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In the business-to-business (B2B) arena, a well-known source of tension has often been associated with the delicate relationship between the marketing and sales lines of business. Whether born out of legitimate complaints or the mutual frustration of not achieving adequate customer acquisition results, the finger-pointing can become predictable, if not childish: “These leads stink!”… “You couldn’t close a screen door in a hurricane!” Fortunately, modern leaders in both practice areas are increasingly held accountable for fact-based, measurable business results that take emotions off the table, and are empowered by contemporary technology tools that promote and reward a more collaborative and team-oriented approach.

Sales Enablement: Fulfilling the Last Frontier of Marketing-Sales Alignment (September 2013) introduced recent Aberdeen research, which reveals a number of best practices and enabling technologies that top-performing companies utilize to better supply their field sellers with agile and effective marketing content. A new report discusses the relationship groundwork that is essential for driving adoption of, and the ultimate success associated with, these approaches.

Should We Even Bother?

Before entering into a detailed discussion of how sales and marketing leaders should get along, it is worth confirming that the “why” is even worthwhile. The answer is, quite simply, yes, as demonstrated by the data presented in Figure 1. Aberdeen research is predicated on collecting performance and behavior trends from end-users, and correlating the two. Figure 1 shows that Best-in-Class companies report 38%, and 64% higher propensities, than Industry Average and Laggard firms, respectively, indicating that their sales / marketing relationship is better than neutral. Now, let’s take a look at some of the nuts-and-bolts first steps that under-performing firms should take in order to better support this relationship and drive stronger business results.

Figure 1: Stronger Bonds, Better Results

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Learning from the Best: How the Best-in-Class Work Smarter, Not Harder

First and foremost, leaders from sales and marketing teams simply need to get together more often to hash out basic questions such as “what is a lead?,” as well as more strategic agreements, such as shared metrics. They also need to measure collaborative results, gather 360° feedback on messaging and content, and even decide how to push back at one another when leads are legitimately under-cooked (by marketing) or underwhelmingly actioned (by sales).

The most surprising result from the current research may be that the number of formal meetings to discuss these issues averages only 4.7 times per year among all survey respondents. This means that, less often than bi-monthly (every 77.6 days, to be exact) the average company brings its top leadership from the sales and marketing lines of business together to formally collaborate. Considering the growing power and responsibility of the Chief Marketing Officer (note Gartner’s prediction of the CMO’s IT budget exceeding that of the Chief Information Officer by 2017), and the all-important revenue generation burden carried by the VP of Sales, one would think that a higher priority would be placed on an aggressive meeting schedule in order to maximize an environment of mutually-assured success. Nonetheless, we see in Figure 2 that Best-in-Class firms exceed this average in comparison with All Others (the combination of Industry Average and Laggard survey respondents). While top-performing enterprises get their leaders together more frequently, it is, however, common sense to recommend that all companies attempt to maximize the sit-down rate in order to reduce friction — both between the departments, as well as in the sales cycle, and, finally, in order to enhance the most important thing of all: the customer’s experience.

Figure 2: Détente Has Measurable Value — Frequency of Leadership Sit-Downs is Key to Success

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Indeed, all of these factors come into play when we look at how Best-in-Class companies inform us regarding which KPI’s they find most valuable in terms of validating their overall sales enablement activity stream. Check them out here.

Peter Ostrow
Vice President and Group Director
Sales Effectiveness

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