Maximize growth through sales collaboration

OHL, a global supply chain management company, grew sales with successful collaboration between sales teams and marketers.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Maximizing collaboration between marketing and sales is a constantly moving target, albeit one that can mean the difference between continued growth or a stagnant company.

Improving marketing and sales collaboration was a main theme at the SiriusDecisions Summit. Bringing together these two silos can lead to better managed leads, products and customer experience, and a case study that focused on five ways to spur sales growth drove home the point.

"It isn't just about building a good sales organization," said Phil Corwin, vice president of sales and performance for Ozburn-Hessey Logistics LLC (OHL), a global supply chain management company based in Brentwood, Tenn. OHL was acquired by France-based Geodis in 2015. "It's about the whole ecosystem in front and behind of sales making that happen."

Corwin was joined by Tim Clarke, director of product marketing for Salesforce, who connected the session's five how-to points to the summit's overall theme of the art and science of intelligent growth.

"Some of these fit on the science side and others are more of an art form," Clarke said.

Align sales and marketing with clear goals

Clarke said setting clear, specific goals tailored to each sales team was the first step in aligning sales with marketing and product research, with Corwin emphasizing organization.

"How you're organized and what you want your sales representatives to do ties to what the goals should be," Corwin said. "The metrics we develop for them are different than the metrics we use for accounts or the marketing team."

Getting marketing and sales collaboration for OHL included bringing together common language and definitions, which was a challenge initially.

"We found this dilemma of a marketing definition of what a qualified lead is and what a qualified lead is to sales," Corwin said. "It took some agreement to figure out what the qualified lead definition is."

Speak the same language

By having both marketing and sales speaking the same language, OHL was better equipped to guide the customer through their buying journey.

Staying disciplined when it came to the process and time it took to complete a sale and nurture that customer was the third key in creating sales collaboration and growth, no matter if different sales teams within a company were selling different items.

"The commonality of what takes place in the sales process can be reflected, no matter the difference in what sales teams are selling," Corwin said. "Keeping the team disciplined within the process helps with the speed of the sale."

Teaching sales teams to adapt mobile applications also fostered sales collaboration while saving time, although it's important to focus on sales and marketing teams' needs when it comes to mobile.

"You can't just go to sales reps and tell them to use the mobile app -- you have to tell them the key things to do on the device," Clarke said.

Sell the product's value, not just price

Teaching the sales team to sell the value of the product, not just the price point and technology, was also key in realizing sales growth, Corwin said, but it required OHL to rethink the questions it asked its customers.

Answers of 'Yes' or 'No,' or number responses are disturbing; there's no probing for meaning. We trained our staff to ask open-ended questions.
Phil Corwinvice president of sales and performance, OHL

"Answers of 'Yes' or 'No,' or number responses are disturbing; there's no probing for meaning," Corwin said. "We trained our staff to ask open-ended questions."

OHL employees sent questionnaires to many of its customers, asking for feedback on how its services and people create value.

"We got back a response that our quotes were fast and accurate, which seemed like an obvious thing to do to be successful," Corwin said. "But the customer explained how, with us responding quickly and accurately, he is able to relay the information to his customers quicker and gain more business. Having another way to explain what we do well other than saying we're highly responsive helped us sell value to our customers."

Be primed to succeed

The last how-to point was centered on creating an organization primed to succeed, which is where sales collaboration with marketing, business development and product research pays off in the form of sales growth.

"The organization is the entire sales ecosystem," Corwin said. "It comes down to agreeing on a process and the role of everyone in that process."

Corwin stressed the importance of communication to be able to successfully implement these keys and help marketers and sales reps perform up to their standards.

"There's always something that can help them," Corwin said. "Look at professional athletes: They're the best in the world, but they still have coaches. You have to have someone to observe and help improve techniques."

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