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An Open Letter to B2B Sales

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Dear B2B salespeople,

I am a B2B marketer and, for some time, have felt compelled to write to all of you about the often discussed yet never solved marketing and sales alignment gap. In no way is the intent of my letter to cast aspersions upon you or point the finger for the gap that exists between us. This letter is meant to serve as an apology to all of you on behalf of all of us B2B marketers (and since I am writing on behalf of all B2B marketers, I will speak as the collective “we”).

We hope this letter is accepted with the sincerity in which it was written. We hope it can be the start of something transformational between marketing and sales. We truly believe that to adapt to the changing B2B buyer, we must work together in a collaborative fashion and that, in doing so, we will deliver incredible value to our customers and increase our companies’ revenue exponentially.

We know that we have a rocky past, but we are committed to a healthy future together. To get there, we vow that we will build our relationship in the future by doing the following:

We Will Listen


As marketers, we’re aware of our tendency to talk. We are full of good ideas, and we are aware of our ability to make things look pretty. We are also aware of our aptitude for pulling numbers and putting them in PowerPoint presentations to show how successful our marketing campaigns have been. However, we have also come to realize that we are really bad at listening. Sure, we know that every once in a while we send an email asking for sales input, but in reality, we haven’t given your responses  much consideration. Starting now, that will change. We will continually involve you in our work. We want to know what you need from marketing to be successful. We want to know what you mean when you use the word “lead” so that we can deliver quality ones to you. And not only will we listen, but we’ll translate that listening into action.

We Will Work With You to Deliver a Process-Based Lead-Management Approach


We know that in the past we have taken a very “top of the funnel” (i.e. lead generation) approach to our marketing. We know that when “leads” came into the funnel, all we did was dump them on you, so you could follow up and sell. We then went back to our PowerPoint presentations, so we could tell management about all the leads we generated.

But now, in listening to you, we have realized that what we generated were not really “leads.” They were more like “responses.” To correct this, we promise to develop, in collaboration with you, a lead-management approach so that you receive only the best quality leads. This process will ensure that all leads are managed through the buying process. By marketing this way, we hope to help you increase the conversion rates on the leads you will receive, which will ultimately increase your sales numbers.

In addition, as part of this process, we will work to ensure the integrity of our marketing and sales data. We will ask you to help us plan our quota (i.e. the amount of revenue for which marketing will be responsible, and the number of leads it will take to get there). We will ask you to help us build a lead-qualification framework. We will ask for your help in developing nurture strategies that help push deals through the pipeline in a more timely fashion. We need your help to build this lead-management framework effectively.

We Will Become Coin-Operated


We confess that when we are in our marketing meetings, we often talk about sales being “coin-operated” as if it’s some kind of disease.  We understand that coin-operated (i.e. having a revenue creation mindset) is a healthy way to look at our business. Please forgive us for the derision. Going forward, you can consider us coin-operated marketers. We will look at our marketing success in terms of the number of leads you accept from us and how many of those leads contribute to revenue. We will deliver reports that show the revenue we have helped create through our campaigns. We look forward to helping you create more revenue for our company. We will need your help in this area as we are not accustomed to working this way. As part of our commitment, we will make our marketers compensation tied to revenue, just like you. In doing so we will share the burden with you and be more aligned towards a common goal.

We Will Market by the Numbers


We will no longer market by activity-driven pressures. We will not attend events, send emails, buy online ads or run social campaigns simply because it is “what we have always done” or because “we have money in the budget to do so.” Instead, we will measure our campaigns based on their contribution to revenue. We will then continue to run those campaigns which contribute to revenue, and do away with those that do not. We will use business intelligence that we derive from both marketing and sales metrics to help us plan for the future. (We’ll need you to share your metrics with us.)

We Will Be Accountable and View You as Our Customer


We will no longer point the finger at sales, blaming you for “not getting it” or suggesting that more diligent follow up on leads by you will solve our problems. We will be open with you, sharing our failures. We will learn from them and seek to improve. We will also share our successes with you. Together, we’ll show management how we’ve created more revenue for our organizations. We won’t hide behind insignificant data such as “opens” and “clicks.” We’ll focus on numbers such as lead to sale conversions and marketing pipeline contribution.  Based on metrics from the past, we’ll commit to goals and objectives and do our best to meet them. You have a quota, and now, we’ll have one as well. We’ll ask you for continued feedback and input.

We hope you can see our earnestness in what we’ve written here, and that, together, we can begin anew. Our prospects and customers are tired of us bickering and pointing the finger at each other. They want us to deliver value, provide relevant content, and address their pressing needs. I’m confident we can do so together.

We look forward to a long lasting and fruitful relationship!

Sincerely,
B2B marketers everywhere


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Carlos Hidalgo is CEO of The Annuitas Group the leader in the development of marketing & sales lead management processes. He is a frequent speaker on the topic of lead management process, demand generation and marketing automation and is passionate about helping their clients improve the return on their marketing and sales investments.

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Comments

  • by Ruth Henry Mon Nov 8, 2010 via blog

    Wow that is a long letter, from someone who has worked in sales for a long time and now in marketing I find your tone both patronising and sincere I am so confused. It's like your condescending but your not...you have to teach me how to do that...it is surely an art form.

  • by Dan Callahan Mon Nov 8, 2010 via blog

    Good article Carlos. One small edit: I believe you want to say "casting aspersions" http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/cast+aspersions+on

    Marketers definitely need to be able to draw a straight line between their activities and revenues. On the other side, I have seen salespeople shy away from following up on leads, apparently to avoid having someone "look over their shoulder". That kind of behavior can't be corrected by mandate. Instead, I'd recommend seeking out a few salespeople and working closely with them. Find out how the lead generation process can be tweaked so it's most useful for them. Observe how they use the leads and learn what can be improved in qualifying leads. Help them celebrate their success. Nothing works to change behavior than the opportunity to succeed.

    Dan

  • by Carlos Hidalgo Mon Nov 8, 2010 via blog

    Ruth:

    Not condescending or patronizing whatsoever in this post. I work daily with B2B marketers who need to overcome many challenges to align with sales and some of those challenges are their own thoughts to the working relationship that currently exists. I am fully aware that sales must reciprocate, but I find that when marketers adjust their mindset, sales is much more eager and willing to work with marketing.

  • by Veronica Maria Jarski Mon Nov 8, 2010 via blog

    Dan:

    Good catch! "Casting aspersions" indeed! I thought it was "casting dispersions" all this time and checked it out. (http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-cas2.htm)

    Editors always are learning!

  • by Gary Muddyman Tue Nov 9, 2010 via blog

    Great post, Carlos. As a business owner and managing director, I witness the friction between sales and marketing often. Like all successful relationships, I think the friction has to exist and that friction delivers superior results - but only when it is constructive. You have made some great suggestions and I think this letter would make a great start to a sales and marketing meeting in offices the world over!

    I think marketers will always have to produce some work that doesn't deliver leads directly into the laps of salespeople. Much of what our marketing team is doing in terms of social media has yet to lead to hard conversions, but I wouldn't stop them doing it for the world. By the same token, many of the leads coming through our PPC campaigns were simply a waste of the sales team's time.

    What you advocate here is a strong working relationship that rests on mutual respect. You can't beat that!

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