Before I get to the point of this blog, which is how mid-market CEOs can determine if their marketing leaders are truly adding value to their sales efforts, I need to give a little background. A few years ago I was engaged to create and execute a go-to-market plan for a large for-profit university that wanted to move into the professional development arena. The plan included numerous sales and marketing strategies designed to help them quickly develop and offer a new business line to corporations and government agencies.
The sales vice president hired to drive this venture became a member of the IES (Institute for Excellence in Sales) and we have kept in touch. He gave me occasional updates on the plan’s success. Earlier this year, he told me he was moving on to a new opportunity with a similar entity and would need my services to help them quickly and effectively go to market.
A few short weeks later, he arranged a meeting with the new university’s CEO and me. He was bringing some of his team members with him and needed a marketing boost to help launch their sales efforts. The university had just hired a marketing director however his marketing expertise was in restaurant promotions. My sales VP client knew the marketing director’s background would not help him penetrate enterprises looking for more reasonable training solutions, which was why I was brought to the table.
We met with the university president and mapped out a proposal that would result in a tight, reasonable plan to help jump start the new sales efforts. Although the meeting went well, they decided to rely on the plan the new marketing director said he would create. I warned my past client that because his director’s marketing knowledge was so limited, the plan he would develop would be inconsequential. I reminded him that marketing is a broad term and that his guy’s definition of what marketing is was not the type of marketing the university needs.
YOU KNOW WHERE THIS WAS GOING
You probably see where this is going. Six weeks later I got a call from my former client that he had just resigned. No go-to-market plan was ever developed, although the marketing director promised one. It became apparent that the marketing director had no idea how to support an enterprise or business-to-business sales program and could not develop something on time to help sales. The sales vice president knew that without the expected effective marketing support, his sales initiatives would have failed. So he and his team ditched, leaving the university with no marketing or sales plan to improve their position in the market.
MANY CEOS STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THEIR MARKETING LEADER
The reason I’ve posted this blog is because every time I believe that we’ve totally turned the tide and that sales teams across the globe are being supported properly by their Marketing organizations, numerous examples of how this is not happening appear. When my former client called me to tell me his organization’s marketing leader was unable to support him, I yawned. I had checked his LinkedIn profile and saw his background. Nowhere did I see anything that would lead me to believe that he could add value to the enterprise approach his sales team was embarking upon. And the CEO of the university did not understand that shortage.
Most of the blogs I have been writing are designed to help small-to-midsized company CEOs, typically those that don’t come from sales or marketing, understand how their Marketing organization should be supporting the sales process. Successfully supporting sales in order to accelerate the sales process and remove obstacles, I believe, is the main function of the Marketing leader in small to mid-sized companies.
Part of the challenge for CEOs when it comes to knowing what to expect from the Marketing leader is that Marketing can have so many different meanings. For instance, one person’s marketing is another person’s branding. One person’s marketing is another person’s awareness. And one person’s marketing is social media. However, many of the marketing experts I associate with are product marketing experts, strategic thinkers, and execution experts who know how to utilize resources available to them with prudence and effectiveness to help the company achieve its goals, one of the most important one being driving sales.
DEEP QUESTIONS CEOS SHOULD ASK TO DETERMINE MARKETING PLAN VALIDITY
It had become crystal clear to my former client that he was not going to get serviced properly. I think the university president knew it as well however he did not know the deep questions to ask to determine that his marketing leader would be providing the right level of service. Here are some questions he should have asked:
- When will the sales team start seeing the benefits of this plan? This makes it clear that the plan needs to be focused on helping the sales team drive revenue and not on worthless activities. It will hasten the integration between the two groups and will ensure that the plan was designed to drive sales.
- How does each item on your plan accelerate the sales process? Most new sales teams at mid-sized companies do not have a long runway to succeed. The items on the marketing plan must have short term impact.
- What is the follow up plan for any leads that come in as a result of these activities? Dollars are tight these days so every activity needs to be completely thought through. Every step in the program needs to be well thought out without any leakage.
- What’s your contingency plan in case the program is not working? How quickly can you shut down and redirect? This will give you an idea of a few things. First, it will show how committed the marketing leader is to the plan they created. Second, it will show how deeply they thought about how the plan will help accelerate the sales process or if it’s an amalgamation of ideas without any intention.
The DIAMOND Challenge to tech CEOs is to push back on their marketing leader a few times to ensure that the plan is designed to accelerate sales. This will help them see if they have the right people on the bus. The DIAMOND Challenge to marketing leaders is to understand the importance of quickly putting a plan in place that helps drive sales.
If both of these things happen, your chances of better supporting the sales process will occur.