How marketing and sales can plan together

Planning season is upon us - but how many marketing and sales leaders organise their plans together? Richard Hadler outlines why the two divisions need to be planning together to achieve the same goals.

It’s October, now is the time to plan for 2020. But let me ask you a question — how many of you marketers and sales managers are working *together* on planning?

My guess would be not many.

Marketing plans marketing; sales plans sales. When are we going to learn?

I was talking to Sally Scott, CMO of fast-growing software solutions firm Advanced earlier this week, and she walked me through her company’s planning process which is utterly logical yet far removed from traditional marketing planning.

Does it start with exciting ideas for customer conferences? Does it begin with profound thought leadership? No, it starts with her and chief sales officer, Roy Wood, being given a growth target for the business. From that, they jointly create a “backward sales plan” to make it happen based on extensive data analysis.

“We look at what revenue we want at the exit of the year, and what will make that up. Then we look at what marketing contributes to that, with proper funnel analysis,” she told me.

As this funnel is planned, data is used every step of the way.

She told me: “Creativity obviously plays a part, because you have to achieve those numbers, but the starting point is a very scientific analysis of what we can deliver in our addressable market.”

That’s very different from the way that many firms do it. In our B2B roundtables earlier this year, CMOs of successful, growing companies told us they still plan as separate functions. The leaders may rarely speak. They often use different computer systems and leads are “handed over” from one to another. Not only does this cause the divide to grow larger in most cases, but it’s also a colossal waste of resources. There is also information leakage and a discontinuity in the relationship as customers pass from the marketing world to the sales world.

So, time to move from theory to practice… how should you plan for 2020? 

I think getting sales and marketing working together to beat a growth target is the bold and best choice for many firms. But it requires a lot of cultural change and buy-in from the top. If you think that’s going to be tough in the next few weeks, then at least try the following:

Agree on actually who your clients are. Not who you think they should be.

Often, sales and marketing have different views on targeting. At Raconteur, we specialise in reaching the C‑suite and marketers often hire us to talk to this elite, hard-to-engage group. But sales in these organisations might think the C‑suite is too distant from the decision and they would rather target more junior staff.

LinkedIn’s Art of Winning report in 2018 reported that there is, on average, only 23 per cent overlap between sales’ target audience and marketings’ target audience.

Moreover, both departments also need to agree what a lead looks like. Fully. (I’ll go into this in one of my future blog posts.)

Agree on the ideal customer journey and how your plan marries up with different parts of it

A properly mapped-out customer journey map is a tool to help you understand the experience of interacting with your brand from the customer’s viewpoint. This map is critical because it will force both sales and marketing to look at how your customers experience your brand versus how you think they do. By better understanding your customers, both sales and marketing teams can better deliver on their expectations. 

Agree not to get distracted by shiny ideas

We’ve all had it. You spend time talking sales through your intricate marketing plan, and some idiot makes a sarcastic comment about just wanting a sales brochure with gold leaf letters on the front. Worse, your CEO has just read an article about martech and suggests you create some flashy dashboard that no-one will use. By involving sales and marketing together earlier you should all agree on core elements of the plan so you don’t get sidetracked down the line.

Agree that if the joint plan doesn’t work, you will jointly accept blame and fix it

Three years ago, I was caught up in a pretty nasty scenario. We weren’t getting the sales we were expecting, and the pipeline just wasn’t there. As a result, I naively took it out on the marketing function for not fulfilling their side of the bargain. In my head, my argument was sound; marketing is responsible for pipeline generation and any problem is marketing’s fault — not mine. The problem is, I’d never actually sat down with our head of marketing to discuss the roles we played in pipeline generation or where the accountability ended up. How could I be angry about something we hadn’t even agreed upon in the first place?

October may seem a bit early to think about New Year’s Resolutions. But if you’re about to plan marketing (or indeed sales) as a standalone activity, maybe it’s time to resolve that in 2020 it will be different.

Marketing Sells is our new blog post series dedicated to aligning sales and marketing. I will be posting a new blog weekly, for notifications when I post new content, you can sign up to the newsletter here.

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