Sales Support as B2B Marketing Leadership

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I saw this Tweet from Adam Needles during Dreamforce and it’s really bothering me. In all fairness to Stacey – I don’t have the actual context, so I’m taking this at face value for this post.

@abneedles: “Good marketing doesn’t matter. What matters is sales.” via @staceyepstein at @Dreamforce #DF10 #B2B

My first knee-jerk reaction was something along the lines of, “Are you bleeping kidding me?” I couldn’t believe that sentence would come from a VP of Marketing. Then I took a few (read a lot) of deep breaths and considered that perhaps what she meant was that if marketing doesn’t result in sales, then it doesn’t matter how brilliant it is.

Okay – that I can get behind, because truly at the end of the day, revenue must be the outcome of both marketing and sales. Then I saw this Tweet:

@abneedles “Salespeople feel they … translate what they see as marketing’s theoretical arguments into a practical message.” @staceyepstein #DF10 #B2B

If this is indeed true, which could be illustrated by the hours that salespeople spend re-inventing or creating their own collateral, then marketing needs to step up. They’re obviously missing the translation capability to get to the ground level of their buyers’ perspectives.

This said, if salespeople really believe this, then why aren’t they taking steps to show marketing how to translate? According to Sirius Decisions, buyers are 70% of their way through the buying process by the time they allow a sales conversation. If sales truly believe that marketing is irrelevant, then it would seem prudent to help them correct that misstep considering how much longer marketing has impact on the buying process before sales gets involved.

Why does it feel like marketing is the one who’s supposed to do all the heavy lifting in the marketing-to-sales alignment endeavor?

Wouldn’t it make sense to have sales actually help ensure that the 30% of time they get with a prospect is positioned to help them close deals? Or, even better, what if by working with marketing your salespeople could get into the buyer’s process earlier – expanding the time they have to impact the buyer relationship? Ever considered that?

Marketing at 30,000 feet no longer counts. It’s too far out of reach to be relevant to the people grasping with issues your offerings address. Vague pleasantries (as I call them) are from the old school of universal umbrella branding and awareness. The problem is time. There’s less of it – a lot less. Specificity counts. Take that a step further to personalized specificity and you’re a heck of a lot closer to content that buyers will find interesting.

Next up, the Tweet about a perspective that could put marketers back in the basement:

@abneedles Sounds like our session-track speakers int he sales/marketing alignment session see marketing in a sales-support role. Yikes. #DF10 #B2B

But, does it have to? The interpretation is dependent upon how “sales-support” is defined. If you consider that everything marketing does is focused on helping sales sell more by helping buyers buy (or it should be), then we are in a sales support role. However, sales support doesn’t mean subservient. Adam gets to that with this Tweet:

@abneedles In a Web 2.0 world, #B2B marketing must become the leader of a holistic demand gen process — not just tactical lead gen. #B2B #DF10

And, consider that sales doesn’t have all the answers either. When exactly does that practical messaging translation come into play given this statistic?

KBlalock: RT @cahidalgo: 31% of reps r not prepared to speak to a prospect at time of first engagement via IDC #B2B #df10

Could this be due to a lack of respect for the work marketers are doing to get to know prospects well enough to catch and keep their attention for longer periods of time as cycles increase? Perhaps it’s because many reps are schooled in products and solutions, but not so much about their prospect’s reality, industry trends, influencers and competitive alternatives (Hint: Think beyond the obvious competitive choices).

This Tweet points out an interesting observation:

hoovers: RT @abneedles Sales-driven marketing is ‘like driving with the rearview mirror.’ via McAfee marketer #B2B #DF10

This is because salespeople are usually concentrating on the end-stages of the deal. They aren’t paying attention to all that time prior to transition that’s involved in the development of a sales-ready opportunity. If you only look at the buying process from the point at which sales will agree to pursue leads, you’ve missed a lot. (Read 70% of their buying process).

This Tweet gets to the goal. This is where marketing can create a noticeable impact. The skill sets that marketing needs to evolve are based on achieving this:

abneedles: Now listening to a top marketer at @InformaticaCorp talk about getting to predictable revenue via marketing. #B2B #DF10

As a final thought, consider that sales support is not just about your sales team. It’s also about your buyers. Marketing needs to support the needs, priorities and interests of both. The more proactive they are about doing this, the more of a leadership role they can attain. Developing end-to-end lead management processes is a great place to start.

After all, isn’t leadership about supporting the evolution and sustainability of success?

I missed being at Dreamforce this year. But, I’m thankful for all the Tweets that shared what was going on and made me think.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee is a B2B Marketing Strategist and the CEO of her firm, Marketing Interactions, Inc. She helps B2B companies with complex sales create and use persona-driven content marketing strategies to turn prospects into buyers and convince customers to stay. Ardath is the author of Digital Relevance: Developing Marketing Content and Strategies that Drive Results and eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale. She's also an in-demand industry speaker.

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