) shares a lot of strategic and tactical information that many B2B marketing teams can benefit from. Beyond just reviewing the marketing plan for 2017, marketing teams need to explore how their sales colleagues can benefit from each of the strategies to help drive revenue. Questions should be asked like - "How can Sales help pull through our email marketing campaigns?" or "How can we help Sales follow up on potential leads after conferences or other events?"

In a recent article titled "How B2B Marketers Generate Revenue — State of Pipeline Marketing 2016"  the author shares some great infographics that illustrate how B2B marketers are generating revenue for their companies. I think this information provides a perfect template to review and see how Sales can be involved in the type of activities that are being used in pipeline marketing today.  Starting with the top most-used channels is the best way to create momentum for the team.

Top channels for B2B Marketing

  • Social media
  • Content marketing
  • SEO (tied)
  • WOM / referrals (tied)
  • Conferences / events
  • Paid search

Let's help Sales and Marketing drive revenue together!

Use the power of tribal knowledge or die

Leaders of most B2B companies know the reality of fierce competition in this space. Customers are being blasted by vendors on a never-ending basis. Research shows that they are getting quite annoyed by it. No one probably feels the pressure of trying to make things happen more than B2B salespeople. In fact, a recent survey found that connecting with a prospect now takes 18 or more phone calls, callback rates are below 1%, and only 24% of outbound sales emails are ever opened. The Harvard Business Review posed the question - "Why are more and more buyers avoiding salespeople during the buying process?" Its response - "Sales reps, according to Forrester, tend to prioritize a sales agenda over solving a customer’s problem. If organizations don’t change their outdated thinking and create effective sales models for today’s digital era, Forrester warns that 1 million B2B salespeople will lose their jobs to self-service e-commerce by 2020." It's evident in this type of reality that Sales and Marketing need to be more aligned and focused on getting new customers. Why? Survival.

 

Information is today's survival weapon

In today's hyper-connected world, information is everywhere. It doesn't just come from one source anymore. This fragmented landscape offers an opportunistic advantage to those companies that are able to synthesize this information and gain actionable insights. The only way to do this is to have everyone in customers facing roles focused on seeking new, relevant information and sharing it with the collective group. This will empower the organization to be able to iterate on its strategies and move faster than the competition. If your organization is not nimble, it will be taken out - and not on a date.

Watercooler talk might have been helpful at times, but it was not until the digital age that enterprise employees had the opportunity to leverage the enormous knowledge of the "hive".           --Aberdeen Group

Leaders have to understand that the currency of business is information. In the current digital age, the value of that currency has exploded. We can no longer just have those at the top conduct strategic exercises with that information. We must give it to the troops on the ground that are actually going to battle every day. They need new weapons to compete. We must empower our people with something that differentiates them from everyone else asking - "Can I get five minutes of your time for a demo?". Market knowledge then becomes the new competitive advantage.

Customer and Market Insight

While salespeople gain a lot of customer insights in their daily activities, they don't have the same amount of time that Marketing has to truly gain market insight. What you have then is two groups that have two separate perspectives on reality. What would happen if they were able to combine this knowledge and together cultivate a clearer picture of how to not just react to the market but possibly shape it. One example would be the salesperson bringing the latest marketing knowledge to the customer proactively and helping them get in front of their competitors. What type of value would this bring to the customer? How could this help the salesperson secure more business for the future? A LinkedIn survey found that B2B buyers are five times more likely to engage with a sales rep who provides new insights about their business or industry. This is the information to demonstrates how salespeople can benefit from the market knowledge that their marketing colleagues may possess.

Allowing these two flows of information to converge really helps the organization in many ways to get in front of customer's change of appetite and be able to react in a way that doesn't cause the business to go into panic mode.

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I don't think most would argue that the world of B2B is like a jungle. So leaders must decide if we are going to split up and make a run for it or stick together and leverage the skills of those in the group to survive the potential attacks in the future. I, for one, feel safer with a group that is committed to working together so that we all eat and survive.

Salespeople ---> Align with Marketing to make more money [podcast]

I recently had the chance to speak with @DonaldCKelly (The Sales Evangelist) on his podcast about how salespeople can benefit from better alignment with their marketing colleagues. It was a great conversation to address the challenges of selling in B2B today. There are many. What I share with people is simply that Sales and Marketing can no longer survive without each other. People need to stop being selfish and only worried about their small piece of the organization and realize that a rising tide lifts all boats - also known as Togetherness. We also got the chance to talk about why I founded The Sales and Marketing Alignment Summit.  

Highlights from our conversation:

The goals of the Sales and Marketing Alignment Summit:

  • Create a community of sales and marketing professionals focused on growth through better alignment
  • Find and curate the best content for the community
  • Foster collaboration to facilitate meaning change for businesses of all sizes

Factors behind the tension between sales and marketing:

  1. Not data-driven

Many companies look at metrics but are not data-driven. You can generate revenue and not realize you’re losing money because of missed opportunities.

  1. Leadership aspect

If you have a person that comes from sales, you tend to have a sales-driven organization. If you have somebody that comes from marketing, you tend to have a marketing-driven organization. Because the skill sets are very different, it’s difficult to balance the two unless you have an executive team that has experience from both sides.

Sell to Sales!

Sell ideas, concepts, and strategies to sales people when you want them to do something different.

Communicate with sales the reason you’re doing this, why they should care, and how is it going to help them reach their sales goals and make money.

All organizations should be sales-driven and it’s up to leadership to sell the unique attributes that marketing brings to them and how it can make their life easier so they can close more business.

Account-Based Marketing

Account-based marketing is an essential component to overall high-level strategies which can fall into three buckets:

  1. Take a system approach (versus a functional approach).

Instead of looking at sales as sales and marketing as marketing, look at it from the viewpoint of the customer - they don't know the difference. Start talking about customer journeys and look at it holistically as to how best to  engage potential customer so you get the outcome you want.

  1. Have a formal feedback loop.

Build, measure, learn. Have that continuous conversation between the two so that marketing can iterate strategies and put the best out there for the market.

  1. Focus on shared goals.

In a lot of sales organizations, sales and marketing don’t have the same goals. Regardless of sales or marketing, your primary metric should be, are you hitting revenue? If not, why not?

Metrics you should pay attention to:

  • Are you reaching your target revenue?
  • Correlate to the sales funnel (ex. marketing qualified leads, total lead volume)
  • Middle of the funnel (ex. servicing metrics around service line agreements)
  • Close metrics (ex. close ratio)
  • Find out where majority of revenue is coming from to help you understand where you need to share or push your resources.

More strategies to bridge the gap between sales and marketing:

  1. Raise the conversation from tactical B2B technology to fundamentally changing the way sales and marketing see themselves and the way they interact.
  2. Move them from being independent warriors to really seeing each other as allies and a source of strength.
  3. Convince salespeople that marketing is an asset to them and can help them do their job easier.
  4. Change the focus in your conversations to:

“How does what you’re doing today affect your colleagues?”

“How can you move toward collectively attaining more revenue?”

Sales and marketing in startups:

In startups, you become both sales and marketing.

You have to learn two completely different disciplines and understand when to apply which. It depends on where your customer is throughout their customer journey.

You have to morph back and forth between two things that are fundamentally different in their objective.

Information: Your Competitive Advantage

  • People
  • Process
  • Products

Get information on these three and it will keep you ahead.

Major Takeaway:

Revenue fixes all problems. At the end of the day, focus on revenue and it will tell you the story and what you need to do.

Episode Resources:

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

The Profit (TV Show)

The spark that will change your view on Sales and Marketing Alignment

One of the things that I've thought a lot about 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 different - 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.

That's 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 better understanding.

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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 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.