Sales, Marketing, and Customer Success — Three Revenue Teams, One Customer Experience

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Sales, Marketing, and Customer Success teams each have their own personality and culture. Differences between these three revenue teams can be a strength or a weakness.

When these teams work in alignment, they support a shift to a customer-centric enterprise that creates deep loyalty and drives revenue growth. When the different personalities work at odds, it creates a disjointed customer experience that hurts engagement and revenue achievement.

Many, if not most, fall into the category of a disjointed customer experience. Consider this:

  • 60% of B2B buyers said they get most of their information from sources other than sales reps because vendor-provided content is not targeted or relevant (Forrester, 2017).
  • 91% of B2B companies use content marketing, but only 30% have a defined buyer journey that motivates their content strategy across sales, marketing, and success (Sarah McKinnon, 2019)
  • 77% of B2B buyers say that their latest purchase was very complex or difficult (Gartner, 2017).

There’s a simple explanation for the friction in the buyer and customer journey.

Sales, Marketing, and Customer Success teams put their department-level goals and priorities ahead of a holistic buyer experience. And, leadership, including many CEOs and C-level executives, let them.

Marketing teams focus on brand building, clicks and downloads, and participation in webinars and events to educate new buyers. They can mistake engagement for effectively qualifying ideal buyers and qualified leads. This causes frustration for both the sales team and for the poor-fit buyers who are now part of the company’s prospecting or drip marketing outreach.

Sales teams are action-oriented with a high drive to get deals to the finish line. They can also be too narrowly focused, forgetting the best first deal sets up a series of new conversations to expand value on both sides. Account expansion depends on broad discovery in the sales process and a smooth sales to customer success transition.

Customer success teams want to help customers fully implement a product or service and provide excellent support to secure renewals. They can get too product- and training-oriented and forget to connect their product discussion back to business value. It is this connection back to business value that is critical to expansion sales, reference introductions, and connecting customers to thought leadership.

Here are three changes business leaders can make to shift all three teams to a customer-centric approach, build loyalty, and increase enterprise value and profits.

1. Value Playbooks

Many companies have product sell sheets, talking points, and competitive positioning battlecards. But, most lack a shared way of talking about buyer value and particularly buyer value for individual buyer personas. They leave positioning and demonstrating the value a product or service creates to individuals or individual go-to-market teams.

Rather than Sales, Marketing, and Customer Success coming up with their own way of describing value, you can build cross-team value playbooks to make the buyer journey seamless. A value playbook is a way of describing the value your product or service creates. It should include plays focused on value to individual buyer-persona plays, as well as plays across personas that create enterprise value. Value plays can include increasing revenue, reducing costs, driving processes efficiencies, improving business insights, changing a key user or employee, optimizing staff or asset productivity, or something else.

The most important part about a value play is that it makes it possible to align product capabilities, content marketing, and other sales collateral to a specific buyer goal. It helps the buyer make sense of the problems you can help them overcome and goals you can help them achieve. It helps the buyer make sense of these things in a consistent way across Marketing, Sales, and Customer success.

To take an example, let’s look at Research Solutions, a market leader for providing comprehensive research journal access and research for corporate, government, and university clients. The company delivers on-demand content to researchers in an easy-to-access way. Research Solutions’ value playbook has three main value plays: Reducing researchers’ time finding and managing articles, reducing costs of sourcing research, and increasing organization-wide insights on research use.

The Marketing, Prospecting, Sales, and Customer Success teams at Research Solutions all work from the same value playbooks and messaging as they engage key buyer personas. This commitment to consistent value messaging has helped Research Solutions maintain rapid growth. Already over $30 million a year in revenue, the company continues to grow at 35% to 40% a year.

Whether in a new or upsell conversation, heads of research departments and librarians are engaged in messaging around capabilities and content that align to ease of accessing, storing, and collaborating on research. Chief Science Officers, Research Solutions’ most common funders, are the target for messaging around capabilities and content on reducing the costs of sourcing research and organization-wide insights that can further optimize research use and spend. Heads of IT are another key buyer persona because they need to make sure the system works within the corporate IT structure.

The Marketing, Prospecting, Sales, and Customer Success teams at Research Solutions have been trained on this value messaging by persona and the enterprise as a whole. The repetition of the same phrases and themes deepens education and reduces friction across the buyer and customer journey.

2. Content Pathways

Many marketing departments think about content as individual content assets used just for marketing purposes, particularly lead generation. However, strong content is the single easiest way to bring your value into every buyer and customer interaction and build a customer-centric experience.

Rather than individual content assets, think about content pathways. Align your customer stories, blog posts, webinars, white papers, and other content to one or more of your value plays. Now content is being used to reinforce consistent messaging from the first buyer touch on the website or outreach email through the sales processes and into the customer success phase.

The strongest content pathways not only align content to specific value plays, they also version the depth of content for each phase of the buyer or customer journey. Buyers who are in the early discovery phase will review your website and outreach emails, but quickly. They are deciding on whether to commit to an initial discovery call or not. They are most interested in quick snippets of information. They often do not want to read a full customer story or case study. They want a headline or quote. They are unlikely to read a full white paper or blog but will scan summary bullet points that tell a story of value provided to customers and buyers.

Buyers in the evaluation phase, who may have completed one or two sales calls, are interested in very tailored information. Nobody wants to feel like a guinea pig. A buyer wants evidence you have already solved similar problems for similar buyers. Customer stories or blogs aligned to specific value plays are very important for tailoring. A slide library of individual customer stories that personalizes your sales deck to a buyer’s goals in each sales conversation is also key to tailoring.

To go back to Research Solutions, the company has built content pathways aligned to its value plays across the entire buyer journey. The team has curated a set of discovery questions, customer stories, and blog links for drip marketing campaigns and sales calls that focus on ease of access and managing research with heads of research and librarians. The team has curated other sets of questions, stories, blogs, and insights related to the costs of sourcing research and insights for chief scientists.

3. Cross-Team KPIs

A third obstacle to becoming a truly customer-centric enterprise is the way go-to-market teams are evaluated. Sales, Marketing, and Customer Success are often evaluated only on department-level KPIs.

  • Marketing teams are evaluated on campaigns, the number of clicks, downloads, and other engagement resulting from these campaigns, and the number of qualified contacts.
  • Sales teams are evaluated on new discovery calls, opportunities created, opportunities won, and the value of won opportunities.
  • Customer success teams are evaluated on customer utilization, satisfaction, and renewal rates.

These department-level measures are important, but they can also create friction for buyers and customers as each go-to-market team focuses on their own activities rather than hand-offs between teams and the holistic customer experience. If you add cross-departmental KPIs to department-level KPIs, you create a better customer experience and grow revenue faster.

Marketing and Sales teams should have shared accountability for the success of prospecting campaigns in producing quality opportunities with ideal buyers. Both Marketing and Sales need to be responsible for generating evidence on which campaigns produce the most qualified leads that convert to discovery calls, new opportunities, and closed opportunities at the highest rate. When both Marketing and Sales are evaluated on connecting campaigns to quality opportunities, it leads to the fastest learning on ideal buyers. It is a win for Marketing, Sales, and the buyer.

Sales and Customer Success should have shared accountability for 12-month growth in account value after an initial sale. Creating incentives around the 12-month value of an account changes the relationship between your Sales and Customer Success teams. It shifts sales teams from focusing on just an initial deal close to a focus on broad and deep on a range of areas of buyer value that can expand the relationship over time. It leads Customer Success teams to connect training and implementation back to customer value as a way of surfacing new areas of value that might be handed back to sales.

Research Solutions added to its team-level activity measures exactly these types of cross-team KPIs that keep the customer or buyer at the center. The marketing and prospecting team’s incentive compensation is tied to not just sourcing new leads and opportunities but sourcing quality leads that progress at a high rate. The sales team and account management team are both compensated on the 12-month growth in account value.

Research Solutions’ commitment to being a customer-centric enterprise with value playbooks, content pathways, and cross-team KPIs aligning its three revenue teams has contributed to a phenomenal growth trajectory. That 35% to 40% growth a year has come from all phases of the buyer and customer journey. Aligning Marketing and Sales in sourcing ideal buyer opportunities that align to a specific value play has led to a spectacular 80% first to second meeting progression rate. This compares to an industry average of 37%, with best in class 60% or above. Equally impressive is the company’s 99% customer renewal rate. Educating and re-educating buyers in a consistent way about Research Solutions’ value means those that buy rarely leave.

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