At our members only event, the Atlanta Chapter of ANA Business Marketing hosted a workshop on Sales & Marketing Alignment. One of the segments was a panel discussion from 2 marketing and 2 sales executives discussing various aspects of this important topic.
Our panel consisted of:
Bill McGinnis, Sales and Marketing Director, Sojourn Solutions
Here are the questions and answers from our esteemed panelists:
Bill: When I say, “Sales & Marketing Alignment”, what does that mean to you right off the bat?
Robb: The first word I thought of was “rare”. It doesn’t happen often. It is powerful and obvious when in place and when there is no conflict between sales and marketing. The other thought that comes to mind is, it’s definitely worth the work and pain to set up the right processes.
Beth: I come at it from opposite end of spectrum. In order to do a good job in a product category and own the P&L, I need to walk a day in life of a salesperson. I need to make their job easier. What i have found is that I cannot expect to get input from each and every sales team member. What has worked for me is to focus on those sales people that focus on the customer in order to understand both customers and sales. Take a handful where the connection is strong and then broaden the findings to rest of team.
Chad: One word comes to mind: “necessary”. Organizations should not have different goals among different departments. At a previous company, we used to have bi-weekly meetings that we called “Revopps” meetings. Marketers would talk about top of funnel acquisition marketing, the demand gen team was in middle doing tele-qualifying of leads generated by marketers. Sales was at bottom of the funnel and talked about close rates. We would look at how each of those 3 teams affected each other. For example, mid-funnel issues could have been that the top- funnel team was casting too wide of a net. They needed to have cast a narrower net of more targeted leads that demand gen could handle and qualify. The key was that we were always communicating and had a cadence to ensure that happened.
A good example is when marketing came up with a campaign offering iPads for meetings. Not only was this ill-timed, November, but the net was cast too wide. We ended up with a lot of low quality meetings.
We decided to do a do-over an run it again later in the Spring. This time sales participated in the targeting and the results were much better. Simple things like that type of alignment drive results.
Holly: What comes to mind first is, “I need cocktail in my hand”. But seriously, sales and marketing alignment is just not possible via email. It requires that the two teams build relationships. Marketing needs to understand what sales does on a day-to-day basis. So jump in salesperson’s car and see that they stay in a LaQuinta Inn and eat Burger King while they enter notes in salesforce.com before calling home to tell their kids good night.
It important to understand their world before any technology rollout that’s suppose to improve the sales and marketing process. Marketing is the pitcher, but we need to understand what the view is like from the catcher.
I worked with a sales leader I admire who once said, “Stop and get people on the bus”. In other words, stop and listen and learn, then get everyone on same page before launching the latest process or technology. It’s absolutely worth it to get on road and understand sales
Bill: Who should drive alignment? Sales or Marketing?
Holly: Customers should drive alignment. Whatever the initiative is, ask, “how will this help the customer and even the customer’s customer? We used to have a chair labeled ‘Customer’ whenever we would have strategy meetings. This would help us focus on what the customer wanted, rather than what sales or marketing wanted. And we would also have someone play customer. Rally around the customer!
Chad: One things that work is to heavily involve sales operations and marketing operations. Sales Ops closer to sales so get their input. Marketing Ops understand how marketing affects the funnel. Then get business analysts in the middle to help with stats and metrics to help make decisions. This is a good way to de-personalize the situation and look at things from a quantitative and therefore objective perspective.
Robb: The owner of alignment should be the owner of the outcome – which should be sales. Now in our organization, we have a Chief Revenue Officer who owns sales and marketing. So that makes it easy to identify the owner of alignment. That all said, if marketing is truly responsible for 60% of the sales cycle like we are talking about these day, and they are, then they should be put on some sort of commission to not only incent them, but to reward them for the great work they do.
Bill: When you first think about sales and marketing alignment, what “level of the funnel” first comes to mind?
Robb: Well, I’ve been a big companies and small. When I was at Dodge, we had a great brand that said a lot when I walked in the door. Then I went to small company – without a “brand”. The CEO asked me, “how will you sell without a brand?”. That helped me realize the importance of marketing a the very top of the funnel. These days, marketing is handling up to 60% or until the 6th inning of the sales cycle. Sales is not at the top of the funnel anymore.
Holly: The wheels come off at handoff. The handoff point is a key level of sales and marketing alignment. Both teams need to have a clear definition of what is qualified, and sales needs to commit to following up.
Bill: How does technology play a role in sales and marketing alignment?
Chad: Technology is key these days because it shows what the prospect looked at on your website and tracks all of their interactions – but you need strategy first and smart people to implement it accordingly.
Beth: It is key because now I can handoff leads and track the results. Then I can figure out what works and what doesn’t. These days 5.4 people have to say yes in my business to get a sale of our products and services. So I need technology to track all of them. Plus I need ways to accelerate the sale, and technology helps that.
It is impossible to do what we do today compared to yesterday. Technology makes us much more efficient and effective.
Robb: I like that fact that technology is in everyone’s face and provides visibility. Dashboards let me get quickly get the information I need. What I don’t like is focusing on the wrong metrics such as how leads numbers are going up. No one is getting a commission check on number of leads. What I need to see is the connection between leads and campaigns tied to lifetime value. I want to see how campaigns are creating leads and how those leads become wins.
Beth: That’s how i get more budget is proving that marketing drove sales
Bill: How can sales and marketing get on same page using the same terminology?
Robb: Marketing shouldn’t talk in marketing jargon to sales. Sales could care less about waterfalls and Sirius decision models – you will lose them fast. You could lock sales in a room for 3 days and the term “sales funnel” would not even come up. We don’t think that way.
Holly: the terminology and the waterfall, actually a reverse waterfall, was helpful for us to plan out a 48 month nurture campaign which is the typical sales cycle of some of our products. It helped us explain to management what we were doing and how we were contributing. We didn’t present that to sales, it was good for us internally only.
Beth: Speak the language of the customer rather than internal terminology.
An excellent comment to end this discussion. The language and the terminology of the customer seems to bring together all of those on the sales and marketing teams.