How a software company ended the war between marketing and sales
For years, B2B marketers have been measured by the quantity of leads they generate for the sales team, whose job is to convert them into revenue. When leads don’t convert, the departments can blame each other for poor leads or bad sales efforts. Without resolution, the standoff can persist.
One chief marketing officer who has systematically diffused the tension between her counterparts in sales is Rashmi Vittal of Conversica, a provider of virtual assistant software. Vittal discusses how a simple but robust nine-square grid fully aligns her team with sales and eliminates potential conflicts before they start. Among the keys to this détente: making sure marketers walk in sales’ shoes, sales enablement playbooks, a commitment to continuous improvement and a shared set of performance metrics. In other words, there is no hand-off.
What does this grid look like?
On the left-hand side, you have people, process and technology. In any organization, you always have to deal with people. People are always part of the scenario, but then you also have processes. Within the group or across groups, how do you get stuff done and what's the expectation? A lot of it is based on expectation and then the desired outcome. The last is, how can you use technology today to help you achieve those goals? How can it be a vehicle for helping you achieve those goals?
Across the top is go-to-market strategy, demand generation, and enablement, and this is absolutely from a marketing mindset in terms of what marketers can do to help better align themselves to sales. That grid is something that I always found myself coming back to inherently. What's the go-to-market strategy? How do we really think about demand gen and its relationship with sales across different dimensions? Then, how do you really help sales become enabled as a marketing unit? There's more that we can do than I think is traditionally done.
Why did you develop your sales and marketing alignment grid?
It’s a mash-up of 25 years in this industry. As I moved from the development-product life-cycle side and into the sales-marketing-professional services side of the house, I realized that there's a need to make sure that marketing and sales have strong alignment. Early last year we ran a short survey against marketing and sales leaders. Eighty-seven percent of sales leaders said their relationship to marketing is really important; 93 percent of marketing professional said it was very important. While both sides think that it's really important, we saw that more than two-thirds who responded said that while it was good, it could be better. You have to think about all the different ways that you could actually make it better.
What is product marketing’s role in this grid?
Their role is not only to have the various connection points into product so that they can technically understand the product and help influence roadmap. Their key responsibility is to take that knowledge and translate it into simple messages. That can be pushed out into the market and used to enable sales. Product marketing should also have responsibility to achieve revenue targets. They are the ones who can analyze the market, determine industries, market segments. They can evaluate the viability and what it would take to penetrate, scale, and grow to those markets, model that out and produce a strong hypothesis with market supported research.
What can marketing learn from sales to build a go-to-market strategy?
Sales is on the front lines. They're the ones who are talking to the customer and prospects day in and day out. They're the ones who have all the actual use cases, they're the ones who harness the voice of the customer. If you can join them during certain aspects of their sales cycle, or better yet, if you can actually listen to those sales calls, you'll learn so much. That gets infused back into the go-to-market strategy building process.
What’s your process for creating messaging?
You need to do the messaging work first. You have to understand the foundation of what it is you're trying to get across. From there you can build a story around it. It starts with doing the homework and knowing your ICP (Ideal Customer Profile.) You need to understand your persona; you need to understand the challenges that they are facing. When you're able to do that, then you can build the formation of your message. You also need the creative side. You need that good story that can wrap around it so that it is attention grabbing, interesting and educational for the prospect.
How do you get alignment between demand generation and sales leaders?
How sales and marketing and demand gen come together is just really about strong collaboration and communication, viewing and having an agreement in terms of assessing how we're doing, and then letting the technology tools help you to bridge that gap where they exist. You enable that on the process side by having actual meetings with demand generation leaders and sales leaders where the reviews can happen. It's not “What is Marketing generating? What is Sales generating?” It’s “What are we generating?”
How can marketing support and enable sales?
Education is fundamental and paramount to the success of the sales team. Salespeople like consistency, to know what's in front of them. If you have a regular cadence of education for them, they're going to feel supported. From a technology perspective, have the resource libraries, have the enablement tools, use third parties to come in to help teach new skills.
There are playbooks that you should use to support sales. Every organization, regardless of who you're selling to, should develop the playbooks and understand the methodology you're supporting in your sales motion and make that a standard. Not only does it create higher performing sales teams, but it also helps in recruiting and building larger sales teams because they know that you have your stuff together. They know where the success is going to come from.
Have you finished all nine of these areas at Conversica?
You're never finished. This is a constant evolution. At Conversica, we have pretty much hit every square on this grid at different times based on need. Last fall, we did a lot of work around go-to-market strategy answering the question of where the revenue is going to come from. We determined the industry verticals we were going to go after, revamped our ICP and our personas. We also estimated the revenue potential out of those market segments.
Then we worked with demand gen and sales. We picked certain industry verticals where we already had a foothold. What we want to look at is how we create and scale against that. Then there are some new industries we tried to penetrate. Demand gen could take that and feel like they have their own playbook that they can go build their marketing programs around and execute against.
How are you enabling sales at Conversica right now?
Just in Q2, we knew things were going to be a little slower on the pipeline and closing side of the house because of COVID, so we really took it as an opportunity to develop a brand-new playbook for our sales organization and then to educate them on it. We hold regular weekly lunch-and-learns for the sales team. We have guest speakers within and outside the company come and talk. We’ve set up a resource library. Anytime a salesperson needs the latest presentation or a case study, they can use those resource libraries and enablement tools that we have for them to be as successful as possible.
What’s the most important part of your grid?
The people part. If you don't have the trust of your sales leadership, the trust of your CEO, the trust of your customer success or your product teams, they're not going to buy into this. You have to have them be part of the solution; you have to understand the other person's motivation and appeal to them. When you have that? Synergy. You're going to see progress, but it doesn't happen overnight. You have to continually work on it, demonstrate quick wins, and build confidence in the system. Success happens when you stop feeling like you're the mouthpiece and everybody else is talking about it because they're seeing their own results and they're happy about that.