Even if the swords they brought up onto the stage at SiriusDecisions Canada Summit on Tuesday weren’t made out of plastic, it was pretty clear the marketing and sales execs from Bell Business Solutions weren’t really trying to kill each other.
That said, Michelle Bourque and her colleague Rishi Patel admitted they were not immune to the kind of inter-departmental duels that often make it more difficult to meet business objectives. At Bell Business Solutions, which has more than 160 products and more than 50,000 customers, failing to appreciate what each function can bring to the table was becoming a big problem.
“Most of the sales group thought I did arts and crafts,” said Borque, vice-president of marketing and national access at Bell. Changing those perceptions — along with a growing awareness of how B2B buyer behavior was changing, was what drove her to forge a more effective partnership with Patel, Bell’s senior director of enterprise and commercial sales.
“I began begging my people to talk to marketing — not because we liked them,” he joked, “but because they have the budget.”
Unfortunately, Bell Business Markets is hardly alone, based on a survey of more than 300 executives SiriusDecisions released at the Summit. According to the data, just over half of B2B firms, or 53 per cent, said they had achieved “partial alignment” between sales and marketing team, though slightly more, 55 per cent, said the same thing last year.
“It’s actually gotten worse,” observed Ally Motz, president and CEO of SiriusDecisions Canada. “This is part of recognizing the processes that are in place, and what’s not working.”
The solution at Bell involved getting both sales and marketing directors together in the room on a weekly basis, in sessions that lasted up to an hour and a half, Bourque said. The joint teams used a scorecard and consulting from SiriusDecisions to evaluate both opportunities and their progress. Ongoing training was also a key plank in the program. Patel discussed one element, dubbed Hack Your Energy, which was intended to help ensure all members of the team think differently about their priorities.
“The traditional habits we tend to have in areas like sales are about energy, the time you need to do things and so on,” he said. “We tried to offer ways to help people focus on their energy first, and then time and everything else second.”
The biggest areas the two sides addressed included assessing Bell’s digital presence, given the rise of buyers using online tools to conduct research. Borque admitted statistics suggesting the high use of social media in the early days of the buying cycle came as a surprise. The teams also focused on creating more of an omni-channel strategy to ensure buyers continued to be engaged even when sales weren’t able to talk to them face-to-face.
This all meant rethinking the thought leadership and sales enablement content Borque’s team was developing. In the last year, she said more than 300 new assets had been created to address the buyer personas it has developed. Bell’s offerings include everything from data center and cloud services to the Internet of Things and secyurity, and its customers need a range of different kinds of content to meet their needs. “In our business, you are nurturing a sale over many months — sometimes weeks, but in the case of some areas, more than a year,” she said.
This was also reflected in the SiriusDecisions research, where Motz showed 33 per cent of respondents said coming up with the right content is their biggest challenge in addressing changing buyer behavior.
The end result, Borque said, was that Bell Business Markets exceeded its marketing and sales objectives — to the extent that Borque’s team saw it budget doubled for 2019.
“In the past we had seen a declining of the marketing spend, or incremental increases,” she said. “To have a stronger advertising and marketing budget available really speaks to what we’ve accomplished together.
SiriusDecisions Summit Canada 2019 wrapped up Tuesday.