As Sales and Marketing alignment becomes an ever-hotter topic, who better to provide a balanced view and valuable advice than a dynamic marketing leader who for most of her career carried a sales title. In 2014 she jumped the fence and has since used her experience from both sides to change the way sales and marketing work together.
Meet Nicola Mortimer, Head of Business Product, Marketing & Operations At Three. Full disclosure: Three is a beloved ALIAS client, but Nicola’s story and approach is so reminiscent of the stories we hear every day, it’s worth sharing.
This is not a sales and marketing alignment story. It’s a partnership story.
When Nicola began her career as a sales manager, she quickly came to the conclusion that marketing didn’t deliver for sales and was on a completely different journey — creative, sure, but where’s the accountability for the business of the business?
Taking her back to her sales days: ‘There’s so much marketing could be doing to actually help sales, but they don’t understand what we need. I don’t think it’s that they don’t care; it’s more a case of no one has told them what they should be doing.’There’s so much marketing could be doing to actually help sales. I don’t think it’s that they don’t care; it’s more a case of no one has told them what they should be doing. – Nicola Mortimer, Three.ieCLICK TO TWEET
While sales was judged in every possible dimension by every possible measure, including KPIs and extensive reporting, Nicola never saw figures from marketing which revealed what they were doing or how well they were doing it.
The right side of her brain kicked in. The proverbial light bulb suddenly had a power source.
Eagerly embracing the opportunity to become a marketer, her focus was to bring sales reporting to marketing and initiate a marketing partnership with sales. After all, it’s marketing which needs to prove itself. It may be producing vast amounts of content, but because its effects are generally not measured, there’s no proof that it is actually adding value.
At Three, Nicola has worked hard to not merely align sales and marketing but to integrate them. They spend time together, collaborate, make a point to understand each other to ensure marketing is genuinely contributing to sales’ daily challenges.
This integration takes the form of agreeing to targets for both functions, which are measured weekly using the same tools. As a result, it’s now demonstrable that “marketing-generated leads for Three actually perform better than sales-generated leads,” Nicola says. And no one is happier about this than the sales team. A little consideration reveals that this is only to be expected. Marketing content is designed to stimulate interest and drive engagement, to move along with customers and prospects, not in front of them.
But Nicola is clear that success is not about comparisons, competition, and compartmentalisation. It has to be about working together.
Without a close partnership, sales will continue to feel they are the ultimate road warrior – Nicola Mortimer, Three.ieCLICK TO TWEET
As she says: “Without a close partnership, sales will continue to feel they are the ultimate road warrior. Marketing will still not be seen to be adding any value and will believe they don’t need to talk to customers or sales people to generate successful marketing content. But they can’t. If they’re not working together, it’s not going to work.”
For example, at Three, marketing and sales hold joint workshops to discover what topics customers and prospects are talking about, and therefore what marketing should be talking to them about to generate better traction. Customer input is important, but having a sales manager – for example – interviewing customers to find their current areas of opportunity and concern can add a whole new dimension to marketing, as well as providing valuable benefits for sales and for customers too.
It seems so basic, so obvious, but it’s something that so few organisations actually do.
Essentially, the difference between alignment and integration is about building relationships. Sales has always built relationships with customers and prospects. Now marketing must do the same with sales. And that certainly is happening at Three, as Nicola describes.
“Starting from no relationship at all, sales and marketing have now become so closely aligned that at our last Christmas party the last ones left in the nightclub at (time of morning withheld to protect reputations) were the marketing and inside sales teams!”