Today we're going to talk all about sales and marketing alignment -- smarketing (sales + marketing) -- and stereotypes.
We’ll help you get sales and marketing on the same page, and make sure that all the wheels are turning at the same time when sales and marketing are working on the same goals and priorities.
This is critical so that both teams are actually helping their companies, as opposed to either ignoring each other, best case scenario, or worst case scenario: bringing a lot of baggage that sabotages their companies. We want to make sure that doesn't happen.
And we’ll also look at how to ensure that everyone is focused on improving business outcomes.
Reaching the Modern Buyer in a Digital-First World
So to start, it's helpful to take a few moments and talk about how all of this relates to the modern buyer.
Why? It does no good to talk about sales and marketing in the context of the 1990s or the early 2000s -- even if that’s the era in which most of your sales team first learned how to sell, and most of your marketing team learned how to market. We are where we are.
We're living in a digital-first world, and the modern buyer is frankly tired of getting interrupted by obnoxious sales and marketing pitches; in fact, so tired, that their frustration has fueled entirely new, massive business models. This includes disruptive, transformative companies like Hulu, Netflix, Sirius XM, Spotify, and of course Amazon.
The rise of selective consumption -- people essentially cherry-picking content on-demand, is all about people getting tired of getting interrupted and wanting 100 percent of what they want, exactly when they want it. No crap added and 100 percent on their own terms.
How to Get Sales and Marketing on the Same Page When Growing Revenue
The modern buyer needs to control their own buyer’s journey. And the technology and web services now gives them the ability to do that.
And when it comes to the modern buyer, this person is looking for information on their challenges, goals, and plans all of the time.
They're using search engines, social media, and personal assistants. Siri has been around for years. More recently, Alexa has joined the join the party there. Microsoft's got Cortana. Google’s got Google Assistant.
So there's definitely a lot of commercial interest in helping the modern buyer start to explore their own problems, on their own time. And this is all a result of a huge shift in behaviors; in how people research and make purchase decisions.
And these behaviors haven't just happened in isolation. The changes in preferences have massive ramifications for how companies like yours go about marketing their products and services, and selling their products and services. And that brings us to what we're going to talk about in today’s episode:
How to make sure that sales and marketing are on the same page when it comes to growing your revenue.
Are Your Sales and Marketing Investments Keeping Up WIth Digital Transformation?
Now in a digital-first world, it's important to confront the reality.
In many cases, your buyers, the modern buyer, are doing so much research on search engines and social media before they ever get to you that 70 percent or more of their decision making is now over before they're willing to engage in a conversation with somebody from your sales team.
In other words, the overwhelming majority of their research is done before they ever get to you. Google has called this phenomenon the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT). What does this mean?
In a digital-first world, your company no longer controls your brand. What people find out about your brand online, when they ask search engines and social media, that is essentially what your brand is today.
So this has huge ramifications, huge implications, for the role of marketing and sales going forward. In order for your company to survive and not be digitally disrupted, and actually thrive in the future, you need to recognize that a big part of the problem with all of this is that most company’s investments are totally out of whack with what the modern buyer is demanding.
In a typical company, 90 percent of the sales/marketing budget is going to sales and business development. And the remaining 10 percent of that budget is going to marketing.
And people say, “Well, what's wrong with that? Sales is who actually closes.”
The problem is: Sales is now only getting involved in the final 30 percent of the buyer's journey.
So it's very likely that 90 percent of your company's budget is going to the final 30 percent of the buyer’s journey. And only 10 percent of your budget is going into the first 70 percent percent of the buyer’s journey.
Why Most Sales and Marketing Teams are Playing Extremely Lopsided Fantasy Baseball
If you're a fan of Major League Baseball (MLB), even a very casual fan, you probably know at least that there are nine innings in the game. And the way most Major League Baseball rosters are constructed now, there are players that start games, playing in the early innings and middle innings (innings one through six). And there are specific players that are brought into games when it's late and close -- in late innings (the seventh through ninth innings, and any needed extra innings).
Baseball actually has names, or job titles, for this division of labor. The bullpen takes over pitching from the starting pitcher in late innings. And there are bench players that come off the bench to replace the position players when they get tired in the late innings -- sometimes called late inning defensive replacements. If the game goes into extra innings, all bets are off.
If companies were like MLB teams, 90% of their payroll would go into the late innings (innings seven through nine) and 10% of their payroll would go into early innings and middle innings (innings one through six).
So what's happening with the way people are balancing their sales and marketing investments?
Almost all of their payroll is going to serve the “seventh, eighth, and ninth innings.”
Again, the essential problem: when you look at a company's aggregate sales and marketing investments, most of the budget is going into the last 30 percent of the buyer's journey. And that early, first 70 percent of the buyer's journey is being severely neglected.
Why Marketing is Often Left in the Dark and What You Can Do About It
So the challenge in reaching the modern buyer in this context is that marketing really is responsible for the lion's share of traffic generation, lead generation, and even to a certain degree sales cycle acceleration.
But the problem is: sales is much closer to your end clients than marketing ever can be.
Your sales reps are the ones that build and nurture these relationships. Your sales reps, or account managers depending on company size and structure, are managing accounts and maintaining existing client relationships.
Marketing doesn't have those client relationships. So essentially, your sales team is much closer to your clients than marketing. And this is a huge problem in the modern buyer's journey. If your company has a customer service or customer support organization, those service and support professionals are also likely much closer to your end clients than marketing is.
You're depending on marketing to figure all of this out, but your marketing staff just doesn’t have the right inputs.
And yes, there are some fairly simple things that you can do right out of the gate:
- Ride alongs -- where someone from your marketing team goes along with someone from your sales team on a sales appointment or sales call
- Shadowing support -- where someone from your marketing team sits in and observes service and support calls
- Collaborating on content strategy
Regardless of whether we're talking about a small-, medium-, or enterprise-sized company, if there are cultural problems and barriers that preclude more cooperation, sometimes that needs to go all the way up to the C-level. In a small business, it's fairly common for the CEO to need to get involved to change the nature of these relationships within companies -- so marketing and sales get closer together and collaborates, which is key to reaching the modern buyer and helping your company compete a lot more aggressively in a digital-first world.
Marketing Redefined to Support the Modern Buyer
So how can marketing support this? Well, there has been a fundamental shift in what marketing needs to be doing to be successful.
Because of the way many people view marketing today, even if they think they understand internet marketing, online marketing, or digital marketing, what your marketing team needs to be doing is very different from that.
Marketing is no longer about outbound and interruption. Marketing, when it's done correctly for the modern buyer's journey, is all about
- Attracting strangers into visitors
- Converting visitors into leads
- Accelerating leads into sales opportunities
- Supporting sales to get those sales opportunities over the goal line, hit out of the park, or whatever you want to call those sales opportunities turn into new clients at a decent clip, at a good percentage rate
Inbound campaigns accordingly, because they're much closer to the reality of what the modern buyer is demanding, typically have much higher return on investment (ROI) than traditional outbound marketing campaigns.
Now marketing teams, in many cases, have been first-movers with this. Compared to sales teams, marketing teams have made improvements to their sales funnels, in many cases, based on the modern buyer.
And in a lot of cases, marketing teams are successfully delivering content based on the modern buyer's journey -- what the modern buyer needs at each stage of their buyer’s journey and your sales funnel, throughout your sales cycle.
Marketing has gotten good at attracting the right people, in the right places, at the right time, and in the right context. In other words, marketing professionals are often getting to prospects and visitors, influencers, and decision makers.
Marketing teams are using:
- Topics and keywords that are top of mind for the awareness-stage prospects that they're looking to attract
- Website optimization so pages are relevant for a specific buyer persona, conversion or lead generation goal, and sharing on social media
So marketing has gotten good at:
- Attracting the right people; traffic generation
- Converting interested visitors into leads; gathering up contact information from those leads including essential business card information (at the minimum: first and last name, company name, and business email address -- plus maybe a little bit about who they are and what makes them tick); lead generation
- Nurturing leads; educating and building trust over time; fostering trusted advisor relationships
Marketing Evolving Beyond a Source of Annoying Interruptions to Lead Generation Saviors
In other words, marketing professionals -- at least some -- have figured out how to help with the modern buyer's journey without being perceived as an annoying source of interruption marketing.
The challenge, however, is that some marketing teams are really living in the past. Some sales teams are also really living in the past when it comes to their understanding of what it takes for their digital assets to be successful.
And as a result, marketing teams are leaning way too heavily on tactics like “Subscribe to Our Newsletter” as a primary offer on their websites. Let's face it: in a digital-first world, it's no longer a novelty to subscribe to somebody's email newsletter. So this type of offer just simply isn't terribly effective anymore for driving sales leads, at least not without additional conversion paths.
Along the same lines, people that are relatively new to figuring out sales and marketing alignment -- and digital marketing and digital transformation -- oftentimes lean way too heavily on their “Contact Us” page, sometimes to the point that that “Contact Us” page is the only place on the entire website where a visitor that's interested can raise their hand and say, “Yes!” I'm a hot prospect.
And that's unfortunate because people will generally only fill out a form on a “Contact Us” page when they are ready to speak with your sales team -- when they're at least 70 percent of the way through that buyer's journey.
So what happens to all of the people that reach your website that aren't ready for a sales conversation? That aren't yet 70 percent of the way along the buyer's journey? You're basically putting up a sign that says, “Get lost!” Whether you’ve thought about that or not, that's effectively what's happening.
You have absolutely nothing to offer of value to people that are in the Awareness and the Consideration stages of their buyer's journey.
You have nothing of value to offer to somebody that is a new stranger, that has not yet heard of your company and stumbled upon your website by accident.
So it's critical to use calls to action, forms, and landing pages to capture more leads, to convert more visitors into leads. But you need to provide something of value in return. And that's where the whole idea of premium content comes into play.
When approached correctly, and marketing is doing what's needed for their side of delivering sales and marketing alignment, your marketing team should be building up a centralized database that will become incredibly valuable to your sales team very quickly.
How Marketing Teams Can Help Sales Teams Close Deals More Easily with Smarketing
So we’ve talked attracting visitors and converting leads.
In the close phase (closing leads into clients), marketing has also transformed, so that it can learn more about who these contacts and leads are.
In addition, if marketing is using the right strategy, talent, and technology platform, marketing should also be able to learn what every contact cares most about:
- What brought them to your website
- What caused them to convert
- All of the pages they've looked at
- How many times they’ve visited
- How many times they’ve filled out additional forms
- What videos they’ve watched and for how many minutes
- Which webinars they’ve attended and how they interacted at the webinars
All of that data can be incredibly valuable to accelerating leads into sales opportunities.
But in order for that to happen, marketing and sales must be able to work together more effectively. They must be able to collaborate. And the whole idea of smarketing -- sales and marketing alignment -- has to become less vision and more reality.
Sales Funnel Ownership, Layer by Layer, Lifecycle Stage by Lifecycle Stage
When it comes to the sales funnel, marketing essentially should be owning the top couple of layers:
As you get further along in the funnel, your sales team should own those later stages:
- When marketing qualified leads progress, or get promoted to, sales qualified leads (SQLs)
- When sales qualified leads become sales opportunities
- When sales opportunities become clients
The Devastating Impact of Cognitive Dissonance with Marketing Professionals and Their Colleagues
Now many marketers know that they need to be doing the kinds of things that we're talking about in this podcast. The challenge, however, is that there is some big time cognitive dissonance going on:
- Seatbelts and car safety -- Marketers know that they need to be buckling up their seatbelts. They know if they don't buckle up their seat belts how deadly the consequences could be. Yet they're still not buckling up their seat belts.
- Flossing and overall health and wellness -- They go to the dentist one to three times each year and keep getting the lecture over and over again from their hygienist about what happens to your oral health as you get older if you don't floss. Yet they still don't floss.
According to Wikipedia, “cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values.“
This is the same problem with digital marketers. They know that they need to be obsessed with buyer personas, the buyer's journey, segmentation, and personalization. Yet there's a disconnect.
Sometimes there's a disconnect because marketers don't quite know these disciplines as well as they think they do.
Sometimes there's a disconnect because their CEOs and their boards are completely unrealistic about the level of investment that's required to compete effectively in today's buyer's journey.
And sometimes their CEOs are too short-sighted to invest in the right tools and technology to empower marketers and sales professionals.
But either way, digital marketing, as well as sales and marketing alignment, is not getting done as well as it ought to be. And frankly, if marketing is not exerting leadership here, sales is sunk before the sales team even realizes it.
How CEOs Can Help Their Sales and Marketing Teams Grow Revenue in a DIgital-First World
So what a CEO like you do to help sales from lagging behind?
How can marketing and sales be empowered to have these kinds of transformative, game-changing conversations about what it's going to take to compete more effectively in a digital-first world?
In many cases, this is going to force you to go back to your sales team and rethink your whole approach, your playbook, to make sure that it's been modernized and is staying relevant for the modern buyer's journey, the modern buyer’s demands and their expectations.
A huge percentage of your customers, your clients, now use platforms like Amazon Prime, Uber, and Netflix. And guess what?
Your prospects and clients now expect your website to be almost as good as what they've gotten used to -- when they order something from Amazon Prime with just one click on their smartphone, when they hail an Uber in less than 30 seconds with an app, or when they look for something to watch on Netflix.
Now your prospects and clients are pragmatists; they don't expect your website and digital presence to be exactly as good. But that -- the user experience provided by Amazon, Uber, and Netflix, is now the standard against which every company is being judged. That's the new table stakes. That's what this is all about.
So what can you do to get your sales and marketing teams on the same page? How can you align them better? How can you have effective smarketing -- sales and marketing alignment?
Smarketing 101: Set Common Goals
Sales and marketing alignment starts with common goals; getting by-in around common SMART goals, goals that are
- Time bound
So marketing can make your sales team look like rock stars. Revenue growth is usually the ultimate end goal with all of this. But some effective interim goals can be as simple as lead generation and sales opportunity generation. These can really be good starting points; because at the end of the day, to make this effective, your marketing team’s goals need to support your sales quotas.
The Toxic Culture of Negative Sales and Marketing Stereotypes-- Why Name Calling Sinks Ships
Another big thing to be very aware of -- before your sales and marketing alignment program even gets off the ground:
If there are negative, toxic, stereotypes and bad relationships between your sales team and marketing team, that needs to be fixed.
The Corporate Executive Board (CEB), that’s now part of world-leading research and advisory firm Gartner, has found that 87 percent of the words that sales and marketing use to describe each other, behind each other's backs, are extremely negative -- like throwing under the bus kind of negative.
Marketing describes sales team members as
- Not the sharpest tools in the shed
And sales is no better at how it describes marketing as
- Obsessed with doing arts and crafts projects
- Playing around with swag
- Messing around with the branding and color chart
- Just being totally clueless about what it takes to close sales and make quota
So again, if your company is this kind of environment where 87 percent of the words that are used by sales and marketing to describe each other are that toxic and negative, that has to be dealt with!
You need a healthy culture to support sales and marketing alignment. Otherwise, any related efforts and investments are doomed before you get out of the out of the gate. So again, one of the first things to start with is aligning around common smart goals.
Keeping Sales and Marketing on the Same Page with Progress Towards Goal Attainment
Next, make sure that you introduce visibility and transparency into how you measure and track progress towards those goals and how you attain those goals.
So if you have software that provides a dashboard-like interface to track goals, make sure that both marketing and sales teams have access to the dashboard.
If your software doesn't support, you can certainly build your own dashboard in a Microsoft Excel or a Google Sheets worksheet that you can share with everyone once a day.
As a last resort, if your company is really low-tech and everyone's in the same location, you could physically have a white board or marker board on the wall to measure and track progress towards goals.
Along the same lines, someone like sales operations or the CEO needs to send out daily reports about how marketing and sales are progressing towards their goals.
After all, how can you improve it if you're not measuring it? And how will your employees know what you're measuring If you're not communicating?
Sales and Marketing Compensation Tied to Goal Attainment
Another big thing to think about: adding some compensation based on shared goal attainment.
While your sales team is likely compensated based on individuals hitting their sales goals, marketing and business development staff often are not incentivized the same way.
In other words, is the support system that’s supposed to help your sales team achieve their goals aligned around what it takes for sales to hit their goals?
Do marketing and business development staff have visibility into daily progress?
And is there some kind of bonus that's tied to that shared goal attainment?
Spend More Quality Time Together
Another huge factor that's make-or-break for better aligning sales and marketing: the quality and the quantity of the time that they spend together -- hopefully at least a few times a month.
Obviously, it's ideal if your sales and marketing teams are spending time together physically in-person.
But if geographic limitations preclude that, we live in a world where Skype, GoToMeeting, WebEx, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger Video, and Apple FaceTime bring people closer together and take away the excuses around lack of travel budget, or different locations or different time zones.
There are so many ways to get the next best thing -- with video conferencing, that any company that cares about sales and marketing alignment should be able to get its sales and marketing teams together on a regular basis. It’s a matter of setting and enforcing priorities.
For many companies and CEOs, fixing this is a culture issue. And of course, the ideal situation has sales and marketing teams sitting together in really close proximity.
Sales and Marketing Collaborating to Make Your Company a Thought Leadership Powerhouse
At the minimum, your sales and marketing teams should be working really closely together when they:
- Develop buyer personas
- Map out the buyer's journey
- Create content -- especially because your sales team very likely has some subject matter experts that marketing should be interviewing on a regular basis to source original content
Now only a small percentage of your sales team will have the willingness and ability to create content on their own. But one of your marketing team’s many jobs needs to be facilitating content creation and the editorial process. If this concept is now to your company, here’s how to explain it:
Think about somebody from a trade publication or the local business journal interviewing you on a topic of your expertise. However because your company is paying the bill for the content creation and content promotion, there’s no “journalist” that needs to interview three or four different sources, including your competition. There's no journalistic agenda or cynicism. All that content created is all about is making your subject matter experts internally look like rock stars when they share helpful advice, tips, insight, and best practices.
Sometimes, however, there’s even some self-doubt among your sales teams about whether they're smart enough about this topic to share that kind of information.
However, if your sales professionals have been in your industry and your company for a while, they may not be the be-all, end-all expert on that particular topic. But chances are, they're more than knowledgeable enough about the topic because they explain that topic to prospects and clients every single week, every single month, every single quarter, all year long until they're blue in the face.
So your sales and marketing teams need to collaborate regularly on content creation that’s focused on traffic generation, lead generation, and sales cycle acceleration.
In addition, as mentioned earlier, your marketing staff should be going on sales calls and customer visits with your sales staff on a regular basis, generally at least once a month. Marketing staff needs to get closer to customers and get out of the tower and the tunnel vision that can undermine a lot of what they're doing. So they know how to better create and promote content that attracts the right prospects, in the right places, at the right time, and in the right context.
Review Leads and Opportunities Together Every Week
In addition, marketing and sales need to get really good at sharing feedback with each other -- sharing their findings about what they learn from leads that progress, versus those leads that don't progress to sales opportunities.
This way, sales and marketing can refine their buyer personas and buyer's journey stages over time -- especially with making sure that they're using the right jargon, the right categories, and the right lifecycle stages.
Your sales and marketing teams should be meeting on a regular basis --- generally weekly -- to review new leads and new opportunities that have been generated, to help refine the lead qualification and lead scoring criteria, and to decide when handoff should happen between marketing and sales.
Many times, the decision of when to pass leads from marketing to sales is balancing tradeoffs between their fit, as a good fit potential client, and their level of interest.
Ideally, you want to have strong fit and high levels of interest to pass leads to sales.
But when there are not enough leads to meet quota -- with very high levels of interest and very high levels of fit, there will tradeoffs and compromises.
And that's a lot of what those sales and marketing alignment conversations are all about.
Create a Service Level Agreement (SLA) That Formalizes the “Marriage Vows”
Sales and marketing alignment should also have a service level agreement (SLA) that governs how each team behaves towards each other. This of an SLA like wedding vows, like marriage vows, that crystallize and formalize what each team promises to do for the other and the good of the company’s overall SMART goals.
Generally, just a single piece of paper should be more than adequate for outlining what each team promises to each other.
Sales teams and marketing teams should be making commitments to each other that focus their collaborative efforts on sales growth outcomes.
Sales will typically promise that they'll
- Reach out to qualified leads within a certain number of minutes or a certain number of hours.
- Attempt to connect with those qualified leads for a certain number of times, a certain number of days apart
And along the same lines, marketing will promise to sales that they'll:
- Generate a certain number of sales accepted leads (SALs), sales qualified leads (SQLs), each month
The specifics will vary depending on your business model, target market, and average client lifetime value. But at a minimum, the service level agreement helps organize conversations and commitments that help both teams better align and better collaborate.
Invest in the Right Tools to Make Sales and Marketing Alignment Work for Your Company
In addition, it's critical that your technology stack supports all of this.
If you use a CRM system, a customer relationship management system as is best practice for sales teams in a digital-first world, make sure that you've integrated your CRM system with your marketing automation platform so that you can provide closed-loop reporting.
If your company is more e-commerce focused, and your e-commerce platforms is where you track when a new customer outcome happens, make sure that your e-commerce platform is integrated with your marketing automation platform.
The key: you need to know the exact traffic generation, lead generation, and lead nurturing campaigns that lead to closed deals -- closed won, when leads become clients. So sales and marketing can stop the blame game and collaborate a lot more effectively.
Because let's face: this is what sales and marketing alignment -- smarketing -- is all about:
Working together, so both teams can achieve what they want to achieve, and at the same time help the company grow its revenue.
One of my favorite quotes in this context:
“In God we trust; all others must bring data.”
-- W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993 engineer, statistician, professor author, and management consultant)
That sums what sales and marketing alignment -- what smarketing -- and getting past the stereotypes is all about.
The Bottom Line on Sales and Marketing Alignment, Smarketing, and Stereotypes
In this podcast episode, we talked about sales and marketing alignment including:
- The modern buyer
- The challenges that you and your company face in growing your business -- in Southeast Florida, nationally, perhaps even internationally -- in a digital-first world
- The challenges of reaching the modern buyer
- How marketing needs to support sales in this context
- How marketing teams, in many cases, have made improvements to the sales funnel based on the modern buyer
- But how in many cases, sales is lagging way behind
- How marketing really should be leading the charge with digital transformation
- How critical alignment is in a digital-first world, where 70 percent of research is happening before someone ever gets to your sales team
- Why it's so critical for sales and marketing to better align with each other
- Why the toxic stereotypes need to go away
- What you can do to encourage much better collaboration between your sales and marketing staff, so you can achieve the SMART goals -- specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound goals -- that you're setting out to achieve