Alignment Transformation Requires Taking An “Us” Approach To Revenue Growth

I had the pleasure of being on The Predictable Revenue Podcast with Collin Stewart recently. We had a great conversation about what it takes to be successful in connecting with the modern B2B buyer and winning their business. If you didn’t have a chance to catch my episode, check out a great summary of our conversation below.

Be sure to also join my community of B2B leaders that are focused on driving revenue growth by strategically aligning their sales and marketing teams by following me on…

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Sometimes the most obvious ideas can be the most difficult or elusive to execute. Case in point: having your sales and marketing teams work together to grow your business. Seems so simple, right? Afterall, these are the two functions in every company explicitly tasked with revenue generation.

Unfortunately, those shared ideals have, historically, run counter to how marketing and sales have actually worked. You know the drill: marketing is expected to generate as many leads as they can every month, by hook or by crook. And once they bring them in, they deliver them to the sales team to work.

That system, historically, has worked.

But things have changed – buyer expectations have matured and, as such, sales and marketing teams have been forced to design more nuanced approaches to company growth. And a more nuanced growth playbook requires better alignment between marketing and sales.

“This is the business transformation we’re talking about. Sales and marketing can’t operate in silos. The overarching theme here is that sales and marketing begin to look at themselves as a cohesive revenue engine,” says Jeff Davis, noted consultant and podcast host, on a past edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.

Today’s Buyer

So...how has the modern buyer changed? Goliath B2C technologies such as Netflix and Spotify, says Davis, have changed our expectations of the B2B  buying process. For example, signing up with a streaming service requires no interaction with a sales team. You input your email address, credit card number, and choose a password – that’s it.

In fairness, complex B2B software such as procurement tools or accounting suites require much more hand-holding to sell: buyers need to know the software they’re purchasing satisfies their security requirements and integrates with their existing technology. Such critical considerations notwithstanding, Davis says the B2B buying process doesn’t have to be as cumbersome as we’ve made it.

It can even be fun.

“We need to realize that our personal lives are changing the expectations we have in our professional lives. When you begin to be serviced in a way that is easy and tailored to you, you start to expect that at work,” says Davis.

Know Your Sales Process...Firsthand

You may think your sales process is dynamic already. And, in some respects, that’s probably true. But, every business function needs to be tightened up from time to time.

To understand the experience your buyers are having with your product, have your sales and marketing team experience the process as a consumer. What better way to get a firsthand look at what you’re asking your buyers to do?

“We have made the buying process so complicated – discovery calls, demos, second demos etc. And we don’t know how it feels until we step back and think like the buyer,” says Davis.

“So, walk through your sales process as a buyer and ask: “how does this feel?”

How that process ends up changing to better reflect the buyer will be different for every company. Maybe your company needs to improve its discovery. Or, potentially, your sales content isn’t resonating. Maybe, it’s both aspects.

But regardless of where you change your sales process, the only way to know where to make those changes is to experience that buying  process. From there, you can really start to provide your prospects with what they need to make a buying decision.

“So we need to know who our real customers are, why they care, and, then, how to attract more of those. We have to stop thinking volume, and take a more targeted approach,” says Davis.

A Framework to Alignment Transformation

Okay, so you’ve outlined areas for improvement in your sales funnel to better support your buyer’s needs. And both your sales and marketing team is on the same page after having experienced your process firsthand.

What’s left? Officially aligning your marketing and sales team to develop a high-performance Revenue Engine.

Again, how a company does that will be unique to them – some establish “revenue” teams, comprised of both marketing and sales. Other companies expect sales and marketing leaders to work more closely together through a series of weekly meetings and check-ins.

To help companies find the alignment that suits them, Davis developed a three-pillar approach to bringing marketing and sales into better alignment. This framework helps them take a system approach to alignment rather than a functional, siloed approach.

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  • Data – Every company needs to have a strong data strategy. And that data must be clean – if it isn’t up to date, it doesn’t matter what systems you have.

  • Process – This is about designing an end-to-end revenue generation process. How are you getting leads? Is it events? SEO? How are you transitioning those leads between functions ? And, how do you get them to close?

  • Communication – Modern communication requires formal feedback loops – executed in scheduled meetings where both internal and external communication needs to be addressed.

“Everything that I’ve seen that needs to be done to establish the foundation of alignment falls into one of those three buckets,” says Davis.

Alignment Requires People to Know Each Other

But don’t forget: this work is, fundamentally, a people issue. It’s people that design holistic processes, it’s people that staff your marketing and sales teams, and it’s people that buy your product or service.

“Sales doesn’t know about marketing and vice versa. That prevents people from approaching their counterpart – they don’t even know what to say. People need to see themselves as part of a unified revenue engine. That is paramount,” says Davis.

Need help building a Revenue Engine that can turn modern buyers into customer? Then book a complimentary meeting to discuss how we can work together.

create #togetherness.

What I Learned at the Sirius Decisions 2019 Summit in Austin, TX (#SDSummit)

I was recently invited to attend the Sirius Decisions 2019 Summit in Austin, TX. As a sales and marketing alignment thought-leader this was not only an honor but I was also ecstatic to network with other B2B professionals focused on how we can align these two teams to transform them into high-performing Revenue Engines. And oh what a week of learning it was.

I was especially happy with the chosen them of "Together". I, of course, thought it was perfect as my own tagline is "create togetherness". Whether it be working with a client or speaking at a keynote, part of my work is helping leaders understand that we must create an environment where sales people and marketers understand that achieving revenue growth in B2B is becoming harder and we need each other more than ever before to be successful. The customer experience that the modern B2B buyer is demanding can not be accomplished by either team alone. Full stop.

During my awesome, hot, and rainy week in Austin, there was way too much great content and conversation about sales and marketing alignment to sum up all in one post. So, after reflecting on the week and looking at my copious notes, I'm sharing some of the key strategic highlights that I think are most important for leaders to understand in order to begin transforming their business.  

First, I will share a quick video that I took inside one of the “customer experience rooms” about the importance of sales and marketing coming together to develop an accurate buyer's journey. There are things Sales knows about the customer that Marketing doesn’t know and vice versa. The only way to get the complete picture of what’s happening behind the curtain of the buyer’s internal buying process is to come together and share each other experience the buyer.

The buyer's journey is not about how you want "leads" to flow through your revenue generation process rather it's about the internal process that they go though to make a decision about purchasing a product or service such as yours. 

Key Strategic Takeaways from the Conference

  • Most B2B companies struggle with three major business issues (via Alan Gonsenhauser)

    • product-centric focus (instead of customer-centric)

    • strategic misalignment

    • marketing inefficiency

  • B2B leaders must focus on Five Foundational Principles to most effectively drive growth

    • Who are you selling to?

    • What are selling?

    • How do you manage leads?

    • Who's involved in the buying process?

    • How do companies buy? (the buyer's journey)

  • There are 3 major phases of the buyer's journey that companies need to be prepared to address

    • Education - Why they should change?

    • Solution - How will they achieve the change they seek?

    • Who - Who has the best product/service to meet their specific company needs?

  • Both sales and marketing leaders should start with the overall business strategy (if it exist) and work backwards together to ensure they are aligned on their strategic approach to achieving revenue targets

  • In order to develop an accurate buyer’s journey, sales and marketing must come together and share their wisdom about the buyer (via Alexa McCloughan)

  • The time and energy you spend on work will lead to better business results when you are aligned and together (via Tony Jaros)

  • Company leaders must have clarity about two things concerning the way work is done in the modern B2B organization 

    • The Origin of Work - The type of work that needs to be done due to the strategic vision of the company (must come from leadership)

    • The Form of Work - how the work actually gets done

  • Strategy and tactics may change, but a deep relationship and understanding of each other will remain and help you continue to be successful - together (via Common keynote address)

  • Ai is helping us understand what messaging and focus will be best for certain prospects so we can sell and market to them more effectively (via Mary Shea)

  • AI should be seen as an augmentation tool to push down mundane tasks so that we can concentrate on the activities that require a higher-level of thinking (via Steve Silver)

  • We must strive for digital adeptness, not just add on more tech

  • ABM will eventually go away and become the norm in B2B (via Steve Casey)

  • We've been condition to not pay attention to brands we don't know, thus we need to develop a relationships with our target customers so they "know" us before they buy from us

If your organization is struggling with poor quality leads from Marketing, an inability to consistently hit revenue goals, and/or having a dysfunctional relationship between Sales and Marketing you are probably operating within a misaligned organization. And, this is costing your business more than you think because of lost sales and marketing productivity.

If you are ready to start the process of transforming your sales and marketing team into a high-performing Revenue Engine, I encourage your to follow my work, subscribe to TheAlignmentPodcast.com and schedule a meeting directly with me to discuss how we can work together to get your teams on the same track to drive revenue growth for the organization.

As always - create togetherness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Define a Single Source of Truth

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

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

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

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

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

  • Cleanse and standardize data to ensure it is reliable

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

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

Focus on Metrics That Matter

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

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

  • End-to-End conversion rates

  • Sales cycle length

  • Average deal size

  • MQLs to opportunity ratio

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

Provide Formal, Regular Feedback on Marketing Campaign Results to Sales

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

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The Journey to a Single Source of Truth

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

Learning More…

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

Reserve your spot today at www.SMAsummit.com!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • INBOUND - September 3-6, Boston, MA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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