“On the Beach.” In the consulting world that expression means you are not involved in activity that is billable. In other words, you are not directly creating revenue for your company. And that is always a dangerous place to be if you want to stay employed. An early mentor of mine told me to “never get removed from the real revenue stream.” For several years I lived by that advice through a career in sales, but I knew there were also important positions within an organization that by design, were not directly revenue producing. Yes, we’re talking about the staff that supports the revenue generators. The accounting term often used is “overhead.” Overhead expenses may apply to a variety of operational categories, including marketing for some organizations. Most marketers though, including me now, hate the thought of being labeled overhead. You are simply not going to find us On the Beach. That’s why marketing ROI metrics are always top-of-mind. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if we spend more time trying to figure out how to measure the results of our activity than actually creating campaigns. The continuous struggle to cost justify every marketing move is often a major reason for the gap that exists between sales and marketing.
I’ve spent a significant amount of time in both disciplines so I’m going to offer five key points that have helped me “bridge the gap” with my sales counterpart. Keep in mind that my point-of-view is coming from the B2B world and may not apply to all of you.
1. Listen to and show some empathy for the people who carry the quota. I’m fortunate that my background makes this first point easy. I have both inside and field-based sales experience as well as direct and indirect channel experience. I’ve covered a territory as both an individual contributor as well as a sales manager and I know what it feels like to be directly in front of the customer and responsible for the quota. That experience creates immediate credibility that is priceless with my sales counterpart. I listen to and am empathetic with the sales organization, and they know my feelings are sincere.
2. I don’t tell sales how to do their job. A sales person who can cover their quota year after year is worth their weight in gold. The last thing you need to do is to suggest that you (marketing) understand the customer or the sales environment they’re dealing with better than they do. In other words, I don’t walk around acting like the company know-it-all.
3. Keep your sales force informed. When I was covering a territory it used to irritate me when HQ would send content (email blasts, direct mail, etc.) into my territory without telling me. In fact, on one occasion it created a problem because I had a proposal ready to close and I didn’t want any more messaging to confuse the decision maker.
4. Lead generation and lead nurturing are music to their ears. Yes, we joke about leads being “qualified and ready-to-buy right now.” But in the B2B solution selling space where sales cycles are long and deal values are high they are not realistically expecting that type of lead. They want help keeping the brand top-of-mind and an increase in “footprint influence” throughout their accounts.
5. I lead from the front and teach by example. Social networking for sales results is important in today’s business environment because social media has the potential to influence the customer experience when employees are able to initiate conversations on social platforms and begin building trust-based relationships throughout the customer lifecycle. For that reason I’m very active on social media demonstrating by example how the right content distributed consistently through the various social platforms builds credibility, trust and conversations that start sales motions.
How do you build your bridges?