The river between sales and marketing runs cold and deep. We can see each other’s camp on the opposite bank, just out of range. That we all work for the same corporation is often the irritant, yet I have seen how much success is generated when there is cooperation. Let me tell you how.
“Good fences make good neighbors,” Robert Frost concedes in his poem Mending Wall. He’s not entirely happy with the concept, but the sucker works, and it will work here. Building a strong fence will define the playing field (formerly, battlefield).
I like good fences because they have to be built, and both sides must participate for it to be strong. I encourage you to build a fence that is well-planned and of the best materials. We’ve got to engage with sales and set the rules – the milestones, roles and responsibilities – that will govern our prospecting. If both sales and marketing participate, it will have integrity.
Each side understands “what’s in it for me” and agrees to their contribution. There must be provisions and a forum for continuous improvement.
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.*
Tracy Staniland. Vice President of Corporate Marketing for Asigra, a backup and recovery software company, has established a productive, mutually-supportive relationship with the sales team:
“We start with a Service Level Agreement. Sales stipulates the lead score criteria for when leads are sales-ready. Leads that need to be recycled are pushed to marketing in a timely manner. We regularly engage to review the challenges in the marketplace, and whether the lead criteria needs to be adjusted.”
The fence defines the turf that we will work together. It’s where we will build our prospecting marketing plan, messaging, and communications with the goal of inviting our prospects in.
The foundation of success here is trust that we all share the same clear understanding of the prospect, on two levels:
- It’s not just one executive. We need to understand the buying center – who is in it and what is the contribution of each executive
- These executives are not just functional titles, but people, with often contradictory business and personal drivers, and specific responsibilities to the buying center.
Without this clear understanding and agreement on our prospects, nothing will work. Let me tell you two stories that do. You may not know the names of these companies. They are the mid-sized challengers that must work smarter. Their accomplishments have earned them the right to high expectations.
Entering new markets, each relied on Prospect Personas to unify the vision of the prospects. These are archetypes or summaries based on voice of customer research, with real people in this position, about their wants and needs, information behaviors, attitudes, motivations, and goals. And personality.
A wise friend once said to me, the b2b sale is all about personalities. Thus, the prospects sits at the planning table, warts and all.
- Asigra, whom we met earlier, learned how messaging can have a huge effect. Looking to move from the SMB market to the enterprise, personas taught them that about 1/3 of the targeted CIOs, each crucial to the decision making process, were completely turned off by their tag line. They would not listen any further. Persona research helped them to refocus and rebrand to open CIOs’ ears to what is really important.
- Maxwell Technologies learned that just because their new ultra-capacitors are more powerful, smaller and cleaner than traditional industrial batteries, no one is waiting with open arms. The road to acceptance is, shall we say, circuitous. They learned how to talk, who to talk to and the specific circumstances for “crossing the chasm” into sales, implementation, and ultimately test cases.
Building the fence is a personal thing. All of the points above have one thing in common – they are all about people, and humanizing the process. There’s no software that can successfully automate this job. Your hands are going to get dirty, however, the resulting flow of business will be clean and strong.
*Mending Wall by Robert Frost