What Do Sales Leaders Want From Marketing?
Sales and marketing alignment is a hot topic. And rightly so!
Complete chaos and frustration can come from B2B marketing and sales not being on the same page. Yet all too often sales and marketing are treated as two separate entities.
It pays for these two departments to work in synergy. Jonathon Ilett, Cognism's VP UK&I says one of his biggest priorities is alignment with marketing.
“Sales and marketing need to be working towards a common KPI. For us at Cognism, that’s done on revenue. That’s how we make sure everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet.”
A disconnect between marketing and sales often happens when the two have different priorities or targets.
So, the teams are working towards the shared goal of revenue. What now? How can marketing activities have a positive impact on sales performance?
First, it helps to understand a few things:
- What do sales leaders actually want from their company’s marketing team?
- What do sales consider the vital marketing activities that impact the sales org to be?
- What marketing metrics do sales leaders actually care about?
Keep reading below to find out more!!
What do sales need from marketing?
If we boil this question down to the fundamentals, B2B sales teams want a continuous pipeline of people to speak to. And the more qualified and high intent these people are, the better.
Aaron Ross says:
“You need leads that are going to convert. I want fewer, better leads that will be a good use of my sales teams’ time. I want help making quota.”
A salesperson’s time is precious. Each passing minute could be extra time spent having a sales conversation. So sales want help narrowing sights on the ‘right’ people to speak to that will maximise revenue.
Ryan Reisert explains:
“I don’t want leads generated from content downloads because those tend to have no intent to buy. I want the people who are ready to talk to my sales team.”
Ryan argues that a list of leads in this form is no different to buying a cold list for outreach.
“Friction can come between marketing and sales if there’s misalignment on the quality of leads being passed to sales. It should be quality over volume.”
“I want good old fashioned BANT qualified leads. I want people with the budget, with the authority to make the decision, with a need for my product at the time we speak.”
So it makes sense to develop a quality test. Sales and marketing should agree on what a qualified lead looks like for your org.
When you imagine sales teams, you might think they only care about bringing in net new logos. But Jonathon says one of the main things he needs from marketing is a focus on retention and lifetime value.
“In today’s climate, I need marketing to be looking at existing customers. It’s much harder to bring in new business than it is to retain and expand on existing business.”
“Especially in enterprise organisations where there’s a huge opportunity for growth.”
In lots of organisations, marketing is focused on bringing people in - and not much more is done once those targets become customers.
Instead, marketers should continue to feed these customers value-adding content. As well as updates on new features continued product education, and help with implementation and enablement - the deal sizes could expand over time.
The longer you can keep customers, or the bigger the deal they sign, the better their lifetime value for the company. This makes the cost of acquisition sting a bit less. And this all contributes to revenue, our north star metric.
ICP insights and messaging
Defining various target personas is a key area where marketing can help sales. They can also help create consistent, effective messaging for each.
“I’d need marketing to provide vital insights into our ICP. Then helping my sales team to create messaging related to each of the personas. Useful, battle tested messaging.”
When marketing can craft messages and create sales materials that can be used for specific buyers within specific industries, this is a real win-win.
“I think it’s important for marketing to be speaking with the sales teams about what’s happening on the ground day-to-day.”
“They need to know the reception and responses my team is getting when they call.”
“They need to be listening to our recorded calls to understand the language used. What’s resonating and what isn’t.”
“And then I’d want marketing to use this to produce marketing collateral that my team can actually use with prospects.”
“I want marketing content that can complement a sales process. Something that feels useful that I’m compelled to share with my prospects. Sometimes marketing produces content that doesn’t seem useful, so it doesn’t go anywhere.”
This includes vital customer testimonials. These can offer valuable social proof which can help to accelerate the sales process.
At its core, marketing needs to articulate the business value of the product or service. That way sales can translate this across to prospects during outreach.
Often, decision-makers choose to stick with their current systems or solutions rather than switch. That’s because big decisions aren’t easy to make and take time. Marketing messaging needs to help sales make this process as light touch for the prospect as possible.
When marketing learns something new about a customer profile or adapts the messaging to suit changing customer needs, sales needs to be able to follow suit.
It’s difficult for marketing to measure brand awareness. But sales teams experience it first-hand.
Think about it, if you’re a salesperson, there’s a huge difference between these two calls.
SDR: ‘Hey, I’m calling from Cognism - have you got a moment to talk?’
Prospect: ‘Who’s Cognism? Sorry, I don’t really have time for this…’
SDR: ‘Hey, I’m calling from Cognism - have you got a moment to talk?’
Prospect: ‘Oh, I’ve heard of Cognism! You guys do those cold calling webinars - right? Sure, I have a moment. What’s up?’
Prospects having brand awareness ahead of a sales call can make things much easier. That’s because the prospect needs less education beforehand and it can mean less resistance on a cold call.
What marketing metrics matter to sales?
It’s important to note that Cognism is a metric-led company. Win rates, conversion rates and campaign successes are always measured to the best of our ability.
And as mentioned before, sales and marketing are both tied to a revenue goal. This means they both share destinies in any metric that can influence the revenue number.
“In today’s B2B buyers cycle, it can be difficult to attribute which activity resulted in the conversion. They’re exposed to so much material across various touchpoints.”
“It can’t really be that marketing or sales are individually responsible for certain metrics, instead it comes down to the shared goals.”
But, there are some metrics that suggest how well marketing activity is performing for sales. For example, if they’re marketing to the right audience for the product, then the leads coming through sales should convert at a high percentage.
Some of the other metrics Jonathon looks at include:
- Sales cycles.
- Average ACV.
- Meetings to qualified opportunities.
- Win rate.
It’s easier to decide where to focus your attention on what needs improving when sales and marketing communicate often.
For example, Jonathon has been working with the marketing team to improve the conversion rates on marketing leads.
“We’re putting a dedicated team of AEs onto marketing lead traffic. So our outbound reps will be solely focused on outbound. And these AEs will be focused on the inbound marketing leads.”
“This is to try to get the best return on the marketing dollars spent.”
Aaron Ross also has some thoughts on the metrics he likes to see from marketing:
“I like to know which of the campaigns or channels are working best to bring in the best leads.”
“If I’m getting 20,000 leads through some content download campaign, that might look good. Except none of them are closing. So actually, that’s a problem.”
“But if organic search provides 100 leads with a 20-30% close rate, then that's something I want to replicate again.”
“And for the deals that close, I want to know what the deal value was. Their lifetime value. Combined with what channel they came through to get there.”
What is ‘good marketing’ in the eyes of sales?
Good marketing is about giving your customer a reason to connect with your brand or product. This involves showing that you understand their problems and explaining how you can help.
But what marketing activity does sales care about?
Jonathon gives an example:
“We were at a sales innovation expo recently and lots of people were walking past our booth.”
“Not all of them knew exactly what we do, but they already knew Cognism from the marketing and branding that we do. It’s world-class how Alice and her team have done that.”
“That brand awareness piece is super, super important. It naturally creates traction.”
“Ultimately though, I care if they’re contributing to revenue.”
Cognism’s marketing team recently switched from a lead generation approach to a demand generation one.
The idea is that demand generation can bring less volume, but higher quality leads inbound. And ultimately, to have a positive impact on revenue.
“We don’t have to do as much education with an MQL as we used to. There’s usually a better awareness of what Cognism does by the time we speak to them.”
“From a quality and sales velocity point of view, the switch to demand generation has definitely been beneficial.”
Marketing and sales alignment
As with any teamwork, communication is the glue that holds it all together.
Sales, marketing and revenue operations should meet regularly to review metrics and improve efficiency.
It’s important to use this time to find solutions to any slipping metrics or misalignments with goals.
“We want to find out how to fix things that are off, or how to double down on where we are seeing positive results.”
“Open dialogue, regular meetings and very clear expectations.”
Aaron Ross believes sales and marketing could benefit from walking a day in each other's shoes. Well, longer if he had his way.
“I wish you could switch your marketing and sales leaders for three months so they can see what it’s like in the other’s shoes.”
“It’s unrealistic to happen in practice but it’s important for sales and marketing leaders to intimately understand the other's role in order to effectively work together.”
As he says, three months might be unrealistic. But any opportunity to get an insight into one another's roles can be valuable.
For example, Alice de Courcy, Cognism CMO and a few of her marketing team stepped in to make calls to MQLs for an afternoon.
Before the switch to demand gen, Cognism’s MDRs would call leads who’d exchanged their contact info for a piece of gated content.
Alice and her team chose to follow up on these leads as these were the ones they were generating for sales.
She was expecting a warm welcome. She assumed prospects would know who Cognism were and be grateful for the quality e-book download.
Instead, she discovered the reception to be much colder. In fact, some prospects didn’t even remember downloading the e-book - and the majority hadn’t actually read it.
You might think that this was bad news. But Alice realised that there was scope for improving the process for qualifying the leads before passing them to sales.
All this learning has evolved into a complete marketing overhaul. The team focuses on creating ungated content and driving demand. This ultimately has a positive impact on the quality of leads going to sales.
Want tips to ungate your content? Hit play below to hear Alice explain how to nail it! ⬇️
The last word
It’s much easier to get buy-in, unity and cooperation when sales and marketing leaders understand one another.
Marketing shouldn’t act as an extension of sales, only doing what sales ask of them. But, when marketing can contribute to revenue and share targets with sales, they get a real seat at the table.