Sales and Marketing alignment has been a hot topic for as long as I can remember. And not just for me. One of the most popular episodes of DemandGen Radio is all about Sales and Marketing alignment.
There is a good reason why the topic is top of mind for marketers. Even the most well-designed and executed demand generation strategies won’t result in adequate ROI if Marketing and Sales aren’t aligned in their goals and activities.
David Lewis, DemandGen’s CEO, gave a very good retrospective on the evolution of demand generation. One of his key points stuck in my mind: the death of the baton pass metaphor.
The idea of a “handoff” between Sales and Marketing has always been important to close any gaps in responsibility for who is supposed to act on a lead. As David points out, the number and complexity of touchpoints across the buyer’s journey means that there is no longer a single person or area who owns a lead. His analogy of a football team making a complex play is a much better one than the baton pass in a relay race.
This, of course, has large implications for managing the overall process at an executive level, which is more akin to a sports team coach than factory foreman.
And a coaching mindset requires a different view of how to manage both the team and the levers to impact the ultimate revenue goal.
Coaching a team vs. optimizing a factory
This complexity hasn’t appeared overnight. The buyer has steadily increased their own power in the marketplace as technology has enabled them to find information in more and more places and on their own terms. And marketing and sales technology has kept up with the ever-expanding ways to engage and reach out to them.
However, the corresponding organizational, management, and reporting capabilities have not expanded as fast. In a factory, where a machine has one specific job, it is easy to look at the inputs and outputs and modify the machine to optimize its performance. On a sports team, however, optimizing one player’s performance doesn’t necessarily lead to winning games, or more importantly, championships. It takes a holistic view of the overall team’s capabilities, and a longer-term view of developing capabilities over an entire season, or even multiple seasons.
And, while it is important to measure individual tactical metrics, without viewing them in the context of the overall impact and playbook, a manager can draw the wrong conclusions around efforts and results.
For example, I have clients that ask for the ROI from a specific email nurture program. Rightfully so, the manager is looking to allocate resources to the highest-performing areas. However, if the analysis doesn’t also look at the leads being put into the nurture program and the actions being taken on them after they leave, then changing parts of the program itself will very likely not achieve the expected increases in ROI.
On a sports team, each player on the field has a role and specific contribution to the team. The coach works with them individually on their specialties, but with a view to how they fit into the overall team strategy. And while each team has its stars, it takes the whole team working together to win championships.
And when one person has the ball, every other player on the field is moving into position to help make the play a success.
Similarly, in a revenue organization (encompassing Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service), the coaches must be able to look at each area’s individual performance and capabilities in the context of the overall business strategy.
You can impact what you can measure
Every sports fan is familiar with the reams of statistics that are generated on every aspect of the game and each player’s individual performance. It is the teams that use that information in the context of the overall team results that will be the most successful. However, when a team focuses only on a few key data points without the overall context, it can spell disaster.
Sports is full of examples where a coach drives the team by only focusing on a star player, who then disappoints when supporting team members leave. A revenue generation leader must similarly develop the entire team instead of focusing only on star elements or groups to drive performance. For example, focusing only on optimizing sales team performance without integrating and developing Marketing, Sales & Marketing Ops, Data & Systems, and Customer Service will result in an organization that is leaving money on the table by not reaching its target market at peak efficiency and not retaining and expanding existing clients.
KPIs must be designed to take into account the integrated efforts across teams, and tactical team and individual metrics must be designed to fit into those KPIs. For example, a KPI like Marketing Qualified Leads depends on number of leads generated, nurture campaign successes, and data completeness. Revenue depends on Opp stage movements and activities as well as MQLs. Customer Lifetime Value depends not only product adoption, but also on Sales and Marketing efforts prior to becoming a customer.
Turning data into overall results
Ultimately, just like the goal of a sports team is to win championships and not just games, the desired end result for a revenue team is increasing revenue per the overall company strategy.
The first step is aligning all of the team members to the same overall playbook. Once the coach knows what each team member is supposed to be doing (and what they are actually doing), then new plays can be devised and existing ones optimized. New players can be added as needed to run those plays, and existing ones can be coached for better performance.
Pretty soon, you’ll be coaching your own revenue championship team.
Ryan Johnson develops and implements marketing automation strategies for DemandGen clients. As a DemandGen Consultant, he has helped clients across a wide range of industries to streamline and optimize their marketing and sales processes to drive measurable success and ROI.