On the latest episode of The Insiders podcast, hosts Simon Hazeldine and Richard Lane spoke with Darren Atkins, Marketing Director at Sabre, who highlighted the importance of integrating marketing and sales activity to positively impact sales pipeline and revenue generation.

Darren also outlined the value of setting clear objectives right at the start of new demand generation campaigns, and explained why the role of a good marketing department must not be limited to generating interest and awareness, but to also supporting sales by driving buyer engagement across the sales process. 

Setting clear campaign objectives from the get-go

With more than 20 years’ worth of experience in marketing, Darren has headed the demand generation function of businesses like Sony and Canon. At Sabre, his mission is to identify and implement best practices across the company by combining sales and marketing.  

Misalignment between these two functions is a challenge affecting many businesses however, and fixing it requires strategic thinking, collaboration, and openness to change.  

When launching a new demand generation campaign, it is important to have clear goals from the get-go, and share this with both marketing and sales teams well before its kick-off: 

“You need to be really clear about what it is we’re trying to achieve, how we’re going to track and measure success, and then look at how we optimize against those metrics and targets you’ve set at the outset.” 

Darren stressed that even well-established global companies struggle with this, but it is at this point that the foundation for attributing marketing activity with sales pipeline and revenue generation is set.

Combining sales and marketing 

Sales and marketing often run parallel as two separate functions.  

Darren discussed how this can be a symptom of the two departments not sharing the same management structure and joining only where the heads of department report into, for example to the Chief Commercial Officer. This separation creates problems with communication and complicates the execution of new demand generation campaigns. 

In his experience with Canon, Darren has understood that the creation of a revenue-centric senior management role can help solve these challenges: 

“A VP of Sales and Marketing, who was ensuring that in everything we considered sales and marketing together.” 

For Darren, this structure must be complimented by the definition of a clear marketing metric that allows for attribution and performance measurement in relation to sales pipeline. 

The key idea here is always to avoid “doing something in isolation and then trying to figure out where the other team plays. But rather doing it right up front and thinking about the optimal performance for the company. I think that was the best structure I’ve seen in terms of really driving that sales and marketing alignment.” 

Fluidity is better than connection

For this reason, Darren is not a fan of marketing teams that generate leads and simply pass them on to sales. Substituting this lead conversion model with a more fluid one, however, would require reimagining the role of marketing.  

While generating interest and awareness is still an important component of marketing’s mission to cultivate the company brand, in fact, the function should be thought of as one of sales enablement: 

“I don’t believe the alignment between marketing and sales to be a strict line. It’s more of trying to understand that there are different roles that change over time and in each opportunity.  

“For instance, if we’re looking at insights and intent, we may still be tracking some behaviours there that may warrant marketing getting back involved more than they were planning to because the deal seems to be going cold or it’s not passing through the pipeline as fast as we were expecting it to.” 

Marketing must be able to support sales at every stage of the process, including after the sale has taken place, where “we’re thinking about key deals we must either retain or try and win back, so marketing can help drive repeat business, drive loyalty, drive up-sale, drive cross-sale.” 

Creating one revenue function

Darren’s advice points towards one clear direction; pipelines with two separate siphons, one for marketing and one for sales, will leak opportunities. The best approach to fix it is to shift our mindsets: 

“In the past, I’ve even advocated the idea of removing the terminology of sales and marketing. They’re all in a revenue-focused function.” 

At durhamlane, we believe in the power of unified revenue operations, and know that our marketing services are conceived to support sales at every stage of building our clients’ sales pipeline. 

Ask our demand generation specialists how we can help you align marketing and sales by accelerating the lead generation and conversion process, and listen to The Insiders podcast for more insights into the world of B2B sales and marketing. 

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