At last week’s AntiConLX Global event in London, PassFort CMO Christine Bailey spoke about S&M alignment (no, not that sort of S&M, we’re talking sales and marketing here).
In her session, Christine talked about the relationship between sales and marketing, and how we can ensure greater alignment between the two.
She uses the John Gray book, ‘Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus’ as an analogy. Sales is from Mars, and is looking for a one-night stand, while marketing is from Venus and wants a long-term relationship.
So, if you’re in sales, you probably assume that marketing will always choose that first door, investing in brand building with no concern about the impact on sales, while marketing will assume that sales wants them to choose the second door.
Marketing has long struggled with this divide, but the rise of digital marketing has widened the gap.
The top reason for using the internet is finding information, with no. 7 researching products and brands, while no. 15 is business-related research, i.e. B2B.
“Are they finding your company where they're doing the research? What impact is this move towards using the internet for so much having on both buyers and sellers? Well, both b2b buyers and sellers prefer this new digital reality. And we know that roughly two thirds of the buyer’s journey is happening online. So sales are coming much later in this journey”
In the past, people would go to sales teams for information, but now they’re finding that information on the internet. The information which has usually been provided by marketing. Roughly three quarters of people prefer finding information this way, principally because it saves time.
In this new reality, where the lines between sales and marketing now are so blurred, how can we ensure greater alignment between the two?
Christine had five steps to improve communications between sales and marketing:
1.Agree on the problem you're trying to solve
Some companies, like Uber, start with a problem they’re trying to solve. Uber’s founders were standing on a street corner in the pouring rain thinking, how on earth am I going to get a taxi? Do I know if one's around the corner or not? They use technology to solve an existing problem.
This starts with insights. This is the concept from Play Bigger, a book co-authored by Christopher Lochhead and others, which Christine recommends.&
This book explains that you have to figure out what's missing in the world and then fill that gap using two types of insights, market insights and technology insights, and market insight will involve seeing what’s missing and then building technology to solve the problem, which is what the founders of Uber did.
A technology insight will create something that didn't exist, and then they go and search for a problem that it can solve.
For example, Skype was originally a solution designed to file share, which was then accused of helping people to steal recorded music. Then they figured out that their technology could solve the problem of expensive long distance phone calls.
So the technology existed and then they found the problem that it could solve.
So once you've figured out what problem it is that you're trying to solve, you then have to work out how you uniquely solve that problem.
Difference is a really key word here, not better, faster, smarter, stronger, cheaper, but different.
A great place to start is this TED Talk from Simon Sinek called Start With Why.
He says that companies are very good at saying what they do and how they do it. But they're not so good at saying why they do it. And the why is what makes the emotional connection and that's what makes you different. Why is the why so important?
Your Prospects are drowning in a sea of sameness. If you're clear about your why, then that's the difference between marketing that's the same as everybody else and marketing that’s inspirational.
So we've agreed with sales on the problem that we're trying to solve. Now we have to agree on how we're going to articulate this difference.
2. A strong point of view is going to increase your chances of success
Everybody in the company needs to be on message. For example, you could ask different people in your company what they would say for who you are, why you exist, what you do and how you do it. You might find you’re roughly on the same page.
However, it's not enough to be roughly on the same page. It’s got to be the same words, the same meaning, the same values.So your words, your meaning, and your values have to be in alignment.
Christine cites a case study from PassFort. When she joined, the company was similar to many SaaS tech firms of a similar size around the UK.
“It was really critical that we found a way to stand out. So we went about designing a new market category and a differentiated point of view. I interviewed all of the key internal stakeholders and asked them the same question, what problem are you trying to solve? How come nobody else has solved that problem? And how is PassFort solving this problem uniquely? What's the big vision? What's the purpose? What's the why?”
PassFort carried out a review of messaging from competitors, to see what they said about their own who, what, why and how, and whether they were consistent in their messaging.
Nobody was very consistent in this, but Christine found examples of good, differentiated messaging. From this she started crafting PassFort’s messaging to explain their key differences.
3. Create a common ICP (ideal customer profile)
As part of the PassFort project, Christine and her team used customer analytics to look at the characteristics of our existing customer base in order to create an ideal customer profile.
The keyword here is common because it’s absolutely necessary to agree with sales on the target customer.
This is an example of the template for ICP used by PassFort, which focused on the size of the company, the industry segment, countries, primary job roles and examples of job titles.
PassFort included the operational model and technology stage but you might want to focus on the key themes for your business, and the best criteria to include in your ICP. Do this together with sales, and be specific enough to be meaningful, while remaining realistic and actionable.
4. Agree the next best action
A concept from a book called Sticky Branding by Jeremy Miller is the 3% rule, that 3% of your market is buying at any given time.
Whereas sales is very focused on that 3%, which is door number two from the cartoon, marketing needs to be a lot more focused on the other 97% that aren't buying now, but may do so in future. This is where next best action marketing comes in.
Next best action marketing is a customer centric marketing model that considers the different actions that can be taken for a specific customer and decides on the next best action for each customer.
For example, Cisco’s next best action program takes into account customers’ past actions, history, behaviour, interests, challenges, and needs. It blends this all together with some external sources of insight and AI predictions and identifies the next step an organisation should take which will align with its marketing goals but also with the needs of the customer.
Cisco started out with three use cases: email optimization, outbound calling and click to chat. Every customer receives an individual path to purchase, and this has really helped to create loyal customers who feel very valued and understand that the next best action has been taken for them.
This is a very sophisticated approach, but if you don't have the marketing power of Cisco, then you can make it a bit simpler, which is what Christine did at PassFort.
PassFort identified the most common marketing tactics and activities associated with them, noted how the status of those activities would be recorded in marketing automation systems, and then worked out the next best action.
So, if someone was giving a buying signal such as booking a demo, completing a contact form, or participating in the live chat, this would be passed over to sales as a qualified lead, or perhaps added to a nurture track.
The target is to move everybody higher up the stack, as what sales really cares about ultimately is the leads.
5. Celebrate joint outcomes
How are we going to agree with sales? What is it that we do that's worth celebrating?
If sales wants a one night stand and marketing wants a long term relationship, what does that mean for the things that we're likely to celebrate?
Well, if you're from Planet Mars in sales, the things that you're going to celebrate are closing a deal, upselling and cross-selling, or renewing a deal. It's all about deals.
What should marketing celebrate? Does sales want to hear about leads? Email sign ups? White paper downloads?
Christine's advice is to show the paths to deals, to demonstrate what marketing is doing that leads to deals.
“We use our ICP to identify those individuals that we're going to target. After that, we start to see responses to our marketing efforts. For example, somebody lands on our website, fills out a form, clicks on an email, or downloads a white paper. These things indicate that people are leaning in and responding to us.
Then we get to the revenue part of the journey. And this is where it's really important because sales become very interested when we get to this stage. Sales mostly want to know how many leads are coming in, where are they coming in from, how are they progressing through the pipeline, and how much contribution marketing is making to sales overall.”
Christine’s suggestion is to build a simple dashboard that they can access at anytime to monitor progress.
If sales and marketing are aligned on the same planet, then a third door should appear. Pick this one and you'll be able to invest in both the long term and the short term in order to see a boost in both.