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Tips for Gaining Trust with Sales, Featuring Stacy Nawrocki of IBM Cloud Video

Despite the abundance of thought leadership surrounding sales and marketing alignment, it’s rare to find a marketing team that is not just aligned with, but trusted by sales. And when we discover someone excelling in this area, we absolutely have to find out their trade secrets..

Meet Stacy Nawrocki, Head of Demand Gen and Product Marketing at IBM. We have been working with Stacy and her team to implement an account-based marketing and sales strategy. Over the course of the relationship, we’ve had a lot of calls with the sales team and one thing became clear: the sales team wants marketing involved in strategic decisions. The typical friction between sales and marketing feels almost non-existent within this group. In most organizations, that’s a rarity.

Here’s a look under the hood at how Stacy has created a synergistic vibe among the sales and marketing team, and used it to drive success for the company as whole.

Q. The relationship you’ve created with sales leadership is something every marketer aspires to create. How did you do it?

If you’re building a marketing team, consider hiring people who have sales experience.  As for myself, early in my career I worked as a recruiter and then worked in channel sales. I know what it’s like to feel the pressure of sales quotas and the end of quarter stress one feels when they’re trying to push those last deals over the finish line in time. Then, once you have a great team in place, establish the mindset of “everyone sells” so that every marketer considers how their individual actions will contribute to the sale. Be sure to provide direction to the marketing team––every sales request deserves their attention and should take priority over other tasks. For every marketing campaign, set a goal for the number of MQLs and SQLs that should be generated, and strive to meet that goal. My team has a weekly project meeting where we review these short-term goals for our campaigns at the start of the meeting while looking at our Salesforce dashboard. And, most importantly, ask for continual feedback from sales.

Q. From what we’ve observed, you and your team enjoy alignment across the sales ecosystem – from SDRs to VPs. With such a small team, how do you find the time to do that?

Open and continual communication is a big part of it, as well as making sure our team goals are aligned. Additionally, we’ve gone a bit farther, jointly funding activities such as “call blitz days” in which there are prizes and team lunches to celebrate our success. Our VP of Sales and I split the cost of these types of things 50/50 so we have equal skin in the game.

Q. What tips can you provide for marketers who don’t have alignment with sales?

I’ve found there are many salespeople who really want to help the marketing team better understand their needs. One thing I’ve found particularly effective is asking sales to allow marketing team members (one at a time) to sit in on sales calls or demos (usually remotely). It’s amazing how fast perspective changes when the marketing team can hear the questions asked directly by the prospect to the seller. This gets the marketing and sales teams speaking the same language and builds mutual trust.

Q. How often do you meet with sales?

We over communicate as much as possible. It’s important for the marketing team to understand that salespeople get busy and distracted, and can easily miss requests. We have weekly meetings with our SDRs and bi-weekly meetings with all sellers, but, our most effective means for communication is our shared Slack channels where we can have more casual exchanges about what’s working and what’s not. When we’re able to get real-time information, it’s much easier to take action right away and keep our campaigns in tip-top shape.

Q. Marketing is leading the account-based shift within your division of IBM. Talk to us about that process…how important was it for you to get sales buy-in?

ABM efforts will fail completely if you don’t have sales buy in. It’s absolutely essential.

Q. What input do you get from the sales teams when creating content or designing marketing campaigns?

We literally have a pipeline of content requests from sellers. These requests are most often fulfilled via a blog post on a specific topic because they are usually faster to turn around and it’s highly likely the request came to us because of a specific question posed by a prospect. But, we do turn some requests into videos, eBooks, infographics or white papers, especially if they align with our priority campaigns and personas.

Q. Tell us about a time when you worked through a crucial decision with sales. What skills did you use to maintain a healthy relationship?

We recently had to make a decision on whether to keep some sellers on Salesforce and other sellers using a different CRM. Of course, for marketing attribution, we wanted all sellers using the same CRM (Salesforce) because our Marketo marketing automation platform is tightly synced with our Salesforce instance. However, there were so many factors and other systems that had to be considered. It was a very sensitive topic across sales, marketing, and customer success. We wanted optimal tracking, but didn’t want to have people wasting time entering data into too many systems. To be honest, we still have different sets of sellers in different CRMs, which is not optimal. But, it’s more important to stay aligned and to consider everyone’s point of view. It takes both patience and persistence. Every day we make progress toward our ultimate goal—together.

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