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Thought Leadership

Voices in marketing: An interview with Anne Lannan - Part 2

Marketing and sales alignment is essential. See how social media is impacting on-the-ground actions both teams make in Part 2 of our Voices in Marketing interview with Anne Lannan.

If you missed Part 1, catch up here.

You mentioned social media – how do you think that’s added a new dimension into the mix in terms of marketing and sales?

I think it’s another skill set that salespeople need to develop and another program that marketing has to support. Everyone talks about social selling, and when you’re engaging with a particular individual, you have to personalize it. So for example, you and I are all at the same company and we get the curated content to post, but then you need take the time to personalize that content with your comments or point of view. You also need to understand enough about the customer to know what content or post they might be interested in, either in a share or a private message.

Instead of making a cold call, you’re now doing a lot of research on that person, what they care about, where they are active, who are they following, etc. To the extent that marketing can help make that research easy for sales, there will be stronger alignment and partnership. And they can use the analytics and the tools in the marketing technology stack to serve up data and insights.

Want to talk about the kind of content that you get to your customers and what every marketer needs to be doing there?

I think that marketing in general does a good job of curating content. In terms of delivering content, two things come to mind: storytelling and video. Marketing needs to combine the two and create compelling, digestible content. By digestible, I mean “bite-sized” chunks that grab your attention in the first 1-2 seconds and keep it for the next 1-2 minutes. Think of a snack-size Snickers versus the full size bar. I’m going to package a small, tasty piece content of that the customer will like and is easy to repurpose.

... and then give them more of that content at a deeper level.

Yes, once we get a contact interested, get them hooked, that is when you begin to know what that customer cares about and start to build a relationship with a more targeted and personalized approach. There are some fundamentals about content management that haven’t changed. But how we serve it up (channels), how we measure interest and how we engage have evolved.

Let’s go back to marketing helping sales. When marketing makes things digestible and easy to use for the sales team, the sales team will be more willing to adopt the program, use it and see the benefits. 

So for example, I created sales coaching tips for sales managers to use with their teams to adopt a buyer-aligned sales process. It was written in the voice of the sales managers, then formatted to make it easy for them to edit and forward to their teams. Each topic was related to the buyer’s journey and based on where they were in the current sales quarter. The content was short – one or two paragraphs – focused on one digestible coaching tip. Sales managers used the tips, added the topics in their team meetings and asked for more!

For example, one topic was “Are you really Listening? | Top 10 most watched TEDx Talks.” Using a top-rated Ted Talk got their interest – they could relate personally as well as see how it could help them listen for “customer verifiers” that indicate where the customer was in their buyer’s journey.

The outcome was to shift from the sales reps activities to listening for the customer’s actual responses. Further, the client’s sales forecast reviews focused on the customer verifiers to improve predictability for must-win deals. For example, the rep says “I sent an email to Bill to verify the contract will be signed by the 30th.”

The questions now shift to the customers response, “Has Bill responded to your email to confirm the 30th? Has the contract been approved by legal? Has Bill identified who needs to sign off on the final contract?” Those are all customer verifiers to better predict if the deal will close or push.

Do you have an idea of something that’s coming next in marketing – a prediction?

From a marketing operations perspective, I’d say being diligent about measuring and improving the MarTech stack to serve your internal customers within the organization. Identifying new technologies, getting people aligned and ensuring that they will use the new technology.

You can buy the best technology on the planet, but if it is not adopted, it is a waste of time and money. If you’re buying a really heavy-duty, account-based marketing tool, but you haven’t worked with sales, and they’re not ready to adopt it, you’re going to blow your budget for that year and get a black eye for a failed implementation. Managing and measuring the MarTech stack is driving much better alignment with marketing and sales.

This is especially true for smaller organizations – those in the 50-500 employee range – who need to scale their growth. They have to really work smarter to pick those tools and technologies they can consume and not be distracted by the bright shiny objects.

Is it a bigger risk to buy into a technology and then take the chance that you’re not going to use the it effectively? Or to wait until you’re really ready?

This is a big organizational challenge. I would say again, you’ve got to get internal alignment, and management has to walk the talk. For example, to drive adoption with the sales team, getting sales reps to share their stories about how the new technology or process helped them win a deal. They don’t trust marketing – you’re just trying to get them to do extra stuff and record things in Salesforce that adds to their workload, but when their peers tell them how the technology helped them hit their number, you get more buy in.

Is there anything else you want to add?

I guess I just come back to the buyer’s journey and focusing on customer engagement before, during and after they become customers. I used the term “customer verifiers” earlier in the interview – you can use whatever terms you like: customer experience, customer success, customer health … it’s all about measuring and building customer engagement.

I mentioned earlier, in a subscription economy, customer retention is critical as they can easily unplug from your solution and plug into another.

We always need to be listening to what the customer is telling us, and doing it in a more intelligent way. That’s where some of the new tools and AI come in. Sales AI tools, for example, can go beyond who attended a meeting to measure the interaction level of key stakeholders and if their responses indicate a positive or negative stance. You have to really make sure you’re keeping a finger on the pulse of that customer, always applying the “customer verifier” concept.

You mentioned AI. Is there anything else you wanted to say about that?

I like the SiriusDecisions description of AI:

“…taking an application that is engineered to take data, apply statistical processes for the purpose of making decisions or predictions, or automating process.”

There are some interesting tools to help collect customer data and also alleviate onerous tasks from Sales and Customer Success. For example, sales or customer success teams having to manually add detailed customer meeting notes in SalesForce – it is necessary but a big time sink. So if an AI tool allows them to more efficiently capture meeting notes, and identify actionable insights, that has tremendous value. Not only are we getting data back from the customer to make better decisions and keep them happy, we’re also freeing up sales and support people’s time to be more productive.


VOLTAGE is a digital agency specializing in eCommerce, digital brand experiences, and web apps. Get emails and insights from our team:

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