Episode 83 Apr 11, 2024

B2B Sales and Marketing in Harmony (Yes, it can be done!)

“Well, if the other side just did their job better, we’d be in much better shape."

Any B2B sellers or marketers heard this one before? Maybe you’ve said it? At some point in your career, you’ve likely experienced the tension between sales and marketing, two departments that in theory should always be on the same team.

Our guest today, Aggregate Insights CEO Brady Jensen, explains how the two sides become misaligned, how to prevent or stop the blame game, and what sales-marketing harmony looks like in practice. Brady shared what he’s learned from years of primary source research on how to bridge the contentious gap.

Get Aggregate Insights’ free win/loss handbook here.

Brady Jensen

Brady Jensen

Sales reps will oftentimes get nervous about anyone going in and probing questions about how they did at their job of selling…But I always win over sales teams by saying, ‘Look, we are not in search of a single truth. We're in search of a perspective. A buyer has a perspective and that's all that matters because they're the one with the checkbook, right?
- Brady Jensen

Episode Transcript

Brady Jensen: Sales reps will oftentimes get nervous about anyone going in and probing questions about how they did at their job of selling, right? And for good reason, because it could be used for purposes that sort of name and shame. I always win over sales teams by saying, look, we are not in search of a single truth.

We're in search of a perspective, right? A buyer has a perspective. And that's all that matters because they're the one with the checkbook.

Barrett Thompson: Hello everyone. My name is Barrett Thompson. I'm the vice president of customer and industry relations at Zilliant, and I'll be your host for our podcast. I'm joined today by Brady Jensen, founder and CEO of Aggregate Insights.

Brady, welcome to B2B Reimagined. Brady, just before we get into our topic today, do you mind sharing something interesting or surprising about yourself that we wouldn't learn if we looked you up on LinkedIn? 

Brady Jensen: Oh, interesting or surprising about myself? Well, I spend my days doing research work in the corporate world, but I spend my weekends and every time I can get to, I go out and do kite surfing. So that's my passion, get out on the ocean and kite surf, so. 

Barrett Thompson: Are we into the season yet? Are the waters warmed up? Are you taking a wetsuit there? How do you go at it? 

Brady Jensen: Well, I'm a South Floridian, so the season's starting to wrap up, actually. We do winters down [00:02:00] here, but yeah it's warming up.

Barrett Thompson: Well, it sounds great. Appreciate you sharing that. May I ask for a little more info on your professional background? Let our listeners know what you and your company are doing for clients. 

Brady Jensen: Sure. I come from a background of initially being a salesperson myself for a number of years and quite successful, but I always watched the product marketers and thought what they were doing seemed pretty cool as well.

So I did make a transition partway through my career and got sort of a front row seat to watch how sales feels about marketing, how marketing feels about sales, and when I went out about five years ago to start my company, That was the one area that I felt like we could really contribute is at that intersection between the sales and the marketers, which can be a great relationship, but it can also be a civil war.

It really depends on the organization, the timeframe, but we spend our days [00:03:00] doing work to try to put buyer directly at the center. So there's not so much of camps of here's my opinion and here's your opinion. We always try to bring things back to what is the perspective of the actual buyer. They tend to be able to lead you to the truth a lot faster than trying to have internal debates on the types of perspectives that everyone can have that are sometimes, strongly held and rarely abandoned.

Barrett Thompson: So you've made reference to it and I've experienced the same thing in many organizations. There's a tension between the sales and marketing functions, and maybe sometimes it's recognized, sometimes it's recognized and ignored and others, might not even have an awareness of that going on. Can you share what are some of the symptoms that a business might experience if they have misaligned [00:04:00] marketing and sales in B2B, how would they know? 

Brady Jensen: Oh there's a lot of ways to know. I mean, the quintessential way to think about this from my perspective is as soon as sales says, well, if the leads were just better, we'd close more business and if marketing is looking at the other side saying, well, if sales could just close the leads we got, we could do a whole lot more business.

All of a sudden you're opposition to each other and really not thinking about the actual people that you're selling to. You're thinking about, well, this side of the business isn't performing or that side isn't performing. Truth is there's a direct revenue responsibility on both sides, but it's, depending on the way an organization is organized can.

Sometimes be easier or harder to attribute that revenue and who's actually making the biggest effect on the organization, primarily in marketing, that becomes a really [00:05:00] hard thing to measure. But that's the biggest symptom I think is as soon as you have people in camp saying, well, if the other side just did their job better, we'd be in much better shape.

Barrett Thompson: Yeah. There's an old adage. How does it go? Success has many fathers and failure is an orphan. So if things are going great, everyone's taking credit, right? If there's not meeting sales objectives, then everyone's maybe looking to push responsibility off the other way. So when I think about, gosh, even some of the best run companies in the world, or let me say it this way, some of the most successful, externally successful blue chip companies, very large companies, leaders in their space, been around a hundred years.

Sometimes when I look inside, it doesn't mean that they've overcome this problem, right? They can have this problem and yet they're still a very successful company. This suggests to me that there are some. There's some other penalties. There's some other costs [00:06:00] that the cost function that the business is incurring for not getting aligned on marketing and sales.

What have you seen as some of the consequences of not being aligned? Even if you're a leading company, you're suffering from consequences, not being aligned. What are some of the consequences? 

Brady Jensen: Well, I think one of the biggest consequences is. Something that's very hard to wrap your head around, but you can be very successful, but that doesn't mean you're most successful self, right?

Outwardly looking, you might look great. We have a ton of companies we work with that from the outside, it looks great. And everyone has. Great opinions about you, but you have higher standards for yourself, right? Internal goals are not being met, even though the ones that get reported out look great to everyone else.

You as an organization feel you could be doing better. The market is primed for you to do better, but you're not hitting what you know your stride really can be. So it's very, it's not, [00:07:00] in fact, it's very seldom a sinking ship that addresses this problem, right? Like the type of work that we do, we can't fix a market that's disappearing, right?

We can fix some of the things, but if it is an attractive market where people. A lot of times you might look like you're doing great, you're losing out to someone who shouldn't be winning business over you. So a lot of times it is that it's just the cost of what could be if you were better aligned and how much even more legendary you could be as an organization than you are today, because you have this drag where people are taking up as opposite viewpoints and.

Even if unintentionally sort of creating some subterfuge, right? They're sinking each other a little bit just because they don't trust each other.

Barrett Thompson: Yeah. I've admittedly, when the business is spending its energy sort of [00:08:00] battling against another department, that's wasted energy that should be turned outward to go for the market, to go against your competitions.

I hear you on that and having the right yardstick, the yardstick of what my potential could be, maybe not just. Looking at increasing year on year by some single digit percent, right? What could I be doing? Maybe that's a better way to think about it. Brady, in your experience, what is it that allows sales and marketing teams to become unified?

How do they go about that if they're disjointed and finger pointing today? 

Brady Jensen: Well, from my perspective, it's all about finding a neutral. A neutral that, that has no real stake in the game for in your organization, but has a whole lot of effect on whether or not you succeed or not. And that is the buyer.

At the end of the day, you succeed or fail based on the perception of the buyer about the value that you deliver, your ability to reach them at the right time. In the right place, when they're primed [00:09:00] to, to buy and need what you're selling. So I always think about it as if you have this viewpoint of this neutral source of truth, being the perception of actual buyers in market that buy the stuff you are selling.

And you look to them to solve the disputes about what is true or what is not true. All of these different points of contention about what we should be doing. What should we tell sales to do? How should we be marketing? It becomes a whole lot clearer and the debate goes away and you turn that energy outward to actually go out and succeed in the market.

Barrett Thompson: Can you tell us more about how we get that truth from the buyer? Sales has their anecdotal stories, people they run into, and product marketing has done their homework. Some years in the past, so what is it that they should be doing that they're not doing? 

Brady Jensen: Yeah. One of the big things that we espouse [00:10:00] is win loss is a great tool for this sort of thing.

The debate of whether or not win loss is helpful for an organization seems to have been sort of one. And people now agree that just sending out surveys or post mortems from the sales team or. Diving into CRM data, that's not enough to truly get the rich insight that you need into what makes these people tick, what makes them want to buy, what makes them not want to buy.

So that's one of the areas that we focus heavily on is what does this buyer actually think? And the buyer who you want to sell to. Not someone who, Has been around and as a friendly of the company, your best customer who's been around for five years, right? Not to say they don't have great things that to share and things that you could potentially implement.

But if you're looking to that person to figure out how you should sell to the person today, it [00:11:00] becomes a distortion. And where are you in the market? What did they buy? What position or message did you put in front of them five years ago? And in software markets where we spend a lot of our time, five years ago was five positions ago.

That's right. Yeah. And they've had to grow with you, but they didn't buy what you're selling today. They bought what you had to offer then, which is the right thing to do, right? You sell what is in the bag that you have today and you can prove value for it. It's much different than maybe what you would share with an analyst about, the grand vision, but people tend to want to buy what you can sell that can be valuable to them today.

And that changes very quickly over time in, in markets like software, where you can constantly be improving and shifting and making those sorts of changes. So we tend to say. The best option is someone who has [00:12:00] evaluated the market very recently. You can ask a question to them, not a hypothetical about what would you do, but ask them, how did it go?

What did you see, right? And all of a sudden, like, you're getting, not answers to hypotheticals, but you're getting answers to exactly what that person perceived happened in the context of them evaluating the market. Now, that doesn't mean they're going to give you the ultimate truth, right? And I think that's one area that I try to dispel any myth that the, this type of work is about arriving at the truth.

Sales reps, especially will oftentimes get kind of nervous about anyone going in and probing questions about how they did at their job of selling. And for good reason, because it could be used for purposes that sort of name and shame. I always went over sales teams by saying, look, we [00:13:00] are not in search of a single truth.

We're in search of a perspective, right? A buyer has a perspective and that's all that matters because they're the one with the checkbook. It doesn't matter if you could look and say, well, that's not how it happened. Well, it's how it happened to them. So it doesn't really matter how it happened to you.

It's sort of like my wife will sometimes say, it's not how you intended. It's how it's taken that is most important. And I think it's good advice for relationships and business, right? You can have the best of intentions. But if it lands wrong on the other person, it doesn't really matter. You're still in the hot seat.

Barrett Thompson: So, and I think what I'm hearing in there, you tell me if this is how it typically comes about, but in that win loss, this is not strictly a critique about the seller, right? The seller is just the most visible, Individual representing a very large team, marketing, product, marketing, sales process, sales operations, right?

They're on point for [00:14:00] that. So it sounds like the win loss feedback you're receiving could be. Insightful about what the entire team is doing, the whole end to end process, all of the pieces, not just whether the seller said or did a certain thing that I liked or didn't like. Am I right on that? Or is there something else that you're pulling out of those interviews?

Brady Jensen: You couldn't be more right about that. In fact, even if you go and you gather this feedback and you try to put it directly in front of a sales rep, unless it's the sales rep who sold that deal, it's probably not going to be all that helpful for them, right? Jim made a mistake and offended someone. Okay.

Well, I'm not going to offend anyone. So that's not my problem. Or, Oh, there's a product issue. Well, I'm not on the product team, so I can do nothing about that. Or the messaging didn't land. Well, I'm all the marketing team. So what am I supposed to do about that? From my perspective, it's all about putting the insights in front of an audience of people who have the ability to [00:15:00] make changes, to go to market.

For a multitude of reasons, but one of the main ones is that even if you could convince individual sellers to make adjustments and that worked, onesie twosie improvements by individual sellers is not going to create this massive improvement in your win rate, right? That sort of thing has to be attacked at the top where you're saying, you know what, we're just getting tons of feedback around this one thing.

It's clear that there's this new buyer who's involved in the sales process. We don't understand them well enough. Next time, we're not just going to talk about why we win, why we lose. Next time we're going to actually profile that buyer so that we can bring it back, share it, and people can say, okay, well, knowing that this is the case, knowing that this new buyer is on the scene and has the ability to say, no, we need to adjust how we're going to market.

How are we going to address this person? Are we going to make sure that we have something that's in it for them? How do we speak their language? Make them feel like you get [00:16:00] them, right? That's just one example, but it could be a buyer profile. It could be that maybe it's falling flat because. Everyone's saying, well, I've just felt like I could buy for many of you and I didn't get the same result, right?

Well, next time we need to be working really heavily on how do we differentiate, not just talk about what we're the best at in our own minds, but what do we think that we're the best at that's unique, that is durable over time, that our customer actually raises their hand and said, yep, that's something that I value.

Then you go and do some investigation on that. So it's not a win loss in the sense that it's just. Coming back with information all the time of this is what they said, take it and run with it, right? This is what they said. Here's the areas that we need to probe. Let's pull some other tools out of a bag and use those to actually address the problems that we're uncovering so that this go to market leadership can make decisions that are very well informed, [00:17:00] de risked already.

The buyer's already weighed in and it makes it a very easy decision to say, we're going to make a change to this go to market not because we feel like we should, but because our buyers are telling us that we need to. 

Barrett Thompson: This sounds right to me that the feedback is driving a shift in the program, not just a change for an individual.

As you said, onesie twosie isn't going to move the needle. I find this really interesting, Zilliant's practice has focused primarily on taking large amounts of data and mining through that data in a very want driven way. And I think what you're describing is a nice compliment to that. What if I do things on a vastly different scale, probably not going to do wind loss interviews with 10, 000 customers.

So I'm going to change the scale. I'm not going to try to get to, as you called it, the truth, like with three decimal points of precision, but I'm going to elicit an [00:18:00] perspective and that's going to help me understand some. So I find that a really interesting compliment to some of the techniques that I know many of the members of our audience are familiar with, and I could see the value in having both.

I think it was Mark Twain who said. It's not what you don't know that's the problem, it's what you think you know that just isn't so. So, I would love to get your point of view on this. What are some of the things that come out of the kind of research and investment that you're talking about? Maybe things that one party or multiple parties in the organization believed were true, but then they learned something else.

Maybe that was the key, was just being willing to change your mind and having a perspective that gave you a reason to do so. Do you find that you're typically reinforcing already known things, discovering new things, contradicting once closely held beliefs? What's going on here? What's been your experience?

Brady Jensen: Well, I think in a lot of ways, I tell my [00:19:00] own team, if we're confirming beliefs more than 30 percent of the time, we're probably not doing our job. Like confirming beliefs has its place. And it's, and it is helpful for people to be like, Oh, we're on the right track. But a lot of times there are these beliefs that are not.

based in reality and are just ripe for revision and review. It's interesting. You talk about the quall versus the quall and I'm not an academic, but I remember even back in school, like a very clear delineation between the two. And then you get into business and it tends to look more like people try to like.

Blur the lines a little more than they should, or sometimes a lot more than they should. Or they're like, we're going to do qualitative work, but then we're going to put it in a bunch of charts and graphs and decimal points on it and make it look like, and like, now we know exactly how these people feel.

Because you've got data points, right? Where you're not going to understand how they feel [00:20:00] based on those 10, 000 data points, but you're definitely not going to be able to make the right decisions that belong in the world of want based on 15, 20 conversations, a little bit in quarter. So they definitely have their places.

The one area I think, when I think of examples of areas that are constantly up for debate in companies, there's always The big debate of price, right? How much should we charge for this? Are we charging too much for this? Is that why we can't we win deals? And it tends to be this, product marketing oftentimes has a hand in pricing, obviously like the finance teams do too, like there's a bunch of people that do it, but sales are oftentimes agitating for like lower the price and we'll win more deals, right?

That's one of the areas where persistently we find that it's just not the problem. Not to say that there aren't companies here and there that maybe really botched their pricing strategy, but for the most part, these [00:21:00] buyers, they'll tell us price as like the first layer of the onion, because it's kind of an easy answer.

It's probably what they told the sales rep, much easier to tell the sales rep that it was just too much money, right? 

Barrett Thompson: You lost on price, right? 

Brady Jensen: It's the safe answer. 

Barrett Thompson: Yeah. 

Brady Jensen: And it's weird in the consumer world, like people will buy all sorts of different price points for the same goods, whether they're luxury or not.

And they can convince themselves that a luxury handbag’s worth 10,000, or you could go to target and get a 5 one, but then you move it into the business context and even though. Now you could actually be driving that decision based on what is the value, right? Like what is the value I'm getting for the price I'm paying the buyer tends to revert back to saying you just lost the price Sorry, what can you do where we pull back the onion a bunch of times and it's Rarely, if ever is a price issue.

It is a value issue. It's a, you [00:22:00] didn't show me that you were differentiated enough for me to think that you were worth paying more for, or you didn't justify with a good enough business case that I could sell to my leadership to be able to do that. Just, we're just having a conversation about a client before this call is specifically, And saying, well, we, the sales trip provided pricing, didn't provide really any justification for pricing when the prospect said, I need something to sell my leadership upstream on the deal.

What came back to them was a designed version of the pricing, right? Now it looks pretty. And that was the extent of selling it upstream to their leadership. Or it's like, no, that's probably not gonna do it. Like, you're gonna need to figure out a better way to show that you are worth it. And a lot of times it's not as simple as saying like, in fact, a lot of buyers don't believe anyone's ROI numbers anymore, right?

You can say, course it's 4x, 10x, 20x, [00:23:00] everybody's got so many X and they've put the books on the back end. Well, it's not that. It's not, the answer is well go figure out how to. Show them a bigger multiple, right? It's like, how are you going to creatively create value, right? And how are you going to be able to show that in a way that is going to be convincing to the different stakeholders that are making that decision.

And the CFO who's oftentimes involved in decisions they never were before in recent days. It's going to have a different standard than the champion that you have that you sell to. So understanding that buyer, understanding what they need to see to be able to justify that you're providing the value for the cost that you're charging them is all the difference, but it's not the, you lost on price.

That's the answer that can most often get people off their back where they don't really have to share. What were the politics here? Like who was saying yes, who was saying no, who was agitating for a [00:24:00] different solution and why? Those are the hard questions to answer. The easy one is to say, yeah, you're just too, you're too expensive.

Barrett Thompson: This makes such sense. I mean, we, from the B2B selling side, haven't created value, real value, and communicated value. Then of course, we're going to get tripped up when we try to extract value in the commercial relationship by throwing a price out. It's just, it's bound to happen. I would love to hear.

Brady, with all the customers you've worked with, can you share an example of a company that turned the corner on that tension and got aligned with their sales and marketing team? 

Brady Jensen: Yeah, I mean, one great example comes to mind to me that really demonstrates what putting together win loss with a bunch of other tools that you can use to then address the issues that you've found is a customer of ours, ModMed, who They increased their win rate over 10%, and that's an increase on their win rate, [00:25:00] not an increase on the percentage of the win rate.

So for example, it's like going from a 30% win rate to a 40% win rate. Not saying, well, we increased it 10%, but it's 10% of the 20%. So it's really like 3%, right? , like an actual, like 10% winning, 30% more opportunities than you were before. All because you take the time. To understand very intimately who the buyer is, what they care about, what you need to do to create an ideal buying scenario for them, which includes everything from how do they want to buy to what do they want to buy from whom through what channel, all that stuff.

When you get it right, all of a sudden, like you're taking serious market share that you weren't getting before. Because all of a sudden that buyer, like I said earlier feels like you get them, right? Like that's the best scenario. If you can get a buyer to say these guys get me, [00:26:00] you're well on your way to winning that deal.

Barrett Thompson: Brady, is there anything else you'd like to share with our audience before we sign off? 

Brady Jensen: Nothing super in particular, but I would say from my perspective, the how we do this stuff, I don't hold close to our chest. I want people to adopt this, whether it's using us, doing it in house, finding a partner, We do offer a guide that walks through step by step how to build your own wind loss program at aggregateinsights.

com forward slash podcast. Totally free, ungated. We're not going to call you. You can call me if you want to, but it's really about just sharing this information because to me it's not in the how it's in the expertise and the who and how much work it takes to get there. So we're more than happy to share.

And if check out that resource and you want to talk shop or even have me walk you through how to do it best. I'm here to be a resource and my team is as well. So, to me, it's all about how do we create clarity in worlds [00:27:00] where people have just assumed that playing in murky waters is just sort of the way it has to be in something so simple as just saying, or talk to the people who evaluated you.

It shouldn't be shocking. It shouldn't be some grand revelation, but there's still, 70 plus percent of. B2B companies out there that just don't do it. 

Barrett Thompson: Brady, I want to thank you for this conversation today and bringing your insights to our B2B Reimagined audience. Really appreciate you. Thank you for having me.

And I want to thank each of our podcast listeners for being with us. Please check out the show notes for more information from aggregate insights and the generous offer that Brady made. You'll find a link to their guide to conducting your own win loss analysis to get the valuable feedback from your buyers.

We're committed to your success. And if you need any assistance, please reach out to us at zilliant.com. Would you do me a favor? And before you go, please rate and review the show in your podcast ads. As it helps us to [00:28:00] continue to put out great free content until next time. Have a great day.

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