Podcast: Questions B2B Marketers Should Ask Sales

Shahin Hoda 17  mins read Updated: February 9th, 2024

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What Questions Should B2B Marketers Ask Their Sales Team For Better Alignment?

Episode’s topic: What Questions Should B2B Marketers Ask Their Sales Team For Better Alignment?

In this episode, host Shahin Hoda chats with Nick Flude, Chief Marketing Officer at Secure Code Warrior, about what B2B marketers can do to better align with sales. Nick points out that both these functions speak different languages despite having the same objective of generating revenue. 

Nick also discusses some interesting topics such as how a marketing interaction is different from MQL and things marketing should do before handing over a lead to sales.  

This episode’s guest:

What Questions Should B2B Marketers Ask Their Sales Team For Better Alignment?

Nick Flude, CMO of Secure Code Warrior

Nick Flude is the Chief Marketing Officer of Secure Code Warrior. He is a passionate believer in the value that data-driven and revenue-focused Marketing can bring to an organisation. As CMO, Nick has overall accountability for the company's global marketing strategy and execution in APAC, EMEA and the USA.   

Nick has more than 20 years of B2B marketing experience from various positions with vendors, systems integrators, tech start-ups, and major telcos within Australia and the UK. 

Connect with Nick on LinkedIn

Conversation segments on this episode:

  • [01:10] Sales and Marketing teams speak different languages.
  • [01:46] Revenue is the common objective of sales and marketing functions.
  • [04:33] A Marketing Inquiry (MI) is not a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) 
  • 07:39] What should Marketing do before sending a lead to Sales?
  • [12:26] Things that Marketing should ask Sales for better alignment.
  • [15:04] Customer lifecycle should be mapped out by both Sales and Marketing.
  • [19:00] Ways in which Marketing can influence the Revenue.
  • [20:24] Linking Marketing Compensation structure to Revenue.
  • [22:59] Advise to B2B Marketers.
  • [23:07] Influencers to follow in the B2B Marketing space.
  • [24:06] The exciting thing about B2B Marketing.

Resources mentioned on this episode:

About the Growth Colony Podcast:

On this podcast, you'll be hearing from B2B founders, CMOs, marketing & sales leaders about their successes, failures, what is working for them today in the B2B marketing world and everything in between.

Hosted & Produced by Shahin Hoda & Alexander Hipwell, from xGrowth

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Episode Full Transcript:

[00:15] Shahin Hoda  Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode. I'm Shahin Hoda with xGrowth. And today I'm talking to Nick Flude, Chief Marketing Officer of Secure Code Warrior, about how should B2B marketers communicate with their sales team. We've all heard that it's extremely critical in the B2B space for sales and marketing to work together hand in hand. But in many cases, marketing and sales speak different languages in terms of KPIs and success metrics, which makes it harder to align them. So in this episode, we're going to discuss how marketers should approach this. Nick, thanks for joining us. 

[00:48] Nick Flude  My pleasure. Great to be here. 

[00:50] Shahin Hoda  It's great to have you. So Nick, as I mentioned, we're talking about alignment between sales and marketing, but specifically about how marketers should approach the sales team and speak to them, okay? Why do you think sales and marketing alignment is an actual challenge these days? 

[01:07] Nick Flude  I think you touched on it in your opening there. We speak a different language, you know. We're both operationally-focused, we're both looking at leads, we're both looking at opportunities, we don't kind of tie them together at the business level. So to have, you know, my pet bugbear is, is marketers who don't talk about Revenue. They don't see that they can contribute to Revenue. So Revenue is something that the sales organisation does. And then on the sales organisation, they're going well, so I'm driving Revenue, and you want me to prospect and you want me to qualify a poorly qualified lead. So there's obvious tension between the two. 

[01:46] Nick Flude  Ultimately, that both functions within a business are there to deliver the same outcome. And that is Revenue for the organisation. But for some reason, there is still this lack of, and I think it's an understanding, and it's an empathy. Yes, there are different personalities at play. You know, marketing can dismiss sales as just being coin-operated. Sales can dismiss marketing as just being the colouring department. But if you're aligned and combined to go, no, we are in the trenches together, we are here to generate pipeline and Revenue for the business. 

[02:20] Nick Flude  We do it in a markety way you did in a salesy way. And I think in B2B particularly, and particularly within the SAS organisation, because B2B buying is changing, B2B  marketing, and B2B selling have to be changing. So it is about kind of working together to jointly move either a prospect forward, or through their customer journey or ultimately grow business at the top line. Now we do it in different ways. Absolutely. And that's where the alienation of clicks and likes versus all opportunities, you know, and deals and all those kinds of things. So there's a lack of understanding from a terminology perspective, that's where you need kind of good leadership between the two going okay, no, we're actually in this together. 

[03:05] Shahin Hoda  Yeah. I mean, you talked about Revenue, and I agree with you. I feel like sometimes marketers might feel stuck, or they don't know how to communicate in Revenue, right? They're like, hey, I'm, the organisation has put a MQL quota for me. And you know, that's how I speak and I say, hey, I gave you MQLs, and how should marketers go about talk revenue basically? 

[03:32] Nick Flude  I think you hit it there, you know, using the term MQL. So is that marketing qualified lead? So I've given you, I've thrown this over the fence. It's a lead, go do something with it. Whereas what I'm doing is re-qualifying the term qualification to be qualifying. So within the marketing stack, marketing, qualifying leads are not ready for sales yet. 

[04:01] Shahin Hoda  Right. So you haven't. So you're saying you have a term that a lead comes in?  And we'll talk about what you mean by a lead first, right? You're saying that, it's interesting, because you say is that there's another step there, there is a marketing, you call it marketing qualified leads, 

[04:16] Nick Flude  Qualifying 

[04:17] Shahin Hoda  before it becomes a marketing qualified lead, right? 

[04:20] Nick Flude  Well, no. It's marketing qualifying. And then when it has finished qualifying, it then moves to the sales organisation as a sales available lead. 

[04:30] Shahin Hoda  Okay, tell me more about that. What does that mean? 

[04:33] Nick Flude  So the traditional taxonomy or the traditional kind of flow, you know, serious decisions, and those clever people came up with MI and you know, MQL, SQL. But, within B2B, you know, a marketing inquiry, that's nonsense. It's a moment of interaction. Every marketer on this planet is going I'm doing a podcast. I'm doing a blog. I've got some digital assets. I'm doing the Twitter campaign. I'm doing something on LinkedIn. I'm doing hot air balloons and skywriting. They're all moments of interaction. So the challenge for marketers is attribution. You know, the big scary word. So we're doing all of those things. 

[05:14] Nick Flude  So they're moments of interaction and if all they do is go, so what's that being written in the sky? Let me Google that. And then they land on your website. So they've had all of these moments of interaction. But that's not a lead. It's not a qualified lead. It's a moment of interaction. So as a marketer, you're then capturing that interaction and doing something with it. If it's the right demographic, psychographic, whatever, you're going to move them from that MI stage, a moment of interaction and go, ah, that's somebody that should be interesting to us. So then we move those into the marketing qualifying stage, because they're in the unawareness to awareness stage. They've just seen you skywriting, your, your balloon or whatever you're doing. Then they're going to go into their education phase.  

[06:06] Nick Flude  Who are you? Who is writing on the sky? Who sent me this thing? Which ad am I clicking? So they're in that educational phase. Just because I know your name, or I know that you've downloaded a white paper, that's not a lead. And for goodness sakes, don't send that to sales as a lead. Because it isn't. It's somebody who has gone. I've seen something funny over there. I've downloaded a white paper, I'm consuming content, I'm still educating. Still in the qualifying stage, then you might send them a follow up. Here's what I've seen you've read that? Would you like a video? Would you like to come to a webinar? Moving through the customer journey unawareness, awareness, liking preference purchase. 

[06:51] Nick Flude  So then marketing qualifying is still happening, and you're doing more and more and more. You're using a solid automation platform, your lead scoring, you're getting everybody warmed up. You might be going, you know, give me your name here, here's some value, give me your job title. And then within your job title, you might be able to skew the next set of content, still in the educational phase. Then the challenge comes along as a marketer, if you're not commercially-savvy, when or what do you give them to move them from that education to liking to preference. So in those funnel stages, we're now getting down to the bottom of that middle of the funnel. 

[07:33] Nick Flude  And this is where B2B marketers are starting to be, you know, going down the funnel a little bit more, because you're going, hey, do you need a business case? Do you need commercial examples of where customers like you have used us to deliver an outcome? Still in the qualifying stage. And if they're going yes, yes, yes, yes, then you can trigger them to sales available. And that's when the sales people come in. Because it isn't marketing's, it isn't the sales' job to qualify a marketing lead. Their job is to go and find an opportunity. So at the sales available stage, they have three choices. In my model, they have three choices. Because it's all digital, if somebody's come through and they've said their, you know, Mickeymouse@disney.com. And they've said their job title is our target job title.

[08:26] Nick Flude  They've clicked and clicked and clicked and clicked and clicked. That comes through to the sales organisation as a sales available, that's obviously trash. It could also be that that lead has come through, because one of our sales team or anybody within our business is saying, go check us out, go download a white paper, come to a webinar, I know you're not ready. But we'll, you know, just keep abreast of us, keep working with us. So the sales organisation will also see that lead. And if your lead routing, the back end is correct, that account owner will see that, you know, Sally has come along and interacted and I spoke to Sally there is no lead. So I'm going to recycle that or there is no opportunity. So I'm going to recycle that. 

[09:10] Nick Flude  So of the three options. One is recycle, one is trash and the second one is go do something with it. So then the sales available lead becomes sales qualifying as an opportunity. And then the sales organisation and their skillset kicks in as they go through potentially they might do a discovery call, they might do a research piece. If it's technology like ours, they might do a proof of concept or a trial, and then out of the trial, then hopefully you're going to get a proposal. And then out of the proposal, you might get a win, but you might get a loss as well. Or you might get a knot now. So redefining definitions to then say we get the journey that you have to go through rather than just going well.. Yeah, Sally downloaded the white paper, there's an opportunity there. No you don't know that and, you know, marketers, you're relatively immature, as a marketer. I'm choosing my words as you can see. 

[10:10] Shahin Hoda  I can see, I can see. 

[10:12] Nick Flude  You are relatively immature, as a marketer, if you are giving your sales organisation, a list of names, and the white papers that have downloaded. And then expect sales to give rats about what you're doing tomorrow. Because you're asking them to qualify the lead, that's not their job, that's your job as a marketer. Their job is to then take that lead that has come through all of those smarts, and then go qualify it to see if there's an opportunity there. That's their job.

[10:46] Shahin Hoda  Before passing it 

[10:47] Nick Flude  That's the sales job, and then they will close to win it, or it will become closed lost, or if you know, might be deferred. But don't and that's the tension between the two. This definition of definitions, what are you giving me as a marketer? What do you need as a sales organisation? If you're not having those conversations, and going, you know, let's just remove all the noise, let's get around the table. Let's define what a lead is, between your sales group and your marketing group. You know, point number one, just go and have that conversation. 

[11:19] Shahin Hoda  That conversation with sales, specifically having sales in the room, right? 

[11:23] Nick Flude  Absolutely, you're giving them something that you want them to do something with.

[11:27] Shahin Hoda  And that brings us to a good point, right? That brings us to the point that I want to ask you is, you know, what are the conversations and the questions marketing should be asking their sales counterpart to better understand their world so that they can align themselves more with Revenue, right? Because it's great that you have this model, but let's be honest, you have plenty of experience in this space. And you can see that spectrum very clearly. Where some marketers might not be able to do that, right? Some marketers might not have as much visibility in sales life. And you know, when we talk about Revenue, sales is at the frontline, right? They are bringing in the Revenue. So what, if I'm a marketer, right, when I'm sitting down with my sales counterpart, what should I be asking them? What kind of questions should I be asking? 

[12:20] Nick Flude  I would, it's gonna be an uncomfortable conversation, the first one. Because you're going to just ask them, you know, what's wrong with the leads that you're being sent at the moment? You know, and that's not meant to be inflammatory? It's just honest, you know, is it because there, you have to do so much heavy lifting? Is it because we've not qualified their job title? Or do you mean, you need a specific job title? Yes, because we're selling this thing over here. And it's not fit for those over there. A marketer should know that. But I'm saying should because it's not always, you know, accurate. So I'm just going, just having a conversation with a salesperson going in, honestly, are these good? Are they bad? Do you need to do too much heavy lifting? 

[13:06] Nick Flude  The other thing that a marketer should be asking the salesperson is, in terms of creating and crafting a proposition to the market is, what are your customers, or what are your customers telling you that they are worried about? What are their pain points? Because any good marketer will go right, If your customer, your prospect is telling the salesperson, you know, this is what keeps him up at night, this is what I'm worried about. As a marketer, you should be reacting to that and going, okay, well, if the customers telling my salespeople, they're worried about five things, and we can solve those five things, that's an instant marketing asset, because you're going to spin that around and go, hey, here's a new asset, here's a new white paper, here's a new webinar series that is going to just slowly go through each of those five pain points, or whatever that whatever they are. 

[13:57] Nick Flude  So you can learn a lot from just having a conversation with sales. On the flip side, I'd encourage sales to have a conversation with marketing. To then say, well, actually, I didn't, you know, how difficult is it to capture the attention of anonymous people, and then get them to stop what they're doing and look at what you want them to look at, and then capture and pique their attention to then do a little bit more and then read something else and read something else. So mapping out the customer journey, you know, if you want a process, go into a room, get on a whiteboard, map out the customer journey to then say, in our industry, going from unawareness to awareness, to liking to preference to purchase, and then might be in a SaaS sense, you might then have onboarding and expansion and renewal and advocacy. So map that out. Identify who your buyer is, is it the same as your user, or is your user different to your buyer, again, significant you know. 

[14:59] Shahin Hoda  And you're saying for sales to ask these questions or for marketing to dig deeper? 

[15:03] Nick Flude  Both. Go and look at the whole lifecycle of that lead's journey to try to then understand it and workshop it from both sides. We've created a new white paper, oh good, okay. What was the audience? Which stage within the lifecycle is that white paper for? What do you want them to do after they've read that? You know, marketers have struggled with call to actions. Yes, map it out, work out what you want them to do next. Work out what they have done to get to that point. And then the call to action isn't just download now, click here, sign up for a demonstration becomes much more tangible than that one. 

[15:44] Nick Flude  Do you need a business case? Do you need to speak to somebody who can help you, you know, purchase, help you install, help you onboard? That's much more useful to a prospect than just click here. Now, you know, Christmas is 14 days away, you know, get one early. So it's the commercial, you know, getting into a commercial reality. Marketing is a commercial function. There's nothing dirty about you're here because your business needs to generate Revenue. Or even in a not for profit, there is still something that your organisation has to gain. What is that? And don't be afraid to then go and have that conversation with the salespeople go? How does a customer buy? How do you pitch? How do you tell the story of the company or the product? 

[16:35] Shahin Hoda  Yeah. Yeah, I think you have such a strong point, I think, you know, the, the whole being revenue-focus being dirty for marketers, because marketers are, like, you know, we're here to educate, and we're here to, you know, do this and sometimes that goes too far and becomes too soft. And marketers are like, no, no, we don't want to force them to do anything. And, you know, that realisation is out there that the business needs to, you know, see ROI from here. And we're doing that for that purpose. And then some of the KPIs move away from Revenue, right? 

[17:11] Nick Flude  Yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

[17:13] Shahin Hoda  It digresses. And I'm fascinated when we talk to companies, and we're like, you know, they're like, hey, we're having a hard time getting buy-in from sales. And the question, just like you mentioned, is, you know, what, are you talking to them about? What do, you know, what do you bringing up? Because the salesperson is thinking about commission. I mean, yeah, great, you know, company revenue all that. At the end of the day, their thinking is this, is what marketing doing is gonna bring Revenue, if it's gonna bring a commission in my pocket car, if you're not talking the same language, you're done. 

[17:50] Nick Flude  Marketers don't, and you know, that's where they will ungraciously say that sales are coin-operated. But you go to marketers, and you go, okay, I'm going to give you what you want, nice car, you want all of this stuff that you see downstairs, you know, with the salespeople, they work on, let's say, it's a 50/50 split. So they get an okay salary, that's 50%. And then the other 50% might be, you know, commission earnings, and that commission might be uncapped. You know, if they do a good thing, they might be earning hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

[18:25] Nick Flude  So, as a marketer, well, if you want that, then you do that. You take a hard number. You take a number about revenue contribution to the business. And are you prepared to do that? And most, nine times out of 10, when I've challenged, you know, a marketer about their salary or their, you know, their comp plan, they're gone and I, I need my 100% of my salary and I'd like a bonus as well. Yeah, but how about I give you 80%, and then give you an uplift, based on company performance or individual goals. And even then, they're going oh, no, a hard KPI on Revenue, I can't control Revenue. 

[19:04] Nick Flude  So of course, you can. You can educate your buyer, you can educate your seller, you can be where they need to be, you can craft a compelling story. You know, all of the buzzwords and things, you know, storytelling. That's another kind of buzzword. Yeah, that's another one. So a marketer can have an impact on Revenue. You're doing it in a markety way. Sales are doing it in a salesy way. In B2B selling when you've only got the sales channel, yes, it becomes a little bit different. So therefore, marketers think about not just educating your buyer, but educating your seller as well. You know, we're just about to launch a new campaign, okay. Have you briefed the sales team? No. Ah, good chance of success. Oh, we sent them an email that we put up an intranet page? Okay, lovely. 

[19:52] Shahin Hoda  Good luck with that. Nick, you opened up a can of worms and maybe I'll touch on this. Let's touch on this as a last point. Okay. So do you think that marketers should be compensated similar to, have it like a comp plan, similar to sales? Obviously, maybe it's not Revenue, maybe it's opportunities created or you know, or something like that, but are you of the school that marketing should be on commission? 

[20:23] Nick Flude  Yeah, why not? 

[20:24] Shahin Hoda  Okay. 

[20:24] Nick Flude  You know, why not? It changes behavior. You know, any sales manager will tell you that if you've got the right kind of commission plan, then you're driving the right behavior. So marketers, you know, they want, you know, if somebody runs a marketing campaign that kind of, you know, triples the lead volume. Is that something that's commissionable? Well, let's see what they turn into before we kind of go, you've got a commission on leads, do you want commission or a bonus on outcome? So let's focus on the outcome. Now, as a CMO, I want excellence in my marketing team. So I want a campaign to do better than before. 

[21:03] Nick Flude  I want volumes going up, you know, all of our internal KPIs or OKRs, to make sure that marketing is doing the best damn job it can do. But you're then looking at the business going well, so somebody does 1000 leads, but sales only close one. So is that a problem? Does it reflect effort? Does it reflect and compensate effectively you know, the creativity that's gone into it? Or do you then split that and go, right, you're going to have personal KPIs and contributions, but you'll also get some business benefit as well. So in a bonus scheme, you might be running, you know, a 50/50 split of your bonus. And then so right, if the company does well, you'll get 50% of your bonus based on company goals. But then there's also 50%, that could be at risk. And that's going to be your personal KPIs. 

[21:59] Shahin Hoda  Contribution. Yeah, this is a topic that I'm very passionate about, I'm very interested. But unfortunately, we don't have enough time to dig deeper so might have to bring you back. 

[22:08] Nick Flude  We can do another one. 

[22:12] Shahin Hoda  I was about to say it about marketing compensation. But before we wrap up, there are a couple of rapid fire questions I want to go through with you and get your answer on those. Okay, number one, what is one resource, it could be a book, it could be blog, podcast, etc, etc. that fundamentally changed the way you work and live. 

[22:33] Nick Flude  That was a hard one. I think, as a failed guitarist, who is only limited by two things, that's a lack of practice and a lack of talent. I like reading biographies. So the Keith Richards biography is a real tell all. So I'm going to go with that one. 

[22:52] Shahin Hoda  Keith Richard, gotcha. Number two, if you could only give one advice to B2B marketers, what would it be? 

[22:59] Nick Flude  Go, talk to sales. 

[23:01] Shahin Hoda  Number three, what are the influencers that you follow in the marketing space? 

[23:07] Nick Flude  There's a couple out there. If you go through Twitter, and you look up Dave Gerhart, he's a good one. So he's running a kind of a B2B kind of marketing, kind of blog series and some websites. So he's a good one. He's ex-Drift, and he's Privy. Christopher Lochhead at the moment. Mark Ritson, you know, those kinds of classics. And then as you then look into, you know, you still got the Seth Godin, and people like that, which put it into a bit of a context. More broadly than that, go look at Bill Gates' blog, and then go read the books that Bill Gates says go read. Because they're very, they're very wide. They're very eclectic. 

[23:47] Shahin Hoda  That's true. That's true. I always, looking at what are the books that he's holding in his hand, when he you know, he shoots his photos. And I was like, the books of the weeks, and I zoom in, I'm like, which ones are these? Last one, what's something that excites you about B2B today? 

[24:06] Nick Flude  I think that there's an element of humanism that's coming into it. So I think we've realised that just because somebody is B2B, and just because somebody might work in a large organisation, that they're not humans. So you go back through the IT press, and when we used to do full page ads and things, it was all about the box with the flashing lights and all those kinds of things. And if it went fast, there was a picture of a Ferrari or something like that. 

[24:35] Nick Flude  But I think it was actually something that I saw that you said on a podcast, where you were speaking humor. So humor for Secure Code Warrior is very, is an identified part of our brand. To be quirky, to be slightly left of center, to be, to throw in pop culture references, all those kinds of things, because ultimately, our user gets it but so does our buyer. Just because they're on one side of the business, don't forget that they're humans too. And I think that's where the biggest changes are coming from the B2B side of things, because you should be recognising that your buyer is a person too. So appeal to them on that level. 

[25:19] Shahin Hoda  I love it. I love it, Nick, this has been an awesome conversation. I mean, there's been like topics that are coming out, I'm like, I'm writing them down. I'm like, alright, we're gonna do another episode on this one, another episode on that one. 

[25:34] Nick Flude  I'm happy to because my team knows that I unfortunately crap on quite a lot. So I'm more than happy to kind of jump on another one. 

[25:41] Shahin Hoda  Now I really appreciate it. Well, Nick, thanks again for coming on the podcast and sharing all the insights with listeners. 

[25:50] Nick Flude  Brilliant, no problem at all. Thank you.

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