They see agencies as a complete waste. Sales leaders can think of other ways to spend money more productively.
Why is it that most B2B sales leaders hate advertising agencies? It’s simple. Sales leaders see their sales organization as the muscle that drives growth. They are irked when advertising agencies take too much credit for growth.
Sales leaders recognize that marketing has a role. They just don’t see the tangible connection between ad agency contribution and won deals. The purpose of this article is for Marketing leaders to; 1. Recognize when their advertising agency is ‘dead’ to sales, and 2. Understand why it matters in today’s evolving buying process.
Are Advertising Agencies Dead to B2B Sales Leaders?
There are three primary reasons why sales leaders became disenfranchised with agencies.
1. Cost vs. Value
To a sales leader the value received is not equal to the investment. While B2B sales leaders have a large total budget, most of that budget is staff salaries and benefits. The typical sales leader has a relatively small discretionary budget. Marketing dollars spent with agencies are multitudes greater than what a sales leader typically spends with 3rd parties. There is sticker shock involved.
The sales leader has difficulty seeing the marketing spend as prudent. Spend is seldom tied to the achievement of tangible revenue objectives. The building blocks of Marketing ROI have to be put in place with an understanding that perception of spend it half the battle.
2. Disconnected Language
Members of agencies can be eccentric in their interactions, dress and demeanor. They readily mix amusement with business. The CMO realizes that creative brilliance doesn’t come from a suit and tie crowd. The sales leader perceives agency dialogue as disconnected from tangible business results. Agency staff introductions go into depth about their stints at the biggest agencies without a mention of what they accompilshed for their clients.
Agency strategists may ask deep strategic questions that the sales leader isn’t prepared to answer (i.e.; what is your total available market? what is your 5 year plan?, etc.). Yet the agency can be tone deaf to understanding the simplest basics of how the sales field wins deals. The agency push to perform exhaustive customer focus group testing, yet not ask to ride with a sales rep.
The agency rarely connects with the sales leader. In a B2B organization, this lack of connectively with the sales leader is harmful to the business.
The reality is that your average agency professional works a heavy workload. Sales leaders may perceive agency behavior as a lack of maturity or discipline. What sales leaders don’t see is the same graphic designer in Converse high-top tennis shoes who clowns around in a meeting, is also staying up all night grinding out quality campaigns. The campaigns drive net new interest into the top of the funnel. The sales leader frowns at the perceived shortcoming. The CMO knows creative talent and understands the contribution.
Sales leaders lose confidence in agency creative staff they perceive as unprofessional. This lack of confidence bubbles through to when they see campaigns released. Sales leaders often take pot shots at the work of the agency. They take swings at the campaign in conversations with the CEO, CFO, but don’t say anything to the CMO.
Advertising agency pride gets in the way. They ignore Sales Leader feedback as useless ‘don’t get it’ noise. Marketing avoids showing the work to sales resulting in disconnected realities.
3. Experience with a Dinosaur Agency
Marketers are increasingly frustrated with ad agencies. A survey among 1,900 business leaders in marketing by Avidan Strategies reveals a grim view of agency performance;
71% of marketing leaders surveyed point to the lack of agency Accountability as their main area of frustration.
This response by marketers is driven by growing demands for CMO accountability. This is due to the increased scrutiny of results by the CEO, the board, and now the sales leader.
If marketing leaders who see value in agency partners are frustrated, imagine sales leader impressions. That’s where sales leader Scud Missile-like comments originate. For example, sweeping generalizations such as; “We waste millions with the ad agency and get nothing for it.” It can be maddening for CMO’s to hear their peer in sales take shots at them.
Should the CMO and Agency care what the Sales Leader thinks?
Yes, it’s time to care. There is too much at stake in today’s evolved buying process. Most agencies have a no relationship with the sales leader. CMO’s have designed it this way because it’s cleaner. However this void of conversation has worsened misconceptions. The CMO (not the sales leader) hires the agency. Agencies ignored the sales leader because they could.
As the buying process evolves there is greater need for marketing and sales collaboration. The use of marketing firms and advertising agencies is essential to success. Cooperation is required between Marketing, Sales and the Agency partners.
B2B marketers should begin the transformation by engaging the sales leader. The engagement with sales is not to gain ‘approval’ of marketing efforts. The purpose is to re-establish a real working relationship. The following are benefits to a greater level of collaboration between sales and marketing;
- Sales needs consulting expertise to develop the buying process maps
- Marketing needs input from sales to understand the micro-decisions involved
- Sales benefits from quality content for sales directed nurture campaigns
- Marketing needs access to sales subject matter experts to position content
- Sales requires social templates, nurture posts and quality content
- Marketing benefits from sales collaboration in building a consistent brand message (vs. disjointed messaging/branding)
- Sales needs quality leads driven into the top of the funnel
- Marketing improves performance with sales input through feedback and win/loss conversions
Assessing Your Advertising Agency
CMO’s have a decision to make. Do you stick with your existing advertising agency and rebuild sales dialogue? Or do you turn to a proven results-oriented agency like an Ogilvy, VML or AvreaFoster?
Starting a new agency relationship can be two steps back and one step forward. However, far too many agencies are still evolving. The switch to a results-oriented agency will drive short-term and long-term results.
Evaluate your existing advertising agency by leveraging the Advertising Assessment Guide.