Last week, I had the opportunity to speak at a dinner event with 20-plus senior marketers and business partners that InsideView sponsored.

Source: Pixabay Creative Commons CCO

We wanted to explore how well marketing and sales are facing up to new go-to-market (GTM) challenges associated with buyer behavior change in general, account-based marketing (ABM) specifically. To get the conversation going, Tracy Eiler, InsideView’s CMO, asked me to comment on the new and changing dynamics marketers and sellers face when strategizing over GTM. I thought you might like to read a synopsis of our little chat that we had before we dove into the main course:

  • How has ABM changed how marketing and sales go to market?

ABM sharpens marketing’s focus on cultivating in-market accounts, supporting deal close, and promoting account renewal and enrichment.

It’s causing marketing to shift from leads/MQLs to accounts as the focus of demand generation efforts. It’s shifting marketing’s role from primarily net-new acquisition to broader cultivation of customer relationships post-sale. It’s caused sales to be more involved in justifying account selection and sharing its research/understanding of accounts.

As their experience with ABM increases, marketing’s role will evolve from supplier of leads to supplier of insights. In turn, sales teams will learn to respect marketing data and analytics and master turning those insights into account-specific engagement — even when those insights don’t meet their gut instincts or expectations.

  • What barriers hinder marketers’ efforts to modernize their go-to-market strategies?

We see four key barriers: misalignment between marketing and sales, poor data availability and quality, lack of shared understanding about account strategy, and different cultural dynamics.

Barrier 1: Misalignment. In theory, marketing and sales should be the best of friends. Both drive revenue opportunities and success for the company and enjoy great incentives to keep customers satisfied and loyal. In practice, much gets in the way of making this partnership work well. While more than half of survey respondents say sales and marketing collaborate frequently at their company, the resulting teamwork isn’t helping to get the two organizations on the same page. Just 40% say marketing participates regularly in sales pipeline reviews, and only 30% believe marketing and sales goals are well aligned. Forty-two percent describe the way they report on pipeline or conduct pipeline reviews as weak or very weak.

Barrier 2: Poor data. In the digital age, data availability should make it easier to gain useful insights and learn which customers are our best, how they got that way, and which other firms represent similar potential. Instead, B2B firms struggle with dirty, unreliable data and end up second-guessing the analysis and reports that marketing puts in front of sales, and vice versa. Firmographic information only provides so much insight — to gain more, we see marketers turning to behavioral and real-time data to get an edge.

Barrier 3: No shared account intelligence. Data is critical to ABM success because it helps marketing and sales determine the market availability of certain types of accounts and, within that addressable market, which accounts to target. Without this shared understanding, marketing and sales will continue to second-guess each other.

Barrier 4: Divergent cultural dynamics. There’s been so much written here about the differences between marketing and sales metrics and incentives that repetition probably won’t point any new paths to change. Here’s where focusing data collection and management on improving marketing and sales performance — not simply proving it — will bring the two into better alignment. Targeting the “right” accounts, and then enjoying a higher win rate through focused effort, is one of the surest ways to end arguments and get both teams singing from the same songbook.

  • What best practices help to modernize the go-to-market strategy?

Here’s our shortlist:

1) Ensure that marketing, sales, and executive stakeholders practice good data management and respect the resulting analytics. Conversely, data/analytics teams must help sales and marketing make go-to-market, segmentation, and targeting decisions.

2) Use data/analytics to define your ideal customer profile and analyze the total available market associated with each segment/profile.

3) Talk to prospects and customers like people. Be ready with helpful information. Give something of value in those conversation to win the right to keep the dialogue going. This applies to both marketing and sales.

4) Stay focused on revenue alignment. Execs now hold marketing accountable for revenue outcomes: 82% of CMOs report that their goals are directly aligned to revenue targets. We also found 65% of B2B marketers report that they are measured by pipeline growth.

One practice I would avoid: getting hung up on technology as the “silver bullet” to GTM success. It never ceases to amaze me how companies worry over technology stacks but neglect data strategy. Much of this technology doesn’t deliver results without clean, complete data that represents both the universe of accounts potentially available AND the insights into how to implement the most effective marketing campaigns based on each account or segment.

  • How do you overcome fundamental differences to align your sales and marketing teams for success?

1) Face your organization’s history. If sales and marketing relationships have been less than ideal, expose the reason, name it, and fix it. Avoid introducing change on a shaky foundation. The key to success: Good old-fashioned communication and executive sponsors will get and keep these relationships working.

2) Reset your vocabulary. Normalize how marketing and sales refer to key concepts, and document it. This is more about upgrading your language from marketing-speak to business-speak. Stakeholders outside of marketing and sales don’t have their ears tuned to phrases such as “we need more leads” but rather to terms like “bookings,” “profit,” and “revenue.”

3) Overcommunicate your progress against goals. As new programs (such as ABM) get off the ground, it’s important to set qualitative and quantitative goals and overcommunicate progress against them. Whether the wins are sizable or modest, communication around collective milestones achieved — and the overall business impact of the program — will help secure more buy-in from stakeholders. As the metrics and revenues start to tell a positive story, teams will increase their level of trust in one another and collaborate more fully.

4) Clarify roles and responsibilities. Shifting buyer demands are changing how marketing and sales work together. Traditional alignment around leads and accounts no longer engages buyers or creates differentiated customer experiences. Marketing and sales team members are breaking new ground, making it critical to document responsibilities and to make team members accountable for a coordinated approach to the customer.

5) Be transparent about your assumptions on models such as TAM, ICP, and propensity-to-buy. Rather than make data and analytics “too scientific” or unapproachable, ensure that all stakeholders understand the “formulas” that support your GTM initiatives.

  • Do you think the CMO should set the go-to-market direction for the company?

Aspirationally, yes! In practice, not many are there yet. I talk about this more with Tracy Eiler, InsideView’s CMO, in this prior post. Check it out if you want to know more.