Chief Editor, Follow Your Buyer
You might know me as a writer, coach, content marketer, dog lover, editor, golfer, sales strategist, Diet Coke enthusiast, speaker, Allegheny alum, project manager, feminist, networker, or St. Louis Cardinals fan.
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For a very long time, sales and marketing teams could operate independently, and each team could be considered successful. That’s not the case today. It’s time for marketers to start empathizing with and understanding their sales teams. And it’s time for sales teams to start appreciating and trusting their marketing teams.
That starts by putting yourself in the other team’s shoes. If you can move past common stereotypes for each role, you’ll see there are common challenges sales teams and marketers can face by working together.
Marketers think sales reps are overconfident, bordering on arrogant. They’ve closed deals before, and they already know how to close deals in the future if you, their marketing team, would just give them better, ready-to-buy leads.
Sales reps firmly believe they can and will sell based on their relationships in your industry. They’ll gladly take credit for sales that “come from their rolodex” (regardless of how well your marketing influenced those buyers). And they feel no guilt whatsoever when they take that rolodex with them after an average of just 1.5 years working for your company (and that average tenure has decreased dramatically since 2010, according to research from The Bridge Group).
At their core, sales reps are territorial. Once they start working a lead, they don’t want or need marketing’s input (because if marketing knew how to sell, they would be in sales, not in marketing, right?). And they certainly don’t want another sales rep talking to anyone else at that company (even if it’s another division with completely different products/services and a completely different buyer’s journey).
And speaking of buyer’s journeys, sales reps are not interested in hearing your theories about that because their next paycheck depends on what they sell today, this week, this quarter, and buyer’s journeys don’t happen in that time frame. They’re primarily interested in net-new leads – not in information on leads they stopped working months ago – because warm, new leads are their meal ticket.
In a nutshell, marketers think B2B sales reps want someone else to do their jobs for them.
Sounds like a harsh way to talk about the people who directly generate revenue for your company, right?
Sales reps want empathy. They aren’t lazy. They are stressed. They have sales managers breathing down their necks (sometimes literally as they tag their calls and look over their shoulder to see account notes and updates in CRM). Sales reps are under constant pressure to sell. And even when they do sell, there is no time to celebrate wins because they’re already under pressure to get the next sale, and the next, and the next.
They are incentivized to look at the immediate future rather than the entirety of the buyer’s journey. They have to navigate the complexity of buyer’s journeys regardless of how well they understand that complexity. The longer a buyer’s journey takes, the longer it takes them to make money. And making money is never a sure thing – a rep’s best quarter can be followed by a quarter’s worth of much smaller paychecks. That fluctuation is both unpredictable and hard to handle outside of the office.
Their buyers have gotten smarter and, as a result, are less likely to need their input. What worked for seasoned sales reps early in their career is becoming less and less effective as reps are more and more overwhelmed by an endless stream of data, analytics, and technology.
They’re expected to know their industry as well as – and even better than – their customers and prospects who actually work in the industry. There aren’t enough hours in the day to prospect, to keep up with the latest trends, to analyze data, to log every minute of activity in a CRM, and to actually sell.
In a nutshell, being a B2B sales rep is a hard job.
Marketers don’t do much of anything. They care about fonts and colors, not about revenue and results. They spend their time doing things like writing press releases and scheduling tweets, none of which matters to our customers. They’re good at planning the office Christmas party, but they’re not good at helping us hit our quotas.
They whine about their budget, but they can’t show ROI from spending that budget. Marketers can never articulate what, exactly, their marketing has accomplished. They take it for granted that their paychecks aren’t tied to outcomes. The outcomes they do measure, like increasing website traffic and email open rates, have nothing to do with closing sales. They run the same campaigns with the same media partners year after year and never try anything new.
Marketers can’t explain what our customers’ challenges are because they’ve never worked in the industry. And they’ve never sold anything. They need our SMEs, product managers, scientists/engineers/IT experts, or executives to explain what we do and how we do it. Of course, they never ask for input from sales. But even once it’s explained to them, they don’t produce content that correctly positions us in the market.
Marketers just outsource all the real work to agencies. Plus, their media partners execute on that work, so all marketers do is forward the sales teams massive, incomprehensible spreadsheets with leads. Then they complain when the sales team doesn’t close those leads, regardless of whether the leads were the right fit or were ready to buy in the first place.
In a nutshell, B2B sales reps think they could do their jobs without marketers.
Alright marketers, time for your side of the story.
Marketers are expected to be experts on email deliverability, web design, graphic design, software implementation, database structures, editing, writing long form content, writing short form content, brand awareness, lead generation and automation, event planning, trade show logistics, social media, and data analytics. Oh, and they’re asked to do all of that every single day and plan the office Christmas party.
Their day is a constant stream of interruptions. An SME just backed out of an interview with the freelancer booked to write that next white paper. A sales rep needs them to build a new slide deck (and needs that slide deck in 24 hours even though the presentation has been on the calendar for two months). An email campaign went out to the wrong list, and they’ve been on hold with two different software companies trying to figure out which party is responsible for the glitch. They’re asked for 10 different weekly reports, and each has to be customized. Marketers spend all day putting out fires, and they’ll spend all day tomorrow doing the same thing.
Marketers are constantly understaffed. They can’t just add junior staffers because they don’t have B2B marketing experience (because only B2C marketing is taught on college campuses). When it is marketing’s turn for a new hire, they get asked to outsource it to an agency that cares more about “brand awareness” than generating useful leads for sales. Meanwhile, the sales team gets to hire more admins, analysts, and reps while marketers drown in work.
A good chunk of the very limited marketing budget is spent on things they don’t always agree with. Your CEO wants to “make a big splash” at a trade show, not realizing that’s going to eat up next quarter’s entire budget, but marketers have to do it anyway because that’s what the CEO said to do. Those new tools your CIO just implemented don’t integrate with your marketing software, but the marketing budget still has to cover part of the cost (even though it splinters marketing data across disparate systems).
Marketers have no idea what the executive team expects from them because they can’t even get on the executive team’s calendars to ask. And as soon as they think they know, executives change their minds. Plus, executives think sales is way more important than marketing. Even your new “VP of sales and marketing” who was hired to bridge the gap between your teams isn’t helpful because that VP came up through the sales ranks and has zero marketing experience. Plus, when sales are up, the sales team gets all the credit. But when sales are down, fingers are pointed at marketing.
In a nutshell, being a B2B marketer is a hard and thankless job.
If any of this rings true, you aren’t alone. It’s a sign that you need to get your marketing and sales teams to the same table. Have marketers start sitting in on sales forecasting meetings. Invite a sales rep to sit in on your next content strategy meeting. Ask your executive teams to create a common set of goals and metrics that both sales and marketing can work toward.
We will not be great by what we accomplish, but by what we help others accomplish.How does this apply to your work as a B2B marketer?
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Learning to follow your buyer is a change in mindset
A transition from selling buyers on what you do to helping them accomplish what they do.