PowerViews with Jeff Ernst: Marketing & Sales Must Work Together


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In this second episode of PowerViews, I have the pleasure of talking with Jeff Ernst who provides advisory services to CMO and marketing leadership professionals as Principal Analyst at Forrester Research. Jeff joined Forrester after spending 20 years in sales and marketing. He is the author of the book, The New Rules of Sales Enablement, the co-author of How to Create Killer Sales Playbooks, and he’s a regular contributor to B2B Magazine. He’s also been featured by Forbes, CMO Network, Mashable, Huffington Post, NPR, Financial Times, Adweek, and Reuters.

Below, you can read highlights from our discussion or use the links to start the video from different parts of the conversation.

Marketing’s shift to pipeline impact and its link to alignment

Click to start video at this point—In providing advisory services to CMO and marketing leadership professionals, Jeff receives inquiries from clients trying to figure out how can they be more relevant to sales and be recognized as contributors to the revenue engine of the company. He notes companies are really making an effort to shift from an activity focus to an impact focus. Marketing is now looking at the impact they’re having in terms of the leads they contribute along with what’s happening with those leads further down the sales pipeline. This perspective is forcing marketing to have more interaction with the sales organization. He adds this is the year connections must happen between the webinar and trade show prospects that marketing is generating and the opportunities that sales actively engages.

Two reasons why marketing automation will reach a tipping point this year

Click to start video at this pointSharing survey findings that 20% of companies are planning marketing automation implementations and another 17% are planning expansions, Jeff sees marketing automation hitting a tipping point with marketing and sales in 2012. Companies are realizing they have already squeezed all the productivity gains they are going to get out of sales force automation, and they are asking, “What comes next?” Marketing automation makes sense because vendor competition is bringing price points down and because of greater recognition of the nurturing model value. Both marketing and sales acknowledge that you can’t just go after those five to ten percent of people that might be in an active buying cycle and that that you need to nurture them until they are ready to buy. Jeff notes there is a link between marketing and sales dysfunction and marketing’s challenges in convincing sales of the value of lead nurturing. In essence, marketing is saying, “Work with us, we’re going to withhold the ones that aren’t ready,” and then—over time—marketing will provide sales with more leads worthy of rep time.

The importance of inbound and content marketing early in the buying cycle

Click to start video at this pointJeff advises clients to make a bigger shift to inbound marketing and “getting your ideas out there.” This is based on prospect needs and questions that arise very early in their problem solving cycles when they are first realizing they have a problem, when they are trying to understand it, and when they are trying to decide whether to change the status quo. At this stage, they don’t even have a solution in mind or know who their providers might be. He notes they are on social networks looking for that information, talking to peers, and just trying to figure out how to solve their problem. This is where marketers have the biggest opportunity right now and adds that this phase could go on for many months. Jeff emphasizes the importance of content marketing in this phase and shares that a lot of companies are asking him, “How do we do a better job with our content marketing, and how do we scale our content production capabilities so that we can address those information needs that people have early in their buying cycle?”

“Intelligent outbound” in the complex sale

Click to start video at this pointJeff differentiates between warm outbound calling and cold calling by noting that it’s “the pure cold calling, and buying the anonymous lists, that is proving not to deliver the results people are looking for.” He notes senior executives are involved at project start when they ask resources lower in the company to do research and then again at the end when it’s time to narrow down choices, make a decision and commit the budget. Companies should recognize the various influencers in a complex sale and make sure their needs are addressed with the right content. Reps can then leverage reports of activity and information on potential needs to engage in intelligent outbound to build a broader base of support with the decision maker team.

Marketing: Be provocative and make social media systematic

Click to start video at this pointJeff comments that a lot of what marketers are doing is boring and lost in the market noise. He encourages them to take a stand on the important issues and be provocative, especially with social media and the newer digital channels. There is always an opportunity to take a thought leadership position on the issues out there, and we should be provocative as we embrace this leadership marketing role.

He also sees a lot of marketers focused more on the “media” than the “social” in social media. In this context, marketers are treating it as just another outbound channel to push out their same old company and product messages. We need to see social media from the social perspective: a way to connect with the people that might care about us. In an upcoming report, Jeff will address the idea that B2B marketers need to think about social media in a systematic way—rather than as random acts. A systematic approach includes calls to action that will draw people to do things and identify themselves when the time is right. A systematic approach also connects marketing activities directly to the revenue stream and revenue pipeline.

Adopting an engagement—rather than campaign—mindset with social media

Click to start video at this pointJeff sees many marketers taking a campaign mentality toward social media: they think up a campaign, launch it, view the campaign as done, and then think up the next campaign. Rather, marketers need to leverage the real-time nature of social media: continually be out there, listen to what is being said in their problem space, and get involved in those discussions in real-time. A systematic approach here does a better job of identifying potential prospects and sales opportunities.

Based on how close one of these encounters is to being sales ready, it might get routed right to a sales contact. Or marketing may be involved sharing information—not about the product—but about the perspectives on solving that problem. Jeff comments that this sounds fun and happy to do, but he cautions that many companies are missing the boat because they are not looking at it systematically. This activity needs to be seen as a social marketing engine where marketers are 1) monitoring what’s going on, 2) developing and expanding their connections, 3) nurturing those relationships, and 4) injecting those calls to action that are going to bring prospects into learning more about their company when the time is right.

Sales: Partner with marketing and you will be more relevant and compelling

Click to start video at this pointJeff prefaces his comments on sales recommendations by noting that marketers are all trying to be more relevant to sales. For example, they are trying to hire more domain experts—experts in the customers and markets they serve—so that they can try to get out in front of sales, or at least get in the partnership state with sales. He encourages sales teams to recognize that marketers do want to help them and notes, “You can’t do this alone.”

A sales team wanting to scale should recognize that the marketing team is there to help and should share with them the insights along with what the sales conversations sound like. This is especially true early on when those best sales reps are having a conversation, and they have the innate ability to ask the right questions that really demonstrate they understand where prospects’ heads are. Sales can then pass on to marketing the answers to questions like, “What are they talking about? What are the challenges that they’re having? What’s that burning question that they need answered?”

Sharing this information with marketing supports marketing as true partners who come back and say, “Well, here’s how we address those needs more programmatically and more progressively to help nurture those people along.”

He adds, “So I think there’s a lot of benefit to the sales organizations if they just open up their minds, and not just look at the marketing team as the t-shirt and trade show people, but people who can help you understand what these buyer journeys look like so that you can be more relevant and more compelling in the sales process.”

On a single executive leading marketing and sales

Click to start video at this pointAffirming the value of single-executive leadership, Jeff notes some companies are adding a Chief Revenue Officer to manage both marketing and sales. He has also worked with several companies wanting to take a more disciplined approach and build a stronger sales process who have a progressive VP of Sales playing that role. He adds that this is happening with the Forrester sales team where there is a collaborative effort going on right now between sales and marketing to up the game and establish more discipline and more relevancy in their respective roles.

You can connect with Jeff and learn more about his marketing and sales leadership work by visiting the following resources:

Jeff Ernst

The next PowerViews will be with Trip Kucera of the Aberdeen Group. Stay Tuned.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dan McDade
Dan McDade founded PointClear in 1997 with the mission to be the first and best company providing prospect development services to business-to-business companies with complex sales processes. He has been instrumental in developing the innovative strategies that drive revenue for PointClear clients nationwide.


  1. Two additional thoughts – there is an opportunity for marketing to drive a step change in customer intelligence – from improved data driven insights to the shaping of future customer needs via design thinking techniques. This allows them to play a pivotal role in connecting from strategy (growth) to product innovation through to sales – a true connector across the organization and to the market.

    Secondly – some of what is described by Jeff denotes a “different kind” of marketer – consultative skills in many ways – listening, problem solving, solutioning – upskillpng and or augmenting current and mote traditional marketing resources will be key


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