Is it marketing’s mission to make sales successful?

I started my career as a sales rep. I’ve always felt that it gave me solid grounding as a marketer to know what it’s like to make cold calls, handle objections, and interpret buying signals. It helped me understand who and what influences a buyer, who will advocate for your solution, and what marketing could do to make the sales team more successful. 

In fact, I think that’s where the relationship begins. 

CMOs need to build strong partnerships with their sales counterparts, and make it clear you’re focused on sales success. If sales isn’t successful, then marketing has failed as well. You’re in it together. 

I often ask CMOs what sales thinks of them and they usually say “they think we’re great!” But ask sales leaders their perception of marketing, and their response is often “they’re ok.” 

Pipeline is the universal language, and a shared responsibility 

Aligning with sales starts with speaking the same language. For sellers, that language revolves around the sales pipeline. Marketing leaders should understand and own pipeline as much as sales leaders, and know the role they play in creating and supporting it, whether generating new opportunities or helping progress them through the buying stages. 

If you take it further, marketers should be proactively creating pipeline 3 to 5X the revenue needed in any given quarter. Imagine a CMO saying to the sales leader “I see that our pipeline for the finance segment in Q3 looks shaky, so I’m going to increase our activities to see if we can improve it in the next 60 days.” 

Overall, meeting revenue and growth targets is a shared responsibility between marketing and sales. 

Will virtual sales become the new norm? 

Buyers aren’t waiting to be contacted by a sales rep to start their journey anymore, preferring to self-discover and self-educate. A recent McKinsey & Company Survey noted that 75% of B2B buyers prefer self-serve and remote engagement over in-person interactions. Of course the pandemic has only increased virtual face-to-face interaction. Based on ease of scheduling and savings on travel time and expense, 89% think the new go-to-market model may become the new norm. 

It will be a slow evolution back to face-to-face events and direct, in-person sales. Think of the critical role that marketing now plays in this virtual sales model. You need a solid digital engagement strategy to support virtual sales efforts. You need to be very visible during initial discovery stages to even be considered. And you must then engage buyers in your conversation. 

This is all marketing’s responsibility. And our opportunity. 

Dave Laverty

Dave is the former CMO of IBM Business Analytics, Cognos, Surebridge, and Lotus Americas. He’s tremendously skilled at driving marketing and sales alignment, marketing productivity, and creating a marketing organization that services sales.

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