I am CSO of the Bridge Group, responsible for sales and customer success.
Due to the current crisis, many pipelines are down. While some companies have built up their pipelines to pre-Covid numbers, it has taken a lot more effort and activity to achieve this feat.
While we have always known that there should be alignment between sales and marketing departments, it is now more important than ever to have both of these teams in sync with each other in order to build pipelines.
The pipeline is the ultimate key to sales success, and it can cure all sales problems. And yet it’s a problematic area, and very few VPs of sales ever say they have enough of a pipeline! Marketing and sales should essentially be joined at the hip in order to rebuild their pipelines with well-nurtured, quality leads.
I’ve discovered that some companies have created a new role to address this pressing issue. That role is called the VP of pipeline. While it’s not a well-known position yet, I believe that it could potentially help companies with the ever-elusive sales and marketing alignment. I feel this is the start of a new movement. I learned a lot from an interview I conducted with George Coughlin about this role.
The VP of pipeline reports to both the chief marketing officer and the chief revenue officer (or the CEO) and is responsible for building the pipeline and guiding the pipeline development strategy. They oversee the sales development representatives and demand gen, field marketing and sales enablement teams, as well as account-based programs. They essentially find the unifying thread in all departments.
Here are three ways in which a VP of pipeline role can help align your sales and marketing departments in order to boost your pipeline:
1. The VP of pipeline will evaluate marketing and sales performance in a weekly meeting.
As the VP of pipeline, this individual’s one key performance measurement is how much pipeline they added. It’s not marketing qualified leads (MQLs) or meetings.
The VP of pipeline owns demand gen, which creates marketing programs to drive inbound leads. It’s easy for them to effectively evaluate the results of inbound leads:
1. What are the inbound lead results (i.e., how many do we have, how many converted to a meeting, how many meetings moved to an opportunity, and how many closed from inbound leads)?
2. How are these metrics compared to goals and/or averages?
3. Are inbound leads driving the right type of accounts?
4. Are inbound leads driving the average deal sizes you want?
5. Is the retention rate on deals from inbound leads in line with your goals?
Now there is no finger-pointing between sales and marketing on the quality of inbound leads.
It is important that the VP of pipeline participates in sales leadership meetings and calls. They should get exposure to sales reps and attend some of the quarterly business reviews. Through this exposure to the sales team, they will gain credibility with sales and help eliminate the finger-pointing that can occur between sales and marketing.
2. The VP of pipeline will drive sales content.
In our current economic landscape, I’ve noticed that a lot more people are budget conscious. More and more buying decisions of any amount have to be approved by the CEO or CFO.
Overall, the goal is for the salesperson to be seen as a valuable resource for data, insights and knowledge. If that salesperson becomes a trusted adviser, then they have a clear advantage over their competitors. In order for the salesperson to feel empowered to step into that role, marketing can provide information on ROI, data, relevant messaging and case studies to support the efforts of the sales team. Knowledge is power in this situation. The VP of pipeline can guide marketing on the insights to bring to the sales team.
Since sales enablement reports to the VP of pipeline, that team will be there to help drive information and positioning. That will be key in helping to get salespeople the approvals that they need from high levels right now.
3. The VP of pipeline will lead the strategy to test different approaches.
During this crisis, it’s important for the VP of pipeline to test out different approaches that normally may not have been used prior to this situation. Now more than ever, sales and sales development teams should get on phones more than they email prospects. I’ve observed that emails are getting lost in the shuffle. The VP of pipeline can ensure the right people — whether they’re in marketing or sales enablement — understand what buyers of today need from you to buy from you.
Experimenting with new approaches may help build the company’s pipeline in a more creative way, such as using video messaging or LinkedIn calling.
Because they may have gotten some feedback from sales, they can think, “You know what? Maybe we need to test going after a different buyer persona. Let me work with my SDR team and my demand gen team to come up with a way to test that.” It’s all under their control. The VP of pipeline makes it easier to get short feedback loops on what is working and do iterative tests.
The Common Goal
The marketing and sales divisions should be working seamlessly together to reach the common goal of getting more qualified leads and closing business. Essentially, the VP of pipeline can bring these departments together. This unique dual-reporting structure brings sales and marketing together. They can move one step closer to achieving their goals.
Managing and growing your pipeline during a crisis takes creativity, thoughtfulness and strategy. Ultimately, you need to find more ways to stand apart from the crowd and show the world the ROI on your products and services right now — rather than in some vague, distant future.
Hiring this new role of VP of pipeline will help you stand apart from other companies and solve the age-old issue of how to bring marketing and sales together. Ultimately, it’s about how much pipeline you create and how much it is costing the organization to generate the pipeline.
Forbes Business Development Council is an invitation-only community for sales and biz dev executives. Do I qualify?