I've been blogging and Tweeting quite a bit on the theme of improving sales/marketing (mis-) alignment -- initially exploring the concept of Engagement 2.0 and most recently exploring the challenges marketers face in actually improving sales/marketing alignment. It's a timely issue. It's also particularly front and center for me given Silverpop just held its global sales meeting (which I had some Tweets from) last week.
It's great to have the opportunity as a marketer to participate in a sales summit. The most-significant take-away is hearing about the challenges and opportunities facing our business through the lens of the sales organization. This is a critical exercise to go through as a marketer.
"Marketing and sales look at the world through different lenses," notes a recent Silverpop white paper on improving alignment, "And that's not likely to change ... ." Thus, sales empathy is a critical component of building bottoms-up marketing programs, and it's more important than ever. The 2009 B2B Lead Generation Benchmark Study, co-authored by sales guru Mac McIntosh, noted that -- despite often opposite sales-team sentiments -- the bulk of marketing organizations really do play a critical role in demand generation: "A majority (60%) of the companies reported that their outside sales teams find less than half of the opportunities in the sales pipeline on their own ... ."
How Sales Views Marketing
So how does a sales organization view marketing? I've gotten a variety of perspectives from both sales professionals and industry gurus, but what stands out are two related questions sales professionals seem to lean on when assessing marketing:
> Does marketing actually add value? This may make most marketer's jaws drop, but it's a legitimate question. It requires a little bit of explanation, though. One seasoned sales professional I spoke with for this piece commented:
I would suggest marketers ask themselves this question before sending a lead over the fence to sales: Is this lead(s) that I have equal to or more worthy than a lead that a salesperson can get out of [a lead sourcing provider such as] Jigsaw where they already know the company's revenues, the title, the company vertical, the URL and so on?
This comment really gets at the heart of the demand chain and of marketing's critical role in demand generation. We often comment about how in the current B2B selling environment marketing must take on more responsibility than ever in lead nurturing and lead management. That also means that marketing must add more value than ever before, and that value must exceed what might be provided via an alternate demand generation channel (such as an online compiled lead sourcing provider).
Mike Damphousse, a demand generation expert, provides another perspective on the minimum threshold for added value in a recent piece on his Smashmouth Marketing blog:
There are lots of terms describing leads. ... Acronyms or not, my opinion is that when sales gets a lead ... it better meet three criteria:
1. It better be a company the rep wants to penetrate
2. It better be a person that has the role and responsibility to contribute to a decision
3. It better be someone that has an interest in what sales is about to talk to them about
> Can marketing demonstrate added value? This second point may be a bit more understandable for many marketers constantly asked about marketing measurement and return-on-investment (ROI) analysis. Regardless of whether you are, or are not, adding value in the demand chain, the question is whether this can be demonstrated.
Interestingly -- from a sales perspective -- how this is demonstrated doesn't have to be complicated. Another seasoned marketing professional pointed out to me that basic information about the content of campaigns, targeting, start/end dates and channels used go a long way towards solving the problem and towards understanding the role marketing played in adding value.
Assessing Marketing Through a Sales Lens
What are some incremental steps marketers can take to improve their empathy for the sales point of view? As an exercise, I took the two questions from above and placed them in a two-by-two matrix format. It really helped to clarify what might be defined as the four types of marketers in the eyes of sales. The ideal is being a 100% "aligned marketer" -- i.e., demonstrating and actually delivering value. And it goes without saying that the 100% "mis-aligned marketer" will not have his/her job for long.
What is interesting to think about is the other two types of marketers -- the ones who aren't 100% broken and could benefit from some help:
> The "spin doctor" is good at demonstrating value -- probably using skewed top-down metrics -- but is actually not delivering value that is greater than what might be achieved via an alternate demand generation channel. This type of marketer could benefit from better campaign-level insights, to understand what is working and what is not, and actually improve the ROI of marketing activities.
> The "silent operative" is getting it right but can't show the causal connection in the demand chain. This type of marketer is a strong candidate for closed-loop analytics that provide lead-level insights -- demonstrating the connection between marketing investment and results.
Technology can't change the lens of sales or marketing, but it can play a key role in improving alignment -- especially for a spin doctor or a silent operative. A marketing automation platform can help tune campaigns, and if integrated with a customer relationship management (CRM) platform, it can also deliver critical closed-loop analytics. And leveraging the lead scoring capabilities of a marketing automation platform can provide a common basis for sales and marketing to talk about added value -- serving as a common "lingua franca" for sales/marketing alignment. It's a start!
What are your experiences as a marketer (or sales professional) in closing the gap between the two different lenses?