We know that B2B buyers are well down the sales funnel before they ever talk with a sales professional. You may have even seen the statistics and research to back it all up. Today, most of us in the sales and marketing world have accepted that as fact.
So why hasn’t it changed the way most B2B companies do business?
A few questions for your company:
- Do you have separate sales and marketing teams?
- Are their annual plans done separately?
- Are their goals separate?
- Does each department have separate internal department calls and meetings?
- Are sales and marketing professionals compensated differently?
And one for you:
The Great Divide Between Marketing and Sales
Ending the war between sales and marketing has been a struggle for a long time. Consider this passage from a 2006 article from the Harvard Business Review:
“You’d think that marketing and sales teams, whose work is also deeply interconnected, would have discovered something similar. As a rule, though, they’re separate functions within an organization, and, when they do work together, they don’t always get along.”
So there’s a little historical hesitation, as anyone who’s worked on a small marketing or sales team can verify. B2B has typically been a sales-led space. That means smaller marketing teams tend to operate as sales production departments, churning out presentations, event materials, or promised-on-the-fly products and services.
Sales drive business, so the Sales Team drives the business.
But we know today’s customers don’t buy that way. They don’t sign contracts because of miraculous, out-of-the-blue “Glengarry Glen Ross” big pitches anymore. They know more. They’ve Googled. Your sales team’s role is to bring a human connection into the prospect’s decision—and seal the promise that marketing has made since you showed up on their radar.
The Revenue Funnel
It might be that terminology messing things up. We need to get beyond “sales” as both the objective and the responsible team.
Instead, we should think of the objective of marketing and sales as “revenue.” And we all should work together on the Revenue Funnel.
Marketing owns the top half of the funnel. We create awareness and engagement. And when the time is right, sales steps in to nurture, consult, and close. Think of marketing as the offensive line, and sales as the running back. If we work together, there’s a lot of opportunity for some big scores.
To take it one step further, every B2B company should consider creating a Revenue Team, thereby removing any divisions between their marketing and sales professionals.
I Admit It: Building a Revenue Team Might Take Time
I’m talking about a major change, and those don’t happen overnight. B2B companies need to commit to the idea, and then ride it through its evolution. In my three years of working as Fractional CMO for a middle-market engineering and project management company, I’ve seen a slow but very positive progression towards true marketing and sales alignment.
Here’s a summary:
April 2014 – April 2015
- Marketing was considered overhead, and it acted as sales support. We occasionally participated in sales team calls, but only to take requests for case studies, email blasts, and the like.
May 2015 – April 2016:
- Marketing became stronger with a team of three, embracing a top-to-bottom marketing structure.
- Credibility rose within the company through a successful merger, a rebrand, a website relaunch, and inbound marketing efforts.
- While sales and marketing remained quite separate, the requests from sales started to increase and were as much focused on lead generation (inbound marketing) as they were on sales enablement (pitch decks, case studies, SOQs).
- Marketing took a larger role in the bi-annual sales meeting.
May 2016 – April 2017:
- Marketing has become the “go-to” resource within the company, especially among the sales team. (HR seems to need a lot from us as well.)
- We have an aggressive inbound marketing program aligned with strategic goals.
- Our marketing campaigns feed qualified leads to sales on a regular basis. (We’ve even acquired some million-dollar leads!)
- We’ve helped transform how the sales team presents through beautifully designed, engaging pitch decks.
- Marketing kicked off the sales meeting this year.
(Future) May 2017 – April 2018:
- The sales team will support marketing campaigns through timely, targeted follow-up and social media outreach. Our goal is to double conversion rates with the assistance of sales.
- We’ll be implementing Account-Based Marketing, where we proactively participate in targeted sales efforts to help “warm up” top prospects.
- Marketing and sales will begin to have blended calls.
- Revenue planning will be combined—no separate sales and marketing plans. We’ll have one master plan to drive sales and marketing towards full alignment.
(Future) May 2018:
How long should building a Revenue Team take?
For my client, it’ll be a four-year process, but that started with building a marketing team from the ground up. I hear you thinking: Does it have to take that long?
The answer is a definite “it depends.”
No universal template exists for moving a company from marketing and sales silos to total alignment. Success depends on a focused approach based on your company’s real-world circumstances. With the guidance of experienced strategic marketing consultants, this process can likely be well-planned and streamlined. The more embedded they can get, the more likely an aligned outcome.
To give you a better sense of the process, here are some necessities for working toward your own successful Revenue Team:
- A high-performing marketing department capable of both lead generation and sales enablement / assistance
- An executive who understands the importance of sales and marketing alignment and serves as a champion for driving it forward
- Marketing technology that enables smooth transitions of leads through the Revenue Funnel (e.g., a marketing automation platform and a CRM) and offers reporting on how well the actions and interactions of both departments are driving revenue
- A sales team that understands the role of a modern marketing department, rather than lone-wolf selling philosophies
The B2B buyer has evolved. If you want your B2B organization to survive, it’ll have to evolve too. It’s time to let go of ineffective approaches. It’s time to remove the walls between your departments.
One goal. One Revenue Team.
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