Could your company’s org chart be getting in the way of growth? Many B2B tech startups frustrate the heck out of their prospects and customers, while sabotaging their growth -- all because of the same root cause: leadership living in the past, clinging to a defective org chart -- based on a playbook from 10 or more years ago. Don’t let your company fall victim to the same mistake. Get on the correct side of the great organizational chart debate.
In this video, you’ll learn why many leaders of B2B SaaS, FinTech, and infrastructure startups, scaleups, and small businesses need to realign their teams to compete and win in today's marketplace. You’ll get introduced to different organizational chart decision points, and forks in the road. Whether your marketing team serves the sales team or your entire company. Whether sales development is truly a sales function or a marketing function. And why the digital buyer’s journey weighs so heavily on the founders and CEOs debating their organizational charts -- and how to build their go-to-market teams.
An organizational chart -- often known simply as an org chart -- shows how a company is structured. It also defines both the planned working relationships and relative rankings among different parts of the company and various roles.
An organizational chart is to a company like a blueprint document is to a building.
What happens if an architect creates a highly-flawed blueprint for the design of a residential building or commercial structure? One could only hope that the errors are discovered -- and fixed -- as early as possible.
And requirements for blueprints change over time -- for example, no one was really considering sustainability in building requirements generations back.
Along the same lines, a company’s organizational structure must address customer needs and marketplace realities.
For example, the latest research from Gartner found that 83% of a typical B2B purchase decision -- researching, comparing options, and evaluating pricing -- happens before a potential buyer engages with a vendor.
McKinsey & Company research concluded that 70% to 80% of B2B decision-makers now prefer to make decisions digitally.
And in its B2B Thought Leadership Impact Report, LinkedIn, in partnership with Edelman, concluded that “thought leadership remains critical to customer engagement but breaking through the noise is harder than ever.”
So first, let’s talk about the relationship between your marketing and sales teams.
In many startups, scaleups, and small businesses, their go-to-market strategies, playbooks, and resulting hires simply don’t reflect today’s realities where buyers are in the driver’s seat.
How does your company stay relevant in a world where 83% of the research, comparing options, and evaluating pricing happen before prospects want to engage with a salesperson from your company?
Marketing teams create and distribute helpful, educational, thought leadership content that helps prospects self-explore potential solutions to their problems, paths forward to achieve their goals, and answers to their questions.
In most buyer’s journeys, this process happens -- or needs to happen -- during the awareness stage. Prospects aren’t looking for brands, companies, or products early on. Prospects haven’t yet even identified a category for a potential solution until prospects move from the awareness to the consideration stage.
Then once prospects have a defined name for the solution, different kinds of content offers become appealing: comparison guides, webinars and other events, return on investment (ROI) calculators, and case studies, for example.
The consideration stage of the buyer’s journey continues to educate and build trust with prospects -- and accelerate sales cycles.
Once prospects advance from the consideration stage to the decision stage, then and only then are prospects ready to engage with someone from your sales team.
What happens if no one from your company creates and distributes helpful, educational, thought leadership content that helps prospects self-explore potential solutions to their problems, paths forward to achieve their goals, and answers to their questions?
What happens if no one from your company is creating and distributing comparison guides, return on investment (ROI) calculators, case studies, or hosting webinars and other events?
It’s pretty simple. McKinsey found that you’ll be invisible (most likely) with nearly all prospects.
Or if your only option is to engage with a commission-driven sales rep that needs to close sales this month: you’ll frustrate prospects, burn goodwill, and harm your company’s brand reputation.
And that’s exactly what you can expect when an understaffed marketing function, typically one or two junior-level hires, get placed under the sales team on the organizational chart.
Marketing professionals will have little, if any, opportunity to build any meaningful growth in the marketplace because all of their priorities will be 100% forced into supporting immediate needs only -- getting sales closed this month.
In this kind of scenario where marketing professionals report to a sales executive, rather than to a marketing executive at the same org chart level, you tend to find very little actual marketing going on -- and instead have marketing professionals doing sales activation 90% of the time -- serving as glorified assistants and order takers for the sales team.
So as you’ll see in this organizational chart, Marketing Serving the Sales Team, you have a
CFO (Chief Financial Officer)
COO (Chief Operations Officer)
CRO (Chief Revenue Officer)
Within the revenue team, more the 90% of the team are either in sales roles (account executives or sales developments), or customer success. Less than 10% of the headcount is devoted to marketing -- with no opportunity for marketing to impact company-level strategy at the executive level.
Companies that recognize the dramatic shifts in buyer behavior, as documented by both Gartner and McKinsey, know that this old-school model for staffing up just isn’t going to cut it anymore.
How can you make sure that your marketing team is positioned to succeed in helping the entire company and not just sales? What needs to happen for marketing to support sales AND product AND customer success AND key operational functions such as HR?
The much healthier blueprint, the org chart that aligns around today’s buyer preferences and marketplace realities, has Marketing Serving the Company.
Here you see
CFO (Chief Financial Officer)
COO (Chief Operations Officer)
CRO (Chief Revenue Officer)
CMO (Chief Marketing Officer)
And within the marketing team, there’s also a Digital Marketing Manager, Product Marketing Manager, and Content Manager.
If you want your company to have a solid foothold in the first 83% of a typical B2B purchase decision -- researching, comparing options, and evaluating pricing -- that happens before a potential buyer engages with a vendor, you’ll need buy-in for Marketing Serving the Company.
If you want your company to effectively engage with the 70% to 80% of B2B decision-makers that now prefer to make decisions digitally, you’ll need buy-in for Marketing Serving the Company.
If you want your company to have effective thought leadership that’s critical for customer engagement and that breaks through the noise, again, you’ll need buy-in for Marketing Serving the Company.
Sure, you COULD try to keep selling like you’re turning back the clock 10 or 20 years and live in the past.
But for most SaaS, FinTech, and infrastructure startups, scaleups, and small businesses, you’d be making some VERY flawed assumptions about your ideal customers and their buying behaviors.
Now along the same lines, you really need to think through what the role of your sales development representatives -- your SDRs, looks like going forward.
In most tech startups, your SDRs engage with early-stage prospects to better understand goals, plans, and challenges -- and better qualify leads -- serving as the bridge between early-stage and middle-stage demand generation and bonafide sales opportunities.
Most SDRs end up specializing in inbound sales development or outbound sales development.
With inbound sales development, SDRs engage with prospects who are already on your website in some way, shape, or form.
Outbound sales development reps run cold outreach campaigns using cold calls, cold emails, and cold LinkedIn messages.
In some startups, where the concept of one person wearing multiple hats (juggling multiple roles) is alive and well, you will sometimes see SDRs straddling the line of inbound and outbound SDR. But from a practical standpoint, the human part of being an SDR and the company’s overall go-to-market strategy tend to strongly favor each person gravitating to primarily inbound or outbound tactics.
In either scenario, sales development depends heavily on content and technology tools.
Marketing professionals tend to be MUCH better at creating content and implementing technology tools than account executives and sales managers. So marketing teams tend to be a MUCH better place -- and much better fit -- for folding into SDRs.
As just as marketing professionals need to establish their company’s relevance and value as educators and subject matter experts in the first 83% of the buyer’s journey, sales development professionals also need to accept this same marketplace reality and find a way to deliver value in the early and middle stages of the buyer’s journey -- before sales handoff for the final 17% of researching, comparing options, and evaluating pricing.
So yes, many tech startups, scaleups, and small businesses still have sales development professionals reporting to sales directors.
However, this alignment can be just as problematic as having marketing professionals reporting to sales directors. Everything becomes about getting sales closed this month, with the 5% of those in-market in the final 17% of their buyer’s journey.
And conversely, either being completely invisible or acting completely tone-deaf to nearly everyone else, that could be a great fit client a few months from now.
If your company is truly focused on attracting the right prospects, the right future clients, in the right places, at the right time, and engaging in the right context -- so that you’re educating and building trust -- your SDRs really need to be a natural extension of your go-to-market strategy, anchored by marketing and the CMO (chief marketing officer) as you’ll see in the branch of the organizational chart labeled Sales Development as a Marketing Function.
How are your marketing and sales development professionals aligned within your company and on the org chart? Do your marketing professionals report to a sales executive or a marketing executive? Do your SDRs report to a sales executive or a marketing executive? How do you navigate the inherent conflicts of interest that come with outdated organizational chart approaches? Let me know in the comments section down below.
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