A key opportunity and challenge for companies today is streamlining and fine tuning their revenue generation operations. While on a broad basis it could be argued that this involves everyone in the company, most focus on two key groups or functions, sales and marketing.
Traditionally when revenue improvement initiatives were introduced, each group went about delivering in their own way, with little discussion or regard for the other. While they may have been present at the same initial strategy meetings, the rest was done within their own silo, with little or no consideration or input from the other. In some companies, the only purpose one grouped served for the other, was as a scapegoat for failure.
Over the years there has been talk of, and some steps taken several to aligning and bring the two organizations together, but few companies achieved much traction. Often the catalyst was less will, than other drivers, both internal and external, forcing the two to work together. Sales and marketing failed to realize that many of these unsuccessful efforts were a direct extension of market and customer expectations.
Some did break down barriers between the two groups, but it most quickly went back to their assigned lanes. Marketing, looked after branding, lead generation, more recently “content”. Sales, filling their pipeline, often with leads they generated, instead of those generated by marketing; then moving those opportunities through the cycle to close. Marketing rarely if ever actively participating beyond the point where the “Marketing Qualified Lead” was handed off to sales.
It is not surprising that the most successful companies are those that are responsive to the market and their clients, and focus on innovating and getting ahead of customer expectations, and winning new customers by delivering an experience that exceeds customers’ demands and expectations. Something difficult to achieve when two key groups who should have a singular focus and purpose, are marching at different paces, and not always in the same direction.
Alignment Is No Longer Enough
Talk of aligning sales and marketing is interesting, but no longer enough. Sort of like saying that Blackberry is a smartphone, when everyone expectations are guided by iPhone or a Note. Smart companies are past alignment, and have moved to eliminating two groups in favour of one organization, Revenue. Within the revenue team, there still specific functions that reflect things traditionally associated with sales or marketing, but they are all on the same team, same responsibility and accountability, namely revenue. There is more to this than assigning someone at the top with the title of Chief Revenue Officer, while allowing for business to go on as usual. Revenue teams need to have the same accountability and be responsible for revenue success and growth.
A good start is incentive, it has always been strange that these groups are often rewarded in different ways, for different outcomes, which at times are not aligned. For example, marketing may get measured and rewarded on the number (and at times even the quality) of leads generated. Yet in practice, only a small percent of these leads are ever worked by sales, many put it at single digits. Both arms duplicating efforts, expenses, and squandered resources and time. While there are a range of reason for sales not wanting to depend on marketing for leads, the reality is that it is less likely to happen if both were tied to the same outcomes.
The above is a symptom of a widely held, yet erroneous view, that marketing is responsible for one part of the buyer journey, once buyers reach a specific point in the journey, they are punted over to sales. Unlike football, the best results are achieved when everyone brings their expertise to bear throughout the buyer journey.
Sales needs to realize that they can do a much better, and I would add, easier job of helping the buyer to make the right decision if they worked with marketing to ensure that buyers are receiving the right insight at each stage, from pre-lead to close, and, beyond. Sales also has to understand that they don’t need to carry out the “latter” part of the journey alone, that marketing can seed their path, making it easier for buyers to move towards close.
This requires clear and ongoing communication between sales and marketing throughout the ‘client life cycle’. While some may not like the analogy, but one needs to think of it as Marketing providing air cover for the ground troops, Sales. To be clear, we are not hunting prospects, we are hunting revenue, and that is serious business. There needs to be clear lines of communication, sales need to feedback to marketing what is happening on the ground, and why. Marketing in turn needs to provide sales and the buyer with insights that facilitate the buyer’s understanding. This feedback loop allows sales to have input not just in what they need to win current deals, but have a direct influence on the type of leads marketing should be targeted to achieve collective revenue goals.
A key opportunity for marketing is to provide insights to both buyers, and their own sales people. Insights that go beyond curation of content, and generic information, to elements that spur interaction and reliance on the salesperson subject matter expertise; expertise that itself is supported by marketing.
At one company I worked with, we involved marketing in deal post mortems. These are easy for sales to conduct when they win the deal, but not so when they lose one. The knee jerk response from buyers who choose another vendor, is to point to price and features, after all, the buyer has transitioned from decision to implementation. Yet, when marketing approaches these same buyers, with a well-crafted set of question that are aimed at understanding the outcome rather than relitigating the sale. The insights gained help both sales in terms of specific steps they can take in the next similar sale. Helps marketing fine tune their messaging throughout the sale, and right down to leads targeted, and new upsell/cross sell opportunities. In other words, a singular revenue process, versus the typical asynchronous approach most take.
It is not just about getting along, and all about integrating and working as one revenue generating unit.
About Tibor Shanto
Tibor works with leading B2B companies including Bell Mobility, Imperial Oil, Pitney Bowes, and others, helping them improve their sales execution and results. Called a brilliant sales tactician, Tibor works with clients to translate sales strategy to reality. Tibor develops sales people who understand that success in sales is about Execution – Everything Else Is Just Talk!