On episode 14 of The Insiders Podcast, hosts Richard Lane and Simon Hazeldine celebrate a milestone, welcoming two guests: sales and marketing duo Nick McClelland (Chief Growth Officer) and Aine Bryn (Chief Marketing Officer) from Mercer UK.  

Nick has 16+ years of experience in sales, and his career has seen him working for companies like JLT and Thomsons Online Benefits. Aine has a strong background in both sales and marketing spanning over 30 years, and has worked for household names such as PwC and Haymarket Media Group.  

Both Nick and Aine have occupied leadership roles. The pair offer their expertise about the constant relay race that exists between sales and marketing, and the key ingredient that will keep the two in alignment: curiosity. 

Be in constant conversation with one another  

Nick and Aine liken sales and marketing to a relay race in which the ‘baton’ should be passed back and forth. Nick highlights the importance of being in constant conversation with one another, and starting every client journey by being in the same room to identify the customer’s needs and then ‘feeding back’ to one another throughout the entire process: 

“In business, there are a lot of projects and initiatives that go on and suddenly just stop one day and I think a lot of that is because the conversation stops. The baton doesn’t get passed back, so then there is no learning. It should be a constant cycle of conversation that we don’t just stop because we forget to have a meeting with consultants, or the consultants don’t want to interact with marketing again. We keep going until it’s exhausted.” 

Marketo backs up Nick’s point, reporting that the key to long-term success is creating shared goals and KPIs, as well as coordinated reporting and campaigns.  

Aine is very much in agreement with Nick and makes the point that marketing and sales are two sides of the same coin and are the most powerful when working together.  

Create a culture of curiosity  

Aine argues that being curious is an integral part of keeping sales and marketing aligned, especially when it comes to data. The two functions should be inquisitive about one another, and always be asking the following questions: What is or isn’t working? Why? Is the client engaged? If not, why haven’t they engaged? She also vouches for documenting everything: 

If we do an email campaign or consultants are having conversations, we track everything and use that information. At the moment, we are in this data age, and this is where we need to relay [the data] back and forth – that is the feedback loop… Data without interpretation and analysis is just a number, it means nothing.” 

This culture of curiosity should also be applied to your sales and marketing teams. Nick and Aine highlight the importance of coaching your teams to have the confidence to ask questions they may not know the answers to. Nick commented: 

In our personal lives, we’re naturally inquisitive; we have conversations over the dinner table, or with friendship groups at the pub, but in business we clam up… Good people managers become good coaches, and they coach individuals to have the confidence to have those uncomfortable conversations.” 

Use that curiosity to drive growth 

When it comes to the client, curiosity from both you and them can drive growth. By asking the right questions, you can uncover new pains and challenges that your client may not have even considered before. The ‘relay race’ then starts again when a client solves an issue and identifies a new one, or they become aware of a service they didn’t know you offered: 

Then it opens up a whole world of conversation with the client that either didn’t know we could help with because they only buy certain things from us, and they go: ‘Actually, I didn’t realise you had that service – tell me more… We’re trying to solve problems and make people successful, so that’s a continuous conversation that nobody wants to stop.” – Aine 

Nick said that marketing teams who have a genuine curiosity about sales are the key to a harmonious partnership: 

“There is a genuine curiosity from our marketing teams that I haven’t seen before. A genuine interest in the market trends that are affecting our clients, and our clients are radically affected by everything going on in the world right now. So, we’re in a good position to solve lots of problems and engage with clients from that topic. But sometimes, I think marketing functions can be quite reactive, can be just fire and forget a little bit. There’s a genuine curiosity from our marketing team on what is happening, and that’s the other key part.”  

Listen to The Insiders podcast for more insights into the world of business-to-business sales and marketing. 

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