Agenda for the next meeting between your CMO and VP Sales

It doesn’t matter if you are a sales or marketing professional, to truly do your job correctly there must be constant communication and alignment between the sales and marketing groups.

This can easily get out of whack as these two functional groups are compensated differently and have, at times, conflicting objectives.  According the Corporate Executive Board, 87% of the terms Sales and Marketing use to describe each other are negative.

The best way to proactively address any friction and increase overall organization performance is a routine meeting between the executive in charge of each group – the CMO and Vice President of Sales.

If you have yet to implement this at your company or just want to expand the conversation beyond the a discussion of lead quality, we suggest the following agenda:

1. Revenue Recap

What closed this week/day/month? What was the lead source, dollar value, and time to close?  How was the decision made? What sales tools were most valuable? What did it truly cost to acquire these customers?

Starting the conversation about revenue and sales pipeline performance emphasizes the shared focus on driving customer conversions and revenue for the company.

2. Process Improvements

Where did friction or inefficiency enter the picture?  Do sales reps have the right content to drive closing activities? What content and pitches are working? Are there content gaps? Does marketing have a clear understanding of what type(s) of prospect to drive into the funnel?  Is there a “closed loop” that extends from marketing to sales to customer so that feedback, performance, and needs are known and understood?

Focusing next on process reinforces shared responsibility for the customer acquisition process and all its pieces.  If there is no integrated marketing to sales process, then time to sketch one out.

3. Restate and Review Qualified Lead Definition

What makes a truly qualified lead – sales qualified and marketing qualified?  What characteristics must they possess?

When the leadership and entire sales and marketing organizations by extension have a shared and agreed upon definition of what type of leads are actually meaningful to the organization, everyone is aligned around those criteria and disagreements around what makes a “good lead’ become at thing of the past.

4. Service Level Agreement (SLA)

What marketing will do within what time period and what sales will do within what time period.  This includes marketing delivering leads that meet the qualified lead definition at a certain volume and sales conducting timely follow up and providing feedback back to marketing.

Maybe calling it a “service level agreement” is too formal but this is an understanding of what each group will do for the other and can be held accountable to do it by their leadership.  Hubspot does a nice job explaining the concept of a Sales and Marketing Service Level Agreement and how to create one.

5. Staffing and Talent

Are the right people in the right roles? Are incentives and compensation aligned with business objectives? Does sales need training? Does marketing need education on the problem and space?

A recurring discussion of organizational structure goes a long way to quickly identify weaknesses and a shared view on where hiring investments need to be made to benefit the customer acquisition process.

6. Major Activities Until Next Meeting

What marketing campaigns are planned? What events are occurring? What internal sales promos are being held?

We assume there is regular updates to the sales team (and company) about major marketing activities and that sales shares its victories and lessons learned with the balance of the company.  If not, then implement that quickly.  Use this agenda item for a high-level discussion of what is planned and surfacing new ideas – a event someone heard about, a customer case study opportunity from a new customer, etc.

Yes, there are lots of other areas to get into and no shortage of details that will come up but a regular and routine discussion of the items above between sales and marketing leadership in an organization will ensure alignment and efficiency in go-to-market activities.

What would you add?  How do you do it at your company?


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How to increase sales with better timing

You built out your sales plan, know the companies in your territory you are supposed to call on and convert, or simply have a list of targets and contacts to power your inside sales organization.

You know who is supposed to be your customer and, while important, this is not as critical as whether they are in need of what you sell when you want to sell it to them.  Timing matters.  Yes, all things can line up and a sales touch will lead to a quick decision process that was already in flight and you win a deal because your target and timing were aligned.  This is a rare exception as in most cases your timeline is not the same as your prospect’s.

Traditional qualification models like BANT (budget, authority, need, timeline) maintain their validity even in an era of the buyer’s journey and significant education by a prospect ahead of a sales conversation.  A prospect may have a need and the authority to do something about it but if they are not interested in doing something about it now, then what?

Most sales processes end there or the prospect is kicked back to marketing for further nurturing and qualification.  Marketing automation systems have made this possible with their behavioral email nurturing campaigns and lead scoring models so that prospects are handed over when sales ready.

But what about someone who is ready but just not at the moment you contact them?  We all get busy, manage our email inboxes to varying degrees of efficiency, and have countless demands on our attention in any given day at work.  So even something important and of interest may languish in the dreaded “starred” bucket in Gmail or marked for follow up in Outlook.

Wouldn’t this all work better if sales engages with a prospect with an understanding that the timing may not be right or that it will take a few follow ups to get the conversation going versus punting back to marketing as “not interested” or “unqualified?”  Of course it would.

High performance sales organizations get this and great sales leader know the power of the “sales trigger” – something that happens to signal the timing is right for engagement.

We do this here at Highspot with email alerts sent to a salesperson when someone opens or shares the content they received.  These “triggering events” align sales people with buyer’s interest and meaningful conversation is sure to follow.

So, the next time you send a series of emails out or do a follow up to prospects, be sure to include a way to hear the signals your prospects are sending about the timing of your sales efforts.


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Three Ways to Accelerate Sales Pipeline Performance

Building and maintaining a high performance customer acquisition engine is top of the list for every company.  How you identify, attract, convert, and retain new customers is a constantly changing puzzle that is a top priority for sales and marketing professionals.

To accelerate sales pipeline performance in an effort to achieve this customer acquisition nirvana requires three related but different building blocks:

1. Measure Lead Velocity Rate  

This is a leading indicator of sales pipeline performance and assumes a proper level of targeting and qualification as these leads enter the pipeline. It measures the growth in qualified leads month over month.  A name and email address is not a qualified lead.  One that has met the qualifications of a “Marketing Qualified Lead” is…and even better if it is a “Sales Qualified Lead.”

Here’s a great write up on Lead Velocity Rate (LVR) and why it is such an important metric especially for software as a service businesses…but has applicability to any B2B business.

The thing is, sales is variant, and sales pipelines have big data quality issues — and worse, sales as a metric is a lagging indicator.   In fact, your monthly sales tell you about the past.

2.  Understand the Buyer Journey

We’ve touched previously on the importance of understanding the buyer journey but a focus and consciousness of where a prospect is in their buying process is essential to delivering the right content and context at the proper time.

Here is a great write up on the importance of understanding the buyer journey by Jeff Ernst of Forrester Research.

You need to recognize that the B2B buying process is not one big decision; it is a series of micro-decisions. And the company that wins the business is the company that is there to answer those questions and provide fresh insights that influence how the buyers think about the problem so that the buyers can confidently advance their journey.

3.  Use a Sales Engagement Platform

Now that you’ve got the right leads at the right volume and understand their buyer journey so you can win all the “micro-decisions” being made, bring it all together with a sales engagement platform.

A sales engagement platform like Highspot intelligently organizes your content making it easier for marketing to update and share and easier for sales to access and put to use.  When deployed as a sales playbook inside a CRM system like Salesforce.com, it puts the best content at the fingertips of the sales professional exactly when they need it based on deal stage, product line, or type of customer.  Once the opportunity for a meeting arises, being able to conduct a pitch presentation via the web or share a trackable version via email redefines the “last mile” between sales professional and prospect.  Add content analytics that show what is working best, where gaps may exist, and critically closing the loop from marketing to sales to customer you have added fuel to your sales pipeline that will accelerate sales cycles and lead to more revenue.


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Forget about resolutions, focus on effective customer engagement

It’s that time when we all look forward to a new year and make resolutions to read a little more, exercise more frequently, or just better some aspect of who we are and what we do.

Resolutions are great and many people make them and stick to them.  For others they quickly fade or just become an afterthought as the year gets rolling.  For sales professionals, resolutions are useful but this year, why not resolve to improve when and how you communicate and interact with your customers and prospects?

Rather than “spray and pray” email campaigns designed to cover the most people with the least amount of effort, try to target your outreach and follow up based on where a prospect is in the buyer’s journey.  A proven and intelligent sales playbook is an essential building block of this more effective engagement approach.

Don’t forget about the “last mile” of engagement with is the actual meeting or pitch.  Share slides, explain value, and send actionable follow up content that helps buyers make better decisions.  Knowing what is used and when is a huge piece of sales intelligence that most organizations lack.

Gather data and create a closed feedback loop so that the marketing team understands what content is performing or where there are gaps.  Give sales leadership insight into individual sales representative performance and activities including how effective their interactions are after a meeting or call.  All of this is available through the advanced analytics that are at the core of a sales engagement platform like Highspot.

Here’s to a happy and productive 2015 filled with more effective customer engagement and more closed deals!


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3 Reasons to Add a Sales Engagement Platform to Your 2015 Plan

The end of the year is upon us and this is traditionally a final week to push hard on Q4 deals before the meeting requests and follow up items get pushed to “after New Year’s day.”

It also marks a good time to take a deep breath and consider what worked over the past 12 months and how the next 12 will be even better.

For your sales and marketing team, adding a sales engagement platform to the mix will increase sales funnel performance and improve sales effectiveness.  Why?

1. Your marketing and sales content (collateral, assets, case studies) is unorganized and hard to find

Even though you have a file system, document management system, wiki or otherwise, your content is spread all over the place and in multiple versions leaving the sales team to fend for themselves due to frustration or lack of knowledge or something in between.  Content gets created, produced, and distributed but then the “last mile” from the sales representative to the customer becomes a wildcard. Your content is in lots of places from unused portals to a salesperson’s hard drive to a personal Dropbox account somewhere that a work team uses.  Fix this with a sales engagement platform that brings all the benefits of a portal but is something the sales and marketing team will actually use.  Make the whole process smarter with easier ways to share, comment, and incorporate feedback directly into the system.

2. You have no real understanding of what works and when

Impromptu and ad hoc deal postmortems can occur but rarely get documented or shared to the rest of the sales team or the marketing team.  In most cases the actions, content, and decisions made to close a deal stay with the sales representative and their direct supervisor.  This perpetuates a blind spot of having no idea what core investments actually aid the sales process and lead directly to revenue.  Including advanced analytics designed to close the loop across marketing to sales to customer show what worked when and how it was used in direct engagement with a prospect.

3. Your sales team is not as effective as they could be with better tools & support

Delivering sales training, helping with the creation and distribution of sales collateral, and creating the proper incentives and compensation plan all work towards operating a high performance sales organization.  But what about better, faster access to the right pieces of content for the sales stage by product line by prospect type?  Is this available at the fingertips of a salesperson as they follow up with a lead or push a conversation forward?  The absence of intelligent and readily available sales playbooks inside the CRM system is costing you productivity and money so turbocharge sales team productivity and effectiveness with a sales engagement platform.


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What’s the difference between sales enablement and sales engagement?

There are lots of buzz words floating around these days to describe the latest and greatest ideas and innovations to power your business.  Sales and marketing are the most recent beneficiaries of this buzz and understanding the difference between sales enablement and sales engagement is essential to operating a high performance customer acquisition process.

“Sales enablement” has been around for a long time and has undergone a bit of a transformation in recent years as the technology to enable and assist sales professionals has become better and more individually meaningful.

To get a good baseline definition of “sales enablement,” let’s go to the experts at Sirius Decisions and their post “What is Sales Enablement.”

…provide guidelines for using sales assets (78 percent of respondents reported this as one of enablement’s responsibilities), share enablement best practices (73 percent), build sales assets (71 percent) and develop product training (68 percent) – reflecting the function’s legacy of supporting product marketing. But more than 50 percent report that the function contributes to various sales effectiveness areas (delivering sales effectiveness training, selecting and deploying sales technology, managing sales communication). This indicates that the function’s role is broadening from providing sales assets to ensuring that reps are competent in using those assets. Based on client feedback, we also see new rep onboarding as a key responsibility of enablement.

So, a critically important function that is designed to truly enable the sales team via support, administration, and training.

“Sales engagement” on the other hand is more focused on improving how sales professionals are communicating with customers by having the most effective content available for the sales situation and giving sales and marketing leaders visibility into what is working and what is not.  Highspot Vice President of Product Oliver Sharp describes sales engagement as follows:

…so that companies engage more effectively with their customers and win more deals. It does that by closing the loop between marketing, sales, and the customer … so you have the visibility and insight that lets you optimize content usage across the entire sales cycle.

If you are a sales enablement professional, adding a sales engagement platform to the mix aligns completely with your focus on supporting and enabling the sales team.  If you are a sales professional, the addition of a sales engagement platform gives you a great new way to have the most effective content at your fingertips and a compelling way to deliver your next pitch.  Sales and marketing leaders both benefit from the visibility provided by adding sales engagement to the mix – they can now know what content is most effective and get a whole new view into sales rep productivity.


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