The “way it has always been” is gone for good. It’s time to consider the reality: The world is changed now, and likely will be different once we shake off the effects of the pandemic. But, as we discussed in our last blog, now is not the time to slash and burn headcount without a smart, and reasoned, approach to moving forward.
In my experience as a chief marketer, I have often observed a tendency for organizations to suffer by relying too much on the past – to be locked into a modus operandi of doing business simply because it’s the “the way it has been” for years. So, how can we restore momentum and position our company to be more dynamic in its approach to changing market forces?
Let’s start with an example from a company I worked with. This B2B concern had an entire sales organization dedicated to subscription selling. The only problem is that they weren’t actually selling. Let me explain: The company had operated for years as a subscription business for individual users in professional services. Over time, the company was pressured to build enterprise-wide licenses, and to migrate highly profitable end users to these lower-margin enterprise solutions for larger client organizations while retaining direct end-user clients only from smaller organizations.
In making these product changes, the company did not take a step back and overhaul its full channel strategy to align with the new market needs and product set. It took significant effort to first convince executives and the sales team of the wisdom of realigning the model — assigning lower value account responsibility to marketing and then shifting sales to focus on higher-value enterprise sales.
When asked why it was so difficult to make the change, I heard two very telling explanations. First, the executives pointed out a problem with the quality of the sales organization — in particular, a belief that most of the current sales personnel would not be successful at the enterprise level. Second, they expressed fear about impacting commissions for the current sales organization --— which they previously admitted wasn’t the right long-term organization for enterprise selling in the first place! After much debate, the change was made, marketing took accountability for the low-value revenue stream, and sales restructured to focus on higher-value clients while adjusting the profile of the sales team accordingly.
In another example, the sales organization was rejecting marketing leads as unqualified. Upon analysis, it became clear that the leads were really not leads at all – they were just people who had taken a small online step in the sales process. A qualification step was needed before sales could be deployed effectively against the leads. A decision was made to bring an appointment-setting function onboard, managed by marketing. The outcome was a 148 percent increase in ROI on the investment. Adding the appointment-setting function to marketing allowed the sales team to focus on converting qualified leads.
Every situation has unique nuances. Your best approach is to state what you need from the combined investment in sales and marketing, and then to hold the heads of both functions accountable for a plan they can both support. It will require this type of nimble partnership between sales and marketing to outlast the challenges of the pandemic, outrun the competition out of the post-pandemic gate, and reclaim and grow appropriate market share.
In our next blog, we will look at a quantifiable way to implement a lead generation plan that both sales and marketing executives can own.