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4 signs your revenue team is slowly failing

The first step is admitting that, "Houston, you have a problem."

4 signs your revenue team is slowly failing Blog Feature

Will Schultz

Digital Sales and Marketing Coach, 4+ Years of Video Training and Consulting

October 29th, 2020 min read

“Couldn't this meeting just be a video from marketing?”

"Let's just agree to their ideas, so we can make this quick and painless."

At this point, many sales and marketing leaders know the concept of a “revenue team” — the chief buzzword that promises to align your sales and marketing teams into one, money-making machine.

But this is a buzzword that actually delivers on its promise.

And when revenue teams are properly introduced and maintained at a company, they can do a remarkable job at getting everyone into the same boat, rowing in the same direction, playing for the same money-making team. Moreover, the key outcome of a revenue team is in its name — revenue.

But when you fail to position your revenue team correctly, giving it the full attention and commitment it needs, it will easily slip into the rank-and-file of “just another pointless meeting.”

So, how do you know if you're managing your revenue team the right way? 

When I’m helping a business implement this, I usually go straight to the sales team and ask one tiny, little question:

"What percentage of the content we've created do you clearly know how to use in your sales process?"

When I ask this question to young revenue teams, many sales folks proudly say something like, "There's actually a few articles that really make a difference for me! I feel like 15% to 20% of the content directly helps us close deals!"

🔎 Related: How to create sales enablement content that's actually effective

Then, as if on command, I see the marketer's face turn one of the two Christmas colors - it's usually a toss-up between frustrated, embarrassed, and nauseous.

More than once, they've excused themselves from the room to make a disgruntled (yet somehow calm) phone call to the most recent website lead from the day:

So, what's the real problem here?

You, my friend, have an “alignment” problem

And please don't make this buzzword more vague than it has to be. Plain and simple, the problem is that sales and marketing don't yet understand how closely their goals are tied together.

🔎 Related: Why revenue is the #1 metric marking and sales should care about

Marketers don't inherently know what content salespeople need to make their jobs easier. Salespeople don’t recognize how the efforts of marketing can drastically change their processes and conversations. These two traditionally separate departments need to be regularly bumping shoulders.

They need to get into each other's world.

You can begin this change by creating a revenue team inside your company, made up of both sales and marketing folks whose sole purpose is to align toward one goal: to generate revenue for the company.

I’ve been the fly on the wall of countless organizations running their weekly revenue team meetings. It is the clearest way to gauge the relationship between a company’s sales and marketing departments.

🔎 Related: What is a revenue team? (definition + revenue content template)

Why? Because a revenue team is responsible for all of the internal communication — all of the meetings, the content education, the sales enablement — that’s required in your organization to generate content that actually makes money.

And I’ll be the first to admit, there’s more than one way for a revenue team to accomplish what it needs to in an organization. Every business is different, and what works well for one company may not work for another. 

However, there are not-so-obvious problems that come up time and time again that become the quiet killer of a revenue team’s success.

As you determine whether your company is ready for an established revenue team, ask yourself how you plan to avoid these common problems that are the demise of other revenue teams.

Sign 1: You think "Sales and marketing alignment" is a task you can simply "check off"

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a company leader tell me, 

“Oh, you don’t need to worry about our level of alignment, our sales and marketing teams have been completely aligned for a long time! We all get it and we’re fully bought in.”

Where are those companies? Not on our case study page.

Why? A couple of reasons:

  1. They weren’t willing to admit that they had more work to do to educate their people and change their culture.
  2. They viewed “alignment” like a light switch, as if they either had it or they didn’t.

First, I get the idea that “alignment” often is more of a general feeling than it is a set of metrics. Maybe the sales and marketing leaders really get along, maybe the teams have shared goals and sales and marketing folks interact a lot. 

But in the end, “alignment” is not a light switch. It’s a spectrum, and one that can vary based on the topic being discussed.

Example: Your sales and marketing team all agree that the idea of using video in sales emails makes a ton of sense to speed up the process and close deals more often, but how each video is made, who is responsible for using them, and when they get used in the sales process is completely up for debate.

The first pill to swallow is that “alignment” is a spectrum, based on what specifically is being discussed.

The second pill is that “alignment” is, unfortunately, always slowly deteriorating. Sales folks need to be directly influencing marketing efforts, and marketing folks need to be directly influencing sales efforts.

Everyday that this doesn’t happen, the problem gets a little bit worse. Entropy is the larger, more bitter horse-pill that you have to swallow. True alignment is constant work. And you’re never “done.”

It requires time away from sales calls, from content creation, and from “doing what we’ve always done” to make money, whatever that is for you. It requires ongoing meetings, company-wide buy-in, and clear personal value for each team member involved.

The second your revenue team feels like they’re “going through the motions” during this time, you have a problem to address head on.

Speaking of which…

Sign #2: People on the revenue team don’t believe there are actually benefits to the work

Can I tell you a quick story that has absolutely, positively NEVER happened?

A sales team member comes to IMPACT, all hot n’ bothered after reading They Ask, You Answer in just one sitting. He sees TAYA primarily as a sales initiative and he’s told his Director of Sales all about it, who is excited to take time away from regular sales activities to begin creating sales enablement content.

The only problem? How in the world is their sales team going to get their marketing team to actually buy into doing this? The marketers always seem to be so busy as it is, they never have time to catch up with the sales team…

“Please IMPACT, can you help me to get my marketing team to buy into the philosophy of They Ask, You Answer?”

At IMPACT, we start every single one of our revenue team meetings with our ringmaster, IMPACT Editorial Director Liz Moorehead, asking the same question:

"Why are we doing this? What is the purpose of our revenue team?"

She has a different person answer every time and expects to get a slightly different answer, every time. Which is exactly what should happen, since there are quite a lot of “why’s” for the team. An infinite amount, actually.

This exercise is important because it gives a consistent reminder to each person on the revenue team how the work being done personally benefits them. This again is not a light switch — the question is not, "Are we having revenue team meetings or not?"

The real question is "On a scale of one to 10, how much effort is each individual putting into the revenue team's work?" And for us to improve real effort, we need to improve the collective understanding of how this benefits every person in the company.

Of course, the most critical people to the success of the revenue team are also the most difficult — your sales team. But this is for good reason. They've spent years getting burned by promises of marketing teams helping them achieve their goals, only to be left to fend for themselves to manifest the materials and content they need to close their deals.

Hey leaders, here's the question that EVERY salesperson is thinking (but almost NO ONE says out loud) every single time a request is made to them:

"How will this make me more money?"

This is how we must position the early conversations to sales about the revenue team meeting, because trust me when I say that even if they "get it", they're not going to show up ready to dramatically change how they sell.

They've seen "marketing initiatives" come and go in the past, and so it's understandable that they've got some trust issues when it comes to giving their time away. That's why we must constantly educate and remind the team how this work benefits them personally. This task is never complete.

And what's one way that we can highlight these lovely personal benefits? 

Sign #3: You’re not reporting the metrics that examines the success of the revenue team

How does your organization currently measure the success of your revenue team? If the answer to that question doesn't come easily, then you're probably not defining priorities clearly enough for your team.

Specific metrics and priorities are critical to the health of a revenue team?

Why? Because these meetings can easily derail, easily find a rabbit hole to jump into, and/or easily get extremely repetitive.

You need to be able to combat these problems with questions like:

  • "Does this topic directly impact the metrics we're focused on improving?"
  • "What specifically do we think this piece of content will work to improve?"

Another reason why shared metrics are critical is because, frankly, these conversations will feel mundane and repetitive sometimes. We should always be able to show how the consistently repeated work is chipping away at bigger numbers. 

It will do wonders to combat burn-out and check-out.

It's also smart to switch up the priority metrics that were sharing and working towards every quarter or so. It helps give more specific purpose to the topics being discussed based on larger goals. Some examples I've seen are:

This quarter, our revenue team priority is to:

  • Increase top-funnel web traffic
  • Improve website conversion
  • Decrease unqualified sales leads
  • Improve sales close rates

Then, determine the metrics that you plan to track and share at the weekly revenue team meetings to show the progress being made and remind the team of what success looks like.

Some of these metrics are:

  • Number of articles published
  • Number of videos published
  • Percentage of weeks that we stuck to our content calendar
  • Number of one-to-one videos being sent daily
  • Average number of content pieces being used in the sales process
  • Percentage of unqualified leads
  • Sales close rate
  • Website traffic growth
  • Number of leads generated from the website
  • Revenue closed due to content

The more that we can show our progress to the internal team, the more focus and commitment we will retain.

Speaking of progress...

Sign #4: There is no feedback loop that examines the effectiveness of individual content

As I said at the beginning, I like to ask salespeople about the level of value they find in the revenue team, and I think the most beneficial feedback comes when digging at the lowest level.

If you don’t have a process in place to take “finished” articles and push them to a completely polished level with your sales team’s input, then you are going to have a bunch of content that’s 10% away from being completely effective. 

It’s like going for a run but walking the last mile — that’s where the important workout begins, folks!

🔎 Related: How to nail a content ROI reporting strategy with HubSpot

I suggest doing regular audits of individual articles/videos to see if there are gems of feedback to pull out of salespeople that you wouldn't get if you asked the question too broadly. Here's one of my favorites to start with:

"On a scale of one to 10, how proud are you to send this piece of content to a lead you’re talking to right now? What would hold you back and what would make it a 10?"

There are a variety of reasons why sales folks don't use content, some more obvious than others. Reasons include:

  • It's too broad and tries to answer too many questions at once.
  • It's not something that the customer ever specifically asks about.
  • I don't know when it would fit into my regular process.
  • The intro feels unimportant and I don't want to burden them with all the fluff.
  • It's 10 minutes of their time when I could deliver the same value in a 30 second conversation.
  • I think it would leave them with more questions than answers.
  • It doesn’t present it as well as I think I would.

It’s not about whether your sales team understands the general concept assigning content to their leads in the sales process.

Instead, it’s about learning how to make specific pieces of content that they’ll be proud to send over to their leads. Why?

  1. Because they believe it's a benefit rather than a burden to the recipient
  2. Because they believe the resource will give them more credibility as an educator. (psst - they’re a heck of a lot more likely to send something when they’re the accredited author)
  3. Because they believe it will save them meaningful time.
  4. Because they believe it will make them more money.

What can I do to help keep my revenue team healthy and successful?"

Unfortunately, there’s no “right” way to execute the implementation and maintenance of a revenue team. The terms “sales” and “marketing” can mean a million different things at a million different companies, and the journey to glory looks different for every team.

However, there is a “right” mindset that the revenue team should all agree on in an effort to fight the deterioration of the team’s effectiveness.

This mindset is based around these principles:

  • The revenue team has the never-ending goal of aligning the efforts of sales and marketing departments in order to make more money.
  • The idea of alignment is never complete, much like brushing your teeth is never complete.
  • The revenue team members all need to be reminded why the work they’re doing is critical and how it benefits them personally.
  • There are no “favors” being done for each other when people make time for revenue team work. It is not a marketing initiative.
  • Agreeing to content ideas that we don’t fully support or understand is a recipe for wasted time.
  • Measuring success through critical numbers is the backbone that allows the team to determine what makes sense to focus on.
  • Everything that we can do to set our team up for success five years from now should absolutely be done.

I encourage your revenue team to read this article before you jump into your next meeting with each other. Then, kick-off the conversation by asking this question:

“What should we be doing differently to be a more effective and permanent revenue team?”

The first step is admitting that, "Houston, you have a problem."

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