Featuring Ken Stout, CRO, True Influence
Sales and Marketing don’t talk enough.
This statement will come as no surprise to anyone who works in B2B Sales or Marketing. It’s a long-recognized obstacle that Sales and Marketing teams continue to try to break though, with varying degrees of success.
As recently as 2015, a survey found that fewer than 16 percent of businesses said their Sales and Marketing teams are fully aligned. How bad was it? About two-thirds of respondents reported that they stored their Sales and Marketing data in completely independent systems.
When your machines aren’t talking, your people probably aren’t talking, either. And neither is acceptable in an era when companies are sharply focused on Return on Investment (ROI) for both their Sales and Marketing spends.
Building the Bridge Between Sales and Marketing
Historically, Sales and Marketing have been on different paths toward the same goal of closing business and growing revenue. Marketing has nurtured leads to a set of predetermined metrics to establish them as “Sales-ready,” and then passed them on to Sales to close the deal. Cross-team communication and results analysis basically stopped there.
That’s just not a valid model in the highly integrated discipline of Account-Based Marketing (ABM). Well-qualified Sales leads are going to continue to do their own research and be influenced by your content marketing programs, both inbound and outbound. Sales is going to uncover prospect and market intelligence that’s vital to the design of successful ABM programs. And all these contact points need to be quantified and tracked to closed business and positive ROI.
Some progress is being made, of course. Spending on marketing analytics is predicted to grow to more than 20 percent of Marketing budgets in the next three years, according to the most recent CMO survey. That’s up from just under 5 percent currently. So, businesses are clearly getting more serious about analysis and prioritization of Marketing dollars that map to revenue.
But there’s still lots of work to be done. Aligning Sales and Marketing is going to take both better technology and refined business practices.
Here’s a quick look at the key steps I believe will help Sales and Marketing get on the same page.
Tag and Track All Customer Contacts
At True Influence, customers sometimes tell us that a lead from our InsightBASE® Managed Services has closed after 18 or so months in their extended B2B sales cycle. But we don’t get that feedback as often as we’d like, and I believe it’s because the leads aren’t tagged and tracked appropriately in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. And this is technology that’s already in-house.
As I’ve noted, companies are looking to invest more heavily in marketing analytics, but a lot of that investment should take the form of fully exploiting existing tech to get a clear picture of how Marketing and Sales efforts combine to close a deal.
Shane Murphy, the VP of Marketing at AdRoll, has an interesting piece at Martech Today about how he and the Sales VP created a fairly advanced method for attributing revenue to different customer life cycle models. AdRoll created various “buckets” of closed business, based on how prospects initially engage with the company and the degree to which Marketing supported the Sales process, even after the prospect was engaged by outbound Sales reps.
While AdRoll’s attribution system may not be a one-to-one fit for your business, it clearly illustrates the need to track all touchpoints in prospect’s purchase journey to get a better picture of how both Marketing and Sales contribute. And, I’ll add, it’s based entirely on closed business.
Focus on ROI as the Ultimate Measure of Success
Obviously, Sales and Marketing have different job responsibilities. You can’t simply point at the Sales report as the final arbiter of how Marketing is performing. There will always be a need for some bar by which a Marketing- generated lead is determined to be “sales-ready.”
But that standard needs to be constantly evaluated and determined by the rate at which leads convert to revenue – not just demographic or firmographic criteria. Again, Sales’ responsibilities and contributions must be carefully measured, as well. With this data in hand, companies can develop a picture of how both teams are working toward the shared ultimate goals of growing revenue.
Measuring success by the common standard of ROI will be the biggest driver toward better alignment between Sales and Marketing, in my opinion. Everybody should ultimately be on the hook for how their activities help the company make money.
Shorten the Sales Cycle Through ABM and Third-Party Intelligence
One of best ways to improve alignment between Sales and Marketing to shorten the B2B sale cycle through ABM.
Marketers have an enormous volume of tactics and tools available to them. If they must wait even three months for initial feedback on how a campaign is performing, that can be three months of wasted effort, resources and momentum. Not a winning equation for improving ROI and building closer alignment between Sales and Marketing.
A key benefit of ABM is that it tends to dramatically cut the length of the Sales cycle, particularly when coupled with third-party Intent Signal Monitoring data like that available through True Influence’s InsightBASE service. Knowing what your prospects and current customers are researching across the Web will help you tailor right-time messaging that not only targets a potential customer’s interests, but also their current stage in the purchase journey.
I’ll also note that a finely tuned ABM strategy will hone your list of named target accounts. Your Marketing team may find itself targeting 500 to 1,000 well-researched accounts, as opposed to working against a broader wishlist of 5,000 or more names. As a Marketing philosophy, ABM requires a degree of Sales and Marketing planning that goes hand-in-hand with more rigorous ROI analysis. It works — ITSA reported more than 80 percent of ABM marketers showed better return on ABM than other channels.
Create a Constant Loop of Feedback Between Sales & Marketing
As I said in the opening of this post, Sales and Marketing need to talk more often. In my experience, this is still not the case, particularly at smaller companies. The two teams still operate as though they are walled off from each other.
In some organizations, creating a collaborative culture may mean moving the two teams under the same management umbrella (I personally like this approach). But in any case, you should set up structured communication channels. Some of this communication will be quantitative, in the form of analytics, but the two teams also need to share less clinical information and cooperate closely to get the most benefit from every customer interaction.
Some key areas here include:
Customer Intelligence – Sales reps in the field are always going to hear about customer concerns and aspirations that aren’t going to be immediately evident in Intent Signals or other Big Data sources. Sharing this intel with Marketing can result in new, innovative campaigns that target highly focus account lists and return performance metrics without a months-long lag.
Current Customer Upsell – Sales reps are in constant contact with customers, and they are in the often in the best position to pass along word about a new research study or webinar Marketing is conducting this quarter.
Market Intelligence – Just as Sales reps gather intel out in the field, Marketing team members learn an enormous amount about trends through their own online research and bench-marking surveys. When Marketing discovers that a new competitor is making waves, this info needs to be passed onto Sales. The same is true of customer feedback on your own brand; Sales needs to know what customers are saying about your business and adjust its message accordingly.
Lining Up for Greater Success
Companies know that Sales and Marketing need to work together seamlessly to close new business. They also know that this doesn’t happen all that often. Giving both teams the common standard of ROI as a measuring stick for success will go a long way toward encouraging more cooperation and better alignment between the two teams.