by David Kirkpatrick
, Senior Reporter
Getting Marketing aligned with the entire enterprise, especially Sales, should be a goal for any B2B marketer. At the same time, that goal can be challenging.
Carousel Industries, a communications technology company, faced many of the roadblocks to alignment shared across all business sectors. It was rapidly growing, adding 500 people in the last 18 months, had regional offices across the United States, and had around 170 inside and outside sales reps supported by Marketing.
Kelly Harman, Vice President of Marketing, Carousel Industries, originally came from a sales background, so she entered the marketing world understanding the issues and pain points of both company divisions.
"I wanted to make sure that we would do things that would align with what [Sales] needed, and that we built value with them," she explained.
She added, "Marketing doesn’t just start with creating leads and having trade shows and doing direct marketing. Your job is to make the salespeople as successful as possible. And, to do that, you have to figure out ways to shorten the sales cycle whenever you can, to generate more qualified leads, to nurture the ones that aren’t, and then give the salespeople tools they need to do their job."
With those goals in mind, Harman provided eight tactics that improved alignment at Carousel. She will also present these tactics at the upcoming MarketingSherpa B2B Summit 2012, August 27-30, in Orlando.
Tactic #1. Create an internal resource for Sales
Harman said, "One of the things I saw out in the field was that (for) the salespeople, particularly when you sell technology, it’s hard to stay on top of all the information that you need to have at your fingertips at any given time."
The solution was to create an internal blog with a free content management system available only through the virtual private network (VPN).
The internal blog, called "The Sales Insider," provided materials and links to download for all the marketing collateral that Sales needed to perform its job.
"It was sort of like a mini intranet just for the salespeople," stated Harman. "And it’s really saved them a tremendous amount of time."
Tactic #2. Have marketing team members go on actual sales calls
After becoming the VP of marketing at Carousel, Harman began having all of her staff go on sales calls with the sales representatives.
She said this provides a number of insights for the marketing team:
- How Sales is using the marketing tools
- How Sales is positioning the company
- Whether sales reps are actually using marketing’s tools and branding, or have created their own
- Help in understanding the problems customers face
"I am always surprised in the number of people who are in marketing but have never actually been out on a sales call," Harman said.
She added that a marketer on a sales call might discover the sales rep does not use the "42-page PowerPoint presentation that Marketing painstakingly created for them."
That marketer could also hear the sales rep asking questions about the customer’s pain points or other issues that never previously occurred to Marketing.
Another learning might be seeing what marketing tools the sales rep uses, and how those tools are used. Essentially, Marketing can learn what tools sales reps like best and which ones they ignore.
Possibly the most important benefit of these "field trips" is allowing Marketing to gain credibility with Sales.
"You are saying, ‘Look, I am willing to walk your walk, let me just learn from you,’ and [sales reps] appreciate that," explained Harman.
She continued, "A good salesperson can provide a tremendous amount of insight to a marketer. One of your most wealthy sources of information is the salesperson who goes on the street every day."
Harman provided two aspects of how frequent these sales call visits should occur.
Every marketing team member should go on a call at least once a quarter, and they should also go on sales call at each phase of the sales cycle: introduction, demonstration, closing, etc.
Harman said, "There is more than one type of meeting a salesperson goes on, and the marketer should be aware of all those different types.
Tactic #3. Provide internal content in different formats
In Carousel’s case, the major alternative formats were video and podcasts.
"We have salespeople of all different ages and different generations, and they all learn and absorb information differently," stated Harman.
Along with providing new marketing material through documents, and making announcements via email, the marketing team began creating videos featuring interviews with subject matter experts to let the sales team know what was important about the message.
Harman explained when the company would roll out a new product or service, she would interview the person in charge of that new product or service and ask them various sales-oriented questions:
- Who is the target audience?
- What question should I ask the prospect?
- What pain points should I look for?
These videos are placed on "The Sales Insider" internal blog. There, the sales team can choose to read about the new product or service in the marketing document, or just watch the video to receive the same message and information.
Podcasts are also produced so the sales team can just download the audio for the marketing announcement and new product or service information.
Tactic #4. Create a proposal library
Carousel’s sales team was about 170 people spread in offices around the U.S. Because of this, Harman said, "They are all recreating the wheel constantly."
To combat this, Marketing created an online library of RFP (request for proposal) standard questions along with standard responses.
"We are creating a variety of RFPs that are written around our capabilities that the sales reps can give to their customers as the template they will use to issue their RFP," stated Harman.
This library is downloadable by the sales team. Marketing also created a Microsoft Word document with some programming built in where a sales rep can plug in questions and answers to build their own proposals.
Harman said this is a win-win situation that accomplishes two goals:
- Ensures Marketing that the branding and messaging is correct
- Saves Sales an "incredible" amount of time
Tactic #5. Get Sales involved with social media
Carousel’s blog is active with three to five posts each week. Harman said every salesperson subscribes to the blog to get every update and keep up with the content the marketing team is producing.
The sales team is also instructed to send links to blog posts instead of sending the marketing content to prospects so those people will begin engaging with the website and possibly subscribe to the blog for more information.
Harman also offered social media training for the sales team on how to do prospecting and lead generation on LinkedIn, as well as basics courses on the differences between blogs, wikis, websites and social media platforms.
She said, "I thought if three people show up, it will be great. I think I had 45 people on that call."
Tactic #6. Break down regional sales silos
Harman said Carousel does not have a formal service-level agreement (SLA) between Marketing and Sales to align the company departments, but it does have an advisory council that meets every quarter via video or conference call, and includes two salespeople from every region.
The purpose of these meetings is to gain insight on a variety of topics, such as:
- What’s working, what’s not working?
- How did the latest events go?
- What can Marketing do to improve your job?
- What are the latest industry trends?
The marketing team also created a calendar for the entire company showing everything each sales office is doing to provide more visibility across Carousel.
Harman provided an example: If the D.C. office was planning an executive roundtable, that sales team could go to the calendar to find out if the Boston office had recently hosted a similar event, and make calls to learn how that roundtable went and gain insight on creating a successful event in their regional office.
Tactic #7. Make Marketing transparent to the entire company
Similar to "The Sales Insider" blog, Marketing also created an "insider" venue on the VPN to report on the metrics of every marketing campaign, including events, trade shows and webinars.
These metrics show the entire company how many people register, how many actually attended and how many opportunities were tagged through each particular lead generation program.
"Anyone in the company can go to that and see all that programs that Marketing is doing right now, and here are the results," said Harman. "I think it gives my team a lot of accountability because it’s scary. It’s not just your marketing team seeing the results. Everyone in the company does."
She added this transparency has made Marketing more engaged with the entire company.
"I will get calls from people in different departments with recommendations," explained Harman. "Somebody in the customer service department, or somebody in the warehouse, will call and say, ‘You know, [I was] on our website and I saw [this issue]. What do you think if we did this instead?’"
The result of being transparent is everyone in the company feels like they are part of the marketing effort, said Harman.
Tactic #8. Foster alignment with the IT department
A lot of attention is paid to aligning Marketing and Sales, but in this age of digital marketing, it is important for the marketing department to also have a relationship with information technology (IT).
"There will be things that I do, like stream videos," said Harman. "I have to let [IT] know in advance; otherwise, it’s going to affect the network. All the tools we use [in] marketing are IT-related now.
She adds that in internal communications at Carousel, Harman helps to promote the IT department and how they improve the company such as by facilitating video conferencing.
These tactics were initially put into place in January 2011. Getting Marketing and Sales in alignment has improved the internal relationship between company divisions and even helped break down regional silos in the sales department.
These internal improvements are occurring alongside a successful and improving content and social marketing strategy at Carousel through the external corporate blog.
Over the first two quarters of 2012:
Kelly Harman will be presenting these Marketing/Sales alignment tactics at the MarketingSherpa B2B Summit 2012, August 27-30 in Orlando.
- The blog received 14,236 unique visitors (up 240%)
- 83% of blog visitors were newly introduced to Carousel
- The corporate blog referred 817 new visitors to corporate website
- Organic Referrals are up 297%
Related ResourcesFostering Sales-Marketing Alignment: A 5-Step Lead Management ProcessGetting Sales and Marketing into the Same Room: Marketing automation implementation spurs successful integration processSales-Marketing Alignment: What B2B marketers can learn from a one-person team that drove a 10% product demo conversionHow ECI Telecom Discovered the Surefire Sign that Sales and Marketing Are AlignedLead Generation: How 64% of marketers starve Sales of opportunityBridging the Gap: 5 Objectives for Improving Relations between Sales and Marketing (Part 1)Bridging the Gap: 5 Objectives for Improving Relations between Sales and Marketing (Part 2)