Much has been written in recent months about the demise of the CMO position. While such a drastic assertion is great for grabbing business headlines, the reality is, as usual, decidedly more nuanced.
As the marketing function has evolved over the years to encompass much more data and analytic competencies, the push for marketing to be more accountable for sales results and overall growth has also expanded. The CMO title has even morphed into CGO (Chief Growth Officer) to reflect this expanded responsibility. The age-old debate between sales and marketing functions about who is to blame for missing the revenue number is no longer tolerated. Top-performing CMO’s in 2020 will embrace this trend and make linkage with the sales function a number one priority. A valuable thought-starter to ensure marketing is laser-focused on providing value to the sales team is SBI’s Sales Enablement Gap Tool. This tool serves as an effective checklist and scorecard to illustrate how complete the sales asset inventory is to support a strategic sales initiative such as a new product launch.
Understanding Not Only What the Customer Wants Today, but in the Future Requires Ongoing Insights
What are some practical steps that can be taken to ensure tighter marketing and sales alignment? Two key activities will be critical to achieving this objective:
- Compile customer insights to ensure marketing and sales really understand their priorities.
- Build an ongoing process to ensure marketing delivers the tools needed by sales to address customer priorities.
In a recent SBI article, Jenny Sung wrote about creating Marketing listening paths such as win/loss and churn interviews. See this valuable article here. These are excellent methods for getting direct customer feedback. Jenny correctly points out that these interviews should be conducted directly with the customer or prospect, and not just an internal discussion with the sales team since the root causes of some issues may be filtered to serve various internal political agendas.
I would argue that these listening paths be augmented with annual or bi-annual direct primary customer research. This would build a view not only into the here and now of customer requirements, but into the future of what the customer will expect in 3 to 5 years for your company’s solutions.
The proverbial hockey adage of skating not to where the puck is, but to where it is going applies here. Sharing these insights with sales will help the head of sales to anticipate potential new organizational and talent requirements to serve evolving customer needs. Meanwhile, marketing can use the insights to communicate new product and solution requirements to the product teams. The CMO continues to play a critical role in interlocking these key go-to-market functions in most companies.
The Sale Team Must Be Marketing’s Best Friend and Guiding Voice
The second step to drive greater marketing and sales alignment involves the creation of a “sales advisory board.” This will provide marketing with ongoing insights into what the sales teams need to address evolving customer requirements and expectations, as well as combat competitive threats. This should be a monthly or quarterly cadence of planned interactions between the CMO and marketing leaders and a cross-section of sales leaders and front-line salespeople. Think of it as an “expert panel” where the most successful and forward-thinking sales resources bring the voice of the customer to the marketing team and advise on the enablement tools. They need to drive productivity and growth. I have seen these sales advisory boards used to recognize the salespeople who best model the skills and competencies needed for organizational success in the future. Who better to advise the marketing teams on how to constantly improve existing and identify new sales enablement deliverables needed by sales to win in the marketplace? The days of marketing creating content and throwing it over the wall to sales, then complaining when the content is not leveraged, are clearly over. Here is a sample agenda for a sales advisory board session:
- Sales team reviews recently released marketing content/campaigns/programs providing early feedback, so marketing can adjust in an agile fashion.
- Sales team reviews key recent customer interactions and how sales enablement tools were used with either positive or negative outcomes.
- Marketing team previews upcoming sales enablement content and demand generation campaigns to gather feedback to inform edits and adjustments.
- Sales team proposes new sales enablement tools or campaign ideas in a friendly “shark tank” type environment to allow joint brainstorming on what’s needed going forward.
Strong Marketing to Sales Alignment Pays Dividends in Talent Development, Today and in the Future
An additional benefit of this structured sales and marketing feedback process involves talent development and succession planning for key sales and marketing roles. While it is clear that sales and marketing roles each have distinct skills and competencies, they have complimentary elements that are important to seed the talent pools of both functions. I have seen visionary salespeople migrate into senior marketing leadership roles and bringing that “real world” pragmatism to the marketing function. Senior marketing leaders migrate into sales leadership roles and bringing their strategic vision for positioning the organization’s value proposition in the most compelling fashion to both internal and external audiences. SBI’s Sales Enablement Gap Tools is a valuable asset to inform early sales advisory board interactions.
By implementing these two practical steps, CMO’s will ensure optimal sales and marketing alignment and take an important step in ensuring marketing remains tightly linked to tangible sales results in 2020. SBI conducts ongoing research into marketing and sales best practices, and our most recent research report is highly relevant for leaders that leverage a Sales Kickoff as a key sales enablement activity. Download the executive brief here to learn how turning your SKO into an Acceleration Summit can help ensure you make the 2020 number.