The CCO's Guide to Reviving your Sales & Marketing Department
Written by Tobias M. Pasma
The CCO's Guide to Reviving your Sales & Marketing Department
- Last updated: 10 June 2021
This article is aimed at helping Chief Commercial Officers (CCOs) and other commercial managers to create a more effective sales and marketing department and establish a predictable sales pipeline.
We will cover the challenges facing CCOs and similar managers and outline how they can sculpt and execute a data-driven commercial strategy to achieve their goals and conclusively prove their value to the organization.
It’s a demanding and challenging job — 63% of people say that their companies do a bad job managing their sales pipelines. Still, if done correctly, it can cement a CCO’s place at the head of their department and serve as a clear and impressive win for the organization.
Table of Contents
1. Challenges of the CCO
A common challenge for new CCO is improving the sales and marketing department and ensuring a more predictable pipeline.
This mission can be full of difficulties and pressure, but if done right, it can transform a company, generate awe-inspiring results, and propel a CCO forward in his or her career.
To illustrate the challenge, let’s introduce a fictional CCO: Peter.
A large company has hired Peter to re-do the sales and marketing department and fix many of the problems that have been holding the company back. A central part of his job will be to create a more predictable and smooth-running sales pipeline, ensuring as many new leads as possible will become loyal, paying customers.
Peter is under a lot of pressure to impact fast, deliver measurable results, and prove his worth to the team and his superiors. This is a challenge familiar to many CCOs, and it’s not going to be easy.
Here are the main problems facing Peter:
- The sales and marketing departments are falling behind where they should be. This is the main reason Peter was hired. The company is struggling to effectively connect with its audience and convert leads into paying customers.
- The current pipeline is poorly managed, inefficient, and unpredictable. This creates further issues, such as a higher churn rate, poor conversion rates, and potential customers falling through the cracks. The result is a loss in revenue.
- There is a lack of cohesion and agreement within the company. The above problems aren’t widely acknowledged, and the higher levels of management need to be convinced that these issues are serious. Sales and marketing teams want to succeed but lack an effective strategy.
- A lack of understanding and appreciation for the role of a CCO. Customer experience is a critical part of running a successful company. However, as CCO, Peter faces resistance from people who aren’t aware of his position’s value. Defending his position and highlighting its importance can be a large drain on time.
Peter’s goal is to create a more predictable sales pipeline, one that’s both manageable and consistently growing. Ultimately, if he can do this, it will make as many sales as possible, eliminate churn, and drive the business forward. So what does he need to do?
A Roadmap for Success
To successfully improve his company's sales and marketing department and build a sales pipeline that minimizes churn and maximizes conversion, there are several big steps Peter will need to take. These include:
- Build an effective, clear strategy, and promote it. A clearly defined strategy serves multiple purposes. First, it brings the team together, creates a clear vision and plan, and clearly shows other elements of the organization what Peter is doing and where the value is coming from.
- Measure and track the right metrics carefully. Certain elements of the CCO’s role can be difficult to measure and prove (such as customer satisfaction). To defend the role, win support from the organization, and demonstrate his success, Peter will need to measure progress smartly.
- Create an environment conducive to success. Revamping a sales and marketing department and building an effective sales pipeline is a group effort. Peter will need to work closely with his team, make sure everyone is engaged, have everything they need to succeed, and listen to their feedback. This will involve overcoming resistance to change from other areas of the company and within the team itself.
- Get the resources he needs. Along with support and acknowledgment from the company, Peter will also need to convince them to provide the resources in terms of staff and funding that he needs. If he makes the above points successfully, this will be much easier.
If Peter is successful with the above, the rewards for the company and his own reputation could be significant. In addition, an improved marketing department and a more predictable sales pipeline can have many benefits.
What Does a Successful Outcome Look Like?
If Peter is successful, he will ensure the following:
- A much smoother and more effective marketing and sales infrastructure, higher conversion rates, and a more successful business with greater revenues and more customers.
- A more easily managed and predictable pipeline, filtering out unqualified leads and allowing sales teams to do their job more effectively.
- Gain recognition within the company and score a clear, big win in his new role.
The challenges facing CCOs, marketing managers, and anyone in charge of improving and restructuring a sales pipeline will vary. However, the above is a good general idea of what to expect and how the challenges can be approached.
The rest of this article will examine the process more detail and provide a more concrete and complete roadmap for CCOs and similar professionals when creating a predictable sales pipeline.
2. Eliminating Friction, Improving Customer Experience, and Creating a Predictable Pipeline
For a CCO or manager tasked with reviving a marketing department and creating a more predictable sales funnel, one of the biggest challenges to overcome will be friction.
Friction can be defined as anything that gets in the way of purchase or slows the customer down.
Any obstacles that exist between your customer and a happy outcome can be considered friction. This could include:
- Poor customer service and difficulty contacting sales staff
- A sales process that isn’t user-friendly
- Slow loading times and other technical factors
- Difficulty navigating the site and finding the ‘buy’ button
Friction is bad for sales pipelines because it clogs up the process, slows down sales, and harms conversion rates. If customers encounter friction, they will leave the buying process, and the company will lose a potential sale.
This leads to greater churn, and avoidable customer churn costs U.S. businesses $136 billion a year.
Creating a more predictable pipeline, better customer experiences, and a more successful marketing department can all be done by minimizing friction.
How to Reduce Friction
There are several steps involved in reducing friction, and various actions marketing and sales teams can take. However, the process typically looks like this:
- Identify causes of friction. This should be the first step. Investigate the current sales process and pipeline and identify anything that might be causing friction. Use customer feedback and talk to sales team members.
- Build a smoother onboarding process. The onboarding process is a significant time where your new customers are just getting to know you. Therefore, it’s crucial to make a good first impression by providing instant value, being personal, making the process rewarding, and ensuring maximum user-friendliness.
- Track and measure metrics l more diligently. Churn prediction algorithms can be a proactive way to understand the issue and take preventative steps.
- Get to know your customers better. Ask for feedback, conduct CSAT surveys, and encourage sales staff to build relationships.
- Manage support tickets better. Use multiple channels, self-service options, and offer easy cancelation.
Friction and the Marketing and Sales Manager
For marketing and sales managers, such as CCOs, friction should be a key consideration. Anyone tasked with reviving a struggling marketing department and improving a sales pipeline should be focused on minimizing or eliminating friction.
It’s the barrier that stands in the way of almost all the CCO’s goals. Friction is perceived as a poor customer experience, so any friction is directly harmful to the CCO’s mission and success.
The Need to Prioritize Customer Experience
Good customer experiences (with less friction) mean smooth pipelines, more successful sales strategies, and more money. Brands with superior customer experience are shown to bring in 5.7 times more revenue than competitors that fall behind with customer experience.
In another study, companies that lead in customer experience outperformed laggards by nearly 80%. So again, the message is clear — managers that successfully improve customer experience by cutting out friction can deliver decisively better results.
It’s not just about one-off sales, either. Brands that provide better customer experiences also enjoy more loyalty from their customers. According to PwC, “Consumers increasingly show loyalty to the retailers, brands, and devices that consistently provide exceptional value and variety with minimum friction or stress.”
It all adds up. 73% of companies with above-average customer experience perform better financially than their competitors. And removing friction is one of the most effective ways to get there.
How to Improve Customer Experience
Here are some ways companies can deliver a better customer experience across their organization.
- Create a customer journey map, as HubSpot recommends. This roadmap covers all the steps customers take when interacting with your brand, making it easier to visualize the entire journey and see areas for improvement. It also allows team members to see where they personally have an impact.
- Collaborate across the organization. By getting input on customer experience from multiple team areas, you’ll gain a more complete and multi-dimensional view of your customer journey. This collaborative approach also allows you to share customer insights and data more easily with the whole company.
- Use an omnichannel approach. Omnichannel is different from multichannel. It draws on different channels (like blogs, social media, and video) while keeping the customer at the experience center.
By minimizing friction and creating a better customer experience across all customer journeys, managers and CCOs can build a more predictable sales pipeline and a more successful sales and marketing strategy.
For new CCOs, this will only be possible if they can impact the first few months of their role. This will be a crucial period with much at stake.
3. What to Prioritize in your First 6 Months as a CCO
The first six months as a CCO are generally a challenging time. Although the role has gained much recognition in recent years — and is now seen as equal to the CMO in many companies — there will still be some resistance to overcome.
The position of Chief Customer Officer is relatively new, which brings its own challenges. The average tenure of the CCO is less than 30 months, which is partly down to a lack of understanding of what a CCO is worth and a desire to see immediate results. This means making a quick impression and proving value right from the start is essential.
What Does a CCO Do?
The CCO Council defines the CCO as “an executive that provides the comprehensive and authoritative view of the customer and creates corporate and customer strategy at the highest levels of the company to maximize customer acquisition, retention, and profitability.”
The expectations and duties of the CCO have changed over time. They focused mostly on customer service and related activities in the early days, but today's role is more complex and demanding.
Modern CCOs are essentially strategists. Their goals are based on acquiring, retaining, and serving the right customers for greater profits.
The Main Initial Goals of the CCO
- Create and foster a customer-centric culture. This involves building support at all levels of the organization and overseeing a shift in mindset that places customers and their experience at the heart of what the company does.
- Increase profitability. Ultimately the CCO will be aiming to increase revenue and profitability by improving customer experiences, reducing churn, and acquiring more of the right type of customer.
- Clearly demonstrate value. As a new role, CCOs typically have a lot to prove. But, first, they must clearly convince management of their value and of the value of improving customer experience in general. This can only be done effectively through the smart use of data.
- Reduce friction in as many areas as possible. Although this will be an ongoing goal, the new CCO should be focused on putting measures in place to reduce friction in the first six months.
- Get to know the team and the wider company. Finally, your initial time as a CCO should be spent getting to know the company. Not only is this the only way to work cohesively, gain insights, and achieve results as a team, but it’s also crucial for winning the support of the wider organization and gaining credibility.
To achieve the above goals, the incoming CCO should be prepared to spend the first few months of his or her role engaged in a learning process.
The stages will look similar to this:
- Talk to others at the company. Get to know team members, superiors, and the processes of the organization. The CCO should be focused on listening and learning, collecting as much information and insight as possible. Accordion to veteran CCO Donna Peeples, this stage should occupy the first 30 days.
- Determine the sales and marketing situation. This means looking at customer growth, loss and retention, customer satisfaction, and other metrics to understand better how the company performs from a sales, marketing, and customer-centric perspective.
- Identify any problem areas and try to learn why. For example, if the company has high levels of customer churn, why is this happening? Look for possible causes of friction, common complaints, and areas that staff members are concerned about.
The first six months are crucial and can make or break a CCO and a company’s customer strategy.
Once the initial ground has been covered, and the new CCO has a firm understanding of the situation at the organization, it’s time to start laying more concrete plans and preparing a commercial strategy driven by data.
4. Creating a Data-Driven and Evidence-Based Commercial Strategy
The commercial strategy that the CCO creates and implements will be a huge factor in their success or failure.
This is the roadmap that the entire project will follow. Done right, it can help unite the sales and marketing team, generate support from the highest levels of management, and make it much easier to achieve the CCO’s goals.
In our case, a clear strategy from the outset can be the deciding force for reviving the sales and marketing department and creating a more predictable pipeline.
The best way to create a strategy is with the heavy use of data for many reasons.
Why Use a Data-Driven Commercial Strategy?
- The competition is doing it. For example, 76 percent of marketing leaders in one survey by Gartner said they base decisions on data analytics. This marks a growing trend towards more data-focused marketing.
- It’s a way to show value clearly. 37 percent of marketers say that proving their value is one of their top three biggest challenges, and CCOs are no exception. In fact, the relatively new nature of the CCO role makes it even more important to back up actions with clear evidence.
- Data-based strategies work. 2 out of 3 marketers say data-based decisions beat simple gut instinct, and a more empirical and rigorous approach to marketing is usually better than guesswork.
What are the Challenges Involved in Implementing a Data-Driven Commercial Strategy?
- Poor data literacy and the possibility of mistakes. Research by Wharton suggests that 57 percent of marketers misinterpret data, leading to misleading results. In addition, only 9 percent of marketers rate their company’s understanding of data-driven attribution as excellent, while 22% rate it as below average. Therefore, training the team to use data and how to use it correctly must be a key focus.
- Ensuring data quality and completeness. Data is worthless unless it’s high-quality, complete, and relevant. A data-driven strategy must understand and prioritize this.
- Making sure your teams don’t become overwhelmed with data. With the truly vast amount of data available to marketers and organizations in general today, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. The team must learn how to parse and analyze data so the right information is being prioritized and irrelevant data discarded.
The Goals of a Data-Driven Commercial Strategy
CCOs should consider the following data-based goals when developing their strategy:
- Use data to generate more predictable results and a more efficient sales pipeline.
- Map and streamline marketing and sales processes more accurately and effectively.
- Foster a data-driven and data-literate culture
- Track the right metrics diligently and teach teams how to respond appropriately to the insights this provides
Step One: Research
The first stage of creating a data-driven strategy should involve lots of research. This is the time to:
- Study the customer base
- Carry out market analysis
- Look at competitors
- Assess common challenges and pain points
- Examine customer behavior
- Pinpoint common trends
There are many ways to conduct this research, from questionnaires and surveys to more in-depth data analysis. However, before anything else, it’s crucial to gain a clear and deep understanding of the market and the wider environment your team is working within.
This is where you gather the data that will inform much of the overall strategy.
Step Two: Develop a Clear Vision and Mission Statement
After the initial research stage, it’s time to specify a clear vision and mission statement.
First, it’s important to define the difference between the two:
- A vision statement is a way of clarifying the overall values and principles of your organization. This may sound a little wishy-washy, but it simply means defining what’s important and central to the project in the context of a commercial strategy. For example, it might involve placing the customer at the core of everything you do.
- A mission statement is more practical and deals specifically with what you plan to do. Your mission statement might outline some of your specific key goals and some of the main actions required to reach them. For example, one goal might be to reduce customer churn by 20% in the first year, and steps might include minimizing friction and improving CSAT scores.
As part of a data-driven strategy, your mission and vision statements should be evidence-based and backed up with numbers and research.
Once you have defined a mission and vision statement, it’s time to make sure the team is on board and aware of this. Encourage input and feedback, and work hard to address any misgivings or confusion. A mission and vision are meaningless unless everyone buys into it.
Step Three: Sales Planning
The next stage is to focus on the sales aspect of the company. But, again, reviving the department and building a more predictable pipeline will be easier and more effective if done with a data-centric approach.
Here are some best practices to follow:
- Conduct lots of analysis with a heavy reliance on data and base sales planning on these results.
- Work to identify issues with sales and pinpoint areas for improvement using the above analysis.
- Build tracking and monitoring into the entire sales and marketing process. Track every step of the way, and make sure the team is aware of this as a priority.
- Identify the best channels, approaches, lead types, and platforms and identify what isn’t working.
Step Four: Use Data to Personalize Where Possible
One of the most powerful uses for data is in delivering greater personalization to customers and would-be customers.
With smart use of data, you can sculpt a strategy that targets customers much more accurately and speaks to them on a more intimate level, building stronger relationships, reducing churn, and driving more sales.
Companies may no longer have a choice when it comes to personalization. 72% of consumers say they only engage with personalized messaging, and 63% of consumers will stop buying from brands that use poor personalization tactics.
Step Five: Build Revision and Tweaking into Your Strategy
Building a data-driven commercial strategy is wasting time unless you are prepared to constantly revise and change your approach in response to that data and the insights it provides.
This is a mindset that the team must share. So make sure to show them the benefits of constantly changing and revising and show them how to extract useful insights from the analysis and monitoring you carry out.
With a data-driven commercial strategy, you can take a more scientific and evidence-based approach to your sales and marketing, which can give your entire department more direction and focus.
Instead of floundering around in the dark and making decisions based on guesswork, you’ll be able to quantify and justify your actions and constantly adapt and improve your approach in response to hard data.
Motivating your Sales Teams & Marketing Department for Change
As mentioned in previous sections, a crucial part of the CCO’s role involves getting the team on board. To breathe new life into a sales and marketing department and improve the pipeline, the entire team must be engaged.
This is an ongoing process and takes a long time — it’s not a quick fix. Nevertheless, here are some best practices and steps to follow.
Build Trust and Work as a Team
As a sales and marketing department, you have multiple roles and focuses, but one purpose as a team: revenue growth.
While you may have different individual experiences and challenges, your overall goals are aligned, and your efforts as a team should be aligned, too. Research by Sirius Decisions found that aligned teams can drive up to 36% of growth, highlighting the value of getting the various divisions of your department in sync.
Here are some ways to do that:
- Communicate often and clearly. Make sure everyone is on board with every decision, and encourage feedback.
- Aim for agreement on metrics, and ensure everyone is clear on why certain things are being measured and reported
- Focus on effective change management. Any new tools and procedures should be understood and accepted by the entire team.
- Set clear goals, and make sure all understand them
To ensure a happy and motivated team, it’s crucial to reward good work well. SDRs are the most important role here, as a link between marketing and sales, and should be rewarded accordingly.
A motivated and well-organized team is vital when building a more efficient pipeline and a better sales and marketing department.
In a survey by Gusto, 54% of employees said they stayed longer at a job due to a strong sense of belonging and community. Conversely, 52% said they had left or strongly considered leaving a job because they didn’t have the same feeling.
Getting Management Team Buy-in for Your Ideas
Bringing the company together and creating a more cohesive environment to achieve your goals as a CCO involves getting management on board.
The highest levels of the company may need convincing of the value of your goals and project, and even your job. In these cases, it’s important to get their support to achieve your aims. Here are some ways to do that:
- Tailor your pitches and use real-life examples about the company to highlight the importance of the project. Know whom you are talking to.
- Use as much data as possible. A data-driven commercial strategy will be a powerful tool here, as it will generate the evidence you need to justify your actions.
- Link everything to the overall business benefits, and show the consequences of failing to act
- Do all the work for them. Provide everything you need to back up your claims
Your goal as a CCO is essentially about building an effective team and ensuring they have everything they need to achieve the common goal of reviving the department and building a more predictable pipeline.
In this sense, uniting, educating, and motivating your team is some of the most important work you will do. This will take up a large portion of your time, and it’s one area where failure simply isn’t an option.
Once your teams are on board and prepared, it’s time to equip them with everything they need to execute your strategy and achieve the goals.
5. How to Enable your Teams to Execute the New Process
Actually, executing your strategy will require giving your teams everything they need. This is why it’s important to secure the support of the wider organization and its resources and constantly justify your project with evidence.
This stage of the CCO’s strategy is a time for action and commitment. A half implementation will give less than half the results — it’s time for the entire team to work together and tackle the challenge.
Here are the main steps to follow in executing the new strategy.
Success in your commercial strategy will depend heavily on how well trained your sales and marketing teams are. There are several steps you can take to ensure that:
- Work to identify skills gaps and pinpoint areas for improvement
- Understand the strengths and weaknesses of individual employees and the team as a whole
- Provide the right forms of training and vary them. This can include online training, internal training, workshops, and more.
- Encourage questions and feedback and promote a collaborative, learning-based environment.
Use the Right Tools
Tools can be handy when it comes to enabling your team and hitting your goals as CCO. This can range from more technical tools like CRMs and tracking software to things like customer journey maps.
This is yet another area where support from the wider organization matters to secure funding for the right tools and software.
Push for Clarity
The entire team must be entirely clear on what the project is aiming to achieve. To this end, you should:
- Encourage questions and feedback at all times. Confused staff should speak up, as should anyone with objections or misgivings.
- Ensure everyone is on board with the mission
- Make sure the strategy, goals, and results are clear
- Make sure everyone fully understands and accepts their job and individual responsibilities
Ask for Regular Feedback and Input from Sales Staff
Your sales staff — particularly SDRs — are on the front line of your organization regarding customer success. It’s crucial that you listen to them and welcome their feedback.
To encourage more feedback, try the following:
- Ask for feedback. Hold regular meetings, carry out surveys, and talk to your staff to get their opinion.
- Always respond positively to feedback, even negative feedback
- Ask for clarity; for example, ask staff to try and cite a recent real-life situation where their feedback applies
- Act on feedback, and have measures in place to review and implement it
Once the strategy is in place and the team works together to carry it out successfully, the real work is underway. However, there is one more vital step in achieving your goals as CCO — tracking your team’s progress.
6. Tracking Your Progress
A central part of running a data-driven strategy is, of course, tracking metrics and measuring your progress.
This is crucial for several reasons:
- It helps you set clear goals
- It allows you to identify problems more quickly and pinpoint causes more accurately.
- It becomes easier to communicate with team members and highlight issues
- It allows you to more clearly prove success to management and other elements of the company
- It helps you plan and decide on future actions with more clarity and certainty
To ensure a more predictable pipeline, it’s important to intimately understand why customers are doing what they do at every pipeline stage.
The only way to gain this kind of understanding and awareness is by diligently measuring all the relevant metrics.
What Should You Be Tracking?
Here are some of the most important metrics to track as part of your data-driven commercial strategy.
- Revenue. This is perhaps the most simple metric and arguably the most important. It simply refers, of course, to the total income generated by your activities for the business.
- Average deal size. This refers to the number of money customers typically spend on your product or service.
- Pipeline value. This is the total combined value of every opportunity in the pipeline at a given time. Although this can be a beneficial metric, it’s important to be consistent and distinguish between qualified leads and those who are unlikely to become customers.
- Close-ratio. What percentage of sales opportunities are closed? A low, close-ratio means high customer churn and indicates a problem.
- Sales velocity. This refers to how fast leads move through your pipeline. This is crucial because the faster you can convert leads to customers, the more revenue you’ll generate.
- The conversion rate between lifecycle stages. Lifecycle stages refer to where a lead currently is in their buying journey. For example, ‘Lead’ is one stage, another might be ‘sales qualified lead,’ and another would be ‘customer.’ The conversion rate between lifecycles helps illustrate how many leads are progressing from one given stage to the next and helps identify bottlenecks and problem areas.
- Customer satisfaction and loyalty. Although less empirical than other metrics, this can still be measured through techniques like CSAT scores (asking for customer feedback in multiple areas) and Net Promoter Scores (asking customers if they’d recommend your product to a friend).
- The conversion rate between deal stages.
Setting and tracking the right metrics will allow you to understand how your pipeline and overall marketing and sales strategy perform.
This will allow you and your team to make evidence-based decisions to improve consistently, quickly recognizing areas that require improvement and making the right moves to change them. It’s the quickest and most reliable way to a more predictable pipeline, a more effective commercial strategy, and greater revenue.
Crucially for the new CCO, these metrics serve as proof of your effectiveness. They will allow you to justify your position and clearly show your value to the company.
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