A revenue team is the key to achieving sales and marketing alignment, no matter your industry, location, or size. But what does a revenue team do? Authored in collaboration with IMPACT Lead Coach Chris Marr.
Editorial Director, Speaker, Host of 'Content Lab' Podcast
September 25th, 2020
What is a revenue team?
A revenue team meets weekly and is made of key players from your sales and marketing teams within a company. All activities, regardless of individual roles, will be centered around the shared goal of increasing company revenue. Based on the most pressing questions of their ideal buyers, this team will develop and execute a strategy of content to be used in the sales process that will increase close rates.
An overview of the revenue team model
Now, let's dig deeper into the details
Smitten as a kitten as I may be with words, I also have an unwavering love of numbers. Though not always used for good (when in the wrong hands), I find numbers to be a calming, level-setting quantification of human behavior.
Or, more to the point, when foundation-less passions and off-base "gut instincts" try to take over, numbers can waltz in and cure the fever of hunches with a dose of reality.
However, there's a big, hairy problem with most cases folks make for going after sales and marketing alignment within a company.
How do you actually align sales and marketing?
Everyone does a great job espousing the virtues of aligning the two often-warring teams. No big shocker there, since it's like arguing for a healthy diet and exercise, where usually the only true counterpoint is some version of, "But I don't wanna."
Still, rarely have I ever been satisfied with anyone's answer to the natural follow-up question:
"OK, geniuses, I get that alignment is a good thing. But what is the actual step-by-step process of how to get these business equivalents of the Hatfields and the McCoys working together?"
Occasionally, I'll see someone attempt to answer this question with a half-hearted list of surface-level tactics — "Hey, have you considered like... not rolling your eyes in conversations with sales teams?"
But, for the most part, the number of useful answers I see out in the wild can be summed up as follows:
Just a whole lot of nothing.
Well, that was true until about three months ago, when aforementioned good guy Chris Marr had IMPACT do a little of practicing what we preach to our clients.
More specifically, he had us create a revenue team.
Months later, as one of the members of IMPACT's revenue team, I am fully convinced this is the ever-elusive "how" many of us have been waiting for, for achieving sales and marketing alignment. Not just at IMPACT, but at any company, regardless of industry, size, location, favorite color, morning person vs. night owl, or whatever.
So, together in this article, we're going to unpack the following:
What is a revenue team?
Why do you need a revenue team?
Who should be on your revenue team?
How does a revenue team work?
Once you understand the answers to these questions, you'll be armed with the exact knowledge you need to bring your sales and marketing teams together with astounding results.
Now, let's begin by answering the most obvious question.
What the heck is a revenue team?
Tactically speaking, a revenue team is made of key players from your sales and marketing teams within a company centered around their current shared goal of increasing revenue through traffic, leads, and sales.
So, instead of two competing teams with independent priorities, the members of this singular unit work together achieve their mutual goal of revenue growth through true collaboration, information-sharing, brainstorming, and problem-solving.
Stakeholders will still focus on their designated activities, as Chris points out:
"Yes, some people in the team will be more focussed on marketing efforts (e.g. creating content) or sales efforts (e.g. closing deals). But the team acts as one, identifying and working towards their common goal."
To show you what I mean, IMPACT's revenue team includes the following players:
When we formed this team a few months ago, none of us relinquished our day-to-day responsibilities or what we were hired to do.
For example, I'm responsible for the development, implementation, and oversight of content strategy (both written and video), as well as the management of our all-star editorial team. That didn't change when I joined the revenue team. Instead, my role within the revenue team and the conversations that come out of it (more on that shortly), now strongly influence how I do my job.
Well, it's estimated that 70% of the buying decision happens in the research phase, before a prospect even dreams of reaching out to someone in sales. In fact, 88% of all buyers are doing online research before they make a purchase of any kind.
Considering that I spent more than two hours reading online reviews about leggings last night — on top of three hours spent researching patio furniture the night before — I'm inclined to agree.
(This seismic shift in consumer behavior is the driver behind They Ask, You Answer, the game-changing business philosophy that fuels the digital sales and marketing strategies we develop with our clients.)
According to Chris:
"Giving [revenue growth] responsibility to the sales team alone doesn’t make sense. By the time prospects have gotten in touch with them, the majority of the decision has already been made. And, perhaps more pertinent are the prospects who never got in touch and went elsewhere, if they didn’t find the information they needed during the research phase.
But, equally, sole responsibility for sales and revenue cannot be given to the marketing team.
One of the main challenges the sales team face is that they need 'better quality leads,' with only around 27% of leads passed from marketing to sales deemed to be qualified. This isn’t because the marketing team is rubbish at their job. It’s because they are working with an incomplete picture.
If your sales and marketing team are disconnected, then it will be dramatically more difficult for your marketing team to attract relevant and qualified leads."
See what I mean?
Buying behavior has changed so drastically, of course it makes sense that sales and marketing teams can't go about business as usual. To operate in silos is no longer an option, so the teams must come together.
And they must do so as a singular revenue team.
How does a revenue team work and function?
Before I take you into the nuts and bolts of how revenue teams come together and operate, there are a few prerequisites and fundamentals that must be in place before you go any further.
Or you must at least accept that this is where you need to go.
Revenue team prerequisites
Your entire company must be bought into the mission of becoming the #1 teacher in your industry, with an obsession with answering all of your ideal buyers' questions as honestly and thoroughly as possible. These questions will drive every single piece of content you create.
Your sales team needs to embrace assignment selling, a sales technique proven to exponentially increase close rates, wherein sales reps literally assign homework to prospects of content that answers common questions received during the sales process. (Real-life examples of assignment selling prove that it really does work.)
You must have a single owner (usually called a content manager) who is solely responsible for creating (or overseeing the creation of) your company's content in-house. At IMPACT, that person is yours truly. (What does a content manager do? And why do we need one?)
I know, an article by a digital marketing agency is telling you to hire in-house folks to do the jobs that would traditionally outsourced to an outfit like ours. What kind of upside-down world is this, right? But we're a little different, in that we're not big fans of the traditional outsourced agency model, so we actually don't create content for our clients.
There are three core recurring activities that govern the day-to-day operations of a revenue team:
Weekly revenue team meetings
Weekly revenue team reports (sent to entire team)
Quarterly meetings with sales contributors
Revenue team meeting agenda
The weekly revenue team meeting follows the same agenda every time:
What assignment selling content (written and video) has been published since you last met and how is it valuable?
What assignment selling content (written and video) is currently in the production pipeline?
How has the previously published assignment selling content (written and video) been performing for sales?
What questions are you currently being asked by buyers in the sales process that should have a piece of content created for it?
That last question can be parsed out in a number of different ways, says Chris:
What questions do you get asked that immediately indicate the buyer is not close to ready to make a decision?
What do your clients and buyers push back on the most?
What are your buyer's biggest doubts or worries (with respect to the product, the process, the company)?
What do your buyers have to convince the key decision-makers of?
This brainstorming is what should inform what written and video content you create, as part of your content strategy.
Facilitating the revenue team content brainstorm (+ free brainstorm tool)
First, suggestions are entered with the following information — the topic phrased as a question in the words of the buyer; whether or not they want it as a blog article, a video, or both; who is making the request from sales; their ideal subject matter expert to address the topic; and why the topic is being requested.
Next, sales team members can denote priority by "upvoting" topics, and the spreadsheet will automatically sort the topics with the highest votes to the top!
I like automated things.
Also, as appropriate, the color of the rows will be updated based on the status column. Again, it makes it easy visually for people to understand where everything stands without a lot of hands-on work.
The key with this tool is that it's not just used during the brainstorm itself. I developed the tool so sales team members could communicate revenue team content priorities in real-time, as ideas came up. They also are encouraged once a month to put in three to four new topics, and to always be checking back to upvote suggestions from their sales team peers!
Revenue content update for the team
The revenue team update is something I send out to our revenue team at IMPACT. And, much like the content wins ROI newsletter, I do so in Basecamp:
I open it with an overview of what the update is and the most recently published revenue content strategy pieces. (For each, I like to include context, use cases, and perceived value.)
Then, I give a preview of what's coming down the pipeline, with estimated dates of publication, although they are sometimes subject to change.
I also do the same for video, so folks know what's been published, what's coming, and what we're working on.
And, so far, folks seem to like it!
My personal process is that I send this right before (or the morning of) the weekly revenue team meeting. Then, I literally bring this update up and walk through it as part of the first two revenue team agenda items. This guarantees the rest of the team consumes what is in these updates, and I have a chance to proactively address questions in an open setting.
Quarterly sales meeting agenda
Finally, there are the quarterly one-on-one meetings with sales, which I will turn over to Chris to explain:
"What does success look like to your sales team?
The marketing team needs to understand this on an individual basis for each member of the sales team, so that they can help create content that will help them achieve these goals.
To help enable this, I recommend that the marketing team meets with each member of the sales team once per quarter for 30 minutes. Over time, the marketing team will understand how the sales team work and what they can do to help bolster their success in sales, which will ultimately drive revenue.
It might seem like a lot of meetings, but they are central to ensuring open communication and collaboration between the two sides of the revenue team. And they need to become commonplace within your organization to ensure the sales and marketing team are working together to attract the right leads and convert them into customers."
So, what do you discuss during those meetings? Well, that depends, but here are a few question prompts to help guide your chats:
How often are you using content in the sales process?
What specific challenges or barriers stop you from using content in the sales process?
What opportunities have you spotted where we could be using an ‘assignment’ in the sales process?
What does success in your role look like for you?
What are your goals?
What can the marketing department do to help you achieve those goals?
"This all sounds great, but how do I know our revenue team is a success?"
Success of a revenue team breaks down in the following ways:
Sales and marketing teams are fully aligned, trust each other, and have mutual respect. They have an open line of communication, meeting at least once a week.
Sales understands and sees the value of their role in creating content that drives qualified traffic, leads, and sales.
Salespeople are more fulfilled and happier in their roles.
Marketers see more value in their work, taking pride in the direct connection between what they produce and the revenue generated for their company.
The sales team heavily influences the editorial calendar, as well as the priority of which content gets produced and when.
The content being created by your company attracts better, more qualified prospects and customers.
Sales knows how much revenue this content is creating.
You are creating content for buyers already in the sales process, not just for attracting new visitors and leads.
The length of the sales cycle decreases, where leads become customers or clients faster than before.
You're moving as much of the sales process online, to meet the demand of consumers for online research, thus giving them more control over the buying process than ever before.
That means many of the questions once answered face-to-face (or at least by a human in sales) can now be answered by content on your website that is easily self-discovered by visitors. (This includes transparency around your pricing.)
You find yourself consistently selling products and services on the first sales call.
But Chris did have this one final word about the ongoing success of revenue teams:
"Implementing a revenue team is not quite as simple as holding one meeting, deciding it’s the right course for your organization and assuming it will work. It’s a process, not an overnight success and it involves continual education, adaptation, and progress.
But by implementing a revenue team you are working towards a greater purpose. In addition to driving revenue growth together for your company, your sales and marketing teams will have a deeper understanding of how each department works, and therefore a greater level of respect."
Isn't that what true sales and marketing alignment is all about?
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