Research shows that 70% of all marketing content remains unused by sales. If you are a marketer, this statistic is sure to make you squirm … and if you are in sales, you are probably nodding your head and saying, ‘that’s about right.’
There are innumerable examples of sales and marketing activities that don’t align. Such misalignments are often at the core of many broken organizations. So…how do we bridge the gap and make these two strategic activities to focus on a common goal? Let’s hear what the experts say!
Our guest today is Jennifer Robinson. She is a Sales and Marketing Alignment enthusiast with over 20 years of hands-on experience in sales enablement. In her current role at Veeam software, Jennifer leads Global Sales Messaging and Engagement and converts complex technical information into easy to understand positioning that helps sales in street-level customer conversations.
When I first spoke with Jennifer, I felt an instant connection. We both share a passion for aligning sales and marketing. In our conversation today, we will dig deeper into some of the alignment challenges of B2B technology companies and share with you some useful tips with real-world examples of what works and what doesn’t.
Research shows that 70% of all marketing content remains unused by sales. If you're a marketer, this statistic is sure to make you squirm. And if you are in sales, you're probably nodding your head and saying, that's just about right, that innumerable examples of sales and marketing activities that don't align such misalignments are often at the core of many broken organizations. So how do we bridge the gap and make these two strategic activities to focus on a common goal? That's here.Speaker 1:
Hi guys. This is your host Ashish Jan , and you're listening to the alignment podcast where we aim to expose the day to day misalignments between product marketing and sales activities and discuss practical solutions to end this long lasting paradigm. Our guest today is Jennifer Robinson. She's a sales and marketing alignment enthusiast with over 20 years of hands on experience in sales enablement in her current role at VM software, Jennifer leads, global sales messaging and engagement and convert complex technical information into easy to understand positioning that helps sales in street level customer conversations. When I first spoke with Jennifer, I felt an instant connection. You both shared a passion for aligning sales and marketing and our conversation today, we will dig deeper into some of the alignment challenges of B2B technology companies and shared with you some useful tips with real world examples of what works and what doesn't Jennifer. It's a pleasure to have you on the show. Thanks for inviting me. Well. So a bit of an introduction.Speaker 3:
Yeah, absolutely. So I , uh , my current role right now is the senior manager of sales engagement. I have a long history in sales and marketing actually started out in sales and then quickly transitioned into kind of enjoy sales and marketing role for a number of years. And that was in a non tech area. My entrance into the , the tech vertical came about 15 years ago. And when I made that transition, I actually made the transition into tactical competitive intelligence, which seems like Ellie , but , um , all of these things are congruent. I promise. So I , I went into competitive intelligence and that's where I got a real passion for understanding the street level fight that our sales people are going through every day and the , the content that they need and the content that assists in the conversations that they're having with customers. So it's not just a one off that they're emailing to maybe, you know, keep the customer busy for a little bit. It's , it's what is actually getting the customer from point a to point B in their motion that made me really want to learn more. So I dug into a lot of different research and , um, took as many classes and, and whatever I could find, read as much stuff as I could find about sales, alignment, sales messaging. And , um, and that propelled my career into the sales alignment piece. I had a sales alignment team , um, within product marketing. Um, and now at the company I met now into sales engagement and tying that in with sales enablement and training. And how do we leverage all of those things together to align sales and market ?Speaker 4:
That's amazing. Yeah, no, definitely. This is, this is , uh , know very interesting when you say competitive tactical competitive intelligence, I think that's tactical is the keyword here. And , um , you know, I love the way you put it in terms of street level fight. It is actually that. And , uh , we don't realize , um, when you're, you know , sitting behind your desk and, and creating content based on what we think the customer would need and that what we think they would need could be, you know, based on our own opinions or based on some sort of market research or surveys, but at the end of the day, you know, it's just like saying until you get in the water, you don't know how to swim. And , um, and it's, it's just those, you know, daily conversations with customers and push backs and, you know, how do you deal with the situation at hand is what really matters in terms of whether your messaging is correct or not. And it's actually brings me to an interesting point, right? So it was just , um, writing on messaging framework. And when I was working on that, it was like, okay , this is the foundation of everything that a company needs to do. And unless in my experience, most companies struggle in that, you know, handling those street level conversations are because they haven't really thought through what they stand for and how do they, how did they deal with, you know, what problem are they solving a lot of times they write on, you know, the current market trends. And the , just talk about the content is just touching upon that. Whereas if you know what problems you're solving and you can defend, you have enough justifications , a lot of, a lot of that street fighting, you know, it's , it can be handled, but of course, you know, this is an emerging and evolving process and you just need to keep writing on it. You mentioned that you had a sales alignment team, which is very interesting as well. I started to see more and more B to B companies have started to add a dedicated CS enablement role now, and you've been playing that role for many years. So how do you define that role and who owns sales enablement and what are the main challenges of implementing any enablement strategy?Speaker 3:
That is a loaded question. Yeah, absolutely. You're, you're seeing a lot more focus and attention on sales enablement. And the, the part that I find interesting and frustrating at the same time is that there's many different definitions on what sales enablement is , um, and where it sits. I've seen it sit under marketing. I've seen it under sales, I've seen it under HR and , and each one of those areas are going to give it a little bit of a different flavor. I've also seen it , um, you know, as a separate entity come , you as completely separate reporting up to the CEO. So that gives it a little different flavor. And it also changes the definition of what sales enablement is in many areas. What I see is they're defining sales enablement as sales training and those being equivalent. However, when , when I ran the sales alignment team and what I think, the direction that things are going and what we really need to start focusing on is that it's bigger than that. Because to be successful, you have to be able to take sales, product marketing, the sales methodology, and the sales training, and have all of those different functions, working together to produce content, to produce tools, to produce job AIDS , to produce training, to produce marketing materials. All of those things need to be aligned for all of this to work and be embedded and ingrained in the company culture, which is a huge task. And of course, you know, it takes a lot of, a lot of steps and a lot of buy in from the top down to get that account .Speaker 4:
Yes, you are absolutely right. Most people think sales enablement is same as sales training, which is unfortunate. I have experienced that firsthand in my career as well. And whereas, you know, sales enablement to me really means it's a day to day activity for anyone to understand what is happening in the pipeline and where do we need to pay more attention collectively between sales product and marketing to move that needle. And it's, it's that collective effort who is, who is striking that , uh , because no matter how many meetings you have, right, you can, you can meet every day , but at the end of the day, somebody needs to own it. We all grow. We talk about pipelines. We, next day, we get on to our own meetings and deliverables and the, the, the focus get lost. I think that's where, that's where I believe the challenges . And that's what exactly you are saying as well. Now, another thing which I was an order that I want to take you to feel or not , it is a lot of efforts between product marketing and sales goes into, you know, whether you, how you're training your sales, how you are establishing thought leadership and credibility in the market, brand awareness PRS , uh , maybe you want sales presentations that you need to deliver two aspects that touch customers the most are I've rarely seen any salesperson spend time on that, or even the product marketing people spend time on it that are customer training and customer support. And these are two areas where customers are having not just one time PCLs dialogue , but they're having a post-sales sales dialogue . And a lot of time when my observation, the sales training, the customer training content is not aligned with how you're training your sales, your customer training content is not aligned with what you're saying in the market. Any thoughts ?Speaker 3:
Yeah , that , that is a fantastic, fantastic question. Um, and that comes back to the alignment piece and you're right, that we have one off meetings and then everybody goes back to their job. And this is my own personal opinion. Um, some people might, might , uh, not, not appreciate this, but I think that the alignment role is a separate role. And I think it's, that is the job that, or , or team, because it's a big job when you start getting down into the weeds of it, it's a big job. And that team is there to work with all the other teams to make sure that all of these things are aligned. And to your point, not just going , uh, you know, not just the, the materials that create the customer buying cycle, where we're, where we have those customer touch points , but also after the sale and through the sale and after the sale and through support. And in fact , uh , one of the initiatives that I took on about a year ago was to improve the messaging and enablement around our product launches for the company I work at now. And we started with an enablement team and that included somebody representing every single audience that we need to touch. So we had somebody from support there. We had somebody from distribution, from the reseller group, from our cloud group, from our training customer training group. So every audience that you think of that needs to be informed of something happening was on this call. And we would do a weekly check in leading up to this launch and make sure that we're all aligned on what are we saying? How are we pushing this product out? And we did the first pilot of this new format last year. And, and it was a huge success. You know, the numbers were great on adoption of the, of the new version. Now, whether that has to do completely with the , uh, the enablement activities, I'm not going to take full credit for that. It was a great product, but I think having everybody singing out of the same hymnbook creates that consistency of a message. And that consistency of just the feeling of the company for the customer, which is huge because as , as we all know, customers buy , you know, decision making is not a logical thing. And sometimes those perceptions of I'm talking to one company I'm hearing from one company, these aren't separate companies before the sale. And after the sale is not different companies, while I'm talking to this person, and while I'm talking to that person, it brings everything together for the customer.Speaker 4:
That's true. And that I, I really applaud you on , on taking that initiative. That by itself is a huge step in having different departments, different constituencies within the company to get on the same call . I don't know how you did that, but so tied by itself is a huge step in my view now, based on, you know , what you've seen prior to that, and, you know, after you took that initiative, can you share some examples of, you know , misalignments that you observed happen on a everyday basis? And they generally go unnoticed. We'd love to hear some examples. And if you, if any of your initiatives like these have actually resolved them.Speaker 3:
Yeah. I think, you know, when we're talking specifically about sales and marketing , um, there's two things that, that jump out at me. One is, and you mentioned it before most marketing material doesn't get used by sales. And if you ask marketing who they're creating the material for it, they're usually going to say sales and the cognitive dissonance that it takes to continue to create the same materials, knowing that people aren't using them , um, is something that has fascinated me for 15 years, but is that hamster wheel that running on that hamster wheel that, you know, I mean, we've talked before about how much product marketing has to do and how many hats they have to wear and how many things they have to know. And , and they're just running as, as they can and marketing materials, a lot of times then get, you know, this is the way we've done it. We're going to push it out. Sales can pick it up and use it. It is now a sales tool that is a basic fundamental misalignment right there to me. Because again, if you're expecting salespeople to use this material, we know the reality is they're not. So we have marketing spending a lot of time on materials that aren't being used. And we have salespeople spending a lot of time creating marketing materials. So in both areas, we have people being, you know, inefficiencies and , um, spending time on , on things that don't need to, to have time spend on them is something that I did in a previous role was, and something that I really encourage is to have a sales advisory board. Um , just like you have maybe a partner advisory board or a customer advisory board is to, to have that group of salespeople that you can have this conversation with. And the second part of that is to think through each of those marketing materials and do an audit of your marketing materials and be able to go through and say, if every marketing material, every piece of marketing material, every asset had a job, what would that job be? If it was to take a customer from point a to point B, what does that look like? What is point a, what is point B? And I have asked that question more times than I can count. And I have almost never gotten an answer because they don't know. They don't know. Well, it just can be used whenever that that's not a good enough answer because the point of creating an asset is to make a change on the buyer's behavior. Why else would we be creating an asset? So if you're not doing anything for the buyer, you're not doing anything to move the sales process forward. Why is that asset being created? And the flip side is what are those things that salespeople are creating, that they feel is stronger than the marketing material that's created. So many times I'll do a call out to my sales groups to say, send me what you're creating. I want to see it. I want to see how it's different than what marketing materials are going on and doing a , again, an additional audit.Speaker 4:
That's a , that's a very , uh , important topic. And I think this is one of those areas that have persisted forever and just continues to not get resolved in my view. And I'm glad, you know, you you're taking steps. And I think some of your suggestions here, you know , have a sales advisory board and audit your marketing content. And you're absolutely right. Every asset needs to do a job, move the needle from point a to point B in some capacity and the way I always very similar reels , you know, saying it as I always think, you know, think about your marketing content as products on the shelf and what, what role are they playing? And you need to, before you write a new content to go back and see, okay, am I already seeing it? And I'm sure a lot of people can associate with this is when we all complained as product marketing. I've been in the product marketing role forever. I actually just like yourself, been fortunate to be in the sales side as well. So I can understand their perspective and very quickly the situation changed. I knew Jesus died as a person and all of a sudden their , their perspective on marketing will change. It doesn't matter how many they have, they have spend in marketing. And when I did that, I'm like, okay, what I made the same mistake that I always complained about and a hundred times, and I would go on a customer call and I would send an email to my product and sort or say, Hey, can you send me this? And I'm like, didn't you get my email? Um , we sort of cleared emails on latest content. Here's a common, you know, SharePoint folder or whatever eczema shared folder, where everything is posted. Go look for yourself and we're constantly communicating. Why aren't you listening? And when I spend more time with sales, my realization is they're so fast moving, you know, the a hundred accounts to deal with. And they're very reactionary in their approach towards accessing content. They only look for content when it is relevant to their deal they're working on. And a lot of times the, the amount of insight they get in that customer account while you're talking to them, does not match to what the content is saying. So, and I think that's the reason. I feel a lot of times sales people just take what you have and start modifying it. It's not that they don't hundred, but they don't use the content a hundred percent in my experience, they'll take it, they'll personalize it. And everyone has their own style of, you know, saying , telling a story. So some, some salespeople are good at it. Some salespeople just take what they have, and then they'll just verbally articulate their story that, that gave me a realization is I actually stopped making Ghana presentations for salespeople. After that, I was like, okay, there is no way you're going to use this. So we started building library of slides. Okay. If you're talking about a topic like security here, 10 ways we have done it. And every time I see a new way of telling a story, I'll , I'll include that slide in that. So if it matches your style, great, use it as is if it doesn't modify and give us back that light and we'll add , add to the library, and that actually helped quite a bit, and it became bigger and bigger, a hundred plus 200 plus light deck , but they all look for that one. That was the only asset that sales people would carry with them all the time. It was no other one. So it's , it's interesting to understand the perspective of the salespeople as well. And I'm sure, you know, you've been in sales and you've experienced that as well, yourself. One thing which perplexed me and I worked with a lot of clients and every time we work on sales enablement, it's this one question that perplex, most of the people is how do you measure the success of your sales enablement efforts? And I want to ask you that question, how do you measure it? And what's your thoughts on that?Speaker 3:
So that is an interesting question. Um, and, and a hot topic, I think , um, because you have, you know, your, your levels of measurement, your levels of success that you can, you can try to track down. We've been trying to get creative with this. Um, so you have your obvious, how many people have attended a training? How many downloads does the document have? You know, all of those things, what is the length of time? Somebody stays on a call or watches a recording. Those are pretty standard, but then you get into the, the more complex measurements. And then we're talking about maybe a confidence index. So what was the confidence in a certain area before you took this training or use this asset? What was your confidence after , um, where's the white space in knowledge? So we measure the white space by using a pre test and a post test. So what is the gap in knowledge before now, let's take this training or use this asset and do a gap measurement after to see if we've, if we filled that. And then of course you have the financial measurement, which that's where you get really tricky, because can we directly associate enablement and any of its forms to revenue, two deals, one, two size of deals. Any of any of those monetary measurements? One thing that I did when I was in competitive intelligence was get a little bit creative with how we were measuring success. Revenue, success, tactical competitive intelligence is a very hands on role. So you're literally walking somebody through closing a deal many times when you're in that competitive bake-off. So what we did is do a survey, a phone survey with, you know, a large portion of people that we know. Uh, we had people that had utilized the competitive intelligence team to assist in their deals. And then we had with people that didn't, and what we did was do a phone survey and ask questions about if they were to put a percentage on the amount of help that contacting the CIT team, gave them in influence in closing their deals, what would it be? And while that is a very long tedious process going in and calling, you know, a hundred sales reps , um, it is definitely a , it takes a lot of time and effort, but what we got back was was really interesting. And some of the comments, you know, we also logged the comments. Luckily we had a research team in house, which made life a lot easier for this particular effort and what qualitative information were they giving back to us? So we were able to get an average of that percentage of all the people that had used the resources that competitive intelligence team had given them. We could say they told us that it influenced their deal closing by 30%. And if we took that deal closing number and took 30% of it, that was the direct revenue association that we could apply to the CIT team existing. So it's, it's tricky, but the same thing could be done for enablement. It's , it's interesting. It's tough to get such answers from sales people though. It is because they don't want to, because they're doing the work. I mean, they're going out and they're doing the work, no doubt, but I've also found that if you are a strong advocate and you are giving them a service or a material that they really feel can help them, that they will be much more inclined to want to give you attribution for that. And that's a process of making yourself known to the salespeople , um, you know, making them understand that you're the one you're in their court, that you're their advocate, that you're their champion and, and giving them good stuff, giving them good training, giving them a good materials, good assets, good , good job AIDS, et cetera. And this is slightly off topic, but when we're talking about sales materials, you had mentioned, you know, getting things in front of them, you know, at the right time. And of course salespeople are just in time learners. Um, one thing I also found was interesting though, if they find a piece that they , that really helps them move a customer from point a to point B, they will hold onto it forever. I haven't had salespeople come to me with, with content that they had from six, eight years ago that had like completely wrong branding. And, you know, the messaging wasn't even correct. It was for a product release that was, you know, 10 releases ago, but it worked and they wouldn't let it go. They would like, you know, hold on to that thing for dear life. So when you do produce something that works for them, they will advocate for it.Speaker 4:
Yeah. I know you touched upon a very important topic, which is something, you know, I had to fight for written, you know, one of the companies to work for in the past is, you know, we had almost 200 plus 250 plus salespeople in the company. And I would say tomorrow time, we're spending in marketing and the model spend time you're spending in sales enablement. You know, the ratio is just off. And I always viewed sales as, you know, the greatest influencers of any message. And if they really believe in that, you know , it will do wonders and you just , it's just, you know, you have to get them to believe in it . And they're very practical. They're very, you know, always thinking from a perspective of how will the customer react to this with this, help me make a , make a sale. That's helped me sell anything. How will I take the next conversation? Once I say something like this, that's , that's what they are always thinking about. But if once, once it works for them, it's basically how to tell them stop using it.Speaker 3:
Yeah, no, that's great. Great conversation. Um, Jennifer, anything last words of wisdoms? Like you can tell to the audience themselves, Hey, these are the three things, you know, just add that to your last , you must do these .Speaker 3:
I would say, do your content audit be ruthless , um, make sure that that every single piece matches up with a customer touch point and does it moves the customer from point a to point B in some way, when you create a sales advisory council , assuming that you are , um, make sure that that is run by a third party or a , uh, somebody who is not invested in the materials that you were going to be reviewing in the sales advisory council. And the reason I say that is because it's really easy to go down the road of asking the questions in a way that's going to get you a positive answer and salespeople don't like to hurt people's feelings either. Just like any of us, we don't want to tell the person that spent 20 hours creating something that you're not going to use it. So you have to ask the right questions to be able to get underneath the real answer. And a lot of times that is okay, when have you specifically used this, or when specifically, would you use this with a customer and what result do you expect? And then the third thing that I would say is give some thought to how do you make some of this alignment institutionalized? And what does that mean to your company? You know, depending on the size of the company and how you're set up, it could be easier, or it could be hard, but how do you make alignment and institutionalized effort and be able to bring all of these groups together to be on the same page and singing out of the same hymnbook so to speak. And what steps does that take and how much buy in do you have from the executive team all the way down, where you can say, we're not just saying that we're aligned with sales, but marketing is at every QBR. We , we are doing group meetings, we're doing advisory councils. We are interfacing constantly with all the different stakeholders for all the different audiences. You know, making sure that all of those things are just, it's not a onetime event. It is the way you, you work and the way you live and the way you breathe within that company. So I'm going to end with that. That was a big ask. That last one.Speaker 4:
Yeah, it is absolutely. I was just smiling because I wrote an article on a, on alignment , the three dimensions of alignment. And I ended the article by saying alignment is a culture and it is a culture and a it's , it's amazing. You just said that , uh, you know, exactly the , that it is a culture. And, and to me in a very simple way, you know, when you can see misalignment, you know, you can just see through it in any company and speak with them within five minutes. I know how aligned misaligned they are and very similar test I'll I'll, I'll end up on my note on saying this, you mentioned QBR, such an important word there, and a very simple way to see how the company is aligned is walk, watch how people are talking in that QBR. If they're still arguing with each other, start in a QBR, that means they've not done any alignment exercise. Prior to that, they have not talked to each other. They have not figured out what the product road map needs to be. Whether it makes sense how a sales is going to be selling it, how marketing does the marketing actually believe in that roadmap? You know, where the numbers are. And I just observed those things is when people on the , who is , first of all, who is on the table is marketing on the table or not. And if they are how across multiple groups that are interfacing and that to me, you know, just reflect people just are not talking and they're not communicating enough to figure these things out before they come to QBR. Absolutely hundred percent agree. All right . Thanks a lot for your time. Lot to take, I think some really good, useful tips on how people can move the needle on this aspect. I know it's a, it's a difficult problem space, but one step at a time.Speaker 2:
Thank you very much. Great insights, Jennifer. Thank you for sharing the details of the steps you have taken to bridge the alignment gaps across all customer touch points and to enable sales, to vent the street level fights , creating a corporate culture around alignment, certainly builds consistency across the company and sure to reinforce our customer spot . Thanks everyone for listening. Don't forget to subscribe to the alignment podcast on your favorite platform, and please share your thoughts on this week's episode. You can reach out to me on my email, Asheesh dot Jane at [inaudible] dot com or drop me a note on LinkedIn until next time stay safe.