Alignment. It’s the buzzword in #B2B.
Recently, I discussed the fallacy of sales & marketing alignment with Logan Lyles on the B2B Growth Show.
We talk about 2 myths of alignment:
- Revenue is the job of Sales alone If the pipeline is full of deals Sales can’t close, Marketing has wasted their time. Marketers have to psychologically connect to revenue. They can do this by spending time with Sales & better understanding the intricacies of how enterprise deals are closed.
- Sales loves content If Marketing produces content Sales can’t use, it can feel like it’s adding noise to their already busy day. Marketers should focus on *stories*. Stories allow the sales team to turn testimonials into more sales, which pushes the needle they care about: revenue.
*** Full Text of Interview ***
Defining Sales and Marketing Alignment
A lot of people look at sales and marketing alignment as a question of sales and marketing getting along.
For example, does the VP of Marketing get along with the Sales VP, or is the sales team friendly with the marketing team? That’s the connection that most people look at. I don’t think this is the case in every organisation, but it is often how one would interpret the meaning of “sales and marketing alignment.” It’s not really about getting along, though. It’s about understanding what matters to a business. What matters, of course, is closed revenue.
In a marketing role, you have to prove your value and earn respect. Sales obviously gets a lot of respect because they are closing business. In an organisation, sales is more popular than marketing in terms of actual business output.
Creating a service level agreement between sales and marketing will allow you to move beyond simply getting along and actually outline what the acceptable outcomes really are. This is a way to justify and articulate the value that marketing is bringing to the company. In turn, this will help your presence and reputation with an investment board, directors, CEO, or senior leadership teams.
Challenges to Sales and Marketing Teams, and How You Can Overcome Them
The Disconnect of Pipeline and Revenue
Right now, marketing thinks about pipeline, and sales thinks about revenue. When the two collaborate in a meeting, marketing is talking about the pipeline, and sales is talking about the lack of revenue being generated. Marketing is still stuck on their pipeline number and whether or not they’ve hit that number.
Even in a service level agreement scenario, if marketing has hit their pipeline number, they can feel as though their job is done and the problem lies with sales to overcome. However, that’s not really giving any value to the organisation. At the end of the day, if you hit your pipeline number and the company doesn’t hit their number, what you’ve done is insignificant.
The practical thing here is that as a marketing leader, you have to attach yourself to revenue more than you attach yourself to pipeline, and get on the same page as sales regarding what you care about. When you communicate better and discuss these things with your peers, you’ll achieve two things. First, you’ll get better buy-in from them. Second, you’ll understand the reality of what revenue actually means.
Too many marketers are disconnected from what revenue actually is and how difficult it can really be to close deals. It’s not about something going wrong within the sales team, even though marketing has achieved their pipeline number. The best marketers right now, and in the future, will be those that have a deeper understanding of the sales process post-pipeline.
How do you close a deal, and how do you understand the nuances and complexities of closing B2B enterprise deals — these are the things that you as an effective marketing individual should learn. Learn about the sales process and how difficult it is to close revenue. Learn about the conversion metrics of that. Don’t just learn about MQL to SQL (marketing qualified leads to sales qualified leads) and marketing metrics. This is what will make you stand out when you have executive level conversations.
Creating and Using Content
What normally happens, is marketing pushes content to sales, thinking that if they push and aggregate content to the sales team, they are going to love it. Marketing then wonders why sales isn’t using that content to close deals. Marketing gives sales ebooks, blog posts, product comparisons, and so on, feeling like they’ve completed their job by producing content.
For sales people, content is helpful, but it doesn’t really move the needle for them. It creates noise in their already busy daily life. Sometimes sales doesn’t know what to do with the content, or how it should be used, or the specific context of how it’s going to move a deal forward. Content is overall, not very helpful to sales, even though there are good aspirations from marketing to make it helpful.
Content is important. Don’t think that sales doesn’t care about it. To create meaningful content, you need to frame all of your messaging around stories. This is how you communicate to sales reps and the sales VP how each piece of your content fits to a particular story that a salesperson can then relay to a prospect. If you build your content program all around the story or what the story means, sales will absorb that and will be more likely to use it.
Marketing Training Sales
You sell by thinking about what matters to the other person, and how you can help them do something better. Marketing knows about the sales funnel, they are producing content, so they can sometimes think they are the experts and know better than sales. We have to take a step back and understand the way sales people learn.
The most effective way that sales people learn is through peer-driven knowledge sharing — how to run deals, how to close deals, and what they’ve learned from losing a deal. We need to think about our marketing approach and training sales while keeping those three pillars in mind. This will make training far more effective, and you’ll get more of an outcome from these training sessions. Sales people will derive more purpose from this type of training, and this will leave them more motivated.
I’d love to continue this conversation if you want to dig a bit deeper. You can reach me at my website, www.edwinabl.com; I run a weekly newsletter and send out the top seven things I learn each week. You can also find me on Twitter @EdAbl.
At Hive Learning we work with sales organisations and help them with their learning and development at www.hiveLearning.com where we have “open hives” of learning groups that anyone can join for free, with expertise from leading authorities.
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