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NCDM 2010: Aligning sales and marketing teams important

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Miami—Telephone and Data Systems, a telecommunications service company, knows what happens when sales and marketing aren't aligned: Things go south quickly.

That was the message delivered by Jennifer Stearns, formerly manager-commercial promotions for TDS Telecom, a provider of business telephone systems, at 2010 NCDM, the annual expo and conference of the National Center for Database Marketing last week.

"In response to naysayers from sales, we would sometimes go dark with our marketing program and say, 'Let's see what happens,' ” said Stearns, who currently is manager-marketing operations at Accenture." As a result, sales would instantly drop 30% in that time period, and we'd quickly get calls from sales asking, 'How fast can we get that program up again?' "

Stearns presented the TDS case study in an NCDM session titled, "Be Smart, Sell More: Integrate Data and Analytics with B2B Sales." She worked with The Nielsen Co. to develop prospect lists and the tools necessary to parse success, but quickly realized sales force automation options were limited.

"Consumer database marketing has lots of tools available, and lists that already are segmented," said Bill Macauley, director-product management at Nielsen. "For business data, it has to be customized for the client's needs."

Stearns used precise market-area demographics in several Midwest states to be able to assign equitable territories to an outside sales force of 130 reps. Marketing adopted quotas of their own, based on sales results, to spur aggressive action.

A direct mail campaign was augmented with tight sales buy-in; reps were required to make at least three contacts a month with each prospect, with at least one of those contacts in person. Prospects were rewarded with gifts of appreciation, such as iPads. Meanwhile, the company developed a home-brewed sales force automation tool with access for both sales and marketing.

Results were substantial. Stearns said that before the program was initiated in 2004, only 20% of b-to-b sales were attributable to marketing efforts; by 2009, that figure had risen to 48%.

"We had to earn sales' trust," Stearns said. "I spent 80% of my time knocking on the doors of sales reps, talking about how to use the program."

NCDM, sponsored by the Direct Marketing Association, concludes today.

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