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Sales Lessons for Up-and-Coming Revenue Marketers

Debbie Qaqish

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Revenue Marketing involves transforming marketing from a cost center to a revenue center by adopting financial accountability, driving digital engagement and leading the pivot to customer centricity

The percentage of marketing organizations that report financial results has remained a constant 35% for the last few years. With the plethora of technology that enables financial accountability and the countless case studies demonstrating the possibilities, why has this number remained constant? One key reason is the lack of understanding and knowledge between sales and marketing. 

Sales and Marketing Relationship Scenarios

The sales and marketing chasm creates a variety of relationship scenarios including both being unaware of the possibilities and the havoc created when marketing begins to use technology to change. When the sales and marketing chasm is bridged, a very different scenario plays out.  A synopsis of each scenario follows.

Scenario No. 1

I learned a valuable lesson a few years ago when I was working with a global marketing team for a financial services organization. I often ask marketing to tell me about their relationship with sales and I asked this team the same thing. They said they had a great working relationship with sales, but as they continued the explanation, it occurred to me that the relationship was based on marketing serving as the fulfillment department for sales for anything they requested. 

It was not a relationship based on revenue production. It was a relationship based on marketing staying in the traditional marketing framework. In this scenario, neither marketing nor sales realized they could and should have a revenue relationship.

Scenario No. 2

In a different scenario, I also work with companies where sales and marketing have a contentious relationship. This often occurs as marketing begins to harness the power of marketing technology to gain a better understanding of the customer and to directly and positively affect revenue. In this scenario, the traditional marketing and sales relationship is often turned upside down. The result can be an environment characterized by miscommunications, loss of marketing credibility, lack of lead follow-through and eventually no reportable ROI from marketing’s heroic efforts.

Scenario No. 3

When the sales and marketing chasm has been bridged and the two groups enjoy a synergistic revenue relationship, we see a very different scenario.  Here are five characteristics we often see in successful Revenue Marketing organizations.

  1. Marketing and sales use a common revenue language.
  2. Marketing and sales have mirrored organizational structures.
  3. Marketing and sales are proactive in their relationship.
  4. Marketing and sales work together as one revenue team toward achieving shared revenue-oriented goals.
  5. Marketing and sales have goals and compensation tied to shared revenue metrics.

Four Elements of Marketing and Sales Synergy

Scenario No. 3 represents a successful revenue relationship between sales and marketing. Now that we know what a synergistic relationship looks like, let’s review the four key elements to understand how to achieve it and to further define the behaviors required of a Revenue Marketer. The four elements include activating an on-going educational process, using a common revenue language, deploying effective communication strategies and sharing common goals.

Education

The first step in creating any relationship with sales is to educate the marketing team on all things related to sales. Trying to create a relationship with sales without understanding their world simply does not work and that understanding does not occur through osmosis. More specifically, marketing needs to understand the sales goals, be a part of sales initiatives, understand the sales process, know the sales team and be educated on the pipeline.

Synergistic Marketing Behaviors:

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  • Participate in weekly sales pipeline calls.
  • Participate in monthly and quarterly sales calls.
  • Listen to sales calls.
  • Go on calls with sales.
  • Participate in sales training.

Revenue Language 

A few years ago, I met a VP at an event where we were both speaking. As I listened to his talk, I was trying to figure out if this guy was the VP of sales or the VP of marketing. He sounded like a VP of sales as he mentioned things like pipeline and forecast. He talked about joint sales meetings and understanding the current level of quota achievement across the sales team. He talked about accelerating time to close and improving average deal size. I was honestly confused as I was pretty sure they had not invited a VP of sales to be a part of this particular event. 

As it turned out, he was a VP of revenue marketing (that was his real title) and that’s when it became clear to me: like sales, revenue marketers must begin embracing the language of revenue in order to build credibility and drive revenue success. Revenue marketers don’t talk to sales about pretty fonts or newsletters; they talk to sales about opportunity pipeline, quota and revenue. They ask sales questions such as: What number do you need to hit for your new acquisition target? What does your current opportunity pipeline look like and how can we help? What is your average deal size and how can we help grow that? Why are opportunities not closing and how can we help?

Synergistic Marketing Behaviors:

  • Listen to the words used by marketing during an interaction with a salesperson—are they sales-focused or marketing-focused?
  • Listen to the words used by marketing as they participate in a sales meeting—are they sales-focused or marketing-focused?
  • Listen to the presentations marketing makes to sales—are they sales-focused or marketing-focused?

Communication

In order for marketing to be ready for Revenue Marketing and to engage in a new kind of relationship with sales, an effective vision and a game plan must be established. It’s up to marketing to set the vision, create and communicate the game plan, collaborate on the game plan and get buy-in on this game plan.

Creating and gaining commitment to a jointly developed game plan takes time and repetition. Marketing can’t just walk into a meeting and expect sales to “get it” in a 30-minute presentation. After all, marketing has probably spent months attending conferences, reading white papers and educating themselves about the benefits of Revenue Marketing. Marketing will need to plan for multiple communication methods, meetings and events to share the sales vision and craft the ultimate game plan.

Synergistic Marketing Behaviors:

  • Develop a communication plan like a marketing campaign.
  • Deploy using your marketing automation platform and track and engage with digital body language.
  • Develop personas and messages.
  • Work in multiple channels.
  • Incorporate the 11 elements of an effective Revenue Marketing Communication Plan:  Communication type (updates, milestones, best practices), intent of communication (inform, educate, influence), Cadence (how often), source (corporate, field, other), target, flow (broadcast, bi-directional, networked), milestone, channel, action (call to action), measurement and resources (team to drive the communication).

Shared Goals

I can’t emphasize strongly enough the importance of sales and marketing having shared goals, aligned compensation and complementary organizational structures. In the world of sales, no revenue accountability for marketing means zero respect from sales. When we take a look at the most successful Revenue Marketing machines, we see that marketing has the same kinds of goals as sales. If sales has a number tied to new account acquisition, so does marketing. If sales has a number for enterprise accounts, so does marketing. If sales has a number for a new product, so does marketing. 

Synergistic Marketing Behaviors:

  • Marketing has common revenue goals with sales.
  • Marketing revenue goals are transparent.
  • Marketing has compensation tied to revenue goals.
  • Marketing is structured and/or operates in a complementary framework to create revenue synergy.

The Challenge

Marketing and sales alignment—excuse me, synergy—is a key success factor of Revenue Marketing success.  Do not assume marketing understands the world of sales. Unless they have a background in sales or have worked in a Revenue Marketing model with sales before, how are they supposed to know all of this? Take the time to assess where marketing is in their understanding of sales and then follow the guidelines in this article to improve that level of understanding and to begin exhibiting fruitful Revenue Marketing behaviors. Following this simple model will help marketing understand and become true revenue partners with sales.

How have you achieved that critical synergy with sales and what has been the result?  I’d love to hear about your experiences! Call me at 770-331-4443 or shoot me an email at Debbie@PedowitzGroup.com.


Debbie Qaqish, Ph.D., is principal partner and chief strategy officer of The Pedowitz Group. She manages global client relationships and leads the firm’s thought leadership initiatives. She has been helping B-to-B companies drive revenue growth for over 35 years.

Debbie Qaqish, Ph.D., is principal partner and chief strategy officer of The Pedowitz Group. She manages global client relationships and leads the firm’s thought leadership initiatives. She has been helping B-to-B companies drive revenue growth for over 35 years.