In 2004, as the VP of marketing for a technology company in Atlanta, I bought my first marketing automation system. However, as a VP of sales for many years, I was more excited about the impact on sales than I was for marketing. I saw the power of this technology and what it could mean to sales. The world was changing; sales was no longer in charge of anything as prospects and clients were one click away from a discussion with our competition.
I am absolutely astonished that more chief sales officers (CSOs) today are not only onboard, but screaming and demanding for marketing to step up as a revenue partner. Many studies point to the significant benefits of such a partnership.
According to Wheelhouse Advisors, B-to-B organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing operations achieve 24% faster three-year revenue growth and 27% faster three-year profit growth. They also enjoy 36% higher customer retention rates and 38% higher sales win rates.
How can marketing leaders make this case to the chief of sales? Here are three steps to ensure more productive sales and marketing alignment that your CSO will embrace.
1. Take the Initiative
The marketing team has to bite the bullet and take the initiative to align to the business. Begin with understanding the business strategies and key initiatives and align around those. If your company seeks to grow quickly through the acquisition of net new companies, make that your focus.
Also marketing needs to take the initiative to align with sales, as they are not going to approach you. You need to learn all about sales and what they experience daily. You need to understand their lingo, and you need to understand their pressures. Who is making quota and who is not? What kind of deals are they closing? And you need to go on sales calls, listen to sales calls, participate in sales meetings and participate in sales training.
I know marketing leaders who require that marketing do a three-month rotation in sales before they join the marketing team. I also know marketing leaders who make sure their marketing team sits as close to sales as possible.
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2. Use Data to Align Around the Customer Journey
Aligning around the customer journey is the ultimate action item to achieve alignment with sales. However, it can also be the most difficult, especially if you have a strong sales culture in your organization. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into an organization and marketing and sales have completely different ideas about who is the customer and what their journey is.
Source: Wheelhouse Advisors
If you can work with sales to jointly define the customer and the customer journey, you will immediately take a giant leap forward in creating better alignment. This is not an exercise to be done based on gut feeling and qualitative responses. Use the data available to you to develop the customer profiles and journeys.
3. Align Goals and Compensation
Aligning on goals and compensation drives behavior and helps marketing emerge as an outcome department. If the sales team is focused on net new logos, you focus on net new logos. If the sales team is focused on selling a new product, you focus on selling a new product. If sales reorganizes around major account selling, you reorganize around major account selling. Think account-based marketing. Not only will marketing behavior change, but sales behavior will change in response to your new actions.
Source: Wheelhouse Advisors
In 2004 when I launched my first marketing automation system, I changed the compensation plan for my entire marketing team. Fifty percent of their variable compensation was tied to conversion of marketing-qualified leads to opportunity. I had an immediate change in behavior and accelerated marketing becoming part of one unified revenue team. It really works.
Ask Yourself What the CSO Would Do
Above all, put yourself in the shoes of the CSO. Day in and day out she walks around with a target on her back—a revenue target. The pressure is immense and the entire company has visibility into how well she is doing in accomplishing that number. Talk about stress. Be compassionate to your CSO’s reality and proactively take the steps outlined in this post. In so doing, your CSO will begin considering you an ally and begin to trust you as a dependable revenue partner.