Who provides the ‘official’ sales presentations in your company? Is it sales, marketing, or someone else?
In my experience of working with 1000s of B2B companies, the sales presentations are typically provided by marketing – along with most of the other tools that sales use (or ignore). So, if providing effective sales tools is typically a part of what B2B marketing teams do, why doesn’t it get more attention?
Case in point. Boston in the first week in October looks like the place to be for B2B marketers. DemandCon on 1-2 October has a fantastic line-up, and MarketingProfs’ B2B Marketing Forum on 3-5 October completes the week. The MarketingProfs event is based around ‘five programming tracks covering the modern marketing mix – lead gen, content, social media, media, and marketing essentials.’ Looking to see where creating effective sales tools fits within the schedule (which after all covers the modern marketing mix) I thought perhaps it would be under content, or marketing essentials – but it isn’t. Why do I point this out? Because I think it’s symptomatic of a wider issue.
Sales and Marketing Alignment Around Leads
Sales and marketing alignment gets a lot of press. 1000s of articles, whitepapers, events – all looking at how these two departments can work together. The funny thing is that nearly all of that discussion is around handing over the right leads – Marketing Qualified Leads, Sales Accepted Leads, and so on. Of course, there are a bunch of vendors selling software to automate the process around scoring and passing on leads from marketing to sales – so it’s little wonder that people talk about how to define a ‘good’ lead and discuss the right way to measure that, and how the process should work. This is important stuff. But it’s not the only place that sales and marketing need to align.
The actual cost (in terms of wasted time and effort) of providing sales with leads they consider poor quality is high. But what of the cost of providing sales with sales presentations and other sales tools they consider poor quality?
The Two Sides of B2B Sales and Marketing Collaboration
I read a great description of marketing’s role when working with sales people by Mark Suster:
To arm – which means to give the reps all of the sales collateral they’ll need to effectively win sales campaigns. This includes presentations, ROI calculators, competitive analyses and so forth.
To aim – which means helping sales reps figure out which target customers to focus on. It’s about helping weed out the non-serious leads from the urgent ones.
So, why do we focus so much on the ‘aim‘ part, and ignore the ‘arm‘ part of that?
Why Ignore Sales Tools?
In some companies, there might be a separate team who focus on providing sales with the right tools and collateral. Perhaps in some companies providing sales tools isn’t marketing’s job. Although, of course, even in these companies alignment of the messages used in different parts of the sales funnel is still essential. So we would still need marketing to be involved in some way.
There aren’t the same cash rich sales presentation companies pushing hard to grow a market as there are marketing automation companies. Companies like my own, BrightCarbon, create effective visual sales tools – but we don’t have the resources of Marketo, Eloqua, HubSpot. So there’s not quite the same amplification effect. People talk about sales and marketing alignment around lead definition a lot, but they tend to talk about it around sales tools only a little (although here’s a notable exception from Eloqua).
We Think It’s Easy
People must think that creating sales tools is easy. Just open PowerPoint, type some bullet points to get your message across, or if you have read Presentation Zen, perhaps involve a designer. Never mind that arming your sales teams to read bullet points, or deliver speeches with pretty static pictures behind them won’t work. Never mind that the same techniques that work for conference presentations to 1000 people don’t work for sales presentations delivered to four people from a laptop.
The figures on what percentage of sales meetings are considered useful by buyers (Forrester, 15%) suggest something isn’t right. And looking at the sales presentations in use at many companies confirms the same view – this isn’t an area that marketing has mastered.
A lot of B2B marketers never worked in sales. As we get closer to the end of the sales funnel, people without a sales background can get less comfortable. Marketing may have the job of providing sales tools, but may not truly understand what makes a persuasive sales tool that will be used by sales. This ought to be the starting point for collaboration and joint projects – but it can be easier to just throw things over the fence (so people do that instead).
The Impact of Sales Tool Quality
Ignoring the quality of sales tools provided by marketing makes no sense. It should be a top priority:
- Improving conversion rates at the bottom of the funnel is equivalent to sourcing many more sales accepted leads, or finding 1000s more prospects;
- Sales people waste more time creating their own slides, or working deals only to lose them because they use poor sales tools, than they do by calling a lead from marketing and deciding it’s not worth pursuing;
- Considering content marketing without considering sales tools increases the risk that messages won’t align – and the conversations that marketing are having with prospects don’t fit with the conversations that sales have (on their own or using tools provided by marketing). Failure to align messages risks undermining sales efforts, and lead hand-off.
So, next time you consider sales and marketing alignment, think about the sales tools you arm your sales people with, not just the leads you aim them at. If your sales tools aren’t persuasive and compelling, if your sales people are spending time creating their own clandestine collateral, or if your conversion rates are too low – you need to do something different.
And, if you are organising a B2B marketing event, remember that in most companies, marketing still provide the sales presentations and ROI calculators.
How does your company ensure sales and marketing are aligned to create powerful sales tools?