Less than 10 per cent of Canadian sales and marketing organizations say their functions are completely aligned to buyer needs, according to research released by SiriusDecisions as part of its first-ever Canadian Summit on Thursday.
While 69 per cent of organizations said their functions are at least partially aligned to buyer needs, 22 per cent suggested their processes are at odds with those to whom they are marketing and selling.
This may be linked to a lack of coordination between sales and marketing departments. While no one checked “never,” 60 per cent of those surveyed said the two groups only meet half the time they should be to discuss things like lead development. A total of 67 per cent said they were willing to align better, but 53 per cent said they lacked the capabilities to do do.
Customers aren’t the only ones whose buyer needs aren’t being satisfied, however. For Ally Motz, president of SiriusDecisions Canada, one of the most alarming takeaways from the survey was B2B firms’ attitudes towards technology.
Only 24 per cent of sales execs, for instance, said the various enterprise applications they use strongly enable them to meet their business objectives, and marketers were even less enthusiastic, at 16 per cent. When the question was turned around — “To what extent does technology strongly or partially hinder your ability to meet business objectives?” — the results were even worse, with 25 per cent of sales agreeing and 31 per cent of marketers saying the same thing.
“This technology piece, where the investments we’ve made in marketing automation, CRM, web tools — we waited for them to be proven,” he told the crowd in his keynote session, noting the strong risk-aversion in many Canadian organizations. “(The fact) that we’re not seeing the results we expect is a surprise to me.”
Megan Heuer, vice-president and group director at SiriusDecisions, suggested the problem may lie with a lack of real strategy behind IT investments.
“When clients come to us, very often they start by saying they need sales force automation or some other category. The next question we need to ask is ‘Why,’ rather than giving them a list of 15 vendors,” he said. “You have to always start with why, not what.”
SiriusDecisions offers a number of frameworks to assist with alignment and strategic technology investments. These included what Heuer called its “Metrics Spectrum,” which tries to create a common language for sales and marketing to use as they evaluate their performance across various initiatives. The spectrum terms look at areas such as “output,” “activity and impact,” but Heuer said an overlooked area was “readiness,” such as the size of the database that supports a project, or how well the firm complies with its service-level agreements.
“With readiness, you’re not just looking at the things we did, but what was on the journey to get there — how did we deliver that activity?” she said. “This isn’t something enough companies are including in their dashboards.”
Alignment In Action
SiriusDecisions is already working with organizations in Canada to apply this kind of thinking. This includes Export Development Canada (EDC), a commercial Crown corporation whose vision is to help Canadian companies grow and succeed internationally through a mix of insurance and buyer financing programs.
According to Mike Neals, EDC’s vice-president of partner channels, the organization began tackling things like sales and marketing alignment around buyer needs three years ago, when it set an ambitious goal to grow from about 7,150 customers to 30,000 by 2020.
EDC’s strategy included the introduction of new training and onboarding programs to improve sales readiness, Neals said. It also appointed a new leader of sales operations and assigned specific individuals to areas like CRM and sales enablement.
“Some of what we’ve done has involved technology, but most of the gaps were more about the fact there was no clear, accountable owner for certain things,” he said, adding it was an effort that involved looking both internally and, of course, at buyer needs. “We spend a lot of time mapping. We had to put down on paper exactly what the experience was for the customer.”
Nancy Bergeron, who leads sales enablement at EDC, said the new training curriculum included resources to assist with solution definition and positioning, account development and retention.
“New account acquisition — that used to be almost a bad word in the old days,” she said. “Most of our team was working on relationship management. There was no conversation about pipeline and forecast.”
The project also involved developing new internal marketing communications, including an e-mail newsletter, to help alleviate some of the time sales reps were spending managing their inbox, Bergeron added.
So far, those efforts are paying off. EDC has grown its customer base to more than 9,000 as of last year and will continue optimizing its approach through 2019 and beyond.
Other tracks at SiriusDecisions Summit Canada 2018 included executives from CA Technologies, Salesforce and Softchoice.