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Account Engagement: What Sales and Marketing Teams Really Need

Posted February 25, 2019
Moni Oloyede Fidelis
Moni, who has a background in cybersecurity and over a decade of marketing expertise under her belt, shares how she tackles these common problems in a complex marketing and sales environment: 

  1. When a complicated product suite meets a large buying committee
  2. How to help your sales team understand account activity in an actionable way
  3. True alignment of sales and marketing

Without further ado, have a look at what we came away with from our enlightening conversation with Moni.

A tricky combo: The complicated product suite meets the large buying committee

When you have a complicated product suite and a large buying committee, one person downloading a white paper doesn’t signal much to the sales team, Moni explains. But one person downloading a white paper and another person attending a trade show and another person registering for a webinar — that means something more. Identifying a true surge of activity and turning it into something sales pays attention to is easier said than done.

Whether you call it account-based marketing (ABM) engagement or something else, what’s important is that your organization has the ability to track engagement at the account level and hopefully move the needle.

Once you’re generating leads and begin to look at the data, you’ll see multiple people from the same account doing different types of activities at different times. How do you account for that? Moni notes that it is this type of multi-dimensional account activity that is the most important to pay attention to, rather than the activity of an individual person.

What matters to sales? Understanding account activity in an actionable way

If you’re on the marketing side of bridging the gap between sales and marketing, you’ve no doubt heard a phrase like this from sales. It’s no secret that sales teams are busy — and no wonder they are, with the massive amounts of data pouring into the modern sales rep from a variety of sources utilizing the power of automation and operationalization.

Marketing analysts and marketing operations professionals know that current marketing automation systems aren’t functionally set up to deal with this influx of data from multiple sources very well. Their focus is on individual people, not on holistic views of accounts.

Moni says that in order to generate opportunities, develop your pipeline, and move the needle, marketing ops should be at the center of the marketing ecosystem. Its potential to track engagement across marketing technologies, bridge the gap between, and make sense of all the data those technologies bring arguably makes it an organization’s most critical sales and marketing role.

“A lot of the good data, the activity data, is in our marketing automation system, but the account data is in our Salesforce. How do we bring those two together? That’s a key challenge. This is where CaliberMind came in and saved the day for us, and brought those two platforms together so we can match that data and then be able to do some of this reporting.”

Because, again, at the end of the day, what is important to sales is account activity — not that of an individual.

Know Your (Sales) Audience

“What we learned early on and what I learned from my previous roles in marketing operations is the individual activity is interesting. It’s just not powerful enough to get sales to move, right? It’s like, “Okay, so and so has been on the website. That’s good to know. But I have to do 50 other things today that are important that my sales manager is on me about. Follow up with this, and get out this PO, and do this quote. It’s good information, but unless you’re telling me to do something specific, I’m not going to pay attention to this.”

The action piece here involves more than simply passing along information that activity has occurred. When Moni got her operation up and running, she sat with SDRs and ISRs and said,

“Hey, let’s look at these dashboards; Let’s look at these reports. Tell me what’s important to you. Let me tell you what you’re looking at.” And then she optimized over time, outlining what information was optimal according to each sales stakeholder.

What business development reps (BDRs) care about is different than what ISRs care about, is different than what regional sales managers care about.

That can look something like this:

BDRs – They are on the ground. Their job is to get meetings, and that’s pretty much all they care about. So in an engagement scenario, they care about, say, white paper downloads, because it helps them have a conversation to get a meeting.

ISRs – Care more about higher qualified actions, like webinar attendance, or anything related to products, such as demos.

Regional Sales Managers (RSMs) – Really care when it’s either an account they are actively trying to penetrate or are actively having a conversation with.

When you define this internally and operationally, and then let the proper salesperson know at the proper time, you become invaluable to your sales team.

Bridging the Gap Between Sales and Marketing

Routing leads, accounts, and engagement scores to the right person at the right time can be tricky, especially as an organization grows, scales, and changes internally.

With demand generation, you’re typically dealing with the engagements of individual people, channels, and certain activities you’ve chosen to track (e.g. “This webinar did well” or “We did well generating leads with this content syndication program”), which is great from a marketing standpoint. When you flip it and look at it from a sales point of view, you can really start to see where you actually have an effect.

“Now I’m looking at those accounts,” Moni says. “I’m noticing when an activity from a certain account comes through. And I have programs going on. We have what we call air cover campaigns, which are emails that look like they’re coming directly from a salesperson. We give [sales] cover when they’re dealing with multiple accounts, and they’re sending me the responses from those accounts. I notice the activity just goes up when we start doing these things.”

True Marketing/Sales Alignment vs Alignment of the Past

It’s no longer just about how many leads you throw over the fence, but how you work in conjunction with sales to drive revenue. This is the big shift we’ve talked about the past couple of years, this shift of marketing responsibility. Marketing operations is well positioned to affect that and drive change.

Moni describes a past in which “alignment was like, ‘Oh, we have a shared lead scoring definition’ or ‘We have shared funnel definitions.’ That was called sales and marketing alignment but it’s not. Because you don’t.”

When marketing and sales align themselves to the objectives, both for the role, the departments, and the organization, it truly drives change.

What’s next for the savvy marketing ops team?

Today a lot of focus goes into tracking the top of the funnel. Moni is actively working now on nailing down precise tracking of engagement over the course of the whole customer journey.

When she talks about operationalizing the middle of the funnel, what does that mean?

“It’s definitely the hardest place to operationalize. Traditionally, marketing hands over an MQL and we assume sales is doing something with it. That’s our biggest first mistake: assuming that things are happening when they may not be.”

For example, what does “follow up” mean to each SDR? Is it three emails and a couple of phone calls? Because Moni explains, that’s not enough, and it’s not straightforward — not when it takes 10 to 20 touches to even make real contact.

This is the next learning curve. Understanding what your sales team’s mid-funnel communication is. Here’s a handful of questions Moni offered that should be asked to get started in this effort:

  • What is sales actually saying in their communications?
  • What is an SDR following up with?
  • What is their cadence of communication?

Between MQL and a closed opportunity, things can happen that sales have no control over, marketing ops have no control over, and sometimes the business has no control over. This makes the mid-funnel stage particularly nonlinear.

Maybe it goes from MQL and it stays there for a long time, and then sales may qualify it, and then it may die there and some other sales rep comes in and they try to redirect it. Moni is figuring out how to operationalize scenarios like these and see how marketing can help, either by resurrecting cold or dead MQLs or by helping to push current opportunities further down the funnel. 

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