B2B companies always ask themselves – “can marketing help us win more business?”
I think the answer is yes, and the low hanging fruit is to help sales have winning conversations.
Sales said “get us in the game! It’s hard enough to sell our stuff, don’t make us sell our company too”.
This worked for awhile but as competition heated up and win rates went down, sales realized it needed more leads to make aggressive new business goals. Specifically, it wanted more initial meetings.
Marketing was ready to send over leads but didn’t think setting appointments was its job. “That’s a sales function”, they said. “You guys are a bunch of babies! What next, bring you ink wells so you can get contracts signed? Stop whining and do your jobs.”
So sales started building separate groups to set appointments. The name of the group has changed over the years, but these days the appointment setting group is often called business development, sales development or inside sales.
My first job in tech was as an appointment setter for sales. In my interview, the regional sales director said “marketing makes pretty pictures, we need appointments” and asked “if I hire you, can you get us more appointments?”
I needed a job and said yes and did end up setting appointments and got credit for building the pipeline.
And that is the rub – to get credit from sales, you need to deliver something sales values. Over time, marketing has realized the best way to get credit for demand creation is to expand its deliverable beyond marketing qualified leads (MQLs), because only a fraction of those ended up in sales cycles.
Marketing is now often tying its success metrics to initial appointments because it is an important and easily measured step towards winning more deals.
History may be about to repeat itself with quality selling conversations.
The current marketing position is predictable and understandable: “You need help with selling conversations? Are you kidding me! Should we bring a bib as well so you don’t get applesauce on your chin?”
From politer marketers, the conversation continues:
“A great deck, product sheets, message training, attack packs, testimonials, case studies and a demo library is not enough? What next, should we bring a blow dryer to your signings to make sure the ink dries quickly?”
“Stop whining and do your jobs!”
Unfortunately, this doesn’t help fix the hardest problem sales has, which is to consistently have winning conversations.
The numbers here are brutal – Forrester says 90% of prospects say B2B reps waste their time, Gartner says prospects report 67% of reps fail to communicate value and, in our own 100+ VP Sales survey, we heard that the average sales call is a ‘5’ on a scale of 1 – 10 (an ‘F’)!
The reason the numbers are brutal is because the sales job is hard and getting harder as prospects continue to get smarter and demand more and more value from sales.
The fact is that this value does exist in every company. But successfully capturing a company’s insights and wisdom and getting it to the tip of the sales reps tongues when they need it is hard.
Marketing’s current approach of dropping decks and deliverables and a bit of training on sales’ doorstep and playing ding-dong-ditch is not working.
Conquering this final mile requires synthesizing these key stories into memorable talk tracks, showing sales what good conversations sound like “in role” and giving them an easy way to practice, get coached and master the talk tracks.
Whether marketing owns this effort or ties its success metrics to making sure it is happening, this effort needs structure, planning and integration with other marketing activities like positioning and messaging.
Does having marketing take accountability for this function means the whiney sales department is getting its way yet again?
The answer is yes.
Asking each sales rep to synthesize your company’s case-studies into compelling talk tracks or to expect them to generate a compelling response about why your company is not in the upper right quadrant or to leave it to them to explain why your company is still in great shape after Google bought your top competitor is not a winning strategy.
These things play directly to marketing’s skill set.
The time is right for marketing to step up and take accountability for helping sales fix its toughest problem – having great sales conversations and conquering the final selling mile.