According to John Kotter, author of Buy-In, “70% of all organizational change efforts fail, and one reason for this is executives simply don’t get enough buy-in, from enough people, for their initiatives and ideas.” As a marketer in any size organization, your success is dependent on how well you can create buy-in for your ideas. And at a time when CMOs are the first person to get fired when growth targets aren’t met, it’s more important than ever.
But creating buy-in isn’t always easy. Especially when you throw into the mix different personalities, priorities and perspectives. If you want to be effective at selling in your ideas, it’s important to be open to receiving input and observations from others, then be willing to evolve your idea to create something that works for everyone.
B2B Marketers must align with the sales organization
Whether you are creating a new marketing campaign, introducing a new product idea, or recommending a fresh approach to creating content, you must get Sales aligned with your program if you want to see results.
With that in mind, I asked seasoned B2B marketers for their advice on how they create buy-in from the sales team — here’s a summary of what they said.
- Understand the Sales role
“Good marketing should always be focused on selling products or services or at least making the selling process easier and more efficient.” says John Bosserman. But to truly appreciate how to make the sales process easier, you need to first grasp how sales assists customers in making decisions. There are a ton of great books out there on this – SPIN Selling, Strategic Selling and The Challenger Sale are all good ones. Your organization may even have their own sales methodology or process.So, ask to attend the next internal sales training. You’d be surprised to learn how marketing can play a role in making every step of the sales journey more effective.
- What’s in it for Sales?
Once you understand the sales role, you can more effectively outline how your new marketing initiative will benefit them. This is especially critical if you are asking the Sales team to do something different (such as track more customer information).Possible benefits to sales could include:
- Prepping the prospect to be more likely to buy the product they’re selling
- Generating qualified leads
- Helping to increase sales closing ratios
- Helping to increase average value of each sale
- Helping salesperson up-sell into an existing account
- Improving efficiencies for servicing the account
- Diminishing competitors’ advantages
- Making them feel good about what they’re doing
- Find out what Sales needs
It’s important to be in touch with what your sales team needs to win more business. Without this knowledge, you will be producing “content” that will never get used by the sales team.So, how often do you talk to your sales team? Sit down with them to understand their pain, barriers and challenges. “Find out how they qualify prospects to determine who to spend their precious time on. Ask what kinds of questions and objections they get from prospects who are on the fence or not yet ready to buy.” says Raj Khera.Sometimes it’s all about how you word the questions. Seeking advice and council from someone, for example, is a proven way to not only gain trust, but also leads to better solutions.
If you’re stuck on what to ask the sales team, I’ve covered this in more detail in a previous article, Advice for Marketers: Talk to your sales team.
- Be a sales person for a day
Do you really understand the role of the salesperson and how hard it is to close business? It’s easy to sit back in the corporate office and tell sales what they “should” be doing or saying, but unless you’ve actually sold to a real customer – your opinion isn’t taken seriously. So shadow a sales person for a week or even longer, if possible to find out their challenges and concerns firsthand. “Heck if you can even take the challenge of closing an actual sale from prospecting to closure you’ll definitely gain the respect of your sales team.” says Victor Chin.
- Include Sales in your planning process
We conducted a survey last year amongst B2B marketing and sales professionals and found that 42% of salespeople said they have never been asked by marketing for their input! While it may not be feasible to talk to everyone in your sales org, a silo’d approach to marketing will never produce the best results. Consider starting a Sales advisory board to collect input and feedback for all new content creation, campaign ideas and new product designs.And don’t forget to ask sales for their involvement in course corrections. Frequently, you will discover new insights once sales has a chance to test your message (and content) with their customers.
- Don’t forget about Internal marketing
So much time goes into producing customer-facing marketing content and campaigns, that you may forget about your efforts to align internal resources. But without a consistent internal message, your customer-facing teams may be confused about where to focus their time and energy. “Employees are unified and inspired by a common sense of purpose and identity,” says Colin Mitchell in HBR’s Selling the Brand Inside.Your marketing ideas and initiatives need to stay top of mind for the sales team. “Always think of a creative way to market your initiative internally, even if it is just a program name that sticks to get sales bought in.” says Nicky Zaayman.
- Provide frequent updates
The best way to keep up the momentum with your initiative is to be proactive and communicate what’s happening throughout the sales organization. Share both good and bad results, what’s working (or not), and agreed upon next steps. If you don’t provide updates, your initiative will quickly be forgotten (and de-prioritized).
While Marketing & sales alignment continues to be an ongoing challenge, follow this advice and you should be well on your way to creating marketing programs and content that your sales team wants and will naturally support.