Transparency, collaboration and constant communication between marketing and sales teams empowers an organization to drive revenue and generate a positive company culture. But sometimes, as marketers, we can forget to ask our sales team the right questions or overlook what information from our side is most beneficial to them.
Two Is Better Than One: Promote Marketing & Sales Alignment
David “Ledge” Ledgerwood, Managing Partner at Add1Zero, unpack what each team should be requesting from one another in order to achieve successful marketing and sales alignment.
Check out our conversation in this episode of our Marketing Expert Chat series to hear a marketing and sales perspective.
CAROLINE: Hi, today I’m here with Ledge a.k.a David Ledgerwood. Ledge is the Managing Director at Add1Zero. He’s an expert in B2B services and technology. Ledge, thank you so much for being with me today.
DAVID: It is so good to be with you.
CAROLINE: Great, so today, you know, we want to talk about sales and marketing and how we can work better together. I’ve had a couple of episodes about sales and marketing alignment and we decided for this episode to kind of turn things around a little bit and see, you know, what does sales think they need to provide to marketing.
So, the question is, as a marketing leader, what should I be asking from sales?
DAVID: Yeah, absolutely. So marketing is thinking about… Like we think of one funnel top to bottom, right? Marketing is thinking about, how do we get leads, the right leads, qualified leads into the funnel?
So, I think the first thing you would ask the salespeople is, are the right people coming through? Like do you think that we’re drawing in the right people? If so, great. If not, “Why not? Anything you could add to that, what’s the experience like on average?” Salespeople are gonna think a lot from their gut. The pattern recognition of having done, you know, eight, 10, 12 calls a day, right? And they’re going to be able to say, “Leads don’t feel right this week.” And you need to be able to ask them more questions to kind of probe, “Like, what about it? You know, are these not timely, are they not decision-makers? You know what…” Maybe they don’t have budget, you know, or maybe there’s some kind of change that…
So, you constantly want to be aware of that and I think marketing should also be querying sales on a regular basis like, “Exactly what things are you being asked to answer on those calls?” So, objection handling, right? Ask sales, “Tell me the exact questions you get asked,” and it’s even better when sales can record the calls and you can just listen to them and analyze that because you will find that those questions that get asked a lot of times are the best content prompts to put back at the top of the funnel, because marketing has the ability to go one to many, right? A message can be sent to thousands of people to answer a question that sales has to deal with it one-to-one.
DAVID: So, marketing has the power to be able to make the sales process much shorter, much easier, because you can pre-educate all the people that get on the phone with us. So, then we can really be experts about what we do to close the deal. Not worrying about having to do the little details over and over and over again of the same FAQs. That people should really all know about when they get in. But to be fair marketing would never know that unless sales collaborated and told them.
So, if you ever hear marketing and salespeople getting mad about each other, it’s because they don’t communicate or they’re automatic, they’re separated by, you know, silos in the organization. And that’s just, it’s just remarkably incorrect because sales is the frontline that is talking to the actual people that get brought in and could help make that marketing message so much tighter. So, they give you the raw material to make sure your ICP is right and the messages can help.
CAROLINE: Right, right, exactly.
DAVID: What does marketing want to know about from sales? I did it backwards. Okay, so what should salespeople ask from marketing?
CAROLINE: Right. So, I think salespeople should ask for three things.
First of all, they should ask for complete transparency. Like, what are the KPIs for marketing? How is it… Like, how is it gonna be achieved? What are the activities necessary to go after these KPIs and how does it impact them, you know? And how long is it gonna take to impact them? Because I feel like a lot of the times you have like marketing KPIs that are decided for… Like, it can be very valid reasons, right? But as a salesperson you don’t think that these are the things that you care about and… But you might not know why the marketing team is doing what they’re doing.
And I think, you know, asking for transparency and how it’s gonna impact the sales team and how long is it gonna take to impact the sales team? First of all, like it can bring some perspective but also it means that you can have better conversation with your marketing team, you know. You can actually praise them for the things that matter to them, which is really important, right? Because, you know, marketing… The sales is the client for marketing, which really what they get in return is kind of the sales being like, “Hey, like this is pretty helpful, you could do a good job,” right?
So, it’s really important to have this in mind, but also if you think that the KPIs are wrong, then you can start having conversations about, “Well, you know, some of these KPIs should change because of this and that reason.” But the first question is to ask, “What are the KPIs,” right? And then I think in general sales, you know, there’s a lot of like ask for like leads, better leads and all of this. But I think that one of the key roles of marketing is to create a brand, to create a voice, to create materials that are like self-explanatory, so that when your leads get to sales to your point. They know what your product does, they know the benefit, they know everything there is to know and then you can close these deals faster, you can close more of them, right?
And I think if you don’t have this baseline, then more leads are not gonna help you because they might be wrong, they might not understand what you’re doing. And you as a salesperson, again to your point, you’re gonna spend like so much time just answering the same questions over and over again.
CAROLINE: And then the last thing I think is important, and it’s really both from sales and marketing, is that the sales team and the marketing team should ask each other to work towards a common goal. Instead of having these silos of marketing people working towards like MQLs and brand awareness and, you know, salespeople working towards revenue. There is something in the middle where we can make sure that we’re moving the ball forward. So, you know, whether it’s SQLs opportunity is something that touches both sales and marketing. So, you can really align on like one metric that you need to move forward together.
DAVID: And so, can there be shared metrics for marketing and sales that are not just revenue?
CAROLINE: I mean revenue, obviously, revenue is like the most important one, right? And I do think that marketing should be accountable for revenue but when you look at… Like, I firmly believe that you need to really measure everything in your funnel to make sure that you understand where the gaps are and if you align on SQLs or if you align in opportunities, really, it’s something that both the marketing and the sales team can have a role in, right?
Like there’s the actual action of going and making sure that these leads are qualified and that we’re doing everything we need to do to get them into the funnel, but there is also the action of bringing them in and pre-qualifying them before they get to marketing qualified, so if we can really… Like both have direct impact on this result.
DAVID: Right and I think everyone should collaborate on what the definition of MQL and SQL and opportunity are for the business because you’ve got to have all of those ideas on the table. It’s like, “Well, what is the entry and exit criteria for that definition? How do I get to that stage by meeting these things? How do I leave that stage by meeting more things?”
I often find that companies skip that part and so they just think, “MQL, yay,” but what is it? You know, why did something become there, what exact conditions did an engagement meet or a lead meet in order to get there? And when you start asking those questions, many times that collaboration has never happened and there’s an adversarial relationship, you know, with sales and pretty much everybody else. So, and we just say, “Hey, you know, we’re the ones out here getting shot at, you know, help us out,” right, you know.
DAVID: But I get it, you know, everybody… And brand, I think is a thing that is difficult because traditional large-scale marketing was wholly associated with, you know, brand development and holding brand standards. Now when you’re a salesperson, what are you trying to do? Every single interaction is a one-to-one close, so you’re heavily incentivized to change the brand narrative to whatever you need it to be to get the close. That really irks marketing people who are trying to say, “No, no, no we want the same brand for all the people,” even though it’s the average experience. And that constant push and pull has to be addressed by just, you know, being good collaborators and taking care of each other, and you know, just have a constructive debate and you know, figure it out, do the work, sit around the table or the virtual table as it is these days.
CAROLINE: Right but also the brand is… It’s not that it’s not important that you are at the bottom of, when you’re at the bottom of the funnel. But when you are at the bottom of the funnel, you have a one-to-one relationship with somebody, right? When you are at the top of the funnel your only vision of the company and the brand is the brand, right?
Like, what is the tone, is it consistent, does it look modern, is it appealing, does it talk to… Does it talk to my needs? And you need to do this in a very consistent way, and you need to relate to the people with the brand, even in B2B and I think it’s not… You know, it’s like overlooked by so many companies because they want transactions, they want leads right now, but like at the end of the day, it’s not scalable, right? If you don’t have a really good brand, there’s only so far you can go.
DAVID: Sure, and brand extends all the way into customer experience through the entire buyer journey. So, every single touch point, all the way to the delivery. You know, that’s brand and it has to be consistent and scalable because if it’s not, then you put your salespeople out there and they just lie to people to get them in and then they churn. So, you don’t want to do that, right?
All of us want a consistent, ethical, accurate brand experience, so that when we put our own stamp on that. We can feel good that when it goes through to people that are not us, that that experience is consistent with the words that we said because it’s our reputation.
CAROLINE: Right, right, exactly. Do you have a favorite B2B brand.
DAVID: Oh, like in the real world?
CAROLINE: In the real world, yeah.
DAVID: Gosh, you know, I always did like the work that McKinsey does. I think it’s really classy. It gives you a feel that it’s expensive and I always thought that that was good, so I’ll often look at them. Extensor does some good work, some of the classic IBM stuff, you know, was well done on the massive scale but I like… I often like the smaller ones, where you know were very CX based, so it isn’t necessarily your super-brand.
I mean Microsoft does a lot of good stuff too, but small ones that you never heard of are the ones that you kind of go, “Wow, that’s a really nice experience. I love how that company treats everything.”
Asana is pretty good like that. Slack has a pretty good understanding of their brand. Zoom has come a long way just in the last bunch of months of getting their act together on what was a wholly fragmented brand before. So, yeah, I don’t know. I respect them all for their pros and cons, right?
CAROLINE: Yeah, but it’s funny because all the brands you mentioned, right, are… They definitely invested in branding, right? Even Slack, which you know, was a startup not so long ago. So, I think it speaks to the importance of-
DAVID: Oh, you certainly should. You know, I don’t encourage startups to go crazy on a branding budget. I just think they should do it well enough that it checks the boxes, it’s consistent. You have a branding guide, you know, and this could be basic stuff but stick to your colors, stick to your fonts, stick to correct logo implementations. You know, same basic stuff ought to be done by a startup a couple of years in, then you’ll make an adjustment to it and that’s okay.
So, I have seen a lot of founders, myself included, you know, spend way too much time on their logo, you know, when they had no revenue, right. Yeah, yeah, yeah. – Just don’t do that. It’s not that important, but.
CAROLINE: Yeah. I think it’s more about what’s the tone, what’s your voice, how do you speak to your customers? How do you speak to… You know, how do you speak to your prospects and what do…
DAVID: Or like, how should I because I don’t have any customers, right? If you’re a very big startup, right? Yeah, right at the beginning how do we want, and that’s where you ought to have the conversations of vision and mission and values and everybody kind of goes, “Oh, poo poo, you know, I don’t want to do that.” But I think that that’s necessary because it ought to be coherent enough to tie together the messaging and just so you know, is the thing that we just said through whatever way we said it, is at least consistent with what we believe about ourselves.
And so, you can’t leave any of that behind, you can accidentally create an initially profitable, you know, but a soulless brand that falls apart because nobody knows what we stand for around here, you know.
CAROLINE: Yeah, yeah and it’s essential to tell the story, it’s essential to have powerful messaging like really get to people, right? So, it’s-
DAVID: Right, right and tell the truth and sometimes the truth is not a good story. So how do you tell, you know, the boring truth about how you got where you are and make it compelling? So, copywriting is a real art and, you know, myth building, you know, if you will.
DAVID: It probably wasn’t actually that cool, but now we’ve told the story so many times that it sounds cool, so yeah.
CAROLINE: Right, right, right.
DAVID: Back when we were doing it, we just had, you know, dark circles under our eyes and lots of coffee and it kind of didn’t feel happy but now we’re happy yay, and we always meant it that way, yes. And we’ve forgotten it was miserable.
DAVID: Well, this is fun. I think our five-minute podcast is up. What do you think?
CAROLINE: Yeah, I think so.
DAVID: I think we crushed it.
DAVID: Nice spending time with you, Caro.
CAROLINE: Same here, thank you so much for your time.