At the SiriusDecisions’ (#SDS11) sold out conference featuring over 750 people, this year’s keynote featured both the head of sales Jerry Rulli and Colleen Langevin who heads marketing in a dialogue around historic performance, current activity, and a single go forward goal highlighting the tight sales/marketing relationship and the impact a relationship has on business results. This is a summary of that keynote discussion along with a few of my previous blog posts and experiences on alignment.
Although they are early in proving the model out, the first key was it appeared there is/was a tight relationship between sales and marketing. The relationship requires both parties to compromise, yet it’s proven when that cooperation happens, a better end result (i.e. more revenue conversions) happen. One step to success was involving sale extensively in a marketing plan – which went back and forth in a series of negotiations to arrive at the final plan tailored by segment. It probably helped the relationship and the overall marketing plan that they focused on a single goal – revenue production, instead of sales which typically focuses exclusively on revenue production without the help of marketing and marketing on just creating more MQLs. A very interesting compromise approach was not using the MQL language at all, likely music to a sales person’s ears as the concern is driving revenue, not driving more MQLs that never close.
A major key to success in their overall approach was the agreement to leverage an outside 3rd party (i.e. a referee) to uncover the real problem, steer the overall stakeholder and change management process to implement. The advantage of leveraging a 3rd party is it removes the emotion and ownership from either party and can uncover true issues – a brilliant decision on their part.
The approach at an executive level toward the team was ‘here’s the problem, now own solving it’. Structurally, marketing aligned toward their ‘buyer personas’ and the actual sales segment. One point that was not clear was how Iron Mountain gets it’s majority of new revenue which could be from existing customer base (in account selling) vs. net new customer acquisition – as a head of marketing it’s important to understand how and where the revenue is coming from as that will dictate the overall marketing strategy (ie focus on demand creation of MQLs vs. Sales enablement from SAL to close).
The relationship, referee, and team members agreed on common language within the waterfall beyond the common objective. Their teams trained on this element – in my own experience, implementing this kind of language on a global basis takes several iterations and can be a very time intensive activity as different people have different views of definitions. However, just like implementing a new sales stage funnel in a company, with consistency in definition up front means better performance down the road.
The relationship between sales and marketing was cemented in a ‘prenuptial’ Service Level Agreement. The SLA went one step further requiring all team members to sign off on the overall gameplan, thus eliminating any potential ‘whining’ from either sales (we need more leads) or marketing (you should close more leads). This too in my experience is an easier said than done activity, particularly if a head of sales doesn’t clearly understand the objective (more revenue production) or is ‘older’ school (ie doesn’t understand the impact marketing waterfall can have or what a waterfall is, so why have an SLA!) – yet absolutely essential for total transparency. So as a head of marketing looking to introduce the SLA concept, you may need to sell the concept before just pushing it forward.
The last key step was transparency and accountability: on going transparency on key business levers – from Conversion metrics to SQL to pipeline metrics, the marketing lead funnel, and KPI reports of volume and days accepted vs actual, this was key to success. As I listened to it, having ‘one view of the truth’ meaning one single report to operate from both sales and marketing was also a major key to success. This one view also eliminated the dialogue of ‘here’s the marketing dashboard and here’s the sale’s dashboard,’ which is another important lesson learned.
It’s all about the journey when implementing this process and your own experience may vary widely depending on the size and scope of your company. What have you found effective?