Growing revenue has emerged as the ultimate team sport. Selling to a digitally empowered customer across many channels requires a wider variety of functional roles, a bigger arsenal of tools and tactics, and much more communication and coordination. As organizations struggle to keep up with an ever-changing customer journey, the role of the marketing and sales executive has evolved into an orchestrator of an increasingly complex marketing and technology ecosystem. For example, 92% of CMOs report they now use a complex mix of 20 marketing, media, channel and technology investments to support growth in their businesses according to Forbes research.
Progressive CMOs understand growth is a team sport. Particularly those who were athletes themselves. They recognize that marketing shares both budget and responsibility for growth with key stakeholders in Sales, Service, Product, IT, Finance and business units. Denise Karkos – the CMO of Sirius XM & Pandora and a Division I soccer player – understands the importance of working as one team towards one common goal. “In sports the scorecard for success is very clear – you win or lose as a team,” points out Karkos. “In business, each person has an individual definition of success. The opportunity in sales and marketing today is defining the win for the entire team. You can’t delegate or outsource that job. As a leader, you can set the tone from the top.”
Unfortunately working as a team at scale in a large organization is extremely difficult. Much of the innovation in the emerging field of revenue enablement comes from small start-ups with tiny teams and no legacy sales and marketing infrastructure. But for most organizations, growing revenues requires scale to harness the resources and talents of large sales, marketing, channel, and partner teams made up of hundreds or thousands of individuals.
If growth is truly a team sport, business leaders should be looking closer at winning teams like the New England Patriots, The Oakland A’s, the Golden State Warriors, and The US Military Special Forces. Over the past several decades, the leaders of these organizations have put in place management processes, data-driven insights, and fact-based financial models that create shared incentives for teamwork and optimally allocate talent, technology, and resources to team goals. Business leaders can learn four things about making teamwork scale from these organizations:
1. Lead go-to-market transformation from the top
2. Create a common purpose by defining the scorecard for winning
3. Challenge conventions and break bottlenecks
4. Leverage technology for speed, communication, and scale
Leading go-to-market transformation from the top. Professor Adi Wyner, who leads the Sports Analytics and Business Initiative at Wharton Business School, sees close parallels between the cultural and business transformation sports teams have experienced in the past decade to the challenges sales and marketing leaders face today. He often points to the challenges faced by Billy Bean, the General Manager of the Oakland A’s, in the book “Moneyball” as a lesson about leading transformation from the top. Bean was forced by competitive circumstances to challenge baseball orthodoxy by using analytics-based approaches in order to find better ways to build and run his team. His efforts to transform his organization ran into the same cultural, organizational and capability obstacles as sales and marketing transformation programs do. To ultimately succeed, he had to push hard to invest big resources on building analytics capabilities, acquire the right talent at the right price, and give general managers more power and control over coaching tactics, game strategies, and play calling. “Billy Bean was remarkable not because he discovered the value of walks as a predictor for player performance – but because he was a leader who allowed himself to listen to what the analysis was telling him when it contradicted conventional wisdom and entrenched beliefs of his organization to find ways to transform his business” according to Professor Wyner.
Creating a common purpose by defining the scorecard for winning. Since growth is now a “team sport,” the CEO, CFO and the entire leadership group must agree upon the economic outcomes and financial contribution sales and marketing teams make to the business. Establishing a common purpose involves deciding on common ways to measure the financial return on sales and marketing assets and investments and creating team incentives tied as closely as possible to corporate financial goals.
According to Denise Karkos, “In order to create a common purpose for your growth team, smart leaders must do two things. First, he or she must define what a win is. And it starts with defining a common purpose for all the leaders in the organization. For example, at TD Ameritrade our CEO redefined a win as a high Net Promoter Score. This completely changed the organization’s focus to customer success. The second job is to create a set of shared operational goals that ladder up to the winning score. To do this right, you need to break it down into functional components that map to day-to-day transactional activities– like engagement quality, levels of service, time to resolution, and customer advocacy. From there you need to derive common incentives – or shared KPIs – for the entire team. Having shared incentives is a powerful way to operate because if forces teamwork and is scalable.”
Challenging conventions and breaking bottlenecks. To scale teamwork in larger enterprises, most business leaders look to analysts, technology solutions, sales trainers, and strategy consultants to find better ways to get marketing, sales, and customer service to work together. Technology is part of the answer. Particularly solutions that share information, recommend content, automate measurement and foster collaboration across account teams. And consultants can map out new customer journeys, define sales plays, and organizational constructs to provide a useful blueprint for sales and marketing alignment.
But ultimately, it’s up to business owners, CEOs, and the executives that lead growth (CMOs, CSOs, or CROs) to challenge convention and culture to force collaboration across silos and provide the coaching and the financial incentives required for teamwork to scale in a large organization. Only the CEO and the executive leadership team have a “front-row seat” at all of the major initiatives aimed at improving business agility, speed to market, customer-centricity and intelligence sharing.
In his book “Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement in a Complex World” General Stanley McChrystal explains how the new challenges of fighting the war on terror forced the US armed forces to abandon the hierarchical, top-down command and control structures and linear planning processes that were the foundations of military command for centuries. To defeat new threats from highly adaptable and networked terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, General McChrystal and the leaders of the US Joint Special Operations Task Force were forced to discard a century of conventional wisdom to find ways to become faster, flatter, and more flexible. They looked at best practices of their highest performing teams of Navy Sales, CIA operatives or Army Rangers – and found ways to extend them to thousands of people on three continents. They built a network of teams that functioned with extremely transparent communication and decentralized decision-making authority. They tore down walls between silos. Reversing years of “bottom up” information flow, the Task Force pushed “general and officer level” information and awareness throughout the ranks to give people on the front lie the information, context and understanding they needed to take initiative and make decisions quickly. The results were dramatic. “When we tried to do the same things tighter and faster under the constraints of the old system, we managed to increase the number of raids from ten to eighteen,” reported McChrystal. “Under the new system, this figure skyrocketed to three hundred. With minimal increases in personnel, we were running seventeen times faster.”
Leveraging technology for speed, communication, and scale. Teamwork requires fast communication between players. Rapid “horizontal” information flow across silos is particularly important in modern marketing and sales. Marketing teams produce customer data and insights that signal buying intent and provide intelligence about the needs of customers and prospects. These buying signals must be acted upon quickly by sales teams to advance and close sales. This makes speeding data and decisions about an opportunity from the source to a salesperson a critical value driver.
Unfortunately, traditional organizations with rigid functional organizational structures and process hand-offs between teams have a hard time moving information that fast. “The organization as a rigidly reductionist mechanical beast is an endangered species. The speed and interconnected nature of the world in which we function have rendered it too stoic and slow to survive the onslaught of predators,” reports General McChrystal in Team of Teams. “As the world grows faster and more interdependent, we need to figure out ways to scale the fluidity of teams across entire organizations: groups with thousands of members that span continents, like our Task Force.” To accelerate the flow and cadence of information sharing, the US Joint Special Operations Task Force found ways to use technology to become faster and more fluid. They built a “virtual” Situational Awareness Room (SAR) – an adaptive intelligence hub that provided real time information critical to ongoing anti-terrorist operations. In practice, the SAR acted like a central nervous system where 7,000 team members spread across 70 locations globally would meet in daily operational and intelligence briefings.
Marketing and sales leaders need to use technology in the same way. They must break down communications roadblocks across sales, marketing, and service silos. And accelerate the flow of critical information across customer-facing teams. The most advanced organizations are using AI technologies to target and instantaneously share critical information to specific team members and the systems and channels that support them.
To learn more about how your organization can scale teamwork and grow revenues, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get access to research and participate in executive education forums on this issue this summer.