How can sales & marketing collaborate when they operate with different funnels and ways of working?

Sep 24, 2020

Sales & marketing’s ability to collaborate and drive growth, are hurt by different views on the customer buying process and fundamentally different ways of working. 

To succeed, the commercial organization needs to take an aligned full funnel perspective on the customer buying journey and coordinate commercial activities around customer buying activities, rather than a calendar.

 

Growth in the new B2B buying environment requires a full funnel approach and synchronized rhythm between sales & marketing

In the new B2B buying environment, where buyers use digital, virtual, and physical channels interchangeably throughout their entire buying process, selling is a product of both sales and marketing activities from buyer problem identification to purchase.

Exhibit 1

Customers are channel agnostic

 

This tendency creates two challenges for the commercial organization, dependent on a coordinated full funnel engagement from both sales and marketing:

1. Two funnel views around one buying journey: Marketing works with a marketing funnel that in reality is addressing the awareness stages and early stage lead efforts while leaving the other parts of the funnel untouched and. Sales too often doesn’t think much about the customers’ buying behavior before they pop up as active opportunities

2. Different time-horizons and operating rhythms: Too often, marketing is steered by calendar-based and time-boxed releases of campaigns focused on brand building and awareness generation while Sales is driven by closing in-quarter revenue by chasing high probability late stage deals that are ripe for the taking

 

Exhibit 2

Sales & marketing’s lacking coverage of the B2B buyer journey

 

The crux of this challenge is that the two functions operate with different time horizons and they rarely share a common understanding of the customer in the buying journey.

These disconnects are fine, when the marketing department works on brand initiatives and the sales organization chases concrete opportunities. But as customers are increasingly going digital and demanding an aligned experience across touch points, this binary view of marketing as top-funnel and sales as bottom-funnel is not valid anymore.   

Go-to-market programs – a way forward

To move towards a truly full-funnel approach, companies should adopt what we call go-to-market programs. These programs should be run and driven by marketing but include clear involvement and buy-in synchronization with other revenue generating functions such as sales and customer success. 

“In sum, go-to-market programs ensure an orchestrated and synchronized approach across sales & marketing aimed at building pipeline and realizing revenue within a given growth pocket”

Go-to-market programs vary from marketing campaigns on almost all dimensions, but we have highlighted some of the core differences in this table:

 

 

Marketing campaign

Go-To-Market program

Modus Operandi

Arbitrary time-boxed (e.g. run for three months until it is succeeded by another campaign)

Allowed to run in perpetuity if the pipeline is growing and there is net positive contribution to revenue

Skills needed

Creative

Creative, consultative selling, tech, data

Tactics applied

Awareness and lead content

End-to-end buyer journey content, tools and training that address all stages of the buyer journey, including sales enablement content and workshop kits, thought leadership materials, digital buyer enablement tools, account based marketing and dedicated training and onboarding program for all frontline people involved

Who is involved in the process

Marketing is the driver – other functions are involved for ad-hoc input

Marketing acts as the orchestrator but the program includes involvement in all phases from all revenue generating functions (marketing, inside sales, field sales and customer Success)

How success is measured

Awareness, engagement, and lead metrics

Pipeline shape, size, velocity, and value & revenue

 

Building your go-to-market engine

While go-to-market programs can vary in ambition, size, and complexity, we see some crucial steps that need to be passed in sequence to increase the probability of success and to minimize setbacks:

0. It all begins with setting the right team. The team should include a program manager, marketing strategist, media & channel lead, content producer, tech & analytics lead, inside sellers and enterprise account managers (and maybe even customer success reps). Other resources outside this group could be mobilized but does not need to be part of the core team

1. Define the strategic foundation. This step entails creating the platform from which the program will be formed. The platform has three parts: 

 – The quantitative elements linked to size of the market, value of the market, sub-segmentation of the market and maybe even a target account list

 – The qualitative elements that help all program members empathize and connect with the target group. This include ideal customer profiles, buyer personas and a research-backed, highly granular representation of the buyer journey

 – The unified story on how you will transform your customers´ company and the value proposition that permeate the content you produce and conversations you are having

2. Set the goals and measurement framework. Connect the full funnel from reach in the total market, known prospects, opportunities, and customers. Besides these you should track:  – Number of subjects in each stage (shape of funnel)

– Assign deal potential and probability to close (based on verifiable outcomes)

– Track funnel velocity (e.g. how much time does it take to move subject from one stage to the next)

3. Outline the lead-to-customer gameboard. Detail how you, across marketing, field sales and inside sales, handle the journey from lead to qualified lead to opportunity and all the way to becoming a customer. The gameboard should detail all steps from tactical marketing, sales activities, digital lead capture, nurturing flows, inside sales led lead qualification and enrichment to field sales follow-up and meeting execution

4. Develop the go-to-market approach, including how to engage the target group and with which messaging and techniques to apply, in certain types of interactions in specific channels. Again, blend sales & marketing tactics for optimal results

5. Specify the needed sales & marketing technology and collaborative tools needed to develop, run, and monitor the program

6. Develop the content and tools needed to build awareness, engage customers, nurture the target group, facilitate different types of sales meetings, and create winning value propositions and proposals. It is crucial to look holistically, yet super fine-grained, on the types of questions that the customer poses during each step of the buying journey, and how you can help answer those

7. Define the internal collaboration and governance model. This includes team composition, roles & responsibilities, reporting format & frequency, as well as major workflows. A crucial element is to ensure a consistent meeting cadence where all program members are in the same virtual or physical room at a consistent basis

8. Ensure ongoing monitoring and tracking of lagging indicator (revenue) and leading indicators such as pipeline value, sales velocity and Sales qualified leads generated. Judge whether all parts of the pipeline is growing across all stages, ensure the sales velocity is not slowing down and the total revenue is increasing. Do not stop the program until you experience significant internal fatigue or external saturation

Considerations when putting together go-to-market programs

Getting started with go-to-market programs as an alternative to campaigns is a significant organizational and mental shift for both the marketing organization and other parties involved. Based on our experience, we see some crucial infliction points and pitfalls, that should be addressed, considered, and mitigated upfront. These include:

  • Ask yourself what is the transformative story that will tie together everything from outreach to lead capture and sales engagements. Capture that story in a comprehensive master asset that makes the customer the hero of the story (not your product/solution!). This asset can act as a backbone for much of the content creation, a conversion point on digital channels and a strong “give” when salespeople engage the target group

  • Deploy Scrum or similar kind of work-mode that allows rapid decision making and short sprints within the multidisciplinary go-to-market team

  • Make sure that you look holistically at the funnel and avoid the trap of creating a “marketing funnel“ and a “sales funnel” that are entirely disconnected

  • Do not overinvest in expensive and complex technology. A very simple suite that combines basic productivity & collaboration tools, landing page builders, digital ad buying, tracking and analytics, sales & marketing automation, and CRM will do

  • Create a unified measurement framework that ideally is tied to bonus schemes and incentives to make sure all team members are working towards revenue and not half-way metrics like leads and meetings booked

  • Start small and scale: Don’t isolate yourself in an ivory tower and wait for the white smoke to come out. Try things out in the micro. Test, learn and iterate. The governance model and mandate of the team should allow for this way-of-working instead of putting up stage gate processes as well as requiring extensive documentation and alignment procedures

Go-to-market programs are not a cure for all ills. There will still be a need for branding campaigns as well as incremental, tactical tweaks (such as landing pages optimization, long-term keywords, and the likes). But go-to-market programs provide a crucial platform to how your commercial must-win battles can turn into practical initiatives and align sales & marketing’s effort and interest, which continues to be one of the biggest challenges of the commercial engine room of many companies today. 

Mikkel Bach-Andersen

Mikkel Bach-Andersen

Partner at Kvadrant Consulting

+45 40411331
mba@kvadrant.dk

Martin Nyvang Mariussen

Martin Nyvang Mariussen

Partner at Kvadrant Consulting

+45 40412885
mnm@kvadrant.dk

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