Sales and Marketing Alignment vs. Integration, Part 3: Accountability

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Rachel Rosin of Act-On Software recently moderated a webinar conversation between Bill Golder, principal and CEO of Slingshot Growth Partners, and Jay Hidalgo, renowned sales, marketing and business coach. Their three-part conversation covered the challenges to marketing and sales and the need for integration, moving from alignment to integration, and ensuring accountability at every stage of the funnel. This blog post is an edited transcript of the third part, accountability. Read part 1 and part 2, and be sure to watch the webinar to get the whole story.

RACHEL: We brought up earlier the concept of the buyer’s journey – how it’s something that’s not very linear at all, but we try to fit it into this cyclical model. I know with alignment, the concept helps create clear roles within sales and marketing. It seems like the concept of integration might create blurry lines in terms of accountability. What are your thoughts to that?

JAY:  I think my experience is that blurred lines occur when communication is not there and definitions are not there at the beginning. I’ll go back to my football analogy. The offensive lineman, once he learns the playbook and knows it, he knows what his role is – what he’s supposed to do. There’s no blurred line. He never questions, “Should I take the ball and throw it?” So in the same way, there are traditional roles that marketing has, and there are traditional roles that sales has. We’re not necessarily advocating that they go away from what those things are. Marketers create the content and manage the dissemination of the content. Salespeople are sitting down across the table working through the specific problems with their teams. That part hasn’t really changed.

The change is how, within those roles, they can help support what the other side is doing, and do it with a common goal at the end. I think a lot of my experience has been that when we communicate what the overall objective is together, when we see that more of what we’re doing is in step, then we can define that and communicate that in such a way where we get away from the differentiation language and we get more into the integration language. It’s almost like light bulbs go on. They see it and they’re like, “Oh yeah, that makes absolute sense.” So it’s an adjustment in their mind, adjustment of the language. And then once that’s taken care of, you can move forward. What are your thoughts, Bill?

BILL: I agree. I think we get caught up in this sort of old mindset. Because it feels a lot easier and simpler to make the roles clear when everything for marketing sort of starts and ends with creating leads, and everything for sales starts and ends with converting those leads. I think to Jay’s point, say for the marketing organizations that are doing this well, they’re doing some great work particularly in the sales and marketing operations realm where that integration is likely happening throughout the funnel. So how are we going to support the sales team when they have a conversation in the early, awareness stage? While we’re developing content that’s certainly designed for people to consume online, how do we think about developing the right kind of content for salespeople to utilize and take into real face-to-face conversations?

I think it’s just having clear lines around where the responsibility begins and ends within each of the buyer journey stages. And I think if you break it down that way, you come to a much better conclusion around where everybody plays their roles. I think the football analogy that Jay walked through is a great one. It’s just making sure that within the buyer journey stages, we’ve got clear roles in terms of what marketing is providing and doing, and what sales is doing in each of those stages. And I think it’s doable.

I was recently at a conference where the sales and marketing ops folks from ADP were presenting about how they are integrating their activities. And they talk about it, how it’s not easy, and it turns into kind of a potentially gray area. But they were just working through the buyer’s journey relative to their best clients, and putting definitions around it: “Okay, within each of these stages, who does what?” The fact that they’re having that conversation and the fact that they’re running into some challenges in the gray areas, I think it’s all a good thing.

RACHEL: I definitely agree. So talking about this concept of integration, does it really work?

JAY: Well, it does. We talked earlier about some statistics on how it works. Bill and I both talked about different clients and scenarios and environments that we’ve been in, where we’ve seen it work. But what you’re seeing here is an example of what can be achieved in a relatively short amount of time.

alignment-happensOn the left side, here was a company that, after two quarters, had generated over 2,000 net new inquiries and yielded, as a result, four closed deals. Now a company had an average sales price of about $250,000, a quarter of a million dollars. And so with this activity the marketing team generated a million dollars’ worth of business. Things really looked good.

But one of the VPs was dissatisfied because despite the number of inquiries at the top, there was just this glut in the middle of the funnel, this plug if you will. He started saying to the marketing folks, “Hey, what’s going on? We’ve got all this junk that’s being thrown in the top of the funnel.” So instead of trying to run around and fix it on their own, this company gathered representation from different levels of sales together. And before we even started diagnosing the problem, we brought the salespeople and marketers together and said, “Look, we’ve got this problem here, we’ve got things coming in the top of the funnel, we’ve got a plug in the middle, we know you guys are selling well, but we think we can do better, what do we have to do?”

So we had a lot of dialogue, a lot of interaction, a lot of – there were some sales reports, marketing reports, both systems were accessed, the marketing automation as well as the CRM. And through a variety of interactions back and forth, we determined a couple of things that happened. Number one, in terms of the top of the funnel, there was a misunderstanding from marketing about who the buyer truly was. And so, even though marketing was influencing and pulling in names, contacts, prospects in the top of the funnel, sales was able to identify that the filter they were using to go get them, the buyer insight that they were using, was inaccurate. So sales influenced a change at the top of the funnel.

We also found out that there were some issues in qualifying the leads in the middle of the funnel. And because the qualification model was broken, that’s where the plug occurred. And so sales was able to speak to what that qualification criteria should look like, and marketing challenged with a few things, back and forth. But a revised qualification model was created for the middle of the funnel. And then, towards the end, there was some sales communication. What was happening is sales would get these leads that they felt were worth following up on, but there was a significant number of them that sales said, “We just can’t reach them. We send them emails, we send them contacts, and we don’t have any follow up toward the end of the funnel, we don’t have any follow up communications to send to them.”

So we talked about that, and together, marketing and sales developed a defined contact process that inside sales should have used, or was going to use: “How many emails, how many phone calls, before we label the lead as could not contact.” And then sales helped to develop a nurture program with marketing. And they literally referred to it as the “could not reach” program. And that became the nurturing flow. So sales was at the table to identify and fix problems at the top of the funnel, at the middle of the funnel, at the bottom of the funnel – in a variety of different places. Marketing was very smart in bringing sales to the table.

Six months later, they had generated 90 percent fewer inquiries. So it was very evident that a lot of junk was in the top. As a result, the middle of the funnel opened up. And the best result of all is that they tripled sales in the same amount of time, Q2 versus Q4. It’s a big shift in what they were doing and what they were achieving from a marketing perspective. But even more so for me, the most fulfilling comment was to hear the marketing person say, “I used to go into these marketing and sales meetings, and I felt like I had to have my shield with me because of all the arrows that were going to be sent my way. And now I’m sitting there in these meetings as a trusted colleague and teammate because I know now my role and what I’m supposed to be doing in the whole avenue of demand generation.”

So does it take work? Absolutely. Does it take effort and time? Yes. Is this a silver bullet? No. It’s not at all. It’s a planned mindset shift, a tactical shift, that brings everybody together. Over time, however, is when you’ll see the results start to come about.

RACHEL: Great. Thank you, Jay. That example of success is amazing, and I think the results definitely speak for themselves. I’d like to thank you and Bill for all the information that you’ve provided today. I know we’ve covered a lot and we’ve posed some very interesting perspectives on simple ideas that would be easy to implement that really could change the way that sales and marketing teams do work together for the better.

JAY: Thanks Rachel. Bill, good talking to you, as always.

BILL: Thank you.

Be sure to watch the webinar with Rachel Rosin, Bill Golder, and Jay Hidalgo to learn how sales and marketing can go beyond basic alignment to complete integration.