About a month ago, Craig Rosenberg posted an article on the Funnelholic: “’I Have No Idea What Marketing is Doing’ said the Rest of the Organization.” In addition to being cleverly titled, the post had great value, broaching a topic that is often felt by us marketers but rarely discussed...at least in a wide, very public setting. Of course, the quest for marketing and sales alignment has been a staple topic for years, fodder for anyone blogging about either; yet, highlighting this disconnect in such brazen terms was refreshing and appreciated.
…and I shouldn’t give Craig all the credit—he readily admits in the post to pilfering the leading thoughts of Maria Pergolino, who had recently spoken at RevTalks on the topic of promoting marketing teams internally. In her presentation, Maria shares several tactics she’s used to keep organizations informed of marketing’s efforts, including: sharing marketing plans, getting others (e.g. sales) sales involved, campaigning internally, conveying results, and using social as a reminder.
What I gathered from both Craig’s post and Maria’s presentation is an intuitive causal relationship that I, for one, often take for granted:
Transparency/Communication leads to Understanding/Empathy leads to Solutions/Performance
Maria’s presentation has some great, specific ideas for opening the communication lines to break down the rift between sales and marketing; ideas that would work for many people, including myself. Yet, I know how I am—the guy that is slightly irritated by company games designed to promote participation, collaboration, and mutual admiration through fun and whimsy…it’s a personal flaw and something I’m working on. But the point is, I know there are others like me out there, others seeking to Reagan down the wall between sales and marketing for a specific purpose: to drive better results.
So, I have my own simple solution that some already use, but I’m surprised by how many organizations don’t: Provide marketing system logins to key sales team members.
This solution has several benefits that align with Maria’s tactics: it helps to share (and prove) marketing’s plans with sales; it obviously gets sales involved; and it allows an efficient way to convey results.
Why is this method so perfectly suited for sales-marketing alignment? The idea is that sales always has a fresh perspective on goals, processes, and data swimming around the marketing team’s pool, and that marketing teams should leverage this perspective to qualify the quantitative data they get through marketing systems.
First, gaining a fresh perspective is always good idea. When you’re entrenched in your own way of doing things, it’s often hard to step back and see potential opportunities to make improvements, or even replacements. Sales definitely has that perspective when it comes to marketing, and we should always seek to use it. Secondly, when sales sees what you’re doing firsthand, it creates the understanding that leads to solutions and improved performance. Sales understands marketing’s reasoning/strategy and can better incorporate it into their conversations with customers. Marketing begins to understand such customer conversations and can incorporate within new content, media approaches, targeting tactics, etc.
An Example: The Case of the Lead Reporting/Analytics Login
If a sales team member has access to lead data reports and analytics (in aggregate rather on a single lead basis), they can more easily align their own conversations to customer needs. That is to say, sales is better equipped to assure that their messages are aligning with marketing outcomes. If all your leads (across multiple channels and media sources) are coming from one or two content topics, it’ll give your sales force further guidance into trends and which areas they may want to focus on — a heads-up on pipeline activity so to speak.
Yet by the same token, and more importantly, providing this transparency opens the gates to highly useful sales insights. Maybe the leads generated by these topics aren’t closing, and those lead data reports simply present false content successes; i.e., some content is getting leads in the door, but none are generating business value. Having access to these trends/developments in real time promotes quicker conversations and problem solving.
More than just providing quantitative data that can just as easily be transmitted from CRMs back to marketing platforms through closed-loop integrations, providing transparency to sales via system logins welcomes qualitative info that can only come from sales’ experiences with customers. It allows sales to help connect the dots, such as identifying why some content is performing and other content is failing. Maybe one piece of content is simply too product-centric, not reflecting customer conversations. The sales team member can quickly add this very info to the raw data that’s being fed back through integrations.
Of course, providing sales with another login to use and expecting them to actually log in isn’t always easy. Nor does the idea of sales looking over the shoulder of marketers appeal to many of us. But if you have these conversations up front and explain why you’re providing the login and the best ways for them to use it, you gain substantial benefits. Sales will be grateful for the inclusion into marketing’s plans as well as having access to program results. Moreover, they’ll feel more obliged to provide insightful ideas and useful feedback.
Sales insights can and should help fuel marketing objectives. Providing marketing system logins to sales is just one approach that appeals to people like me. But there are countless other ways to accomplish this goal — it’s more important to always keep the goal in mind.