Five in 25: Discussions with sales and marketing leaders

Jul 15, 2021
B2B Councils

Through a series of 25-minute interviews, members of the B2B Council posed five critical questions to sales and marketing leaders across a subset of sectors to better understand the current state of sales and marketing alignment across some of Canada’s biggest organizations. Through our conversations, we uncovered four themes for sales and marketing leaders to consider.

Alignment must flow to integration

Sales and marketing are converging, and research suggests that alignment between these two groups leads to considerably more revenue. All the leaders we spoke with agreed that alignment was needed; however, many respondents went a step further to stress that alignment was a good first step, but not the last. The majority of respondents worked within organizations that still had separate sales and marketing teams, however all have developed an ongoing cadence across functions to drive connection.

Some of the pain points faced by leaders include limited understanding of the role of each function, the lack of shared measurement and success metrics, and the ongoing challenge of delivering a consistent message to customers through both marketing and sales channels. When we asked these leaders what some of the most impactful steps that they have taken to date we consistently heard of the need for shared objectives and dashboards, a greater understanding of the role of brand versus demand, and cleaner handoffs between functions.

This underscores the need for marketing and sales leaders to reassess not only how their teams are built, but also how they focus their efforts and resources on the same goals while keeping the business moving at the speed of their customers. For organizations that have successfully integrated their sales and marketing teams, the results are often more accountability, better customer experiences and stronger business outcomes.

Technology enables insights and alignment that drive growth

Leaders agree that technology and data are critical to business success, and to sales and marketing alignment; however, their roles are varied. Here are some areas where data and technology are front and centre:

  • Virtual selling: “The work from anywhere is here to stay and virtual selling will become more common. Virtual events, marketplaces, new ideas on how to connect with customers -- all of this will require alignment between sales and marketing.”
  • Insights generation: “Data will become even more important in the future. The ability to get even smarter and anticipate future needs -- this is where AI and machine learning will come in. We will need to stay relevant through personalized and actionable insights.”
  • Measurement: “Metrics will be unique to every organization, but generally speaking, reexamining marketing’s contribution to business, revenue and share (especially in commercial marketing) is important. This includes encouraging the use of new measures such as the marketing engagement index or the marketing influencer index.

Leaders agreed unanimously that technology infrastructure needs to be integrated across functions to unlock full business potential. While many leaders we spoke to highlighted that their organizations had not fully achieved data and technology integration, all highlighted that it is a top priority on their organization’s roadmap.

Client centricity is paramount

Although any marketing and sales professional will tell you that the customer needs to be central to the planning and activation of functions, leaders feel that many organizations lack a clear understanding of their customers and their journeys. Increased digitalization of customer experience puts the onus on marketers who have both sales leads and insights into customer behaviour prior to purchase to build systems and tools to create a unified and dynamic view of the customer. As one leader commented: “Sales is no longer an individual effort. Customers consume info from many channels and a consistent message between marketing and sales is important. Not everything happens on a sales call, customers buy differently.”

Many respondents admitted that their organizations, although working towards the goal of a holistic customer view, were not yet able to deliver this. Some of the main constraints identified were different systems and taxonomy, limited or infrequent knowledge sharing, and a general lack of cohesiveness. However, leaders agree that differentiation through customer experience is the North Star for all. As one participant stated: “People no longer buy products. They buy the entire experience around it.”

Simplify to reduce friction

As reaching and resonating with customers evolves in complexity, respondents indicate a need to do more with less by simplifying, prioritizing and focusing across business unit functions. Whether out of necessity due to resourcing challenges or out of a belief that simplicity would provide an in-market advantage, most of those interviewed agreed that a less is more mentality is emerging, or even being fully embraced, in their organizations.

This move to focus and prioritization for many organizations is slow. In some instances, market demands are driving behaviours that inadvertently create increased pressures on sales and marketing alignment. An abundance of programs in market continues to be a challenge between sales and marketing with sales wanting streamlined selling and marketing needing to have something ‘new’ to say in market. “So often marketing (and product) can overwhelm sales with far too many programs, so there needs to be a better sense of focus and prioritization so sales can be effective,” says one leader.

This misalignment sometimes causes confusion and poor experience, which can lead to customers tuning out or opting to make their purchase elsewhere. Some respondents identified that a systematic approach has been taken to narrow marketing’s focus to top accounts, whereas others are still struggling to resource priorities, noting that global organizations have more challenges when it comes to simplifying.

Respondents highlighted a need to take the time to work across functions to align on process, while also prioritizing and focusing on the same objectives and delivering as a united front on business outcomes.

Alignment across the sales and marketing functions is not the end goal for many of the leaders we spoke with. In fact, many viewed it as a first step on a long journey towards cross-functional integration across the organization and in particular the go-to-market functions. By investing the time in working together on an ongoing basis and having clear alignment at the executive level, sales and marketing teams set themselves up for shared success and a clearer path towards full alignment.

Participants:

Bruce Maule VP, Ecosystem Marketing, IBM

Laura Hartwell, VP Sales, Western Canada, IBM

Magdalena Pandiloska, CMO, Microsoft Canada

Reem Gedeon, SVP, Global Sales and Market Development, LifeWorks

Rick Sellers, Regional Vice President, BC region, Rogers

Brian Carey, Director of Brand and Acquisition Marketing, Rogers

Luxy Thuraisingam, Head of Global Partner Marketing, Cisco

Jitan Patel, National Director of Sales, Lenovo

Victor Teves, Senior Director, Marketing - Business Financial Services, RBC

Christine Suski, Senior Manager Sales Strategic Initiatives, RBC

Authors:

Cynthia Steele, VP, Performance Strategy and Content, Reprise

Jay Badiani, CMO, IBM Canada

Julija Noskova, VP Marketing

Karen Nguyen, Senior Director, Wireless Marketing, Rogers

Miki Velemirovich, President, The Cargo Agency

Melissa Jung, Partner Marketing Leader, Cisco Canada




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