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Aligning Marketing Strategy with Sales Needs in B2B

Posted February 15, 2024
Dark background with headshot of Dale Zwinzski with title of podcast "Aligning Marketing Strategy With Sales Needs in B2B"

Dale Zwizinski, Co-Founder & GTM Officer of Revenue Reimagined, joins our host, Camela Thompson, Go-To-Market Thought Leader and B2B Insights Expert, Dale shares the number one killer of trust between sales and marketing – and how to fix it.

Today, we’re going to talk about aligning marketing strategy with sales needs. What is the first thing that pops up in your mind?

“Once again, communication and alignment on quality leads. We talked about it the other day. What’s the ICP? How are we going to align it? And when we are getting leads, not just dumping a bunch of leads. One of the things I see people do even on the sales side is they overhire. So we’re going to hire a bunch of salespeople because we think we are going to get all these leads. Let us get the process down properly. What is needed is a proper handshake between marketing and sales. I always thought people talk about handovers a lot. I am going to hand over a lead from marketing to sales. I’m going to hand over from sales to customer success. That’s where a lot of challenges arise. Therefore, doing a handshake and getting sales and marketing potentially in a call or conversation about how things are going. I think that would be a good starting point.”

What I have seen and let’s see if this resonates with you. Many marketing strategies that are big awareness drivers take about six months to really pay off and we’ve salespeople who need to hit their goal now. What I see too often, is that the marketing leader gets focused on these major projects and forgets to feed the sales team.

“I don’t know if there’s a feeding mechanism here. What I would like to see more of is having sales generate content, the right content and have marketing edit it since it isn’t necessary whether sales are good or not good at writing content, but marketing can help them. However, what marketing needs to understand is we can’t make it too fluffy. 

“There is a dynamic of marketing and sales. I think marketing is at the 30,000-foot level. How are we going to drive awareness? What are we going to do for the brand? How are people going to find us? And if we can say to sales that we’re going to help you with awareness so that when you go to schedule a meeting, get a meeting, or do outbound, it’s going to be much easier for you guys than for you guys to generate your own awareness.

“So what I would do as a marketing leader in that standpoint is have a side project to enable the sales team to generate awareness at a micro level, while marketing does it at the macro level. It could be content on LinkedIn or a little video on YouTube. It could be a lot of things. That is what I would do as I’m doing the macro, I’m going to get brand awareness in six to eight months. The sales team already knows the customers and prospects. And, customer success, by the way, knows customers well. How can we get brand equity and awareness through our current customer prospect base? Our salespeople are out there all the time. How can marketing help enable the sales and drive micro awareness.”

I guess what I’ve seen from my side is one, sales is sometimes reluctant to have marketing touching what they’re doing because they are going to get long-winded, which happens. The other side of that is as soon as a rich converting lead source starts to dwindle, I have five salespeople at my desk telling me I am doing the wrong thing.

“We have to trust each other. There’s this sense of trust. So I played soccer in college and I had to trust that when I played back, if I kicked the ball to the forward, the forward was going to take the ball and try to score. Therefore, it is that same mechanism where we have to trust each other and trust that we are going to figure out the ways to do it. Where we start losing trust, and this is probably a little bit more me, but if people aren’t trying to change, if something’s not working. What are we going to do to change what isn’t working?

“Oftentimes, I’ll hear this or that doesn’t work. So great! It’s not working. How are we going to try to fix it? How are we going to try to change it? Do we need a brainstorming session? Let us all get in a room and do this together so that we can trust whatever we come up with as a majority, we’re going to go forward together.”

That is a great point and I think the organizations where I have seen that work, it goes back to alignment. If the sales leaders bought in and are advocating it, that buys you some additional patience too. 

“If there’s no trust at the sales leadership, at the revenue leadership level, let’s just call it the revenue leadership level, so marketing and sales together, if we stop segmenting them into silos and say the revenue leadership team believes this. If we go in there with a united front and we’re not undercutting each other, back to trust, back to alignment and expectations on a weekly basis, if we’re not hitting our goals, then there’s something broken. What is that something that is broken? 

“Therefore, a lot of times, even with our clients, when we go in, they think the problem is one thing. So they say we need more top-of-the-funnel or more leads. One client said we just need more leads. We’ve BDRs, some AEs, and six CS people. We need more leads. And we went in and said, okay. We looked at it and it wasn’t a problem. They were getting plenty of leads. The problem was the HubSpot process was broken so leads were getting stuck in HubSpot and were not being followed up on and there were a bunch of workflows that were overriding each other. So the problem really was you need more leads and that may be a problem later on. But the first problem is let us fix the process and let’s get the process running properly and then see what we have.”

I wasn’t going the tooling road, but now that you mentioned it, I have to. I can’t tell you how many organizations have made the leap to nowhere. You might as well burn the money in the parking lot. And the other issue I’ve seen is improper lead gating mechanisms. Therefore, they’re sending leads over whenever there is an enrichment thing that runs. No, don’t do that.

“Or have proper lead scoring. Really look hard at your lead scoring, is it right? Once again, just as you would review ICP every six months. I don’t say hey I built a lead-scoring mechanism eighteen months ago. Does it really work anymore? Did you get feedback from CS that this was actually working? So one of the things that we’ve been thinking about lately is because we have done so many builds, suffered so many startup companies. When they go in, they don’t know what their real problem is. We actually started thinking about the special operations of the go-to-market.

“I was watching a documentary on the Navy Seals and they went in originally thinking that it was one thing, but it’s sometimes completely different and they had to change their whole strategy on the fly. One, not to die, and two, to save whatever their mission was. I think it is the same way when I’m going in to talk to a team or whatever is the problem. I am not saying it’s not. However, if you scratch under the surface and go a couple of levels deeper is it that you’ve enough leads and they’re just getting stuck? No one’s following up with them and then marketing says I’m sending leads and sales says they’re crap. It is like no one is following up on the good ones.”

I am having flashbacks to earlier in my career when I was in RevOps and your right. Every time I came into an organization, the first thing I spent a lot of time on is the marketing to sales handoff since somehow I’d come in with a theory and always be proven wrong since there are so many things that can break.

“100% so it’s actually we haven’t talked about this role in the go-to-market strategy, but revenue operations, to me, it is getting such a weird term because people aren’t really defining it well. Nevertheless, if you have a really good revenue operations person who can tie lead flow into sales into CS and understand conversion rates and this is where I am going back to data. Can I trust the data? Now, if we transitioned you into a HubSpot migration and we’re in a HubSpot instance, can I trust my data? This is where my tech geeky mind ends up thinking. I really want to understand, can I trust the data? Now I can make decisions based on the data, but the reason why people don’t make decisions on data is they don’t always trust it. So they’re saying I’m never so you’ve got to fix it. Once again, let’s fix  the root of the problem so that we can make better decisions.”

You are so right. I’m really involved with RevOps Coop. They've got around 11,000 members and run regular surveys on how RevOps is defined. So many organizations are still myopically focused on one department and that can shift. The other issue is they’re not giving them exposure to frontline or executive managers.

“They need a seat at the table somewhere. What’s starting to shift is most RevOps people start at sales ops and now they are moving into RevOps. I see there are super good ones out there such as Lisa Kelly and David Maxey. There are some really good RevOps people out there looking across the whole life cycle. If you get that person, keep them with everything you can since it’s so rare, right now. If you can get good data then you can find where your problem is. I need more leads. No, maybe you don’t need more leads, you have to keep your customers since falling out of the bottom funnel, who knows?”

You’re absolutely right. I think what’s hard though is when a company hasn’t realized yet that they don’t have product-market fit.

“Yes. So we deal with many founder-led sales and they’re trying to get the product-market fit. I’ve seen the challenge become that they’re spending a lot of money with a bunch of leaders, but they don’t have the foundation or the process built properly. Once again, bring in people that can build the entire process for you. Then bring the leader in who can execute on the process. I struggled with this when I was doing full-time work. I couldn’t build the strategy and the process and do all the work at the same time. You drop something. What I tell many founders and people who are trying to do this, you probably have ten priorities for a year. 

“The revenue leader can probably do two or three, but four to six is just as important. You just cannot do them all. Therefore, how do you fill that gap? That’s really where, I think, if you strategically bring people to scale and build this, you can do it properly. But, you cannot bring them in and say I am going to hire a CRO and a Head of Marketing, but then you run out of runway. That’s what I see. And then, all of sudden, the founder says now I’m going to bring somebody else. These guys aren’t doing their job. It’s not that they’re not doing their job. You just haven’t set the right expectations and now you’ve got to try to find someone else to do it.”

For more content on B2B marketing trends, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.