NorCal BMA recently had an opportunity to meet with Rishi Dave, Chief Marketing Officer at Dun & Bradstreet. As a topic near and dear to Bay Area B2B marketers, Sales Acceleration was the central theme of our discussion. We are delighted to present below the highlights of our conversation.
"Today, marketing can provide salespeople—in near real-time—actionable data when, how, and where they need it to move prospects to profitable customers."
We are seeing marketing really changing—going beyond the traditional lead generation role and actively helping sales. What’s the reason for this change?
We are absolutely seeing the change. At Dun & Bradstreet, we’ve changed the way we measure our marketing team’s performance. No longer do we focus just on pipeline generation, but also on the sales that close. This is increasingly relevant in the digital space as customers become more and more self-nurturing in the sales process, doing their own research on a product or a purchase decision long before they interact with a sales person. I used to measure my team on pipeline; after all, marketing has digital tools at its disposal to create a solid pipeline. But pipeline doesn’t pay the bills—closing sales does. So, we changed our approach to focus more on close rates in order to more accurately measure our marketing performance. Doing that strengthens the connection and alignment between sales and marketing, as both want to generate the same results.
"Pipeline doesn’t pay the bills—closing sales does. And marketing has the tools to help sales."
What are the specific areas where marketing can help sales?
There are three major areas where marketing can help:
- Driving the data and analytics strategy. This covers
- Collecting the right sets of data from both outside and inside the company, including third-party data;
- Integrating the data;
- Then using that data to build analytics that help drive insights that the sales team can use; and
- Helping the sales team take action on that insight—embedding the analytics within the tools sales people use, training the sales team on its use, etc.
- Building great experiences: Marketing can help the sales team in nurturing customers throughout the digital experience. This includes moving the prospect down the sales process with digital nurturing, marketing automation, etc. and providing the intelligence gathered from that effort to the sales team to help close the deal.
- Helping sales team execute the sales cycle. This includes helping the sales team do ROI analysis, build pitches and discussions with customers, and helping them architect those interactions.
What should be left to the salesforce? Where does the marketer stop?
Nowadays, the best companies don’t draw as clean of a line between marketing and sales. Instead, marketing and sales should collaborate on the right opportunities in the right ways. Sales team’s responsibility becomes crucial in the later stages of the sales cycle.
The role of sales is two-fold:
- When the customer is ready to talk to sales, the salesperson would take all the intelligence that has been gathered regarding that customer’s interactions with the company, and leverage it to continue the discussion with the customer and close the deal.
- There’s also a proactive component to the salesperson’s responsibilities: Leverage the analytics and data provided by marketing to call the accounts and the prospects at the right time, when the intelligence points to them being ready to talk.
You mention analytics. Do you mean Predictive Analytics? How do they help sales?
I include all types of analytics. The basic analytic is to track simple events tied to the customer: They may have built a new location, announced a new strategy, said something in social. Beyond that, many different analytics come into play.
Predictive analytics is a big one. That helps determine where the opportunities are, what the opportunities within the accounts are, and how to prioritize specific opportunities. It also helps with assigning the biggest future opportunities to the right sales organization within the company.
There’s also lookalike modeling, where you study previous companies that have bought a lot from you and look for companies like them with similar opportunities for sales. Analytics can be embedded in the process of the sales team—in their CRM or by other means—so the sales team has it available to them when they need it.
"Predictive analytics is a big one. But all types of analytics help in sales acceleration."
We talked about cooperative working relationship between marketing and sales. How would this come about? Should marketing reach out to sales to start it? Or should sales initiate a request to marketing? Or is there a different approach altogether?
The biggest opportunity for success lies in aligning goals for both marketing and sales. It’s best to set this up as a company-wide objective. Whatever marketing is executing, they need to work with the sales team for best effect. Take predictive analytics, for example. Marketing may use that to determine where the biggest opportunities are. But marketing should still vet that with the sales team in a collaborative way to understand the qualitative aspects of the quantitative analysis that went into the predictive analytics. This way they can jointly come up with the right set of accounts to target that will drive the sales process.
Marketing and sales technology overlap in many cases. What’s the best way to reconcile the use of these in a collaborative manner?
It’s very difficult to determine what is sales technology vs. marketing technology. In my opinion, that’s not how we should look at it. We should look at the customer first. For our target customers we should first ask these questions: What’s the right experience for them? How do we create value for them? How do we convey our differentiated value to them?—and then we can architect the technology stack, both online and offline. Marketing or sales can do that—it’s a joint effort. Think about what that means from a process perspective to execute those opportunities.
What should be the basis for evaluating marketing success?
Pipeline generation, close rates, sales, as well as brand metrics are all good measures to include in the overall evaluation of marketing.
Do companies need to hire different type of marketers to do this?
Yes, definitely. Two things companies need to do: hire the right people who can contribute an outside-in perspective, and also have a plan for how to grow, train and up skill people on the inside.
What we are seeing in marketing, because marketing is so much larger than it used to be with so many different disciplines—brand, creative, marketing technology, data analytics, messaging, field marketing, PR communications, etc.—increasingly these disciplines are very specialized. Marketers need to have specialties in these disciplines but also be able to work across disciplines in service of the customer. They need to be ‘T’-shaped marketers—meaning they can go deep in one specialty but can also collaborate with colleagues across specialties. Salespeople need to be comfortable with this new kind of environment to leverage all of the information coming from these resources.
"Marketing has specialized disciplines. Companies need to hire 'T'-shaped marketers—meaning they can go deep in one specialty but can go wide across specialties."
We are talking a lot about ABM these days. Can you talk about that?
Account Based Marketing has been around forever. The difference now is we can scale it with technology, data, and analytics. The crux of the advances is the generation of real-time data and analytics. We have large amounts of data that we can process quickly on the cloud to generate real-time analytics. We can use that to build models and prioritize accounts more effectively and in real-time—not just based on history, but on what’s happening to them now to determine what the biggest opportunities will be in the future. We can leverage those analytics to prioritize the set of accounts we want to target. And then we can leverage technology to assign those targets to the right salespeople and give them the right intelligence with the right context and then measure it. We can be extremely targeted in our approach.
How do cookies and retargeting help?
We tied the cookie pool with our B2B data so that we have the ability to target accounts very specifically in the digital space and tie it to our offline data and actions. That’s the power of what we are able to do today.
How do you leverage social?
Social plays a large role in how we interact with customers and the experience we provide. It’s another important channel to integrate into your data analysis that you provide to salespeople for real-time action.
"Sales acceleration—integrating the data, generating the insight, and surfacing it to the sales and marketing teams at the right time, in real-time—is the future of sales and marketing."
Any closing thoughts?
Yes, we are seeing a lot happening in the space of sales acceleration. It brings together everything we talked about and I see this as the future of sales and marketing.
For example, at Dun & Bradstreet, we have a large set of data—based on social, digital marketing, our company interactions with customers, etc. We bring that data together and integrate it with data from our database—the world’s largest commercial database. And we build analytics on it. The key development that’s happening now is that we can surface the analytics data from the database in real-time—with the appropriate context—to the salespeople. They have the exact data at the exact moment when they need it to call on a customer, fueled by triggers like news events, information like SEC filings, etc. Dun & Bradstreet is investing in this sales acceleration space, and recently unveiled a new Sales Acceleration platform, D&B Hoovers.
The real-time nature of integrating the data, generating the insight, and surfacing it to the sales and marketing teams at the right time is what we call sales acceleration and it’s really the future of sales and marketing.
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