Can you believe 2018 is right around the corner? It feels like the planning just ended for 2017. But now is the time for reflection on how those plans shook out, the successes that came from them, and the areas that could have been improved.
For any large organization this time of year is going to be a blur of analyzing, projecting, planning, and executing. By the time the new year rolls around, it will feel like it's time to take a deep breath, but in reality it'll be time to kick things off all over again.
Deciding where to focus your effort for the coming year can be hard. So many areas in the sales and marketing world are rapidly developing and new technologies are popping up every day. To attempt to cut through the noise, we at Seismic reached out to as many experts, practitioners, and analysts as we could and asked them a simple question: How are you positioning your sales and marketing teams for success in 2018?
The responses we received are illuminating. They reveal truths about how Sales and Marketing work together, how organizations should be allocating resources, and how to think about planning for the coming year.
The answers fell into a handful of categories that serve as important ways to think at a high level about your 2018 plans. Here are five of those approaches (30 in all) for improving your outlook for the coming year.
1. Embrace digital transformation
"Digital transformation" is a broad term that can apply to nearly anything. But that doesn't mean it's a useless term. It just needs to be applied correctly and thought about in a way that will result in a cohesive strategy.
Gerhard Gschwandtner, the CEO and editor-in-chief of Selling Power, told us that "companies must become digital transformation leaders. Better information and greater insights served in real time will drive better decisions. You have to own the disruption to avoid becoming irrelevant."
His point is salient: With so much technology entering the market at any given moment, it can be difficult task to stay up-to-date on what is necessary and what will fall to the wayside. But the organizations that do their due diligence to stay informed and strategic will have a serious advantage on the competition.
As Founder and President of Seismic Ed Calnan put it, "Embracing digital transformation enables [Sales and Marketing] to work more efficiently and, ultimately, win more deals—together."
2. Add value for your buyers
For any organization—successful ones, anyway—buyers are the most important part of the business. Determining their habits, pain points, and needs is paramount for providing them with solutions that actually solve their issues and make them happy customers.
But the experts we talked with brought up an interesting point: There's so much more you can be doing for your buyers to improve their buying experience.
James Carbary, founder at Sweet Fish Media, hit upon the idea of turning your buyers into thought leaders. "By adding real value, independent of your product or service, you'll be able to initiate genuine relationships that have a high likelihood of turning into revenue," he said. "Asking prospects to be a guest on your podcast or even highlighting them in an e-book are all great ways to add value first."
Thinking outside the box is a great way to foster a strong relationship between an organization and a buyer. Clearly, buyers want to solve the pressing issues at their job, but providing them with something special is important for showing you are interested in understanding them and building a relationship.
3. Improve Sales and Marketing alignment
Sales and Marketing alignment is a perennial topic of discussion. And for good reason. Businesses with the greatest degree of Sales and Marketing alignment grow faster, close 38% more deals, and lose 36% fewer customers than nonaligned counterparts, Align.me reports.
Sales and Marketing alignment should be a goal for any organization. When those two teams work together, they achieve better results.
Matt Heinz, president of Heinz Marketing, said the teams need to work toward the same goals to foster alignment: "Work from the same objectives and the same playbook. Ensure both Marketing and Sales are focused, measured, and rewarded based on sales, period. You can't buy a beer with an MQL."
And how do you get both teams to work from the same objectives? It's easy, said Nancy Nardin, founder of Smart Selling tools. You just have to get in the same room: "Go right now and schedule a joint meeting. Together, write down all the things that have to be aligned. Then prioritize and come up with an action plan with a timeline for completion. None of this is rocket science." She's right, it just takes commitment.
4. Lean into the 'enablement era'
The "enablement era" is all about making Marketing care about Sales' goals, and Sales care about Marketing's goals. To truly get the teams on the same page, both need to understand each other's priorities, activities, and goals—and then actively work together.
Only when that happens, on both sides of the aisle, can real alignment be achieved.
To embrace the enablement era, organizations can take a few steps. Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, suggests that Marketing create communications for Sales: "In 2018, Marketers should create specific communications just for the sales team.... you'll [then] see a big change in how Marketing works with Sales, and how Marketing can help get their valuable content to their customers."
Jill Guardia, executive director of sales enablement at Trinet, sees sales enablement as having the ability to transform an organization. "Sales enablement can transform an organization by improving Sales and Marketing alignment, heightening individual performances, and improving processes throughout the organization," she said. "Sales enablement is critical for both Sales and Marketing and will take those teams to the next level in 2018."
5. Take a deep breath and simplify
Here's a radical idea: Do more by doing less. There's a lot going on every day. It can quickly become overwhelming to think about how to do even more next year. There are only 24 hours in a day, and unless some great cosmic realignment is in the cards it's going to remain that way for the foreseeable future.
So, instead of just plowing straight ahead and adding more complexities to your organization's efforts, think about taking a step back. Evaluating all your current processes and initiatives can reveal areas where simplifying will subsequently result in greater productivity and results.
The new year is right around the corner, and soon it will be time to execute on all your planning. The work you do now will be reflected in the successes you achieve throughout the year in 2018.
Take the time to think strategically about your planning, and you will see real results.