Most go-to-market teams underperform their growth potential because they focus too heavily on team-level measures of success. They say Marketing is good at identifying and engaging buyers, Sales is good at working deals, and Customer Success is good at customer care and renewals. So, that’s what we will measure.
The fastest growing companies, however, think differently. They focus on cross-team processes and measures that create a seamless, authentic buyer journey in ways that lead to higher deal conversion rates, faster upsells and account expansion.
One go-to-market team that has effectively used cross-team processes and measures to grow faster is Zeel@Work, under the leadership of Ben Robinson, Senior Vice President of Sales. I had the opportunity to talk to Ben about this recently. Here are some key takeaways.
Ben’s Advice: Start with Aligned Messaging on Buyer Value
“I always find myself in these funny roles of needing to build a business-to-business revenue organization inside a company started with a consumer focus,” Ben told me. “To not get lost in the more established, consumer-focused part of the company, you have to be really good at getting B2B sales, marketing, and success teams executing as one integrated organization.”
Ben was talking with me from his home office by videoconference. There was a feeling of calm focus that pervaded Ben’s office environment. I could see the room had high ceilings and directly behind him was a ceiling to floor glass wall that looked out on a well-kept, beautiful garden.
Zeel helps its customers increase health and reduce stress with a range of health services from high-quality massages to yoga, mindfulness and assisted stretching. Customers include individual consumers as well as employees who receive a health benefit from a Zeel partner company. Ben leads the business-to-business group, called Zeel@Work, which delivers employee wellness services both in-person and online to its business customers.
“So, what is the biggest challenge?” I responded to Ben. “Is it getting the whole revenue organization synced up on content and messaging? Or is it having clear rules on buyer hand-offs, and creating aligned incentives?”
Ben sat back for a moment to consider the series of questions I had asked.
“Getting the whole go-to-market team synced up on the same approach to messaging buyer value is definitely the right first step,” Ben said. “It is critical to smooth the buyer hand-offs between Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success. For Zeel@Work this was pretty straightforward. Our B2B team uses the same messaging as our consumer team, which focuses on wellness as a path to a happier and healthier life. In our case, as we’re selling to corporate human resource buyers, we add on messaging about how increasing wellness decreases cost.”
Ben proceeded to share the B2B messaging version of a happier and healthier life. It focused on building talk tracks around well known research that employee stress costs US business $300 billion each year and that wellness programs can reduce healthcare costs by 86%.
Key Principle: Align Marketing and Sales Around Proven Buyer Profiles
“OK, and what about the hand-off points and incentives? That must be different from the consumer side of the business.” I said.
“Yes, that took some work, particularly in the prospecting playbooks to support Marketing-to-Sales hand-off,” Ben grimaced ever so slightly, then proceeded in a measured tone. “The first marketing campaigns run by the consumer marketing team, well, they really did not work at all for our business-focused sales team. We had way too much variability in leads. Some were really good, some really bad. Since 70% of our leads are inbound, we needed to work with the consumer marketing team to optimize their lead generation efforts for our team.”
“How did you do that?” I asked. “I know Marketing usually wants to get credit for all the leads they generate and sometimes sales teams are really picky about working only the ‘best’ leads.”
“We definitely had that tension here as well,” Ben said as he shared some of the expertise that had made him a successful business-to-business leader in an environment with a stronger business-to-consumer orientation. “The key was to agree on one simple principle – ‘focus on the proven customers where we have already won.’”
Ben proceeded to explain that in his first couple of years at Zeel@Work, eight percent of their closed deals had come from three industry sectors – technology, professional services, and legal firms. Their sales cycle and conversion rates for these three sectors were more than two times better than any other sector.
“OK, so that helps narrow the campaign focus, but how did you make sure the leads handed to the sales team were something close to an ideal buyer?” I asked.
“Once we had agreement on the right sectors, we added three rules of the road to lead hand-offs,” Ben continued. For emphasis, he raised his hand and ticked through the rules, one-two-three, on his fingers. “We agreed that the contact had to be in a company with more than 500 employees in a geography we serve, had to be at a director-level role or above and had to have shown a pattern of engagement that involved two or more activities. Things like an email open, a clicked link, a webinar registration, or a content download.”
Key Principle: Align Sales and Customer Success on Broad Buyer Goal Discovery
“So, that’s how you got alignment on the hand-off from Marketing to Sales.” I said. “How about from Sales to Customer Success? How did you create a smooth hand-off from a signed agreement with a new customer into onboarding and on-going support?”
“We started with one shared process in our CRM for managing sales deals and customer accounts.” Ben now started to show how much he truly understood about building a seamless buyer experience that can create faster revenue growth. “The shared process has five stages. Sales team members manage a deal from stage 1, or an initial discovery call, to stage 4, which is a closed won deal. An account manager then takes it forward into an account deepening phase, which is stage 5. Sales team members are asked to attach all their notes on a closed won deal to the account to ensure a smooth transition into the account phase.”
“Hmm, I have worked with a lot of sales teams and they all seem to spend as little time as possible in the CRM,” I said. “How did you ever get the sales team to spend time adding notes for the success team?”
“Great question,” Ben said with a knowing smile. “We also changed the sales team’s incentives. We started to compensate them on any upsell deal closed by an account manager within 12 months of the initial sale. This motivated the sales team to do really good discovery on all potential places a new buyer could use Zeel@Work and to hand off really good notes.”
“That’s cool. It’s a great approach to team collaboration that also builds a strong understanding of buyer goals, which supports finding expansion opportunities more quickly,” I said. “That is a different approach. Was everybody on-board?”
“At first, my CEO was not a big fan,” Ben responded. “He called it ‘double dipping.’ But as he saw the results come in he became more comfortable with the approach.”
How to Design Your Revenue Organization to Align Go-to-Market Teams and Grow Faster
“Last question. When you think about aligning the revenue organization, does it mean Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success all report into someone in your role?”
“It could be organized that way,” said Ben. “In my last role, I had end-to-end revenue responsibility with Marketing, Sales and Customer Success all reporting to me. With Zeel, I currently have Sales and Customer Success. We draw on central marketing, and expect to get our marketing team when we get a bit bigger. More important than the organizational structure is the cross-team process and measures that keep the buyer at the center of our focus.”
By building cross-team processes and measures, rather than the simpler path of measuring each team on its own activities, Ben helped Zeel@Work grow rapidly as a successful B2B team within the broader company focused on direct to consumer revenue growth.
Here are a few key steps to keep in mind:
- Start with aligned messaging on buyer value. The sales team at Zeel@Work built on core marketing messages. Make sure all go-to-market teams are aligned on what value is communicated to potential buyers.
- Make sure Marketing and Sales are in agreement on who their target buyer is. In Zeel@Work’s case, they aligned on the key principle that their target audience should match their proven buyer profile. They then fine-tuned this definition with sector, role and engagement criteria to qualify leads.
- Manage the hand-off from Sales to Customer Success to optimize faster revenue growth. In Zeal@Work’s case, Ben was able to establish CRM processes that supported a smooth hand-off and an incentive plan that ensured broad discovery by Sales that set up Customer Success for a quicker path to account expansion.