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Why Marketing and Sales Teams Must Align to Drive Better Business Outcomes

An Interview with Mike Nink

For this episode of Ecoffee with Experts, Matt Fraser hosted Mike Nink, Vice President of Account Services and Operations at MODintelechy. Mike throws light on the process and necessity of aligning sales and marketing teams, cultivating a seamless customer journey, and much more. Watch this episode to drive more conversions and maximize growth.

Businesses need to understand what the customer journey is and who is responsible for each stage of it, and why or why not a particular lead is converted.

Mike Nink
Vice President of Account Services and Operations at MODintelechy
Hello, everyone. Welcome to this episode of E coffee with Experts. I'm your host Matt Fraser. And on today's show, I have with me Mike Nink. Mike is the Vice President of account services and operations at MODintelechy, say that really fast 10 times. He has over two decades of experience working with clients such as Dell, Rackspace, AT&T, and Adobe to produce advertising demand generation and online campaigns on regional and global platforms. Away from his desk, Mike stays active in the Austin community as a Cub Scout Den Leader. He can also be found rooting for Texas Longhorn football, tending to the family garden, or teaching his two boys how to play blackjack. That is awesome. Thanks, and welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me.

Now, do you go by Michael or Mike? I apologize.

As a child born in the seventies I answer to both Mike and Michael. But I like to go by Mike.

My name is Matthew, but I go by Matt. So you and I were communicating before and you touched on the subject of why marketing and sales teams must align to drive better business outcomes. Can you tell me a little bit about your experience in working with sales and marketing teams?

So I’ve been working on the marketing side, for both agencies, as well as internal in-house for about 20 years, most of the spin on the agency side. So I’ve had the opportunity to see across lots of different clients and formerly we were brought in from the marketing perspective to help the marketing team. And a lot of times it’s we’re diving in to understand the problems and what solutions we can help with. We start realizing that there’s a challenge for the marketing side. But there’s also usually a big disconnect, when it gets to the point it goes to sales as well. And I’ve seen that time again, with different companies, where marketing has their idea of what they need to be accomplishing, they have their goals they’re marching towards. And that doesn’t necessarily always align with sales, and what sales are trying to accomplish. Nor does a feedback loop, a lot of times exist between the two organizations, either sales without talking to the customers, they had the best bead on what customers are responding to. And that information would be valuable to marketing. You see time and again, is that thing just kind of more of a communication gap and misalignment when it comes to goals. Each group trying to hit the KPIs that they’re being measured on. And missing the mark on the larger goal for the business as a whole of what needs to happen.

So you mentioned that that is a commonality you've seen when working with clients, what about in the agencies that you've worked in? Has there been a disconnect between the marketing team and the sales force for the agency? Or is that easily solved because it's all under one roof?

I haven’t experienced that personally. I’ve also worked with a lot of smaller agencies being rep versus larger agencies. So with a smaller agency, we’re all in the same room having the same conversations every single week. And so I think there’s a lot of alignment there, which I think that’s where it comes back to is that communication cycle, just having everybody’s in touch with what’s happening.

So, that being said, how can businesses create an effective sales and marketing team that is integrated?

Let me talk about the first step. I think we talked about having an integrated sales and marketing team. What first comes to mind for me is having the two teams on the same page from a communications perspective. And having a shared goal in mind between the two of them. Marketing yes, they are typically their departments. But the two need to be having a back and forth, two-way communication between each group, as far as what they’re trying to accomplish. Marketing is off generating campaigns and trying to identify what they feel like they need to be doing to drive leads. They’re potentially being measured on traffic to the site or form fills and things of that nature. And sales are being measured on conversions. The problem that I see happen is, when sales without receiving leads, and the leads aren’t the right quality, they’re not the right kind of leads, they’ll get rejected, and unless there’s communication back to marketing, marketing, don’t know they’re doing anything wrong. So I think we talk about like, how do you get them into alignment? I think the first part is- (A) Understanding who the customer is that you’re trying to reach? What was that buyer persona? Agreeing on that buyer persona, different people, different personas are going to purchase differently, they’re going to engage with marketing differently. So having an agreement on who the buyers are, is one of the first steps. And then from there, understanding what the process should be between sales and marketing. When do leads flow into sales from marketing and sales? Like when do you go from a marketing qualified lead to a sales acceptably and then to a sales qualified? Is it several engagements that you’ve had with marketing? Is it lead scoring? Ideally, it’s lead scoring. But different businesses are going to have different requirements. And then having a feedback loop from sales back to marketing, I think those are the first three that I would start with on trying to kind of align the two groups together.

Okay, so just to reiterate, so that I heard you correctly. You said number one, so you know I'm paying attention. You said number one, a buyer for creating an agreed-upon buyer persona. That's like, the foundation? Because then you'll know, did you get the right customer, the right lead, and the type of person interested in the product? Because if taking this, you know I have a background in car dealer marketing. So taking this somebody who's submitting a lead for interested in a truck, but they don't want to buy a Toyota truck, they want to buy a Ford truck. And yet you kind of don't get the wrong persona. And then the last thing you talked about was the feedback loop and the one in between there. Who owns the part of which one does marketing? I guess, essentially, when does marketing begin and end and sales take over, and the responsibilities I guess, of the customer journey, and using lead scoring to do that? So there's a lot to unpack there. So persona- I just had my last guest talk all about buyer persona. So I guess I will refer people to talk to that episode. I worked at a car dealership, and I won't say who they were, and they are not a small dealership with a not the biggest in the world. And they didn't even have personas for who was interested in this, each specific type of vehicle that they were selling, which just blows my mind away, to be frank with you even to this day. So it's very important. And what do you think about like, for instance, the value that sales can bring? Because they're so directly connected to the customer? In regards to flushing out who that darn persona? If they're being diligent in getting that data and putting it in CRM because, in my experience, that was a really big hurdle.

That is a huge hurdle, the data component of it. That feedback loop in the data, that’s always going to be any kind of marketing you do, it’s only going to be as good as the data that you have. Whether it’s on the personas or the prospects, the business that you’re trying to go. If you’re talking about ABM, marketing, or if you’re talking about direct to consumer, direct to the buyer, what that persona looks like, you’re right, I mean sales they have the direct connection, they’re the ones talking to the prospects. They’re the ones understanding what are the pain points that would make somebody want to buy the product. And it’s trying to identify, there gonna be different kinds of buyers out there. So try to identify how can we put these buyers into these buckets into these personas? What is the ideal customer profile going to look like? And what is that engagement going to look like? You know, in sales, we talked about the data that they have. They understand when they’re talking to a prospect, what level of education does that prospect need to have about the product by the time they get there to kind of help that sales process? Do they need to have engaged with multiple pieces of information before they get there or can it be more of a cold lead, and they can do the education on their part? And think that all that ties back to back to marketing and what marketing can do to help that, that process.

So how can marketing help sales achieve their goals, then?

The first part is just- (A) making sure that we’re marketing to the right prospects, to the right audience. If we’re all aligned on what that buyer persona is, that makes it easier for us from a marketer perspective to understand, who do we need to be targeting? Where are we targeting them? And then what is the message? A lot of times you kind of go into it thinking, Okay, our message needs to be X. And this is where I think having that feedback from sales is extremely valuable as understanding, what are they hearing from prospects? Like, what made that prospect of that lead come through, click through, fill out a form want to talk to us want to buy from us? What information can we glean from that, that can help us tailor our messaging and our campaigns from a marketing perspective to better target and better influence other buyers that are in a similar situation? I think that’s the start of it. After that, it’s all about how do we keep them engaged? And this goes back to kind of that lead scoring model of what can we do you know, how much engagement do we need to have before we feel like that prospect is ready to move over to sales? Because yes, you can have somebody fill out a form and say, okay, hey, they’re qualified and shoot it over to sales. But are they truly, really qualified? Are they ready to have that sales conversation? Or it feels right to get and think, okay, yeah, they filled out a form, but they are nowhere near the right audience, the right contact, or the right level of interest, at this point in time to buy. And that goes back to making sure that we’re all aligned on what qualifies as an actual appropriate lead to move over to sales from marketing.

So do you think that there can be lead nurturing campaigns that can be set up to move the persona, along the journey, they're calling it now customer journey or funnel?

That is a great idea.

To get them closer and closer to being educated in the market ready to buy hot ass prospects? Excuse my language.

It’s a crazy marketing science that we have now to identify, like, what people are engaging with, and what they’re not engaging with, to be able to move them through a pipeline to educate them and get them ready for sales. There are lots of different tools out there. There are different ways to slice and dice it. But at the end of the day, it’s all about making sure that we’re nurturing those leads in the right way, with the right content, and with the right cadence to keep them engaged, educate them, and prep them to the point where when we hand them off to sales, they are warm, and they are interested, and they’re primed and ready to buy then.

And what are some tools? You mentioned the word tools, what are some tools that, in your experience, are effective for doing this?

I mean, from a nurturing standpoint there are several different kinds of marketing automation tools that are out there. Everything from enterprise-level Eloqua to it’d be probably more small, medium business. Things work using HubSpot, from a marketing perspective, or a marketing automation perspective. Marketo, Pardot, even Zoho, are used for a lot of smaller businesses. Which is a CRM system that has some marketing automation capabilities as part of it. Each one, the way they all have a similar function and how they work. How they do it though is kind of different across each of the different platforms. And that’s from how do we set up marcher nurturing campaigns that can feed those prospects the right information and keep them engaged? The next part of the technology platform is having a CRM system so we can keep a track of them, we can share that information with sales, so sales can see what campaigns they’ve been a part of? What have they been touched with? What information have they received and engaged with? What information do we have on them? Everything from the name, address, region, and things of that nature. And then when we’re talking about the technology needed, there are third-party systems that can also be used to help. We’ve got to work out and fill in the gaps of information that doesn’t maybe exist already, using platforms such as a Demand Base, Zoominfo, or LinkedIn navigator to help fill in gaps of information that we may not have on a prospect that will, it’s great for us from a marketing perspective, but as information that’d be valuable for sales to have.

Well, I'll put this to you, then what do you think sales can do to help marketers achieve their goals?

What can sales do? So one of the things, and I think we’ve talked about this a little earlier before we started the call. When sales get leads, they need to engage with those leads and hopefully, we’ve walked through the process, you talk about what can the two teams do together to work closely together? It starts with identifying what the process should be, for when we send leads over and what those leads look like, and we’re all in agreement on what’s going to be considered qualified or not qualified. But when those leads come over marketing’s expectations are that sales are engaging with those leads and that they are starting to reach out to them. If they’re not, we all know those leads are just gonna get colder and colder, and to the point where they’re not going to be of any value. So I think that the first part is that it feels nice to engage with the leads because we’re working on the assumption that the leads that we’re sending over, we’re all agreed on are the qualified leads. I think the next thing that sales can do to help marketing is to provide feedback. I mean, I would encourage every marketer to attend the sales meetings, go listen to what they are talking about in their meetings, where they’re talking about their quota from the challenges they’re having. That information can be extremely valuable to a marketer. Now, is it going to help the marketer hit their goals? Yes, or No, I mean, maybe not right away, but it could help the marketer realign to what their goals should be, if they’re not, right, based on sales made. Sales are essential, client number one for marketing. Our job is to help them do their job. I’ve seen extremely valuable information and insights come out of attending sales meetings, to the point like, where you just need to demand to have a seat at the table, to understand what they’re saying. But it’s also an opportunity for you to share what you’re planning to do from a marketing perspective with sales so that they can get a better idea and they’re in alignment with what you’re planning to execute and what to expect for leads coming in. And it really kind of help establish that communication and that trust between the two organizations.

Yeah, that's incredibly valuable. Because as I was sharing with you before we started the call here. I worked in the car industry for seven years and on both sides, as a Salesperson and a Sales Manager and the Marketing Director and so I know. I've done both, and I know how to do both. And I attended those sales meetings as a Marketing Director. I felt the tension to be quite frank with you because I was generating leads for these guys and they weren't engaging with the leads, and as a result, weren't selling them. And as a result, when they went and looked back at their CRM and their data, they realize, hey, you know, here's a customer, here's a prospect that if we had been a little bit more attentive to, we could have sold them we could have made her bonuses. And so yeah, it's interesting.

We all know that not every lead that marketing sends over to sales is going to be a home run. And I think that’s what sales need to be able to tell us back? Why does this one work versus this other one? And it’s also important to have marketing understand that we need to have some way to know, maybe the leads are not ready, maybe yes, it scored correctly, but they’re just not ready so have remarketing efforts back to them. Re-nurture programs are set up that sales can send leads back to. But it all comes back to making sure that we have the technology flag right between the CRM and the marketing automation systems to be able to identify and send those leads back and forth between the two groups.

Yes, as much as software and automation can do things, you still need the sales department to grab that drop down on that contact record and say, not qualified, not ready to trigger the campaign that cannot be done on Appy.

And it’s one of the things we are always talking to clients about when we’re consulting on CRM systems and marketing automation system integrations. Yes, they may want to have an automated process. But what does the process look like before you automate it? Like, how are things working without those systems in place? Because you can’t just go create a system and say this is going to work if it’s not. If you don’t have a process in place for the two teams to work together, without automation, just automating something is not going to be the right answer.

Wow. So in other words, one of the keys is to map out the sales and marketing processes?

And be realistic about what that is.

What that looks like. And then it also gives you a foundation, a map, to create the key events and the KPIs that go in and the things that need to happen where marketing automation can fill in the gaps and do those things and where you need actual manual input of individuals, whether it's the sales team or the marketing team.

Correct. And before we started talking, I said the experience I have is that I don’t think anything is going to be completely done. Is it gonna be rocket science or a completely new revelation on how things work? But you’d be surprised at how many times we’ve talked with clients, we’ve gone into situations where that kind of information doesn’t exist. And it’s one of the things like, it’s kind of the basics to start with. But sometimes those basic parts get overlooked for the shiny or new things that people are trying to accomplish or just sometimes how do we keep the lights on from a business perspective, and just keep sales going and keep leads flowing in without really thinking through what should the process be to make all this work seamlessly?

And I'm not sure that, to be frank with you, everybody has that. Like, not everybody has all of the skill sets that are required to be able to do that. So I think that's where people like you and I can come in, especially with a note side, maybe a set of eyes to like, even go through the process as a ghost buyer. And I think that certain people are gifted at certain things because I've learned from talking to other people that some of the things I'm gifted at, like Matt, not everybody can do that. Like what you're talking about creating system processes and maps and envisioning it all out like there's no way I could ever do that. And yet on the same hand, there are other things that people are good at that I'm not good at, like fixing cars. But even in the capacity of our industry of marketing, you can't be good at everything. So you talked about the personas, we talked about the marketing process and the customer journey and deciding who's responsible for what part of the journey, creating a map around that, and deciding who's going to be responsible for what and what the, what the lead scoring is going to be for the marketing side what the qualifications are going to be in advance and what you need sales to, but then to you mentioned the feedback loop, which is where I'm going right now. How can I feedback? How what strategies have you seen to create an effective feedback loop between sales and marketing teams? I read of one individual who said that you should create a representative in the business between the sales liaison, if you will, between the sales and marketing departments. I don't know, I'd love to hear your insights.

I think there are different ways to do it depending on the business and what works best for the business. But yeah, that sale liaison would be the easiest way to go about doing that, identifying the one person from each department to engage and share information back and forth into that feedback loop that I talked about. That goes back to where I say as a marketer, you should ask or demand to be allowed to be in the sales meetings because that’s part of that feedback loop. Being able to hear what they’re saying and what they’re getting from the customers, just having one on one conversations with sales reps. Where depending on the size of the company, some companies have 1000 sales reps. Having that one on one conversation is not feasible or realistic. But having a representative, from your point about the liaison, totally works. If you’re a smaller company, you could have situations where you could have the sales reps all in one meeting, pull everybody together and have a marketing representative there to ask questions about what they’re seeing work with sales reps. I was in a situation where I went down and spent a week with one of our client’s sales teams, to better understand what the process looks like, from their end. I spent an entire week there, where I was embedded with them, and watched how the leads came into the system, how they called them, how they emailed them, how they engaged with them, and what the process looked like, on their end when they were developing quotes. What were the limitations? There were assumptions that we made. In our rooms we were talking about marketing that was blown out of the water, when we see the kind of actual real-world execution of it of what the sales reps could and could not do. And then we had a forum where we pulled everybody together in the room, and we said, walking through, this is the program that we’ll roll out. This is what this looks like, this is what your customers or prospects receive from us. We’d love to get your feedback on what you think from a messaging perspective, from a timing perspective. What are you hearing from them as far as what’s working and what’s not working? So, there are different ways to do it. It just comes back to figuring out, what’s the right cadence? Is it a monthly or weekly cadence? What information is the most valuable for you to get back? Is it information on the quality of the leads? That should be one of the top things in my opinion. But then also what’s the word, the language that prospects are using to engage with us that we can then turn that into content or revise our content to better aligned to how people speak about us? So a couple of different ways to look at that.

Hey, Mike, what about creating custom fields in the CRM that are based on conditional logic that appear so that the salesperson representative can select the drop-down for the rating of the lead or the qualification, like not qualified or needs more nurturing, or whatever that label maybe? Then fields come up for them to be able to enter the data, and then create a process again, using software that could extract that data from the CRM into a report? Whether you're taking that out of the CRM or into that software into a Google doc while using tools that you are aware of and creating a report that the marketing manager or sales manager can talk about?

I think that’s an extremely valuable way to do it. I think the one challenge with that is, I guess it’s more dietary challenges, depending on the organization, getting all those custom fields added to the CRM, but then having people actually use it and use it correctly. So yeah, but I mean, in theory, it’s great. I think it comes down to I would say, the smaller the sales organization the easier that is to execute. But it’s just making sure that the sales team is also trained on what to expect. That’s an expectation of what they have to do as part of their job.

I don't understand why salespeople, like I worked on the sales floor and I was the CRM. What's the word I'm looking for? A fishy Endo. I use the CRM as a salesperson because I knew that it was going to help me make money. And I do not understand why salespeople are so, no, forgive my limited experience. I have 20 years of experience working in hundreds of different companies. But from what I saw, in my experience, it's like... From what I heard in the industry meetings, as I went to conferences, for instance, I saw a keynote speaker, give the entire audience hell and he use different words than that, asking them why the flip, they're spending $4,000 a month on CRM software that they're not even using, like, might as well go flush it down the toilet. So I just don't understand. It's such a valuable tool. It can make salespeople money if they use it properly. There's Daniel Kim, correct me if I'm wrong, but there are case studies and data that show that salespeople who use CRM religiously, close more deals.

I have seen those things. I have seen that same research and I have also experienced exactly what you heard, which is you have the CRM systems but all the information that’s kept in there for one reason or another. Some people keep it on an excel spreadsheet on their desktop. Training the sales team on why you should use CRM. I think of at least ten reasons why you wouldn’t want to use CRM. You have technical challenges or there is fear that if you put all of that information in there, somebody else can just come in and take my key and log in and take my leads. There are a lot of different reasons why not. But if we all understand that for the greater good of the Company that we are working for that Marketing is trying to do their job and sales is trying to do their job. If we can all make sure that we have accurate and up-to-date information in the CRM system then we can all do a better job and drive more revenue for the company. That should be the end goal for all the departments.

Hey Mike. Do you have any other advice or insights on this topic that you would like to share?

On this topic there is a lot that I can go into on it. But I would just say that a lot of times it feels like there is a us versus them mentality between Sales and Marketing, and the more that we can work together, the more that we can break down those barriers and have communication and understand what we are trying to align on, and what the other side is trying to align on, is for the better benefit of the company to drive more revenue for us all, the better all our lives are going to be. It takes reaching out across the aisle to forge those relationships and forge those bonds with the other team to start having those honest conversations. Get out of the clouds and get down to brass tacks, don’t be afraid to hurt somebody’s feelings by saying these aren’t good. But also be ready to justify why they aren’t good and have some very honest conversations about what is happening between Sales and Marketing.

Hey that's awesome. Would you say that would be the one big takeaway, you would want our listeners to get from this episode, or is there anything else you would want to add?

I would say yes. That’s probably the biggest one.

That's wise advice. So we have talked about aligning Sales and Marketing teams. We need to have them agree on the customer personas. We need to establish what the customer journey is and who is responsible for each part of that journey. Where Marketing begins and ends and where sales take over and end. And who is responsible for what and then creating a feedback loop as to why or why not that particular lead converted or did not convert. Which we have explained through strategies. I am just trying to articulate what we talked about, just to keep it in my head and for our audience. Some of the things you shared are just awesome. Like, I think there will be tremendous value for people to listen and watch this and think of some strategies and how they can implement them. If they want to get in touch with you and how can they connect with you, via LinkedIn, Twitter something like that?

LinkedIn is the best way to engage with me.

OK. Fantastic. So, view that if they want to we will make sure to put your LinkedIn handle and URL in the show notes, so people can do that if they want to. I want to thank you so much for being on the show. It's been a pleasure talking to you. Perhaps we can have you back and maybe dive into some other topics on Marketing Automation or other things that I know you are very knowledgeable about.

Well great. Thank you again for having me, Matt.

No problem. Thanks a lot. Have a great day. Thank you to those of you who are watching and remember to tune in for next week's episode.`Thank you. Bye-Bye.

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