Ian Altman is a bestselling author, strategic adviser, and sought-after speaker. After two decades as a services and technology CEO, he now helps clients grow their businesses, drawing on his years of experience and research into how customers make decisions.

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The methods he used to grow his own billion-dollar business have helped his clients to sometimes more than double their own businesses. His weekly articles appear on Inc.com and Forbes.com, and heis also the host of a weekly podcast, the Grow My Revenue Business Cast.

I invited Ian to Marketing Smarts to discuss sales and marketing alignment after seeing the workshop he presented with Marcus Sheridan at the 2017 MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum.

And since 2018's only just begun, I also wanted to get some insight into the trends he thinks will dominate this new year, as his annual business trends article is always popular (and accurate). 

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

For 2018, artificial intelligence will drive customer experience (03:22): "We often think of artificial intelligence as something that dehumanizes, so we think about robocallers and things like that, and a lot of that is really just primitive marketing automation. Instead, if we think of artificial intelligence as 'how can we automate otherwise redundant tasks,' then we can really create a better customer experience by using these technologies."

People are favoring live interactions over social media (05:47): "An event like the B2B Marketing Forum...live interactions are being favored over social media. A couple of years ago, the big buzz was, 'Well, with social media and with virtual reality and augmented reality, are people not going to attend live events?' Well, the reality is that of course they're going to attend live events. In fact, people now connect with people on social media, and when they get together in person it's a much richer experience than they've had in the past because they feel like they already know this person, but they've never connected in person."

Bringing Sales and Marketing into alignment takes a mindset shift (15:56): "What happens today is that, oftentimes, Marketing and Sales may be under the same executive, but they usually operate in isolation from one another. So Marketing looks at it as, 'Well, our job is to create awareness and drive people to the company, and we measure it based on number of views and number of clicks and number of people who fill out forms.' And then we have the salespeople, and salespeople are hopefully measured by revenue and how much sales they make. What that means is, if marketing brought in a thousand new opportunities, and their goal was to bring in 500 new opportunities, they would all be high-fiving...but if sales doesn't convert those to revenue, then all we've done is doubled the number of pursuits we have without results.

"So, instead, what we want to look at is how can we more narrowly target the right audience and make it so that we're getting input from salespeople to shape [our] marketing, we're getting input from mMarketing to know which resources salespeople can use to have better engagement with clients, and how do we build confidence and comfort with our clients in a shorter time frame. If that's the common vision that we have, then Sales and Marketing become easy to align because everyone's measured the same way and everyone has shared goals."

You can't align Sales and Marketing if your marketers and salespeople never talk (19:00): "If you're having Marketing meetings and you don't have a representative from Sales, you're at a huge disadvantage. Similarly, if you're having Sales meetings every week and no one from Marketing is listening in on these meetings...you're at a huge disadvantage.

"Marketing should be listening to the struggles that Sales is facing and say, 'Hey, you know what, we have content that can fix that! We can help your client understand this piece with a marketing component....' Oftentimes, organizations will spend a fortune training salespeople on how to deliver a message [when] Marketing could create a video so that you don't ever have to rely on somebody creating the message properly ever again. Just play the video, and then your sales meetings become more a function of 'What's going on with this opportunity? Why would the client not buy from us? What would they buy from us? What do they need to see so they're comfortable working with us instead of somebody else?"

To learn more, visit IanAltman.com or follow Ian on Twitter @IanAltman, and pick up a copy of Same Side Selling: A Radical Approach to Break Through Sales Barriers to learn more about what we discussed on the podcast.

Ian and I talked about much more, including how often your marketing and sales teams need to get together, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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