How likely is your sales team to recommend you to a friend or colleague?
If sales and marketing teams are going to win trust in a noisy market, we need to join forces in the only thing that matters – adding value for our customers.
If you were to ask your sales team the standard NPS* question — on a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend your marketing team — how would they respond?
Too much has been said over the years about the friction between sales and marketing. As the cliché goes: Salespeople blame marketers for poor quality leads. Marketers blame salespeople for poor follow-up. Finger-pointing ensues. That dynamic doesn’t make sense. If sales and marketing don’t collaborate to get the job done, neither will be successful.
In practice, true collaboration across teams can feel challenging given the difference in goals, incentives and tools. Sales and marketing can overcome the senseless divide by focusing on what unites them: the uphill battle to cut through the clutter. Your customers are bombarded by literally thousands of messages daily, online and offline. As a result, trust in brands — and our professions — is incredibly strained: Our research shows that 63 percent of consumers think marketers are selling them things they don’t need.
Ultimately, if sales and marketing teams are going to win trust in a noisy market, we need to join forces in the only thing that matters: adding value for our customers.
To add value, start by listening
Sales used to be an art of persuasion. Today, it’s an exercise in empathy. As author Jill Konrath puts it, “We need to be of value from our prospects’ perspective — not our own.” Top salespeople are constantly asking, “Who are my customers? What are their goals? What are their wants and needs that aren’t being addressed? How can I help them find solutions within my company’s products?”
Those questions should sound familiar to you as a marketer. You’re likely asking the same things on a daily basis.
Before you can educate prospects and customers about how you can help them, it’s important to listen. To illustrate why a product is useful and relevant, both marketers and salespeople should become obsessive students of their customers and their environment.
We have multiple avenues of customer insight at our disposal (market research, prospect calls, website traffic, review sites, conferences and more), and pooling those insights to form a rich view of your customer’s world is powerful. In this regard, two functions are better than one: a deeper knowledge base makes both teams more efficient and will increase the chances that your customers have a consistent experience throughout their lifecycle.
Unpack the customer journey through teamwork and technology
This all sounds straightforward, but it’s not. Rather than developing a holistic sense of the customer journey, many teams find themselves flailing in their own siloed sea of data points, lacking the broader context. To crack the problem, you need to pick your repository of choice — typically a CRM — and marry multiple types of data together, in one shared place.
Failure to do that perpetuates the silos. Marketers have plenty of information about what is happening in the business, but less about why it’s happening. Salespeople have insight into information about what their customers are saying, but aren’t seeing overarching business trends. Operational data is helpful, but relying on it in isolation is dangerous.
To get the whole story, enrich the static information in your CRM with both behavioral analytics and real human feedback from your customers — Customer Powered Data, as we call it. Big data plus specific, directed customer feedback gathered by short, sweet surveys throughout the customer lifecycle can give you powerful insights into your customers, your product and desires of the market. Sales and marketing have access to customers at different stages in their lifecycle, so collecting this feedback is a truly collaborative effort.
Box, the enterprise content management platform, recently used SurveyMonkey to eliminate their customer data silos. Instead of having data scattered in various places as people went through different stages of the customer lifecycle, Box built a single streamlined system that kept data all in one place — regardless of when it was collected. The results were instant. Per Chief Customer Officer Jon Herstein:
“We now have a view of what the customer is doing, how things are going, and how they sit relative to their peers. That’s incredibly powerful.”
Join forces to celebrate your customers
Part of a marketer’s job is to celebrate customers who are getting it right. When you put your customers in the spotlight, you make heroes out of the people who benefit from your products and services — something the sales team will likely thank you for — and show the customers that you not only understand their world, you’re firmly on their side.
Here’s another place that sales and marketing can partner for the win: in identifying happy, successful customers and turning them into industry celebrities and influencers. You can do that through press efforts, written case studies, social promotion, video highlights, speaking engagements, and more.
At SurveyMonkey, we recently elevated customers by featuring them in our online Curiosity Conference. We gave speakers from Eventbrite, Box, Salesforce, Atlassian, The Giving Kitchen and many other incredible companies a platform to reach thousands of their peers and share their areas of expertise. This creates a win-win-win by showcasing their successes and (when it makes sense), the supporting role that our products have played in helping them get there while also educating the next generation of customers about their successful strategies, tactics and tools.
Make sure you highlight customer stories both externally and internally to get the full benefits. Externally, we all know that word of mouth is king. Public-facing customer reviews, interviews and use case examples are your most powerful marketing materials, giving you the social proof your buyers seek and critical to providing compelling proof points for salespeople’s pitches. At the same time, elevating customer successes internally helps your broader organization understand the value their efforts are creating and telegraphs to customers that their success genuinely inspires your team.
Another happy by-product: telling customer stories expands marketing’s sphere of influence at your organization. I constantly nudge marketers to spend more time with customers. The more we can understand and amplify their stories, the more impactful we’ll be.
Celebrating customers internally may also deliver hard business benefit in the form of increased employee engagement. Recent SurveyMonkey research on the relationship between customer experience and employee experience reveals that among people who say customer satisfaction is a key priority for their company, 83 percent think that they will be working there in two years; among those who don’t see customers as a high priority, it’s only 56 percent. When the whole team rallies around customers and elevates the value delivered to them, employees find more meaning in their work and may end up staying at your firm longer as a result. Anyone who’s hiring can appreciate the business value of increased employee retention. It’s our duty as marketing leaders to make sure the rest of the c-suite appreciates this broader business benefit of customer centricity.
Make promoters out of your sales team
Customers shouldn’t be your only source of feedback and inspiration. Ultimately, many of your marketing efforts are in service to our sales teams. If you want to know what your sales team thinks of your efforts, ask them. Regularly. Use quick surveys with sales partners before, during and after major marketing campaigns to benchmark your progress over time. Did their deals go more quickly? Did prospects reference the campaign messages? What resonated most with prospects? How did the results of this campaign compare with others you’ve tried?
SurveyMonkey got its start with a self-serve, easy-to-use product which has become well-known in its category over time. But over the last few years, we’ve been quietly expanding our reach into the enterprise. We’ve invested heavily in adding enterprise-grade security, key integrations with Salesforce and dozens of other business systems and advanced analytics features. With our sales team focused on these big business deals, our marketing priorities have shifted.
With that in mind, marketing at SurveyMonkey has become a truly collaborative process with the sales team. In a high-growth B2B environment, you live and die by the effectiveness of your sales and marketing funnel, so my leaders and I find ourselves poring over pipeline progress and funnel conversion rates and strategizing on what we — not sales, not marketing, but we — can do to resolve any potential issues that we uncover. As I write this, I’m about to drop a survey to my sales partners to gather feedback on our biggest gaps heading into the next 12 months.
As marketers start to plan their 2019 strategy, they need to do it arm in arm with their counterparts in sales, sales operations and sales development. Together, we can strive for our shared goal: a stronger, better business built on the value we’re delivering to customers. I would absolutely recommend my sales team to a friend or colleague — and I hope they’d say the same.
*NPS is a registered trademark of Fred Reichheld, Bain & Company and Satmetrix.