An organization cannot succeed on a grand scale if Sales and Marketing are not aligned.
If reading that first sentence kind of made you break into a sweat or gave you that weird sinking feeling in your gut, then you’re going to want to read.
But we know the all-too-common story about Sales and Marketing teams for B2B companies: they’re constantly at odds with each other, there’s a lot of debate about what’s working and what’s not, the leads aren’t qualified enough, too many leads are being left behind, there’s not enough in the pipeline, and so much more.
Where do we even begin to establish a foundation for improvement?
What Does Success Look Like
Before we even get into the knitty-gritty of what makes a B2B Sales and Marketing successful, we must start with the ultimate definition of success.
Success is and should be defined by the entire organization – with both Sales and Marketing working together.
When our clients first engage with us for a digital transformation project, one of the first steps is usually a strategic engagement that gets all parties involved in the room.
This usually includes Sales, Marketing, and IT. And one of the most magical things that could ever happen in one of those meetings is the conversation on how each team defines success – and how it’s unified under the mission of the business.
Surprising to some, the chance that these groups get together and really discuss what this means is rare.
Also probably surprising to some, trickle-down goals and objectives from Sales and Marketing leadership isn’t nearly as effective as getting everyone for both teams in the same room together as frequently as possible.
The Ideal Customer Profile
There’s many terms for the best segment or group of people you’d love to target: personas, segments, target market, profiles, and more.
“Ideal Customer Profile” is largely a SAAS term for marketing teams looking to target customers that fit a certain profile.
The ICP – and no, not Insane Clown Posse – has stuck with me, personally, for a number of reasons – the first being that it reminds us all that all of this is for the ideal customer profile.
“Ideal” changes things. It takes “customer profile” to a new level: “ideal customer profile.”
Ideal is defined as “satisfying one’s conception of what is perfect; most suitable”, and in regards to Sales and Marketing, this is also necessary. To seek perfection means to seek the absolute best that you can – free from flaws and shortcomings.
If Marketing and Sales unite on this relentless pursuit of the perfect customer profile, they can become unstoppable.
In addition to the conversation about the customer profile is also the customer journey. Top performing sales and marketing teams have adopted the customer journey mapping exercise and are currently using it
to improve their baseline results.
One of the most important discussions we have with our clients at Arke is the big “change management” conversation.
When we help our clients go through digital transformation, there’s always a “Who Moved My Cheese?” moment – where the paradigm shift is happening – and happening fast – and we help our client’s teams through the changes.
More often than not, the digital transformation and overall customer experience impact Sales teams.
One of the most common ways that Sales and Marketing teams fail is when they don’t establish a strong communication (and ultimately change management) plan.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but if it were, I wouldn’t be here saying it.
According to an HBR study, “the integration of marketing and sales teams ranks as the second-most critical success factors of those identified, ahead of better content for engagement.”
Top B2B performers in any industry also report success with sales and marketing alignment – but how?
Well, communication is how we start – and not just talking at each other, but with each other.
There’s a great Hubspot article that talks about the best way to establish a communication plan, and the steps are pretty simple, but easily lays a foundation:
- Have Sales and Marketing meet frequently.
- Build relationships between multiple levels of the team.
- Mix Marketing and Sales desks together.
- Provide many types of feedback between Sales and Marketing.
- Agree on terminology.
- Use data to communicate.
Agreeing on terminology is one of my hands-down favorite point to make when talking about anything to do with Sales and Marketing teams. I think I even discuss it in another post about the biggest mistakes sales and marketing teams are making.
It’s so important, though.
How can one make any amount of progress when there’s no clear definition of where you’re going, what you’re after, and what all of this is for?
When Marketing and Sales can rally around the same idea – whatever “lead” means or “SQL” means – they will be able to define the exact steps for each side to get what they want.
The last point – “use data to communicate” – is also important. Assuming both Marketing and Sales have the absolute best reporting capabilities on their sales and marketing efforts, then no. 6 is fairly easy to do.
It removes the conversation from “these leads suck” and “you haven’t closed any of the leads we sent over” to actual proof that the close rate increased or decreased or the sales cycle has lengthened or shortened. And when using the numbers, it’s no longer personal, but a group problem rather than an individual problem.
The biggest challenge is creating those reporting capabilities in the first place.
Technology and Reporting Capabilities
When reading articles like this, it’s always surprising how few of them discuss the actual technology needs required to make any of this magic happen.
So much of a Sales and Marketing team’s success is dependent on the actual people and if you have people who are culturally determined to increase revenue, increase close rates, shorten sales cycles, etc.
But the other side is if you’re even technically capable of providing real data and feedback rather than hunches and whims.
Every organization is different, but across the board, we’ve found that every organization needs these key technical things:
- A system of record for maintaining contacts and leads – typically known as a CRM
- A marketing automation platform used for managing and creating email campaigns, landing pages, form capture, and more
- A website – but even more specifically, a means to edit the content – known as a CMS or content management system
- Some form of lead scoring – be it by the CRM or marketing automation platform or CMS
- Analytics – preferably by the pros
- Google Search Console – probably the one specific tool I’ll call out because it’s so important when assessing the state of your website
- Integrations between all of the major databases and platforms. Marketing automation, the CMS, and CRM all need to be able to talk to each other and pass lead information and activity information to the main system of record. Lead scoring will help with prioritizing leads in CRM for sales.
- The ability to pull reports and see your most important KPIs and other metrics that determine your success. The system of record is typically the CRM, but this could also be whatever robust analytics platform you’re using assuming it’s integrated with other platforms.
The exercise that we often highly recommend to our customers is to start with the end in mind – ask the question: what do we want to know at the end of the day and what do we (including sales AND marketing) want to be able to report on?
Starting with the end in mind helps to eliminate the chaff and focus on building an infrastructure that helps you accomplish your reporting goals.
Personalization – But For Groups
Today’s state of content marketing doesn’t do enough credit to the groups of people who must make purchasing decisions together.
There’s tons of content that speaks to the individual buyer, but in the B2B world, there’s very rarely ever just one buyer. In fact, there’s usually 5.4 buyers on average for every account.
Content marketing has been hailed as king in regards to building a relationship with buyers and getting found by potential buyers – despite content marketing being one of the main contributors to search traffic.
Around 96% of your website visitors, however, are not ready to buy. Another quote also reiterates this point: “Brightedge estimates that a whopping 80% of searchers will land on your website with a desire to get information, not to buy.”
On top of that, it seems that every single article (including some of our own) on the planet touts the wonderful fortunes that content personalization is bound to give you if you would just figure out what your customers want.
But it decreases dramatically as soon as you introduce more than one buyer:
I’ve written about the biggest mistakes B2B sales and marketing teams are making and about the future of outbound prospecting for B2B sales teams, and the conclusion from both of those articles is that personalization does still work – but we need to be more mindful of the full team we’re marketing and selling to.
We do a pretty great job as both marketers and salespeople of communicating our ideas and stories and products / services to individuals – but we don’t do them or ourselves any favors when we don’t think about the full group of buyers.
Content marketing – and therefore personalization – should really be shifted towards making groups of people feel comfortable with your brand rather than the individual.
You help your client more when you’re able to communicate the full spectrum to each potential buyer rather than one buyer.
And when Sales and Marketing can get together to make that vision a reality, they might just see the results they’re looking for.
I’ve written a lot about the difference between lead and demand generation programs.
One of the biggest struggles that B2B Sales teams has is that there’s either not enough leads in the pipeline, or there’s so many that they don’t know where to begin.
Some of this is because of a lack of process with lead scoring and overall qualifying of leads.
On the other hand, this is also a lack of a true-to-form demand generation program. Lead generation campaigns and programs are usually incomplete without demand generation creating interest and awareness in products in the first place.
So instead, marketing campaigns turn into contests focused entirely on improving conversion rates for leads rather than focusing on what puts someone in the pipeline in the first place.
The ideal situation is to have your brand and products / services so well known, that your prospects pick up the phone and call you rather than the other way around.
This is exactly what a good demand generation program does for an organization.
It creates so much awareness and interest that warming up a cold audience is less inconceivable. It makes qualification much more efficient, and when you’re ready to launch true lead generation campaigns, it’s less of question of who’s qualified and more how can we accelerate the pipeline and increase the size of the pipeline.
Testing New Ideas and Continuing to Innovate
Finally, the secret to the success of B2B Sales and Marketing teams is to always and forever continue to innovate.
Testing new ideas – even when they seem completely absurd – is one of the best ways to uncover new insights, and clearer ideas for the future.
If you think about it, there’s the 70 – 20 – 10 ratio in regards to time spent.
There’s 70% of your time dedicated to sales and marketing tactics that you know effectively work. Twenty-percent of your time is spent iterating on test campaigns and activities you’re trying out.
Finally, the last 10% of your time is spent innovating and pushing the status quo. It’s the time for all of the wild ideas your teams have always wanted to see to fruition, but never been able to.
The teams who stand out are the ones who continue to push the bar. Never be afraid to innovate within your B2B organization. As history has shown us, it’s the innovative approaches that we never see coming that end up changing our lives.