The interview covers:
- Sales and marketing alignment best practice for B2B tech companies – how to ensure a clear flow of information between the two teams.
- Powerful, practical advice to improve alignment in B2B companies:
- Run better meetings between sales and marketing teams
- Involve the Head of Sales in marketing campaigns and the CMO in sales
- Find a common method to incentivise sales and marketing, such as revenue
- How to use company revenue goals, mission and culture to overcome the ‘us vs. them’ mentality between sales and marketing
- How to use the overall revenue target to mitigate the possibility of territorialism or land-grabbing
Hi Kartik, thanks for taking some time to have a chat with us! Firstly, could you tell us more about your past experience & about your current role?
Thanks for having me! Sure – I’d say I’m quite a rare breed in that I’m a marketer who never trained as one, and began their career in sales.
I was effectively an account manager for AdWords clients (before it was rebranded as Google Ads) right at the start of my career. Selling a marketing product back when it was still at the cutting edge of marketing was an eye-opening experience.
The other thing that marks me out is my penchant for numbers – I studied Chemistry and Physics as an undergraduate, after all. Really the one thing I don’t have so much of is pure marketing nous, but I like to think I make up for that with a hunger to learn new tools and processes.
After Google I did an MBA at Cambridge and then went to work at Onfido, initially as Head of Online Marketing and then as a Head of Demand Generation. Next, I spent two years at Founders Factory, where I coached and ran the campaigns of startups with either no marketing and/or no sales.
Now I’m Head of Growth at the equity management platform Capdesk, where aligning sales and marketing is one of my key focuses.
FINITE: That sounds like an interesting journey. Given your experience, what does ‘good’ marketing & sales alignment look like for you?
Good sales and marketing alignment is the clear and meaningful flow of information between the two teams. It gives the sales team a high-level awareness of what marketing is up to, as well as the why and how behind their activities. On the flip side, marketing is prioritising and refining their activities based on feedback from the sales team.
Here’s an example of alignment in action: the sales team says they’re struggling to win customers who are in a particular geography or industry. In response, the marketing team proposes a new positioning that works for that segment and delivers some new collateral. The sales team then uses it and finds it also works with another segment that marketing hadn’t prioritised so far, shares this observation and thus opens up a new market opportunity for the business.
In a meeting at Capdesk last week, I knew we’d achieved some of this when an SDR found some ‘HubSpot gold’ in the form of an old campaign that had yielded some interesting conversations – which we then decided to reignite.
FINITE: If you were asked to focus on improving sales & marketing alignment in a B2B tech company, what would be the key, practical steps you would take?
I’d share three powerful tips that build on top of one another:
- Better meetings between the two teams. These alignment meetings have to generate new insights for the other and not just be basic ‘here’s what I did’ kind of reporting – that’s what sales pipeline and marketing meetings are for. At my previous company, and at Capdesk, I run a short, sharp 30-minute meeting weekly, where the sales guys spend a couple of minutes each talking about notable conversations they had this week, and marketing talks about what they’ve learnt from their campaigns and new things they’re planning to try.
- Nothing changes processes more effectively than a Head of Sales who suggests new marketing campaigns and is keen to get involved with distributing it, or a CMO who’s keen to watch a salesperson do a demo and learn and provide feedback. And if the whole C-suite feels the same way? All the better.
- The C-suite will get interested if everything is tied back to revenue. Sales teams are typically incentivised by revenue targets but if marketing teams can be too (taking care to leave no one behind) then the conversation will naturally move towards what works in the interest of the company’s revenue targets.
FINITE: What’s the biggest challenge that you have come across so far when looking to align sales & marketing teams? How did you overcome it?
The main challenge tends to be avoiding an ‘us vs them’ mentality. Too often, the prevailing sense is that marketing does its own thing and doesn’t understand the pressure sales is under to meet targets, or that sales guys don’t understand the product properly, and make wild promises in order to close deals.
But by using the three tips above, you can get to a point where the two teams understand each other’s goals and spot the synergy between them. When you’re incentivised by revenue targets, then all apathy will quickly melt away.
Even where incentivising the marketing team with revenue seems too far a stretch, the company’s values, culture and mission should get you some of the way there. I’m fortunate to have spent the last 5+ years working in companies where it was not just about making money but delivering some meaningful service, and that was a really powerful way of bringing teams together.
FINITE: Do you think COVID-19 has forced sales & marketing teams to come together in B2B tech companies?
Absolutely – when resources are constrained, you have to work more collaboratively than ever. Gone are the days of wasteful and luxurious ‘I have a hunch’ or ‘this sounds like it will be fun for me’ kind of projects. The focus now has to be on surviving the downturn.
I’m willing to bet good money that the vast majority of companies that come out of 2020 thriving will have done so on the back of having cohesive teams that are aligned around a mission, who have explicitly tested and iterated their way through these turbulent times.
FINITE: We are seeing an increase in the uptake of a rev ops/CRO roles, do you see this as being beneficial for B2B tech companies?
In almost every situation, yes. Large businesses thatneed (or can afford) teams that focus purely on brand-building or customer satisfaction, without any push for revenue, are the exception. For almost all startups and SMEs, having a collective focus on revenue can only be a good thing.
The challenge? Finding legitimate ways to attribute revenue back to the various teams or individuals, without causing territorialism or land-grabbing. You want to avoid a sales team cornering areas of the market that are proven cash cows and becoming unwilling to try and sell to other types of leads. Nor do you want your content team feeling left out because they’re creating content that can’t be tied to revenue impact.
A relatively easy way to mitigate this is to make it about the overall revenue targets – if the company grows its revenue to some threshold or % increase, we all share in that win. Keep transparency and alignment at the forefront of the conversation, however, just in case the company doesn’t meet targets and people’s bonuses take the hit.
Keen to learn more about sales & marketing alignment for B2B tech companies? Head here for our ‘Sales & marketing alignment for B2B tech marketers’ online discussion recording featuring x2 senior sales leaders and x2 senior marketing leaders dive into the nitty gritty of sales & marketing alignment.