Jeff Davis is the founder of JD2 Consulting Group. He’s a famous podcast host (The Alignment Podcast), interviewing many C-suite leaders, executives, and analysts from the B2B domain. Apart from this, he’s authored a book titled ‘Creating Togetherness,’ solely focusing on the pathway to align sales and marketing processes and empower B2B sales and marketing leaders to have a unified thinking.
Expert Diaries from Zoho Campaigns connects avid email marketers to the experts in this space, and help them learn some best practices and tips. Our aim is to connect email geeks and form a community that learns email marketing from one another.
Our third podcast featuring Jeff, focuses more on how to align sales and marketing processes in your organization to grow contacts and bring in new customers for your business.
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Aishwarya: From time immemorial, marketing and sales teams equally contribute to a company’s success, and more precisely, in building the target audience for the brand. From finding the best leads, to nurturing and converting them—marketers and sales reps have a fair share. While we know the facts, how about getting to know some hands-on experiences of aligning sales and marketing efforts for generating more customers, better revenue, and unified performances? Welcome to Zoho Campaigns Expert Diaries! I’m Aishwarya, your host, and today, we have Jeff Davis, founder of JD2 Consulting Group. Jeff is a renowned speaker, author, and also hosts a podcast, titled ‘The Alignment Podcast.’
Jeff: It’s such a pleasure being on the show! Thank you for the invitation.
Aishwarya: Let’s dive deep into the discussion on how sales and marketing can together help in generating and managing leads. Here’s the first question:
Why does it continue to be challenging at most companies to get the sales and marketing teams to work together in better alignment?
Jeff: Yeah, so this is an issue that most B2B companies are still struggling with, and a lot of it really comes because the sales and marketing teams just don’t really understand how to best leverage each other. Sales and marketing has historically operated in silos for a number of different reasons which I actually address in my new book called “Create Togetherness.” But, more than ever, we have to understand that the buyer and seller relationship has changed.
Due to digital disruption they are empowered with access to more information, technology resources, people than ever before, and so sales and marketing really struggle because we just have we’re not used to working together in sync. And so, the more that leaders on the sales side of the house and the marketing side of the house can learn how to leverage their partnerships and really understand where they can work together to orchestrate a really-compelling and easy and seamless buying experience for the modern buyer, that will be the way that we move forward in a more aligned way.
Aishwarya: That was a great point, Jeff! Marketing and sales teams have forever been standalone teams, and they’ve not been used to really combining their efforts together. And yeah, as you stated, today’s buyers are more informed, and I think it’s high time that these teams together create the unified experiences for these buyers in order to get them back on the track and lead them a unified way.
Jeff: Yeah, absolutely! And one of the things we have to think about is that you know B2B really is becoming more likely to see, typically if not five to ten years ahead of us, when we think about innovation and that’s what I think. But, we’re starting to all have these amazing buying experiences outside of the office, so whether in the Amazon, Apple, Netflix—they’re making things really easy and they’re making things personalized. So when we come to the office in the workplace, and we are faced with a challenging buying experience that has unnecessary hurdles, or is unnecessarily cumbersome, we’re getting really frustrated. And, today’s modern buyer and the B2B side of the house is just saying, “No more! I’m not going to do this, and if you can’t make this easy for me and really help guide me towards finding a solution that works for me, I’m just not gonna reward you with my business.”
Aishwarya: Yes, I think innovation is making buyer experiences more personalized and automated. And this explanation of yours clearly showed why B2B leaders need to take this alignment of marketing and sales as a priority now, because down the line we’re going to have more and more innovations which means we should be prepared for the road right from now.
Jeff: Yeah, you hit the nail on the head! And, the reality of things now —we are in the middle of a disruptive shift in the way business is done in B2B, and most companies in an opportunity where they’re playing offense right now. But, as you say, it is more technology comes out to the marketplace on the marketing side and the sales side of the house, it will become more and more challenging in order to catch up with your competitors.
Aberdeen Group has some really compelling research that shows on a lot of the key metrics that we are concerned about, obviously generating revenue year-over-year, the the sales reps’ ability to meet quota, the sales acceptance of leads from marketing all those metrics, etc. are shown, if the year-over-year growth much more than their competitors with companies that are not aligned. And more than that, what we’re finding is that, if you have two companies that are operating in the same space, then the company that understands how to align sales and marketing is at a strategic advantage, by far, sometimes even four times as much. And the reality of things is aligning sales and marketing doesn’t happen overnight—it’s a process, it’s a journey, and if you’re able to achieve that, it’s something that you uniquely have, that for other competitors it’ll take time for them to catch up to you.
Aishwarya: Totally agree with that! As you said, it’s a journey, and it’s high time marketers and sales people need to invest in that journey and progress in the journey.
Jeff: Yeah, I totally agree!
Emails are definitely one of the effective channels of communication, trusted by both marketers and sales professionals. Similarly, cold-calling is another technique to connect with prospects and customers, most often used by the sales people. In your opinion, which gives better outreach and engagement results?
Jeff: Well, I think that it all depends on who your target audience is. I’m very careful when people ask me what’s the most effective method to use—email, cold calling or event. I have the opportunity to work across all the industries, and it depends on when I’m working with. For some of the industrial products in manufacturing and trucking logistics still, their most-effective venue is going to events. So like I said again, it depends on your target audience, but more than anything, what I’ve seen across all channels, across all industries, is that marketing can do a better job at setting sales up for success. And, what I mean by that is really you know giving sales the data and the insights they need to start really-compelling conversations with buyers, and not just talk about superficial features and benefits.
Marketing naturally looks at the macro level, the issues that are going on in the market, and has the ability to really dig into some of these accounts, and what really they can do to change the conversation and help salespeople really sell in a modern way, is to give them deep insight so that when they do reach out, they’re not just asking, “how can I help you,” but they’re also in proactive and saying, “people that look like you shouldn’t have these issues, and this is what we found that works, and let me show you how to get there.” That is a really a game changer when it comes to really selling in the modern B2B marketplace.
Aishwarya: Yes, I think different channels work at specific timings, and you know this this quote that says “Be present where your audience is,” so I think that is important. Be it email or cold call, I think wherever the audience is, the main focus should be building compelling conversations as you stated, and trying to help people out there in whatever channel as possible.
Jeff: Very true! And, it also goes back to really understanding who not only is your ideal customer profile, but also for who those target buyers, the little target customer personas within that account, because you may have different cadences, you may have different outreach for different people that are on the buying committee. You may have one for the head of the manufacturing plant, not sitting behind email all day—how do we engage with him? I guarantee you it’s probably not the exact same way we engage with the CEO. So, we have to be thoughtful about what is the workflow of our target customer persona, and how do we show up in a place that makes it easy for them to engage and really is indicative of how and what their work day looks like.
Aishwarya: Certainly! So know your customers, and put that knowledge into choosing your effective channel of communication, precisely.
‘Sales cycle’ and ‘marketing funnel’ are traditional terminologies. Do you think these remain static or do both of these evolve with time?
Jeff: Well, you know in the book, I talk about what I refer to as the revenue funnel. What I want sales and marketing leaders to understand is that we can no longer operate in silos. As a sales leader and the market leader today, you need full visibility of the intend revenue generation process. That means, from a target buyer touching a piece of collateral or going to an event all the way close to that, we can start to find out what is working and you can’t do that if you are only looking at the data and what’s happening in your silo. I share a story in the book that talks about the fact the way that we’re operating today is like putting your your hand over one eye and trying to operate a complex machine. You just know the depth in the intricacies of what’s going on in the nuance, you can’t see it.
In an order for sales and marketing to step back and really start to operate as a revenue engine, we’ve got to see the total flow of how things are happening, where prospects of targets are falling out of the funnel so that we can start to fix a process and get more efficient in the way that we do it so it’s not as turn our that these are necessarily bad; I think you can have several different words for the same thing, but I think more than anything, when I’m pushing the folks that I have conversations with, the clients that I work with, is let’s talk in the terms of revenue because that crosses over sales and marketing, and everybody within that revenue engine between the sales marketing should be focused on. It’s what I’m doing right now, and it’s what we’re doing really helping us achieve the revenue results that we’re looking for.
Aishwarya: Yes, I think at the end of the day, companies focus on revenues, and all the teams including the marketing and the sales teams work for improving the revenue of a company. So, in that case, I think concentrating more on understanding the journey that these customers take and trying to fix the process whenever they fall out or whenever they tend to slack in the journey is the best way possible. And, we’ve got data by our side, because it’s a very powerful tool. So with data I think we can always fix all of these slacks and get back to the efficient revenue generation model.
Jeff: Yeah! And, I’m glad that you brought up data. Data’s actually one of the pillars of my three pillars of alignment transformation. And, it’s for that we start to really leverage the customer data that a lot of these companies are sitting on. We have companies that you know have a wealth of data and information, and they’re just not leveraging it and turning it and transforming it into business insights to help them make better decisions about how we engage with the customer. And the reality of things is now moving forward, data is really more valuable than oil because the future of selling indeed is really about understanding from a data standpoint what is the right decision to make moving forward in order to optimize revenue.
Aishwarya: Yeah, that is so true, and I can’t agree enough on that.
Don’t you think that having enough data but still not knowing how to use it is the most common challenge that we as marketers or sales reps face today?
Jeff: Yeah, I do think that I would agree with you! Stereotypically some of our senior leaders are used to managing their very high level, and depending on the organization—so organizations may not be as thick data-driven as they need to be and you know what I argue is that I don’t need my head of marketing head of sales necessarily to become a data scientist overnight, but what I do need them to understand is how that they ask the right questions from the data point so that we
make sure that we’re looking at the right data and asking the right questions to make the right decisions; and whether that be them hiring operations talent or finding somebody that’s passionate about operations—I think the operations function whether it be sales operations of marketing operations is becoming critical to being successful at managing all of the data that we’re receiving about our customers and our buyers.
Aishwarya: Great set of points! I think you answered what was to be my upcoming question
Jeff: (laughs) I’m so sorry.
Aishwarya: (laughs) No, not a problem at all, because you’ve made her job easier here. So, I was going to ask you what are some methods to organize a declutter, because I saw you agreeing with the point that I stated as to how data, enough data, is there piled up as silos. We as marketers and sales people to not make use of the data in the most efficient way. So, I think the points that you just stated clearly helped the listeners to know on how to declutter and kind of organize this data wells that we can always use this data in curating the buyer experiences for now and future.
Jeff: Absolutely! And, to add just a little bit to that—on the sales and marketing leadership side, we really need to start looking at those cross-functional metrics right to make sure that we are operating efficiently together. Obviously, the ones that are sales-centric and marketing-centric are important as well, but when we step back and look the entire revenue engine, we need to look at things like conversion rate, the average sales cycle—things that both sales and marketing contribute to, because those are going to be the metrics that indicate whether or not we are building a much more efficient revenue engine, and that we are not only increasing revenue but we’re increasing revenue in a very efficient way.
Aishwarya: Yes, absolutely!
So, it’s wonderful to hear about your book ‘Create Togetherness’ that shows B2B leaders how to transform sales and marketing to exceed buyer’s expectations and increase revenue. Congrats on this! So, can you tell us more about what made you write this book, also can you share some of the concepts that you addressed in the book?
Jeff: Sure! So, in one word—why I wrote it? Frustration! Sounds kind of strange, and probably not be the stereotypical answer, but I got to a point in my career, in my business, that I was just frustrated with the fact that sales and marketing did not fully appreciate how much they offer each other. The power of their relationship when they get it right is unmatched and unparalleled to the organization, and I think what we have nowadays, I would argue, the most important functions in the organization, the revenue generating side of the business, just not understanding how to work together. We have a lot of sales leadership, we have a lot of sales thought leadership, we understand sales; we have a lot of marketing, thought leadership, we have a lot of marketing books, we understand that; but where I find that we don’t have as much maturity and understanding is that integration, that interface between sales and marketing, and that’s really what I truly wanted to focus my energy and efforts on—to help B2B leaders across all revenue functions to understand how do we actually strategically align sales and marketing, so that we are all on one team; that we can share our tribal knowledge across teams; that really just go to war together and know that we have each other’s back. And so that’s really why I wrote the book! I wanted to create a strategic road-map for B2B revenue leaders that we’re ready to meaningfully align sales and marketing to accelerate revenue grow. These leaders that were frustrated and tired of finger-pointing, and the leads that they got from marketing were terrible, and sales said they’re not following up on them and they were just tired of that cycle. I think this book is definitely for them.
I go through a lot about the things that we need to think about, even before we start to meaningfully align sales and marketing, and making sure that the organization is ready for this type of change. We have to realize that so the marketing alignment doesn’t happen overnight; it is truly a business transformation and it work for you to do it where it sticks in the organization, we have to have the sponsorship with a CEO. And so what I offer in the book is just helping people understand what has changed and what makes it no longer acceptable to have a silo-ed sales and marketing team in the B2B marketplace today. I actually have two forwards to the book, and I did that purposefully; so I have one forward from the sales leader—his name is Craig Wortmann, and then I have another one from a CMO, a marketing leader, and her name was Tracy Eiler. I did that on purpose so that sales leaders knew that this book was for them and the marketing leaders knew this book was for them as well.
Aishwarya: That’s great to know Jeff. And do you know what really excites me about this book? It’s the fact that it’s not just saying what is all about the alignment of sales and marketing but you stress and emphasize upon why and how should somebody do it today. And, it’s not just for business transformation but what you only put forward is gonna help the entire sales and marketing teams to combine their efforts to get their thought leadership right, to connect the misalignment that’s been happening in combining the works, and ultimately lead to the increase in the revenue of the company. So, I’m really excited to actually pick a copy and read what you’ve written in the book.
Jeff: Thank you! I appreciate it! And, in reality, sales and marketing misalignment is not new, right?
Aishwarya: That’s so true, yes! For that fact people know what sales work is all about and people know what marketing work is all about. What we do not know as yet is how to combine both, because people always think it’s just stand-alone. They say marketers know their tasks and salespeople know their tasks, but what they do not know is the power of marketing and sales combined together, to not just increase customers or bring in more new customers but to actually help in customer retention, as well as, getting them have a very good buyer journey, which is ultimately leading to a good Return On Investment (ROI).
Jeff: There’s just so much good that comes out of just beginning a conversation about how we can start to work together better. Like I said, you don’t have to do this when it’s not gonna happen overnight, right! But it’s starting to discuss with your counterpart how can I help you, how can you help me and the benefits are exponential. And, in one of the things that go through the book, and I did this on purpose because as I talked to the sales and marketing leaders, through the podcast—The Alignment Podcast—which is my podcast, events that I’ve hosted, or the keynote conferences—we have assumed that it’s always been like this, and that this is just the way that it’s supposed to be, and it’s not. And so, I go through the history of the sales and marketing relationship, and where it really entered and put us in the place that we are today, where we feel that we are just an odd or at war which is not really the case; but because I wanted us to have the context of that, it wasn’t always like this and it doesn’t have to be like this, and even more than that, it can’t continue to be like this. So, I thought that was important to share with leaders so that we had some context of the fact that what doesn’t have to remain this way and we can do many things in order to change the dynamics between sales and marketing.
Aishwarya: Definitely! Now, I’m intrigued to find out about a little history to what and how this book was made!
So what’s the best sales and marketing alignment project that you worked on so far why did you consider it special?
Jeff: Yeah, there’s a couple of different ways to answer that. I think honestly what was probably the spark that ignited really where I said like I’ve got to write a book—really honestly those podcast. So I specifically develop the podcast because I wasn’t hearing the conversations that I needed to hear about how to strategically take on this problem.
As a revenue leader at the time, I said I need more than tips and tricks; I need to be able to think about this differently so that I can start to transform my organization and put us in a place where we could actually do this and be seamless, and so what I did was I said we need to have a holistic conversation—on the podcast, I pull from four different categories of leaders—sales leaders, marketing leaders, CEOs and consultants, and then last but not least, what I call human collaboration specialists; these are people that help us understand how we as humans interact around collaboration and incentives, and how our brain works.
And, through these really amazing conversations, all focused on how to strategically approach alignment, what I realized is that these people have superb domain expertise; and, when we’re able to have this conversation where everybody has a voice at the table, we can really figure out how to do this in a meaningful way; it was through those conversations and my past experience with clients and working in both functions, I said this book needs to come together to share this in one document, so that we can really start to see things all laid out in the same page and that’s really what I think was the beginning of the spark so to say. That said, I got to put pen to paper and share this knowledge that I’ve gained over the years with everybody that struggling with this issue.
Aishwarya: Wonderful and inspiring at the same time! Great job on this, Jeff. So happy to know that.
Thank you very much for sharing your insights, Jeff! It was wonderful to listen to your experiences and views about getting the sales and marketing teams to work together. It was not just another session where the WHATs and WHYs were discussed, but you actually helped us understand how to get the two teams to work together. I’m sure the readers would have taken away solid points that they can incorporate in their businesses.
Jeff: Absolutely, and I appreciate you give me the opportunity not only to share my passion and helping B2B revenue leaders align sales and marketing, but also sharing the book I wrote it because I love these two parts organization, and it just really frustrates me they don’t understand the value they bring to each other, so I hope every B2B revenue leader as well as CEOs will pick up a copy so please know that you as a B2B revenue leader are not alone—your colleagues are going through this as well, and so the more that I can curate them and bring to market things that help these leaders transform organizations.
Aishwarya: Definitely! Today’s session highlighted the most-important discussion in any B2B organization, and showed clearly on how to increase new customers and build your brand with sales and marketing alignment. Tune in to Zoho Campaigns Expert Diaries for more such interesting sessions. Signing off now, until we see you all soon!