This year’s SiriusDecisions Summit in Austin put a bright spotlight on the importance of cross-organizational alignment to drive a customer-obsessed revenue engine. According to analysts, the alignment between product, marketing and sales teams is the key to high performance. Yet, many organizations still struggle with it.
“Organizations that maintain focus on alignment achieve up to 19% faster revenue growth and up to 15% higher profitability than other companies,” said Marisa Kopec, VP of Innovation and Product Management, Research Fellow for SiriusDecisions, during her keynote presentation. “Our research reinforces that finding every day. Alignment matters — it is a team sport. You can have an amazing product, but if you don’t have the right go-to-market processes or systems, you can’t bring it to market... Alignment requires chemistry; it’s not good enough to be good. It takes every team in the revenue engine to be good together to outperform.”
During the keynote, Kopec, alongside her colleague Megan Heuer, VP of Research for SiriusDecisions, revealed a unique periodic chart for a customer-obsessed revenue engine, designed to isolate the elements of high-performance teams. The chart is broken up by company, product, marketing, sales and customer.
“Alignment requires a willingness from each of these teams to appreciate each other — human factors like respect, trust and alliance because we have to create bonds,” said Kopec. “That’s the chemistry that drives high performance.”
If each element is “green” on the table, everything is fine, and customers are happy. But nothing is ever perfect, according to Kopec.
“The revenue engine is in constant motion and alignment isn’t static either,” Kopec added. “It takes continuous adjustment to keep all these elements working together... It takes just one piston in this engine to cause performance to stall.”
The 5 As Of B2B’s Future
There are many external factors shaping the way B2B professionals come to work every day. So, according to Heuer, predicting the future of B2B isn’t easy. But one thing that she said won’t change is alignment.
“There’s a lot going on out there — advances in technology and medicine, impacts of climate change, sorrows and joys of people trying to understand changes in demographics, culture and politics,” said Heuer. “What we can agree on with these trends is that they’re all connected. While in B2B, we find they are impossible to ignore when predicting the future because these trends come to work with us every day. What won’t change in the future is what has made us successful in B2B in the past — that is alignment. We need to work together to embrace what the future will bring because alignment is the key to growth, but it’s also the key to having the kind of organization we want to be a part of.”
The SiriusDecisions analysts came together to present the five As of B2B’s future. According to Heuer, these points provide some hints into how organizations will need to embrace big changes and turn them into steps they can take in their businesses to do things differently and think differently on how to do them in the next three to five years.
“What these trends point to is high-performing B2B organizations are going to be those that have clarity of what they’re doing and why,” said Heuer. “They apply smart applications of technology throughout their organizations... and do so with creativity and humanity.”
What these five As have in common, however, is the customer. “The future belongs to businesses that respect and engage customers,” said Heuer. “Engaging customers is key to growth in the future.”
1. Artificial Intelligence — According to Heuer, AI is having a profound effect on revenue. It is taking jobs off marketers’ plates and enabling them to gather and act on customer data. Heuer said she believes that AI in B2B is not just job security — but job improvement. “When we automate activities we don’t like doing, we can get back to creating, designing, engaging and disrupting. AI frees us up to do that.” But she said to use it responsibly. What is the line between creepy and cool? It will change a lot and B2B organizations need to pay attention.
2. Accountability — Heuer said this will take two forms. First — organizations will spend a lot of money on technology and the services/skills to make it work. That means marketers must help their senior leaders measure the impact of technology effectively and help them think differently about what ROI is in the years ahead. Second — customers. “Marketers must use their customer data for the customer’s good, not just their own,” said Heuer.
3. Atomization — Heuer said this is the idea that we need to provide information to customers in whatever form they want, at the time they want, in the channel they prefer. “We can argue about levels of personas, but we will build upon personas and engage with them as a person or buying group. Engaging that customer in the way they want at this point is mostly relegated to the buyer’s journey. We need to focus on the post-sale customer lifecycle. The honeymoon with the customer can never end — pre-sale and post-sale.”
Heuer added that these first three As “are all about how we will do things differently in the next few years,” while the last two — authenticity and adaptability — are all about why. “It’s all in the attitude,” she said.
4. Authenticity — According to Heuer, organizations need to deliver a truth to customers that they can be proud of. Customers in B2B want to do business with companies that share the same vision. “Customers in B2B demand we behave ethically towards them, employees and the world at large,” she said. “It is possible to do well in B2B while also doing good.”
5. Adaptability — “While agile is an important part of this, the idea at the heart of adaptability is keeping a learning mindset,” said Heuer. “Anticipate and embrace change. Have a learning mindset and be open to doing things differently in an agile way. The future will not wait for you.” However, Heuer added that a critical component here is to listen to your customers. “Companies will need to make listening to customers their superpower if they want to thrive.”
7 Steps To Achieving Alignment For Successful Revenue Operations
“Companies grow when they’re more competitive and more efficient than competitors. Companies grow when they are well aligned.” -@danatherrien @KerrySirius @siriusdecisions #SDSummit19 pic.twitter.com/HHAB5FGGvY— Klaudia Tirico (@klaudiatirico) May 7, 2019
SiriusDecisions analysts agreed that alignment is still a challenge among B2B organizations and it’s a critical component of achieving a well-oiled revenue operations engine.
“Revenue operations means aligning marketing operations, sales operations, sales enablement and customer success so that everything from end to end works,” said Kerry Cunningham, Senior Research Director, Team Leader for SiriusDecisions, in an interview with Demand Gen Report.
Dana Therrien, Practice Leader, Sales Operations Strategies for SiriusDecisions, added, “It’s so you can achieve an end-to-end customer experience and work towards a common goal of driving revenue across these organizational boundaries.”
During their keynote presentation at Summit, Cunningham and Therrien talked about the struggles that organizations face to achieve alignment, which is mainly due to a shift in the market largely driven by innovations in technology.
Research from SiriusDecisions asked B2B professionals to rate their organization’s revenue engine alignment on a scale of one to five. The results showed the following average:
- Alignment between sales and marketing: 3.6
- Alignment between sales and customer success: 3.6
- Alignment between marketing and customer success: 3.2
Therrien noted that data was an issue with alignment and sharing information across these groups was a big pain point. But he added that it’s more than just data, it’s around vision, goals, planning processes, infrastructure, data and measurement.
“When it comes down to the actual tactical alignment between process and data and measurement, that’s when [alignment] starts to get a little more complicated,” said Therrien in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “Before SiriusDecisions started to look at this, the roadmap to alignment wasn’t very clear but when we break it down to those seven core areas, the roadmap becomes very clear and now you can start to check those off one at a time.
“If you can align on those seven things, then you’re aligned,” said Therrien. “So, companies will consider themselves to be aligned but if you dig down beneath those seven areas, maybe they’re not really. The reason it hasn’t happened yet is because there was no real detailed roadmap.”
Therrien broke down the seven stages and how organizations should tackle them:
Respect, Relevance & Trust In The Age Of The Customer
In another keynote presentation at Summit, Isabel Montesdeoca, Service Director for Demand Marketing at SiriusDecisions, and Peter Ostrow, Senior Research Director of Sales Enablement Strategies for SiriusDecisions, revealed that customer trust is currently at an all-time low.
“We are missing signals customers are trying to send us,” said Montesdeoca. “When customers reach out to businesses with questions, we treat them as isolated data points.
“When relevance and trust are abused, it results in frustration, anger and skepticism,” she added. “This destroys trust. But when done well, trust can grow and that leads to loyalty.”
If organizations can’t deliver an experience where the customer is understood, then there is no respect and relevance.
“Customers want to be understood but we still want to collect data,” said Ostrow during the keynote. “Without understanding it, we can’t give them respect and relevance. Then, we hyper-personalize and it gets creepy.”
However, there is an opportunity to reset if customer interactions are going sideways. “It starts by aligning internal corporate norms of our companies with those of our customers,” Ostrow added.
But the road to customer obsession is long and hard, according to Ostrow. He continued to share five milestones to use as a landmark:
- Private — Ostrow said all strong and lasting relationships have respect in common. “In B2B, respect for customers starts at respect for privacy. When we talk about private interactions, we mean compliance and respecting customers’ preferences.”
- Personalized — “This requires flexibility, but we need to understand the different degrees and levels of personalization they’re comfortable with. It’s more rewarding to personalize on third-party signals, such as search and intent,” said Ostrow.
- Dynamic — “Deliver dynamic relevance in real time,” said Montesdeoca. “Successful reps share more relevant info sooner and much more frequently than their peers. AI comes to the forefront to help deliver dynamic relevance to everyone.”
- Interconnected — “Establish and maintain respectful and relevant customer relationships across multiple provider and partner touchpoints,” said Ostrow. “An employee’s job is not done when they hit the boundary of another department, but when the customer gets what they need.”
- Effortless — “This is built from the outside in.... when we do this, we end up optimizing the employee experience as well, inspiring employees to support customers better,” said Montesdeoca. “Only inspired employees can inspire customers.”