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Building Better Sales and Marketing Alignment

An effective business development strategy comprises both sales and marketing, and the overall success of the effort is determined by the relationship between the two.

During this webinar, Blair Enns, CEO of Win Without Pitching, the leading sales training company for agencies and Mark O’Brien, CEO of Newfangled, the leading digital marketing consultancy for agencies will discuss what a healthy sales and marketing relationship looks like and how the right balance between the two creates the most effective business development platform for agencies.


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Blair Enns: Hi, Mark. Thanks for doing this, this is great.

Mark O’Brien: So great, so great. The first thing I just want to mention is how grateful we are for the interest in this. We had just about a few shy of 500 people register and that’s a record for Newfangled. I think it might be a record for Win Without Pitching.

Blair Enns: No, I get 500 every day, this is nothing.

Mark O’Brien: You get 500 on Monday morning, whatever. You just say “webinar” and everyone shows up. It’s really exciting, and there are lots of new people for both parties.

Mark O’Brien: So Blair what is sales?

Blair Enns: Okay. I tried really hard not to prepare for this. So if I just search my memory for the def … I’m gonna give the definition of sales, and then I’m gonna give kind of what I see is the responsibility of sales. And the definition of sales that I use, it’s kind of … it arises from my perspective on sales, and other people might have a different definition. So I think a lot of the typical, or maybe the stereotypical if that’s in fact a word, or an acrostic view of sales, is that sales is the act of persuasion or talking people into things. And I think a lot of the problems around selling, and the ickiness around selling, stem from that old view of selling. And I think selling is really three steps. It’s helping the unaware, inspiring the interested, and reassuring the intent.
So it’s really about looking for people that you can help. Inspire some people forward. When people make a decision that they’re gonna kind of make their world better, then just reassure them and hold their hand through the difficult part of change. And all of that comes from a model of change. So that’s kind of like … that’s a bit of a messy view of the definition of sales. Help the unaware, inspire the interested, reassure the intent.
My definition of the role of sales is that … I kind of wanna start with marketing. Is that … would I be treading on, stepping on your toes if I …

Mark O’Brien: No, go for it.

Blair Enns: So to me, the role of marketing is to deliver leads to sales. So you think of, you know you’ve already touched on this, business. We talk about business development, and we still do. But increasingly within business development world, we think of sales and marketing. So the role of marketing is to generate leads for sales, and hand them over to sales while broadening and deepening the reputation of the firm. So marketing’s role … this isn’t a definition of marketing. This is what I see as the role of marketing. Marketing’s role is generate leads and hand them over to sales. But to do that while increasing the reputation of the firm, rather than mining the reputation of the firm. Right? And I’m sure we’ll end up talking about that.
So if that’s the role of marketing, then the role of sales … I’m probably gonna have to read it here. Yeah, i’m gonna read it from my screen. It’s the responsibility of sales to follow up on leads, qualify them … and we could unpack that. And navigate meaningful opportunities to a close at high profit margin, low cost of sale, while maintaining the firm’s reputation. So there’s a bunch of variables there: following up on the leads that marketing has delivered. And maybe, even some other leads that haven’t come from marketing. But I think we’ll talk about this. Mostly it should come form marketing these days. Qualifying them. Qualifying is that act of vetting them against kind of standard sales criteria to see if a opportunity exists.
And then, of those meaningful opportunities that do exist. Navigating those to a close. And not just then … so it’s closing that business, ultimately. But not just closing, closing it at high margin, at low cost of sales, with the firm positioned as the expert. While maintaining the firm’s expert position in the relationship.

Mark O’Brien: Yep. Yeah, that’s beautiful. I love that. And that all falls in line with this right fit prospect idea. So brief back story, Blair and I have known each other since 2005, when a client introduced us to each other. A shared client introduced to each other. So it’s been 12 years. And we’ve seen each other, at least, once a year since then. For the past three years, we have seen each other every quarter, because Blair talked me into joining him at the strategic coach program out in Vancouver. And if you we have time, we can tell the story of who that happened.
And it’s been wonderful. And it’s been great going with Blair every quarter to Vancouver and spending a day together, a couple days, but a day in the actual class together. And we’re hearing all these big picture, sort of paradigm changing ideas. And then we get to speak with each other about how to implement those ideas and what that means for us? What that means for the agency world we both serve? And so that’s really, really exciting, again, because the businesses are so tied in terms of one leading to the other all under the same unified vision. Which has always just been true.
We arrive a lot of the same conclusions in our respective disciplines without really consult anting each other, in many cases. And so one of the core concepts of coach is the idea of the right fit prospect. You know, who do you really want to be working with. And the definition, Blair help me fill in the blanks if I miss anything, but a right fit prospect is the type of prospect/client that appreciates, derives maximum value from, refers, and something else the organization.

Blair Enns: Yeah. I never remember other people’s definitions, but I would add something to it. And that’s that, the client takes you one step closer towards your strategic vision of the business, and not away from it. So I’m fond of saying you reinvent the firm one new client at a time. So every new client that you take on, you should be selective about who you take on. And you should recognize that by taking this client on it’s gonna meet certain criteria around revenue and profit. But those other things, that you just talked about, I just wrapped them all up in this idea that it’s gonna take us one step closer to this vision of who we want to be as an organization.
That includes size of revenue. It includes skill set. It includes things around culture, like how your clients interact with people, etc.

Mark O’Brien: The impact you’re gonna have on that client. And absolutely. And that gets to my definition of marketing, which is … I feel like marketing is one of the most entrepreneurial acts that exist. Because it’s about, what you said, redefining a future. Thinking, clearly, about well, what kind of firm should we be a year from now? And who do we wanna be having conversations with a year from now? Because, right, nothing says more about your culture than the clients you choose to take on. And the more intentional you are about who you should be working with and why, then you’re able to create marketing systems that actually have goals and intent behind them. And that is how you change the firm.
You market to get in front of the right people. And to build relationships with them in a very, genuine educational way. So that they do develop a certain amount of trust with you before they even speak with you. And then when you get to the sales stage, then there’s this idea of the reputation being augmented, instead of degraded, is very much in play in the sales person’s/people are able to do their job with all the more integrity. Because they’re not trying to persuade, or convince, they’re simply carrying on that perception that the prospect already has of the firm.

Blair Enns: Yeah. I don’t know if it was Drucker, or somebody else said, that it’s the job of marketing is to makes sales redundant. And I think that’s an ideal, and in some industries, or organizations, that would actually be true, achievable where you don’t need sales people. In ours, it’s not true … it’s not kind of ultimately true, but the principle is valid. That the better you do at marketing, the easier selling becomes.

Mark O’Brien: Right. But yeah, I can’t see selling every becoming obsolete. And so many of the Win Without Pitching concepts, which I’ve learned through my relationship with you. You know, without those … the funny thing is if you don’t really understand how to sell, the chances of you degrading your perception in that relationship, in the sales process, even if that lead was perfectly cued up are pretty high. It’s easy to be bad sales person, just through instincts.

Blair Enns: You’re gonna mine equity, rather than farm and harvest it.

Mark O’Brien: Yeah. This idea of constantly building equity. Building up in the marketing stage, building equity in the sales stage, building equity in the delivery stage for the repeat customer, the permanent customer, the constant customer. That’s real interesting idea. So division of labor. How much time goes into sales? How much time goes into marketing? The quick idea that we had thrown out before this, was if there are 10 individuals in a firm … and we know that very few, if any of the firms on this podcast have 10 biz dev individuals. It doesn’t matter the size of the agency, many don’t have that many. But just in terms of easy percentages, if they’re 10 individuals in biz dev, what’s the split between sales and marketing? In terms of, time spent.

Blair Enns: Yeah. So this is a tricky question. Because it’s rare … as you pointed out. It’s rare that there’s 10. And then it would change depending on the nature of the firm. But I think I’ll start by point out that it’s the make up has changed over time, and will probably change in this direction. In that 10 years ago, maybe even seven years ago, nine or 10 of those people would have been sales people. And I would say … I have a hard time seeing an independent creator firm, even with a couple offices in the same country … let’s just talk about one office, one location, 150 people; I have a hard time seeing them having more than two sales people. In fact, usually one is enough.
And that’s because the goal … you don’t grow your firm by going form 10 clients to 20 clients. You grow your firm from increasing the size of your client base. So it’s a common mistake, and you see … and there are exceptions to this, productized services firms are the exception, we can talk about that. But we see this often where … it’s not too often anymore, but every once in a while a firm will think, “Okay. We want to grow quickly, we’re gonna throw a bunch of sales people at the problem.” Because they think the solution to grow is through getting more clients. It’s kind of another conversation, but you’re really hamstringing yourself.
Selling … one the things the sales people, and the entire organization is trying to do, your trying to manage a healthy churn of clients. So I’ll get back to your question here. I can see the need for adding more and more marketing people. But I don’t see the need, in most firms, for adding more and more sales people. Okay, maybe two because you’ve got a complex market of some kind of. Or maybe two, because you’re trading in distinct different geographic areas. And I don’t mean east coast, west coast. I mean North America, UK, Asia, Australia, something like that. Where you’ve got a time zone issue.
And maybe you’re effectively running two different firms, where you’re trying to get to 10 to 15 clients in each those. And they’re really just kind of united in terms of name, and some systems. But for the most, at like a cohesive firm as it grows, it really shouldn’t need more than one or two sales people. Now let me point out, we can take sales and we can break the function of sales down. There’s qualifying the lead, the initial qualification conversation. Then, there’s navigating the sales. So that might include … once you’ve identified that there’s an opportunity here it would include the value conversation, and other conversation, and other conversations. And then, there’s closing.
So in an independent firm, where ownership is not separated from management. The principal is almost, always involved in closing. So you can think of the principal as a sales person, even when you have a dedicated business development person.

Mark O’Brien: Sure. Yep, that’s fair.

Blair Enns: But … so the split. If you said there’s a firm and they’ve got 10 people in business development, how many are sales and how many are marketing? I would say, well one or two are sales, the rest, therefore, would be in marketing.

Mark O’Brien: Sure, right. So if it’s one individual they might spend 80% of their time on marketing side, and 20% on the sales.

Blair Enns: Yeah. So I’m curious, what’s your answer to that question?

Mark O’Brien: So I’m in agreement, and it has to do with two things. It has to do with who the marketers actually are? And it has to do, the percentage of time that is just required for these things. It’s scalability. Okay, and the skills that are required. So one thing you wanted to mention, and we’ll get to it shortly, is this idea of it’s everyone’s job to sell. And you’re not a big fan of that general concept. But that’s a concept that’s been popular for a long time. Right?

Blair Enns: Yeah, I think it’s probably the biggest mistake in the world of sales. And it’s oft repeated, I’ve repeated it myself many times, and it’s just … as soon as you … if you assume that it’s everybody’s job to sell, that affects … it has all kinds of implications on how you staff the role, and what you ask your people to do. And as soon as you assume that it’s not every bodies job to sell … It was an interesting thought experiment for me. One day, I repeated the statement for the millionth time, and then I thought, “Well, what if that’s not true? What if … just the question. What if it wasn’t everybody’s job to sell?” And as soon as you ask that question, you start to arrive at the answers. You see that that it cannot possibly be everybody’s job to sell.

Mark O’Brien: Right.

Blair Enns: Because how … you would do things differently is, all these … people who are designers, who just wanna design for a living. And you’ve told them, “Okay, we’ve got this great design job for you, but every once in a while you’ve got to stand up and sell something. Or, it’s your job to bring in leads, etc.” The discomfort your creating for that person. Now you can just free people up to focus on what their strengths are. In business development, as soon as we uncouple sales from marketing, we solved one of the big conundrums of sales. And that is, that lead … if you’re hiring a sales person, and you’re thinking about the type of personality that you want. If you assume that it’s the job of the sales person to generate leads, then you’re gonna want a high drive, rejection proof person, who can smile and dial all day long. And can barge through obstacles, etc., etc.
But if you’re selling customized consultative services, you want … so you think of, “Okay. We’ve got a lead. This tenacious sales person has uncovered a lead. Now it’s time to navigate that sale to a close at high margin, at low cost of sale, while maintaining the firm’s reputation.” That high drive person is exactly the wrong person.

Mark O’Brien: Right.

Blair Enns: You want a calmer, more patient, more thoughtful, more selective person; who isn’t driven to win everything. You want somebody who’s comfortable saying no. And they’re okay sacrificing the deal to do the right thing for the client. So these are two different people, and we’ve … the entire sales profession, especially in consultative b to b sales; we for years, decades, we’ve been looking for people that have these separate skill sets combined in one. And they just don’t exist. Like it’s pretty rare that you’re gonna find somebody at this, like, equilibrium right in the middle.

Mark O’Brien: And that’s like the rainmaker kind of person. And you and I have known one in our careers. And he’s a current client now. And he’s one of a kind. And you can’t bank on that person showing up. So this all wraps up. So the idea of this 80, 20 thing with marketing to sales. No, everyone can’t be a sales person. It’s closer to the truth, from my perspective, to say that everyone should be marketing. I say it’s closer to the truth, then the absolute truth, because not everyone. But our perspective on this is that, marketing is just about the truth, that’s it. Marketing is about as being as clear as possible about who you actually are.
So the foundation of all this position. You do a lot of work helping firms with positioning. David Baker does a lot of work helping firms with positioning. The positioning is all about expertise, and generating that expertise, and excavating that expertise. And I look at marketing as just holding up a mirror. You know, who is the firm really? And making the mind share of the firm as accessible as possible.
So if … say it’s 80% of time invested in marketing. That’s distributed across, probably for the average firm … say for a 40 person firm, that’s distributed across three to eight individuals who are all gonna take part in this expertise sharing. Right? And they are all effectively marketing. And when that sort of activities happening, that sort of constant marketing, the 80% investment in marketing; that gives the closer, the one or two sales people, or the 20% of time on sales, the luxury of a big pipeline. The luxury of choosing what to close, and what to focus on. As opposed to … and when you’re in that position, you maintain the power balance. You maintain the integrity. You maintain the profit margin. You maintain everything, but there needs to be enough marketing activity to generate enough interest there. And type A aggressive sales person, is never gonna be able to generate that kind of opportunity without sacrificing reputation.
And so …

Blair Enns: We’ve almost arrived at the unified theory of business development, where it’s not everybody’s job to sell, it’s everybody’s job to market. And marketing is really just … you said something about the mind share of the … can you say that again, so I can steal it and tell people I said it first?

Mark O’Brien: Yes. Absolutely. And everyone will hear you say it first here. So that’s great. Marketing is basically, just about excavating the existing intelligence of the mind shares. About making the mind share, as a company, accessible in as many ways as possible.

Blair Enns: Yeah. So that mind share, I refer to as intellectual capital, the sum kind of knowledge of the firm as applied to the area of expertise. Which is discipline for market.

Mark O’Brien: Yeah.

Blair Enns: It’s intellectual capital, and … intellectual capital gets turned into like thought leadership pieces and distributed out into the world. That is the act of marketing.

Mark O’Brien: That’s the act of marketing. And this is a cycle. This is a positive cycle. So you are in this for a reason. There was an initial entrepreneurial vision that happened. And you are constantly thinking up, “Okay, a year from now what kind of work should we be doing?” You’re aggressively marketing for that, by sharing your existing expertise. You take on that kind of work that generates more expertise. You continually sharpen that, and get deeper and deeper and deeper; which is why we see some of the best, and most successful firms we both work with, are always refining and positioning every two to three years. Because as they get deeper into it, they see more opportunity. And then, take a set deeper, and so on. It never ends.
And we both done that, your firm and my firm we, through all the wonderful people we work with the client side and internally, have had some epiphanies because of the expertise we have. And the fact that we’re constantly sharing that expertise, and putting it out, we’re generating the right kind of people. We’re generating a higher caliber of client, who allows us to do better, who allow us to have more impact, who allow us to learn at a much faster rate; and that just keeps going.

Blair Enns: Yeah. I wanna back up to this idea of … I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with the idea that it’s everybody’s job to market. But it’s probably, I just need to think about it for a while.

Mark O’Brien: It’s not everybody …

Blair Enns: Words in your mouth. But I do believe, in terms of the active intellectual capital, like codifying the shared knowledge of the firm. By codifying, putting it and documenting it … putting it in to words, and preserving those words through creating documents or videos or podcasts, etc. that has to be … I’ve long believe that that’s the … participating in that needs to be a requirement for all of the senior positions in the firm. Maybe administrative, HR, or accounting, it’s not necessary. If you’ve gotta a head of your creative director. If you’ve got a director of account services. If you’ve gotta planning director. If you’ve gotta media director, or whatever digital … developer, development. Whatever the department is … being in that position, the cost of entry into that position, should be the requirement to market, or just to create content. To think and document.

Mark O’Brien: Yep. To be part of the story, absolutely. And the nice thing about this, again it gets back to scalability. When that’s going on, you can have an individual in the firm, one individual in the firm, who’s basically the marketing coordinator. And that person can be hired at a mid-level, or so, and do a very, very good job of keeping everything running, keeping the technology running; which we’re gonna talk about shortly, and everything else. Because all they really need to do is make sure that the thought leaders in the firm are showing up, and doing what they say they’re gonna do according to the plan that’s been put into place. And that’s not to undermine that role, that role is critical. But what I’m saying is it can be successfully done with one, or really what we see often times maybe 20 to 30% of someone’s time. That kind of role. It’s not a full time role.

Blair Enns: It can be a junior person, as long as it’s a strong person. Person who’s willing to hold a more senior person to task on, “hey, you’re deadline for this is Wednesday.”

Mark O’Brien: Right. Give it to me. Yeah, exactly. It’s probably not a senior. It can be strong mid, or it can be an ambitious, future superstar, junior. But the point is, it’s an individual. It’s one really good individual. And so it’s not as if you need to go out and hire three marketing people, and two sales people. It’s one person that can coordinate the marketing. And that person is probably involved in maybe some thought leadership stuff, as well. Potentially, in who they are and what the other duties are in the firm. And then, there might be another individual who’s actively involved in the closing.
And that scales really well, as long as the mind share’s being distributed … the communication of the mind share’s being distributed across the leaders. The one’s who actually have.
Blair Enns: And all of this is presupposed by the idea that you have something … the mind share is meaningful. And you make it meaningful by narrowing the focus, that’s the active positioning so that you can build deep expertise. We’re not gonna spend anymore time talking about it, I don’t think. But it’s … if you don’t get that right, you can produce all the marketing content you want. I’m just looking at an email in my inbox from somebody, agency principal I’ve known for years, and I just looked at either the subject matter of his line. And I just thought, “Oh, man. Nobodies ever gonna open this. You’re just too broad.” He’s a smart guy. He’s articulate, but he’s just not … he hasn’t kind of staked his claim to anything narrow. So he’s writing about things, that you know a million other people are writing about from the same point of view.

Mark O’Brien: Right. And …

Blair Enns: All my clients who sent me that newsletter yesterday are wondering if its …

Mark O’Brien: One of them was me. Yeah, that gets back to Baker’s thing about content versus insight. Like the world does not need another word of content published on the web. Not at all. But insight will never grow old. And insight will never cease to be a competitive edge. And there are a million ways to create, and a million ways to share it. And that only is growing and growing. You were talking about YouTube as a medium a few months ago, and that’s really interesting. And that could be great. But there’s a lot of ways to do, and it doesn’t always involved putting pen to paper. Let’s talk about … you wanna talk about technology?

Blair Enns: Sure.

Mark O’Brien: Okay. So technology, is there sales exclusive technology? And marketing exclusive technology? Does technology come into play for one more than the other? Where are we with technology?

Blair Enns: We have to start with CRM, customer relationship management software technology, because that’s at the heart of both the sales department and marketing department. In fact, five years … I was just looking at it this morning, five years ago I wrote this article called, “CRM, The Train That’s Coming at You” and I was made some predictions that some things that we’re gonna happen. And the point that I made is, your clients, sales, and marketing departments are coming closer and closer together. It’s interesting, where in the agency they were always together, and not even distinct. And now they’ve been kind of … not pulling apart, they’ve become these distinct entities of sales and marketing. Or, at least you and I think of about business development as breaking down the lines of sales and marketing.
But in your client’s organizations, where the sales and marketing departments are coming closer together, you ask the question of … and they’re overlapping. They’re kind of touching/overlapping. And you ask, “Well where does that overlap occur?” It doesn’t occur in physical space, it occurs in … I’ll use the term cyberspace to show my age. It occurs in the software of the CRM application. So the CRM application is central to everything. So you might have marketing automation. You might have all kinds of analytics, email marketing. Whatever else that you’re using on the sales or marketing side. CRM is the technology that is at the core of everything.
And that’s my … That’s your business, so it really should be you saying that. But let me just lob that softball over to you. And you turn it into something meaningful.

Mark O’Brien: I agree that CRM is the heart of it. And it was interesting for those who aren’t aware, Blair has been sort of this sage for Newfangled. He keeps on … we get together over the years it’s always been true. He’ll say, “Oh. Yeah. This little thing is interring.” And then I spend the next five years trying to work with the team here to figure out how we do something with that thing. One example is, Salesforce, which is the dominate CRM in the marketplace, globally. I think it was six years ago, you convinced me to go the first Dreamforce conference with you. It was about six. Might have been five, might have been seven, I think it was six. So it was prior to you publishing this article. You said, “Hey. This thing is gonna be the dominant theme in our industry. Let’s go to San Francisco together, and go to the conference.”
And so Dreamforce is Salesforce’s annual conference. We’ve written on it. Blair’s written on it. And I’ve couched it as this state of marketing on planet Earth. Now there are almost 200,000 people who attend live at the actual event. It pretty much shuts down the city. People now … They now have cruise ships show up to stay in the bay, and people stay on the cruise ships. It’s just basically a mobile hotel, for this conference. It’s ridiculous, because there aren’t enough hotel rooms. There’s no where near enough hotel rooms.
But anyway, when we went together six years ago, we had had Salesforce. And I hated it. I thought it was clunky. It was too complicated. The user interface was awful. I didn’t like what it forced me to do, discipline wise. And we got rid of it. We had Salesforce, I got rid of it. You convinced me to go to Dream force, after I had already decided that I had no interest in Salesforce and we stopped using it. I went back to spreadsheets. It was during one one session, it was like day two or something, there was this small company on stage talking about the wall to wall Salesforce platform. And this is where every single data creator inside of the organizations plugged into Salesforce.
So all of your marketing systems are tied into Salesforce. Your sales systems. All of your delivery management. So all of your project management. Your time keeping. Your payroll. All of your invoicing. The entire accounting system. All of it’s tied into Salesforce. Not because it was all in Salesforce, but because Salesforce API is so massive and flexible, that pretty much any system out there can tie into some way, or other. And they started showing these reports of tying marketing activity to predicted business results three years down the road, based on the trends that were already in the system.
So like real data analysis, and real machine learning before people were talking about that at all. And I was just blown away. And that week, went back and we got Salesforce again. And since, thanks in large part to Lindsey Barlow and Chris Butler and Dave Mello, we now run entirely on Salesforce. So you had mentioned that Salesforce is where sales and marketing come together, CRM. But we’ve seen now, that CRM/Salesforce is where the entire business comes together. And it’s just amazing what you can do, and look at. And it’s only gotten easier and easier. And they’ve gotten prettier and prettier with wave analytics now, and everything else.
But you can see the entire reality of what’s going on inside of the organization. Not just the sales and marketing reality, but the actual truth. And now over the past years, for many ways, I feel like I getting to know Newfangled for the first time. Because I’m seeing data relationships that were previously just impossible.

Blair Enns: You sound like a man who has seen the light.

Mark O’Brien: Yeah.

Blair Enns: It’s just one example. When you think about the objects in Salesforce, like in the sales cloud side of it. So lead contact account opportunity. And you ask yourself … and I have definitions of all of those things. But there aren’t kind of standard definitions. But when you think, “What’s an opportunity?” An opportunity is essentially, an unapproved project. Okay. So you’ve got a lead. You qualify that lead into a contact in an account, and you attach this opportunity. And you assign a state agent. You go through the stages, and to a late stage, and then it’s closed one. Now what is a closed one opportunity? It’s an approved project. So now, it picks up your project management by your processes or perspective picks up. And that client, and that project, keeps moving through the system. And then from there there’s all the accounting functionality tied to project, and to the client.
And so, the idea that all that data would reside in other places. Now in our Salesforce centric world, the idea that somebody would kind of start a business, or put systems in place, and have that data come from different places is insane. It’s just completely absurd. My guess is majority of firms, on this webcast, that’s exactly the situation.

Mark O’Brien: Sure. And this gets back to the initial point of marketing and setting the vision and really understanding where your best dollars coming from. A lot of firms don’t really know where their best dollar’s coming from. We’re working with a firm about a year, from Canada, and they were trying to figure out which industries they were gonna work in. And just said, “Well, just look at the cash. Where have you made the most money?” And they hadn’t thought to do that. And when they did, they came back with an answer that was anecdotally the inverse of their initial assumption. Cause they were making an emotional decision al. You know, based on, “Oh. Well, maybe we like working this guy. Or, this person was a jerk.” Or, who knows what. But when they looked at the finances, it was clear as day.
And so when you do have these systems that bring everything together … and in three to five years, everyone will. Today, hardly any agencies do, and in three to five years, every agency will. It’s just how it’s gonna be. I think all these firms are gonna be able to do a much better job of actually looking at who the right fit clients are.

Blair Enns: So in the sales and marketing world, CRM is the heart of everything. And then … let me put the question to you. This is your domain. What are the other technologies sales and marketing … let’s leave project management accounting …

Mark O’Brien: Yeah. Right.

Blair Enns: And HR. What are the other technologies that need to plug into CRM, ideally? And then, I don’t know. Do you want to talk about recommendations of … we mentioned Salesforce.

Mark O’Brien: Sure. Yeah. And all these recommendations, initially came from you over the years, and we eventually adopted them. But basically, our perspective is that there are six elements when it comes to bus-dep. There are six elements that have to be in place, and completely firing in order the system to work. In order for it to regularly generate opportunity. Foundations positioning, as we’ve discussed. Right? That’s got to be in place. You have to have a truly differentiating, unique value proposition. And that’s the deal you and David consult on a lot of agencies how to do that. That’s gotta be there. From there, we’ve got really the fuel of the system, which is the right contact, and content strategy.
We need to be speaking to enough people who are in that right fit cateogry. And we need to be creating enough expertise, publishing enough expertise, to be discoverable by those people. And to be relevant to those people. And again, that’s not making things up. That’s simply exposing the mind share, holding up the mirror. That content, that’s all it is just being open and free with what the firm actually knows. Once those three foundational elements are in place, then the technology comes into play. And this is a huge issue. It’s easy to buy technology. Everyone on this call, of the webinar, by the top of the hour they can purchase a CRM and they can purchase an automation system.
And neither thing will do anything for them unless these three things are in place. The positioning, contact strategy, content strategy; that’s the foundation. Once you have that, then from our perspective, the key technology, the core technology, is absolutely the careful integration of the right website, the right CRM, and the right marketing automation too. Those three things. And it’s … there’s sort of an inverse relationship here. You need the foundation, in order to get any value out of the technology. But if you have the foundation, you really need the technology to get any value out of it. Does that makes sense?

Blair Enns: Yeah.

Mark O’Brien: You need all six. And those things need to be wholly integrated. So at any one point, the CRM for example, understands what’s going on a that moment on the website and for the marketing automation tool. And that’s true for any combination of those three.

Blair Enns: So you’ve listed three categories of technology. You’ve identified the website, CRM, marketing automation. Let’s start with CRM, because we talked about Salesforce. If it’s not Salesforce, you use Salesforce, we use Salesforce … I understand the reasons why people don’t like Salesforce. It’s not the best user interface, etc. It’s out of the box. You look at it … if you assume that they are prescribing sales methodologies and you just use all of the pre populated lead status, or opportunity stages, it’s just gonna drive you crazy. It’s not meant … because they have eight different opportunity stages, doesn’t mean that you should use there. There just populated as examples. So you need to have a sales methodology. You need to populate them. And most people don’t, they just assume that all of these are relevant. And therefore, they assume a sales methodology, when one isn’t there. And that’s get them in all kinds of trouble.
Long ramble about I understand the difficulties of Salesforce. If it’s not Salesforce … let’s say I’m a solo practitioner over a three person firm, and I don’t need the complexity, the cost, etc. Do you have a CRM recommendation?

Mark O’Brien: No.

Blair Enns: Yeah. Good answer.

Mark O’Brien: I really don’t. And I know … when you were keying it up, I was thinking you would be disappointed when I say no. So let’s talk about the complexities and the cost. And let’s put a limit. Like we’re not gonna talk about Salesforce for more than three minutes. Three minute limit here. Okay? Cost. The problem with Salesforce is Salesforce. Their sales team is way too aggressive. Talk about denigrating the reputation through the sales process. And Salesforce, their sales people just pummel you once they think you’re interested. And the first question they ask is how many people in the firm? And then they gotta proceed to tell you, you need a license for every single person in the firm, and that’s exactly wrong. Salesforce costs 125 dollars a month.

Blair Enns: At the enterprise level, which is the … if you’re gonna buy it, that’s the level you should buy it at. Right?

Mark O’Brien: And maybe now it’s 150

Blair Enns: Yeah. It’s 150.

Mark O’Brien: I think it’s 150 now. So Salesforce, all in, 150 dollars a month. And many, many firms on this webinar, and many firms need one seat, maybe two. Then it’s 300. That’s it. That’s what Salesforce costs. Okay, so that’s the pricing. Salesforce is not too expensive for anybody. If Salesforce is too expensive for you, you’re in the wrong business. Right?

Blair Enns: Okay.

Mark O’Brien: It’s true. Now in terms of the functionality, it comes pre installed with about 120 different modules, of which you need, I think, it’s five. You need the lead module, the contacts, the opportunities, the campaigns, the reports, and dashboards. It’s six. That’s all you need. Those are the things you need. And that’s it. The functionality, you can get around that. And so a big part of what we do, because Salesforce is so difficult. We help our clients customize it. And once you do a few things, and get things set up the right way, then it’s …

Blair Enns: And hide all the stuff you don’t need.

Mark O’Brien: Yeah. Clean it out. And then, also on the field side … customize the fields to what the actual client needs. That kind of thing. Based on their sales process, not Sales force’s field set. Then, it works beautifully. And the nice thing about that is, you don’t know how you’re gonna grow. This prediction that I made that in the next three to five years, every agencies gonna pull the kind of stats that we pull routinely now. That’s because they’re on a CRM like Salesforce, probably Salesforce, that integrates with everything. Salesforce is great for the same reason your Iphone is great, the app marketplace. It integrates. It’s connected. And that’s what’s so good about it.
And you can get into, there are other tools that are fine stand alone CRM tools. But there silos. For many of them, it’s in their best interest to not integrate with other things.

Blair Enns: And I know at this point, we should move on here. I’ll point out two things. Number one, I pose the question to you before you can pose it to me, because I don’t have a recommendation beyond Salesforce. I’ve given up. I used to spend a lot of time, or my team used to spend a lot of time kind of keeping abreast of the different CRM technologies. Also, I will point out there are products like Workamajig. I can’t think of anything else like Workamajig, that endeavors to do all of this specific for the agency world. They do a pretty good job. What Workamajig can’t do, is they can’t deliver that app marketplace.

Mark O’Brien: Right.

Blair Enns: The iPhone metaphor. But it’s a pretty good attempt, and there’s a lot of organizations that are using Workamajig, and getting CRM right through to project management and everything else. Okay, so that’s CRM. What about website? So do you have a … what do you wanna say about the website, and the technology, or platform?

Mark O’Brien: For us, it’s WordPress. And we have you to thank for that. And we thank you very regularly publicly, and privately. We’re a web development company. And we built our own CMS, and that was what we sold. And we have a lot of clients still on it, and we support it, and it’s great. But we couldn’t keep fighting the tide of the user base around WordPress. And again, so it has to do with the populous. Salesforce is great because it integrates with everything. WordPress, too, it’s got this plug in marketplace that’s fantastic. And it’s got 20%, I lost track, 20% of all CMS installs were WordPress. And you just can’t fight that tide, you need to go with it. And we’ve found that it’s been an extraordinary foundation for our own development.
So we build a lot of lead intelligence plug ins, custom, inside the WordPress platform. And it’s a wonderful development environment, which is why so many people use. And why there are so many great plug ins. So it’s gotten a lot of flock over the years for being too simply and messy and that kind of thing, but it’s a wonderfully, mature product. There are others out there too, but they don’t have the people. They don’t have the population.

Blair Enns: Okay. So strong recommendations for Salesforce for CRM side, for WordPress on the website side. That leaves us with marketing automation. I suspect that there’s more options on the marketing automation side.

Mark O’Brien: There are. There are lots of great ones. We … you introduced us to Act-On years ago. I signed up at Dreamforce with them right now. We’ve loved using them. They’ve been fantastic. We do a review regularly, and we still contend that they’re the best combination when you look at pricing, functionality, and flexibility. Those three things. The price is right. It’s not the cheapest. It’s not the most expensive. It’s right around the middle of the marketplace. Functionality goes toe to toe with all the major players. But then flexibility, they allow you to send to purchase lists as long as you do it the right way. And that’s big. And Hubsbot will never do that part. I won’t do that. Most tools out there won’t allow you to do that. And they do it under certain rules, that are very good rules, that keep everything in compliance with Can Spam and that kind of thing.
And that’s been critical for our clients. And we can talk a lot about that. We don’t have time today. But that’s … the idea of buying a purchased email list, if you are well positioned. If you are creating the right kind of content. Buying a list is a critical strategic move for your marketing efforts. And a tool like Act-On allows you to do that, and all the major functionality. And it’s fully integrable into most website technologies. And definitely into Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics. So that’s why we like them, specifically.

Blair Enns: Before we move on to the topic after technology, whatever you have on your list there. Do you have … if not Act-On, do you have kind of alternative … if you couldn’t use Act-On, do you have a couple of other recommendations that you think maybe people should think about?

Mark O’Brien: Yeah. Marketo. Marketo’s really great. And they allow that flexibility. They’ve got all the best functionality. Their interfaces are beautiful. It’s about twice the price, but for some firms that’s not that big of a deal.

Blair Enns: And for some firms … let’s think about going the other way, because marketing automation is blown up in a good way. Email marketing, what if you just need the email marketing now. Or, maybe you can only just handle the email marketing side of it, and you wanted to scale down on the complexity and the cost, what would you recommend?

Mark O’Brien: It seems like Mail Chimp’s really won that battle.

Blair Enns: Yeah. No question.

Mark O’Brien: No question. Which is amazing. Two years ago, and five years ago, and six years ago; I would said Campaign Monitor, and they were wonderful. But Mail Chimp has eclipsed them.

Blair Enns: I toured the Mail Chimp offices about 18 months ago, or so. Just such an impressive organization. And if they could … they’re a couple of features away from … you know the price difference between good email marketing, very good email marketing, and Mail Chimp. And then, marketing automation, it’s so huge. And they are just a few features, like list suppression, mail to this list but not this list. And a few other features, from having, what I would call, like a marketing automation lite. That should change the whole pricing structure of the space.

Mark O’Brien: Yeah.

Blair Enns: I thought it would have happened by now, but it hasn’t happened.

Mark O’Brien: I know. I wondered. It’s coming, though. But still, no matter what is available here, the main issue, the main limiting factor, in the marketing automation space is the user adoption. So many people have automation tools, and they use a fraction of the functionality, because they don’t really understand how it works. They never set up properly. That’s the biggest issue.

Blair Enns: We’ve only got a few minutes left here. I don’t know if we’re gonna take some questions. But are there other points you wanted to hit before we get to questions.

Mark O’Brien: You know, we’ve got 12 minutes left. I think we might wanna get into Q&A. So if you wanna start asking questions in the question panel, we’ll take them there. While those are gearing up, let’s take a few minutes just to talk about the future. What is gonna be going on in the next two to five years, when regard to sales and marketing?

Blair Enns: I’m still waiting for the future that I predicted a few years ago to happen. In terms of … well it’s happening, it’s slowly. It’s just the adoption of Salesforce across all organizations. It’s happening, but I’m just surprised at how slow it’s been. I did predict that the networks, the holding companies that own the network agencies were going to start buying CRM consultancies. And that has started to happen. Again, it hasn’t happened at the pace that I thought it would happen. So I still think there’s this big … there’s gonna be some big purchases that’s going to trigger a land grab, or a gold rush kind of mentality on the CRM organizations. And you and I know one or two really good CRM consultancies that are probably just prime for being bought, whether they sell or not is another issue.
I think the thing that we need to think about, in terms of the future of sales and marketing is technology based, and it’s artificial intelligence. And I don’t know … I don’t have … we could get into a deeper philosophical issue conversation about artificial intelligence. I don’t know what AI is gonna be able to do for us on the sales side. It would be able to do something … I think the predictions will be able to get pretty strong. I worry … I think the world is rif with confirmation bias that’s driven by bots prediction what we will like. What I mean by that is, your algorithms on Facebook, or whatever social media are using, are saying, “Oh. Blair likes X. Or, Marks likes X.” So they continue to show you X. And I think, I’m still frustrated at how simple and straightforward those algorithms, and overwrite wrong they are, those algorithms are. In fact, if you look at the polarization in politics today, I wonder how much of it … you know, the few people I follow on Twitter, they make their political views known. And they’re just like vehement in their views. And that just seems to be intensifying.
And I think it’s being driven by this bot induced confirmation bias. So I see that as a problem in sales, before it begins to help us. I think we’re gonna get … the tools are gonna come out, we’re gonna make predictions about what people want to buy when, and they’re gonna be horribly wrong. When it comes to consultative sales, where every engagement is like a blank slate of opportunity, I think that … we’re gonna go through a period where the AI serves us poorly.

Mark O’Brien: Okay. Let’s …

Blair Enns: On the product side … or a productized service business, it’ll probably be quite helpful.

Mark O’Brien: Okay. That’s helpful. And I think that’s a good warning. But it seems like the answer to that, the solution to that, is what the current reality is, and has been forever. And I’ve heard you talk about many times, which is basically just putting yourself out there through well marketing, and through your intelligence so that the right people show up at the right time. And then you can have the right kind of conversations. If you’re farming instead of hunting, in that way, don’t you sort of side step all that. Isn’t the antidote to that technological danger.

Blair Enns: Yeah. I think sales is … especially, consultative sales is a human function that I can’t … and it’s probably, I just can’t think out far enough to see the point when artificial intelligence … now I say that I’m being kind … I don’t actually believe it’ll ever happen. I just don’t. I don’t believe artificial intelligence will do all these horrible things that the world thinks it will do.

Mark O’Brien: Okay. We should get to some questions here. Okay. One, Tom asks, “What are the negatives, if any, of using automated CRM platforms like Salesforce for small business, say 10 or few people?” And so I think the real question he’s asking is around the word, automation. And it’s a problem with the industry, it got the wrong name early on. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Blair Enns: Yeah. So marketing automation … automation side of marketing automation works great in productized sales and all kinds of things, where you can set up these drip campaigns, etc. But you know when you’ve been sucked into the vortex of a marketing automation system. Because you go to Sales force’s page, all of sudden, bang emails, bang phone calls. Like they are on you. And they got statistics that show that if they can reach you within five minutes, they chance of closing goes etc., etc., etc. So you are caught in the vortex. If you haven’t done this before, people watching this, go to Marketo’s website and just look at some pages, and then retreat. And then see what happens. And then, if nothing happens, go back and just enter your email address. And just wait and watch what happens.
So in a product company, or a productized services company, that kind of makes sense. Because you’re in pursuit of scale. In a customized services firm, you’re not in pursuit of scale. So the automation part is … you’d be better to speak to this. I’m gonna say it’s a little bit less important. Fewer automated responses, or communications with the audiences, more automated prompts to the sales person, “Hey, time to reach out to so and so.” “Hey, somebody we missed on the website.”

Mark O’Brien: Yes. That’s exactly it.

Blair Enns: I think that was your point. It’s called marketing automation. Let’s not get hung up on the automation part, because that’s not where the real value is for our types of businesses.

Mark O’Brien: Yeah. And what happened was, there was collection of technologies and they had to call it something. And it ended up being called that. But the automated part is a very small, percentage wise, part of all the functionality. When you look at a storm marketing automation tool, you’ve got lead scoring. You’ve got anonymous and known visitor tracking. You’ve got progressive profiling. You’ve got revenue attribution. Lots of different functionalities, in addition to yes, automated programs.

Blair Enns: If you had to rename marketing automation for our audience, what would you call it?

Mark O’Brien: Wow. I don’t know it goes back to the offline conversation we had about business intelligence, and marketing business intelligence, and all that kind of thing. And is there something there? But still, there’s not a good name for this stuff, or the collection of it.

Blair Enns: So we need to come up with a name for it?

Mark O’Brien: We do.

Blair Enns: Maybe somebody could suggest it in the comments.

Mark O’Brien: Yeah. That’d be great. If anyone has any ideas about that, I would love to see it. The audience for the automation being the internal team, is brilliant. And you’re absolutely right, and that is truth. When you’re nurturing these people, and they exhibit the right behaviors. And through progressive profiling, you see that the right kind of people through the forms they fill out, and the information they give over those different form submissions. That’s when it triggers to the sales person, it says, “Hey! This person’s probably worth your time.” And then they take the 10 seconds to watch the video on the person, then make decisions.
So, yeah, it’s more internal automation. And so, Tom, don’t get hung up on the word automation. So there aren’t negatives to using it for a small firm. If you need to market, if you need to sell, these tools work for you. But it’s an all or nothing proposition. I think that’s a danger for any firm, small or large. Getting involved in like some of this stuff, and not all of it. Like trying out automation, or trying CRM, or changing a work website to WordPress, or just doing a content’s strategy. You’re doing any of these in a vacuum, is not gonna work. And that’s why so many firms get so frustrated with marketing, because they try a little bit and it doesn’t work. Then, they try the next thing a little bit, and it doesn’t work. And then the next thing a little bit, and it doesn’t work. Because they never gave the full comprehensive effort.
And it absolutely takes the combination of all six things running properly in order to work. We’ll do one more question.

Mark O’Brien: Last question, and I’ve got an answer, and I’m really curious to hears yours. Annie asks, “What are your thoughts on cold outreach? For example, you’ve identified a list of people you think might need your services. What’s the best way to make that first contact?” So, to back up to the first sentence, cold outreach. What do you think about cold outreach?

Blair Enns: Yeah. Well she implies her answer, and agree with it. Which is absolutely. Let’s not forget about cold, about outbound, cold outreach. Cold is … what we advocate in our training program, is everybody should have a top 20 list. The list of the 20 organizations that you are best positioned to help, and you most want to work for. And you should … marketing is … a lot of inbound stuff, to use the term, you’re relying on too many variables. Long term, it’s a theory. In the long term, every theory is correct. Every correct theory proves itself. But in the short term, you might be sitting there for two years doing the right things.
And there’s all kinds of reasons why it makes sense to do a limited amount of proactive outreach. You reach out to the targets that you know make the most sense for you. You get to test the language, the value proposition that you’re using. And the expression of the very positioning of the firm, in those conversations. It forces you to think about, what do you say? And maybe that’s the second part of her question. But did you wanna add anything to that?

Mark O’Brien: I’m all about that. And that is a nice summary question. Thank you for asking it, Annie. Because that does get down to the real nature of sales verus marketing. It really does. And that top 20 list, that’s sales, that’s classic sales. Like we’re going after these people in a sharp way. And now, marketing you have account based marketing, which is basically that. Being very intentional about pursuing a small amount of people. And that also speaks to this right fit concept. Like who do you wanna have call a year from now, and being very, very intentional about that. And so that gets this top 20 list.
What I would say is that, I’m 100% behind that. That checks every box for me, but the thing about marketing technology, and the practice of marketing that speaks to that, and helps to feed that; is there’s a cold call, and there’s a warm call. And we’ve got different metrics of how many people you should be nurturing, and how many website visitors you should, and that kind of thing. How much content you create. So roughly, three to 5,000 people in your email list, 2,000 people per month on your website, three percent of people who are converting, meaning filling out a form. Once they do that, you’re tracking them, because you have this technology. And you’re watching every move they make, once the right kind of person does enough of the right things, the internal automation trigger happens. When the sales person gets an email saying, “Hey. Check this individual out.”
They’ve not gotten in touch yet to speak about an opportunity, but the systems seen this is the kind of person we’d like to be working with. And then you review it. And then you look at what they’ve done through the tracking tools. And you say, “Okay, well they just signed up for this webinar. I can call them, and talk about that.” And so there’s like a pre-intro there. And you don’t say, “Hey, I just watched every single thing you’ve ever done.” But, “Hey, how did you like that white paper? And by the way, we’re doing this even tomorrow.” Or, whatever it might be. That’s kind of the space in between those two things.

Blair Enns: Yeah. Exactly.

Mark O’Brien: It could be top 20. When someone from your top 20 list shows up, instant alert. Like, okay if anyone from this company shows up for any reason, let me know. You know?

Blair Enns: It’s the top of the hour, I have a hard stop here. I just want to point out that it’s June 21st, and I think it was yesterday, June 20th, Peter Cupuda, who’s the CEO of Databox. He is the former VP of sales and marketing at Hubspot. He tweeted yesterday that talking about, “Be aware of drinking everybody’s koolaid.” He said, “Hubspot’s sales reps cold call.”

Mark O’Brien: Yeah.

Blair Enns: On that note, thank you for having me Mark. This has been fantastic.

Mark O’Brien: Speaking of the 21st, happy summer.

Blair Enns: Thanks.

Mark O’Brien: Today’s the day.

Blair Enns: You too, happy solstice.

Mark O’Brien: Yeah, man. Thanks a lot of joining. This is as fun as it always is. No matter where we are, the conversations always really fun.

Blair Enns: You’re missing the carrot juice at the Four Seasons.

Mark O’Brien: I know. I wanted to send you carrot juice in advance to this, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it. It was gonna be pretty nasty by the time it got to you. But yeah, enjoyed it. Can’t wait to see you in August. Thanks so much for this.

Blair Enns: Of course.

Mark O’Brien: I hope everyone enjoyed. If you wanna follow up, Win Without, Thanks for joining everybody.

Blair Enns: Thanks everybody. Bye bye.