A As a consultant and professional service provider, I learned very early in my career that providing clients with guidance and advice on service offerings I had used and implemented within our agency first-hand was a key to success. More than just a “practice what you preach” promise to our clients, this “walk the talk” philosophy allows a depth of learning and understanding that only comes with hands-on trial and error.
As such, as I see more and more agencies now promising that they can deliver first rate marketing automation, sales enablement and lead generation services. One of the first thoughts that comes to mind is: “How many of these agencies have actually implemented all of these practices, technologies and services themselves?”. And the answer, I’m guessing, is not many.
It was a little over 2 years ago that Think Shift, coming off our latest trip to the Salesforce Dreamforce event, took the big plunge into completely rebuilding our sales and marketing team. We focused our efforts on sales enablement and single source of truth philosophies bestowed by companies like Salesforce and HubSpot. Now, we have finally reached an internal level of understanding and expertise significant enough to make these service offerings some of our most successful and sought after amongst clients and prospects alike.
Furthermore, what we have gained during our own 2-year journey (which continues to evolve to this date) has been several critical insights we simply wouldn’t have gained if we had not gone through this sales and marketing evolution ourselves. While there are too many insights to capture and share in detail here, the following are some of the most important we have experienced so far:
1. Smarketing isn’t just a silly word
While HubSpot has moved away from the term “smarketing” (which they used to capture the combined sales and marketing effort) it is still a major insight into what drives success. More specifically the move to sales enablement, marketing automation, etc., can’t be seen as a sales team effort, a marketing team effort or even a digital team effort. Instead, it must be driven by all three of these teams in unison and with equal buy-in. This means shared leadership, oversight, execution, management and maintenance. It also means joint meetings occurring early and often, with clear input, direction and takeaways for all involved.
2. Educated assumptions are par for the course
Ask anyone who has been through a sales and marketing transformation like ours and you’ll likely get a similar story from all that data: access to it and quality of it will only be a constraint if you let it. Like so many others, we wanted to use existing data to help inform and set perfect goals for contacts, leads, conversions, proposals and win-rates only to be frustrated and disappointed with how little data we had to start with. Thankfully, through the coaching of our own Salesforce and HubSpot consultants, we learned and embraced the fact that data will never be perfect and that informed assumptions should and must be used to make up the gaps (and to keep the process/system moving).
3. Maintaining momentum is essential
Again, like many others who have attempted to rebuild their sales and marketing efforts, Think Shift experienced a couple false starts before the transformation became fully rooted in our operations and culture. Looking back, this was mainly because of a lack of momentum or waning of momentum amongst the team. In both cases, we had defined and implemented the systems and structure required but had underestimated the need for near constant influxes of communications, training and celebrations. This is an area where most consultants/agencies who have not undergone the transformation themselves will likely leave their clients “wanting” as they’ll be able to help you get the pieces in place for success but won’t know how to keep them performing.
4. Leads are only one indicator of performance
While acquiring, nurturing and converting leads are an essential part of any sales enablement effort, they provide only a limited picture of overall performance. As we learned at Think Shift, one of the major benefits of going through a sales transformation is you will have a significantly clearer picture of where and how leads come into and flow through your sales funnel. More than just a better understanding of the many touchpoints involved in acquiring, nurturing and converting these leads, you’ll also better understand the quality these touchpoints will have on your conversion rates (and how and where you may be lacking). Likewise, seeing the bigger picture of your customers’ sales journey will help you understand the difference between leads and how two prospects that may look very similar on paper may be at very different levels of readiness (i.e. not every lead is ready for a phone call/meeting/proposal and forcing these actions too soon can significantly hurt their level of engagement).
5. Sales enablement is a journey of a thousand steps
Like any significant business initiative, your sales enablement effort will deliver the worst results at the outset. It’s important to understand and embrace this or else you and your team risk becoming disenfranchised with the process. Ultimately, it is critical to stay focused and aligned on the overall goals at hand and understand that they will only be achieved through a measure and adjust mindset. That said, there is major benefit in the fact that sales enablement always keeps goals front and centre (in the form of the $, lead and conversion metrics you’ve set) and that improvements can generally be made and seen in real time.
If you’re in talks with your agency about sales enablement, marketing automation, lead generation services, etc. and are questioning whether they truly know what it takes to deliver on this significant offering, a good place to start is to ask them for their monthly MQL target. Any agency who’s deeply engaged in the offering themselves should know this off the top of their head and should even be able to tell you where they are currently sitting. If they can’t then it might be time to look for someone who has the hands-on experience you need to bring this amazing opportunity to life.
P.S. Our monthly MQL target is 26. 😉
About the Writer:
David Lazarenko, Partner and Chief Growth Officer
David has spent more than 20 years leading strategy and marketing efforts in agri-business. As Chief Growth Officer at Think Shift, he has led successful brand and product launches, re-branding and brand alignment initiatives, sales campaigns, and corporate responsibility campaigns for some of agriculture’s most successful corporations, including ADAMA, Bayer, Cargill, Monsanto, Trimble Agriculture and Westeel. Recently, David’s commitment to agriculture and thought leadership in marketing was recognized with his award as the Canadian Agri-Marketing Association’s 2018 Agri-Marketer of the Year.