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Diary of a first-time CMO - Marketing and sales alignment lessons

Hey B2B marketers

Here it is. Four years, $50m+ ARR and 200 pages later… My journey as a first-time CMO.

Covering the key learnings I've gathered in four years of leadership. This diary reveals the lessons that helped me scale Cognism from $3m to $50m ARR, build a team from 3 to 39, and transform our set-up from a classic lead gen function to a demand gen engine.

It’s my handbook for B2B marketers looking to thrive in leadership.

(especially if you’re as daunted as I was when I started out!) 

Diary of a first-time CMO by Alice De Courcy
By: Alice de Courcy
1 minute read

Marketing and sales alignment lessons

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Okay, this might be a long one - I have some bits and bobs to add to each of my points here. 

Lesson 1

Rewinding back to when I first started at Cognism, I was hired by the CRO at the time. She was a phenomenal leader, and she really set the tone I wanted to follow in terms of marketing and sales alignment.

She asked me to join her in a meeting with the Sales Director and UK Head of SDRs and we all decided on one key goal and one core metric. Revenue.

She also made sure to refer to us as a team. A revenue team. And with a CRO leading the way, looking after both marketing and sales, that structure lends itself well to alignment between the two teams.

Now that’s no longer our setup today, but that’s not really what matters. What does matter, is that we still drive towards that shared goal.

We meet consistently to have sessions where we… 

  • Review our goals.
  • Work out where we are in relation to meeting these goals.
  • Decide what else we can do to reach where we want to be. 

A recent example:

We’ve seen our lead to meetings booked conversation rate on inbounds decrease consistently for the last few months.

Our inbound reps who qualify any of our inbound demand sit within the Sales Director's team. He is also tied to the revenue goal, and he knows that over 50% of that revenue is generated by marketing.

So he knows for him to do well, that these reps do well.

So we are all aligned that we need this ‘lead to meeting booked’ metric to improve in order to reach our revenue goals and ultimately positively impact the business.

And we now have a plan in place to tackle this problem.

That might sound like a small thing - however, the number of people who we need buy-in from, especially at the stage of growth we are at, at Cognism...this is huge.

This simply wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t have this alignment between the two departments.

I really feel it’s this shared goal that allows us to really care about coming together to solve problems as a wider team. 

Lesson 2

I feel like I’ve touched on some of this within Lesson 1, but something I’d like to add here is about having a shared destiny.

Our monthly revenue operations meeting is completely impartial and only focuses on the facts and figures. It’s chaired by the RevOps team. And if I went in there and said:  ‘great, the marketing team is delivering our MQL number’.

But on the other side of the table, sales are telling us their reps aren’t meeting quota. It can become a difficult discussion where teams can feel pitted against each other.

But we have found that we can use these meetings to work together to find the gap.

For example, is it because we need to hire more SDRs? Or do we need to spend more on marketing? Is there a problem with the conversation rate?

We use this time to find solutions together. And that comes back to us tying our destinies together.

Lesson 3

I spoke a lot about MDRs at the beginning of my role at Cognism. That’s because while we were still running the MQL playbook, MDRs for us were the best way of optimising this.

These reps were solely responsible for qualifying the demand created by marketing. Whether that was through content downloads or other inbounds.

Through this dedicated role, we managed to make a big improvement in our conversion rate. We increased lead to meeting booked on content downloads from 5% to 15%.

So if you were going to go down this MQL route, then definitely consider having a dedicated role like this. Instead of sending inbounds to your SDRs.

This role also acts as another link into outbound sales which helped to keep us on track and aligned. They can provide feedback on the quality of the leads (or the lack of quality). As well as what types of content converted well in conversations.

But if you didn’t already know, we’ve changed up our strategy quite a bit since then. This approach did work for us, for a time. But as we grew, it didn’t seem workable to scale to the level we needed. 

Lesson 4

I’d highly recommend a quarterly session where you get your marketing team involved in cold calling. Get them into the sales team's shoes.

Find out things like:

Questions prospects ask. 

  • The common objections they get.
  • How the process works for your sales team.

This can help you to create a better list of resources for both your prospects and sales team to bridge the knowledge gaps.

This allows your sales team to do their jobs better and find ways in which the process in general could be improved.

And this doesn’t have to just be you joining in on the cold calling. You could also:

  • Join in on a scheduled meeting or demo.
  • Listen to previous call recordings.
  • Be on the sales floor when the sales team are making calls.

Lesson 5

And vice versa. It would be great to get the sales team involved in the B2B marketing organisation - show them it’s not just colouring in or pushing some buttons…!

I don’t mean only getting a sales rep to shadow a marketer for a day.

We’re very lucky that our sales reps are actually our ICP, so we’re keen to get them involved in a lot of the content we produce.

Because of this, they’re much closer to the process, they can see the output and the time it takes to execute. As a result, they also tend to have a much higher interest to see how it performs.

They see themselves in videos promoted on LinkedIn and the response they get from viewers who want to connect with them after.

This is a really powerful way to align these two organisations.

Lesson 6

Overcommunication is so key, especially when you’re new to an organisation.

When I joined Cognism, marketing existed solely to serve sales. Any requests they had, we would do. We weren’t yet tied to a revenue target. We acted by reacting to what sales wanted from us.

So going from this state to the state we are in today was a big jump.

We didn’t want to alienate anyone by completely flipping the way of working overnight without a good explanation. I can’t imagine that would have won me any popularity awards.

This was more of an iterative process over time, and each step of the way, I’d over-communicate what I was doing.

By over-communication, I mean sharing:

  • The plan you’re creating.
  • The reasons behind the plan.
  • Using simple language without jargon.
  • What you’re trying to achieve and how.
  • How this new plan will benefit them.
  • Continuing to communicate the results of this over time.

You can’t communicate enough, especially when changing the way things are done. Focus just as much on your internal marketing as you do your external.

Want to keep up with Alice's latest CMO advice?

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