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4 Questions Marketers Should Ask Sales for True Alignment

Posted March 20, 2019
camela thompson 1
Here are four brilliant ways in which marketers can unite their efforts with the needs of their Sales counterpoints:
  1. Explore the Ask to Find the Need
  2. Don’t Stop At the Numbers
  3. Focus On Internal Messaging
  4. Measure Conversion + Velocity All the Way Through the Funnel

Explore the Ask To Find the Need

Marketers receive requests from Sales, often from individual sellers, on the reg. If your teams are aligned on a buyer journey, it might be in relation to that, or the messaging around it. But most frequently, the types of requests coming in are ad hoc, one-off items that may not fit well into the strategy, or maybe it’s something that’s been done before, but the seller wasn’t aware. When that happens, it’s easy to say “We’ll think about it,” or simply say “no” and be on your way. Or, if your Sales and Marketing leadership flys by the seat of its pants, you could be directed to say “yes” without question, only to find yourself scrambling to toss together unpredictable, inefficient, and ineffective “Sales Enablement” efforts. You never want to spend all that time building something, only to have it never be used because it wasn’t actually what was needed. To ward off this pattern, try a different approach: Dig into the underlying motivation behind why it’s being asked for.
  • How critical is the ask?
  • Where is it coming from?
  • Why do we need it?
  • Does it tie into any business strategies?
Marketers are used to asking for feedback from Sales and hearing, “We need more volume, we need more leads, we need more at-bats.”
When you dig into that, what is really being asked most of the time is they want more qualified people who are later in the the buying journey.
For example, if your organization leverages an Inside Sales team whose primary function is to set meetings, your task as the marketer is to learn what Inside Sales expects that meeting to be defined as; What do they consider  “qualified” to be? Actually take this questioning directly to Field Sales and get their input. “Hey, Field Sales – Is this really qualified? What are you looking for?” More often than not, you will find misalignment between those departments. Getting to the point where you recognize misalignment is critical to success across the organization. At the end of the day, it means being an advocate for what the Sales team needs to survive in the field.

Don’t Stop at the Numbers

A MarTech stack as high as the sky has made it easy for marketers to pull a bunch of data, crunch it around, run some calculations and come up with “the number.” The number is either too high or too low, but the number is the problem, right? Wrong.
When you find “the number” and stop there, you’re missing a ton of context around what is actually causing that problem. Marketing is really all about psychology and getting into the minds of your customer. We need to do that with business (aka selling) problems as well.
What’s more is that If someone says they have the one root cause to a problem, they didn’t dig in deep enough. It’s always ten different things. If you have a conversion problem, from meeting to qualified leads, you should do non-biased, non-leading interviews with the different team members to figure out why that is. It’s not enough to state the number, note that it’s a problem, and call it a day. Come to the table with a hypothesis and a possible solution, or the feedback isn’t going to go anywhere. To recap what you’ll need to address problematic numbers and  initiate change in the sales process:
  • Step 1 Build your legal case, which is your data. Make it airtight. “Conversions aren’t working. Here are the industry standards. Here’s where we’re at.”
  • Step 2 Capture qualitative feedback to support your hypothesis. Interview the people on either end of the process. Make sure they know it’s confidential, that it won’t be surfaced anywhere.
You’ll be surprised at the discoveries you make with this approach. You might go in thinking there’s a system issue and things aren’t set up correctly, but the actual problem is that the Field person is looking to talk to person A, and the Inside person is setting up calls with person B. In that scenario, it’s not necessarily about how Field connects the wrong people. Could it be the Field person needs to learn how to navigate laterally in the account? Does the Inside person need to? What’s the managerial expectation there?

Focus On Internal Messaging

We spend a lot of our time on determining how to message externally to our customers. What is the market, what are our prospects, who are our customers, and how are we communicating and positioning ourselves in said market? But don’t forget that internal messaging, especially with Sales, also has impact to revenue.
Try a ride-along with a salesperson to see what goes on in their world. You’ll probably learn, first off, that salespeople are doing 20 things at once in their car while they’re driving.
These are people who don’t have a lot of capacity for incoming asks from Marketing. So when you put 20 fields into your CRM and expect them to fill them all out, that’s probably not going to happen. Set your expectations at the right level. What can you get out of a salesperson and still have it be meaningful? Next, communicate with them why you need certain information that they can provide in a way that is meaningful to them. For example, instead of saying, “hey, we need this data from you to figure out what department sourced the opportunity so we know whether or not things are working.” The better way to approach that would be to say:
“Hey, we need to protect our investment into your success. And in order to do that, we need to understand what helps you hit your goals and your quotas better.”
As a salesperson, the second message hits home with empathy about their position in the field. They will recognize that you understand that they have a quota, and that that is their key objective. You also need management buy-in and reporting around it to make sure people are held accountable. But starting the conversation with “I want you to meet your quota, how can I help you do that?” puts your best Marketing foot forward.

Measure Conversion + Velocity All the Way Through the Funnel

When Marketing stops its involvement with a buying cycle at an early-stage handoff or milestone (generally MQL) a lot of value goes away. Our whole goal is to drive revenue for the company. It doesn’t matter how much you throw over the fence if it’s not being converted into revenue bookings. But if we’re not following a lead into the Sales fold and measuring how effective various account engagements are at every point along that buying journey, how can we be confident we’re being effective? How can we predictably improve? Velocity is a key indicator of efficiency. If something is sitting in a particular stage in the cycle for a period of time: what can we do to move it out of there? When something isn’t being qualified, is that because we don’t know how to talk to more people? Is it because we need to improve how we move around an account? Is the messaging off?
There is much to be garnered from data around velocity of movement through the funnel. You may just have a really long sales cycle but if you look at all points, how long they’re taking, you can really glean some insight into whether or not you have a problem, and then start digging in to what it might be.
An organization with a united Sales and Marketing team rolling up to a revenue-focused leadership role (such as a CRO or COO) is at an advantage for success in these endeavors over an organization that keeps Sales and Marketing apart.

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