Sales Marketing Alignment

Sales and Marketing Alignment: Thought Leadership with Jill Konrath

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The next interview in the B2B Marketing thought leader interview series is with Jill Konrath, Chief Sales Officer and Author of Selling to Big Companies. This interview with Jill provides great insight and best practices to improve sales and marketing alignment and shorten the sales cycle for B2B companies. Enjoy!

1. How did you get into sales and marketing, and what you like most about it?

I started my sales career at Xerox and immediately fell in love with the profession. I experimented with new strategies all the time to figure out what worked best. I loved the challenge, flexibility and creativity.

After a 3-year stint selling technology, I started my own consulting business with a primary focus on shortening time-to-revenue on new product launches. While my goal was to help salespeople, I ended up having to work with Marketing first to ensure the proper foundation. The gap between Marketing and Sales was often so wide, that I was amazed that any product was successful.

2. What three tips would you offer to improve Sales and Marketing alignment?

In my opinion, if your Marketing & Sales organizations do this together, they’ll not only improve their alignment, but also the results they achieve:

  • Engage in a customer immersion. What matters is the customer — not the product, service or solution. They should map out the customer decision process and create buyer personas. Using that information, they should determine how to best interact with customers throughout their entire buying cycle. Additionally, I strongly suggest that marketers get out in the field and on the phones with salespeople. They have no concept of the challenges their sales force is facing.
  • Ensure customer-enticing value propositions. Without strong value propositions, it’s tough for salespeople to crack into accounts and convince them to change from their status quo. Prior to launching any new offering, the company’s savviest sellers should work with Marketing to craft compelling messages focused on business outcomes. This messaging should then be incorporated into lead generation efforts, white papers, success stories, sales collateral and sales tools.
  • Create a resource-rich sales portal. Both Marketing & Sales need to focus on creating sales enablement tools that sellers can easily customize depending on industry, decision maker and stage in the buying process.I’m talking about things like email messaging, provocative questions, ROI analysis tools, voicemail scripts, presentation templates. AND, they have to be really useful stuff, not the typical self-serving marketing pablum. Get your smartest salespeople involved and clone what they do. This is the best way I know to enhance sales productivity as well as increase the skill levels of all salespeople.

3. Your post, How to Shorten Your Sales Cycle, advises following “triggering events” (such as include mergers) that indicate a prospect could benefit from the service you provide. How can marketing departments efficiently monitor triggering events to generate more effective sales leads for their team?

Leveraging triggering events is one of the easiest ways to shorten the sales cycle and win business with minimal competition. First, a company needs to determine what triggered opportunities that closed quickly. Was it an acquisition, a new initiative or bad 3rd quarter earnings? Perhaps it was new legislation or a relocation?

Once they’re clear on the best triggers for their business, there are numerous ways these can be monitored using Sales 2.0 technology. I strongly encourage companies to subscribe to services such as:

These services alert marketers and sellers to key events, management changes, and more — all within their CRM system. As far as I’m concerned, this is an absolute must in today’s economy.

4. Lead generation, lead management and lead nurturing. How would you rank these in order of importance to increasing sales?

Tough questions. I think they’re all important. But if I had to choose one, I’d say lead management since it encompasses everything after you find a new, qualified lead, including lead nurturing.

The last thing salespeople need is a stacks of unqualified leads to chase after. What a waste of time that is. So if Marketing can keep in touch with these leads, continually feeding them valuable content till they reach an agreed upon handoff point, I’m all for that.

I would also like to add a caveat: It’s all about quality, educational content focused on relevant business issues.

5. What do you think is the biggest opportunity for companies striving to increase sales?

Salespeople are not miracle workers. They can’t create a steady stream of highly qualified prospects out of thin air. Right now it’s taking 10-12 contacts to set up an initial appointment. Traditional methods of prospecting are grossly inefficient in today’s business environment.

For Sales to be successful, Marketing needs to take the lead — both literally and figuratively. Marketing must position the company as the “go to” resource for potential users of their products, services and solutions.

By adopting a thought leadership mindset, they can engage online seekers with relevant digital content, upcoming events, communities and more. Then they need to nurture these leads till they’re sales-ready.

In short, to increase sales, focus on marketing.

6. If companies did that, how would it affect the sales organization?

The role of salespeople would fundamentally change. They’d no longer be needed to open doors, searching for prospects with “needs.” Instead, they’d work from a steady stream of high quality leads that had already invested significant time researching their problems and/or possible solutions.

Salespeople would focus on helping these new prospects and their existing customers make the best possible decision. They’d work more as a consultant than “hunters.” They’d be experts on the industries they sell into, the processes they impact, issues their offering affects and business, in general.

Many companies would have fewer “feet on the street,” as much of the work could be done via the phone or with online meetings. Customers would really like this because it’s a much better use of their time too.

We’re already seeing this happen with companies who’ve radically invested in thought leadership and demand generation initiatives. Personally, I believe that companies that do it now will thrive, while those who don’t “get it” will fade slowly away — dinosaurs whose time has passed.