Where Sales and Marketing Connect (or disconnect): My First Trip to Content Marketing World

September 13, 2017 | Zach DiFranza

Hi there. My name is Zach, and I work in sales.


This was my first trip to Content Marketing World, and as someone who works in sales attending a content marketing event, I was immediately interested in the relationship between the two.


Over the past several years the Sales and Marketing relationship has been scrutinized by authors, speakers, and business theorists alike, all hoping to isolate the silver bullet – genuine alignment.


This year’s Content Marketing World was no exception, and these relationship dynamics played out in 15×15 foot booths over 20 standing hours.


Naturally, some marketing and sales teams rose to the occasion, tag-teaming conversations and winning prospects. Others lacked cohesion leaving the booth visitor very aware of whether they were speaking to a salesperson or marketer.


Since this subject was so top of mind for me, one of the sessions I decided to attend was called “How to Get Your Sales Team to Co-Own the Content Strategy.”


The session was put on by our friend Skyler Moss at RandStad–I’ve got three key takeaways from the session and my three biggest observations from the event floor.


Connecting Your Sales Team With Your Content Team

Skyler Moss is a Content Marketer of the Year finalist and has been featured in Fortune Magazine for a ground breaking campaign called A Most Interesting Project which drove an 800% increase in web traffic and 12x shorter sales cycle.


Who is Skyler Moss?
A brief history of the Most Interesting Project campaign.


But before all the success and marketing thought leadership, things were less than stellar between his content and sales team.


When Skyler started at HCSS, there was a very real wall between the two teams – sales selling on one side and marketers marketing on the other. The two rarely talked, let alone collaborated.


While Skyler and his team made significant strides on the marketing side including increasing revenue by 30% in a year and doubling website traffic, the sales/marketing disconnect remained, impeding further growth.


So what did he do?


Skyer simplified the concept of what a marketing team’s goal is:


“A marketers job is to translate the sales experience to deliver helpful content when, where, and how prospects want it.”


While the problem could not be fixed overnight, Skyler and his team gradually implemented a whole new strategy that is crucial for all businesses to take note of:


1. Mending the working relationship between sales and marketing


The solution that the Skyler’s team found was not a silver bullet, snap your fingers and it’s done fix. Rather, delibrate processes were designed to facilitate greater alignment: the implementation of daily morning meetings, including content creators on demo calls, finding a sales champion to be the marketing spokesperson, and weekly sales and marketing lunches.




2. Identified 5 big topics their solution covers and identifying the right personas


Through these new communication channels, HCSS’s team leaders wanted to simplify and target their messaging. They whittled down their software solution audience to five major topics.


Then, through research into closed deals and barely missed deals, Skyler’s team quantified their ideal lead through a few simple questions: what level position are they? What age are they roughly? What other technology do they have? And most importantly, what are their biggest pain points?


These personas these telling questions point to were then mapped to the five big topics HCSS solved.


3. Created content through funnel


Next, the content creation process was augmented to include sales team members and set up to rely on their contributions. On the other side, once marketers started sitting in on sales calls they were able to better identify customer pain points and create content to answer them.


Crucially, all demos were then recorded to be used for video content. Having every sales member do this created a wealth of new content, which could then be mined for the best version of a demo for prospects.


Because of this, Skyler’s team had a video recording of a great demo that they could send out at a much larger scale than one on one meetings. And they could cut up smaller portions of demo to act as bite-sized FAQ answers for both customer support and advanced lead questions.


Further, new sales employees would record themselves doing a demo and be critiqued by marketing members in order to get the best process down.


The results so far?


  • 65% revenue growth through inbound and breaking down sales silos
  • Closed multi-million dollar stalled deal with an explanation video
  • Re-engaged a 2-year stalled deal
  • Shortened a 150 day sales cycle into 1 week.
  • Hooked video viewership to automation notifications
  • Video library of FAQs – top 30+ questions asked during demo
  • Created 60+ videos about how product works
  • Shortened sales cycle with 45%
  • Trained team members and built content at the same time


Needless to say, I was quite impressed and have scheduled meetings with a variety of my own marketing team members since the session.


Back to the CMW Event Floor

Pondering what I learned through Skyler’s session, the value of alignment of the two teams became very clear – marketing is building awareness, sales is solving problems. However, if marketing isn’t building awareness around the problems sales solves (and vice versa) nobody can win.


With this in mind, I journeyed through all the orange that makes up CMW, keeping a watchful eye on how teams were approaching each conversation and passerby, and where the sales and marketing disconnects were apparent.


Here’s a little 360° view at what it looked on the ground floor:




From booth set up and swag to pitches and conversations, for the first time in my SnapApp career, I stopped selling and started listening. Here’s what I found clear evidence of the dreaded marketing/sales disconnect:


1.     “Swag”

Swag and tradeshows have an unavoidable tandem  – and believe it or not, the sales and marketing disconnect spans these party favors too. 


For sales, we want people to come over to the booth and have a conversation. I’m less concerned with which piece of swag brought you there–I just need a prospect to be standing in front of me so I can share the value my solution offers. The mechanics and strategy of the swag itself doesn’t usually occur to the salesperson, it’s simply about driving the foot traffic.


Additionally, I as a salesperson am never going to call a prospect and say “Hey this is Zach the guy who gave you that foam stress ball,” and even if I did, that prospect wouldn’t care.


I just need those 30 seconds where we make a connection, so when I call and you get the “Hey this is Zach from SnapApp” you remember the value of our conversation, even if that foam stress ball is what initially brought us together.


Marketing on the other hand is interested in the most effective ways to start those valuable conversations I have with prospects. Good swag tells your brand’s story in everything from its color to size, and ideally also has functional value, so that the person taking it might even be seen using it. 


Truly aligned sales and marketing teams hold each other’s goals in concert as equally important aspects of closing a deal, from drawing a prospect in with the world’s coolest foam stressball to the skillfully executed conversation that turns into a sales opportunity.  


2.     Nature of Conversations

The sales and marketing disconnect was perhaps most evident in my conversations at other booths, as I could listen to pitches and make an educated guess as to whether the individual pitching me fell on the sales or marketing side of the fence.


The startling part? More often than not, it was obvious in a matter of seconds.


Salespeople are generally direct and are always looking to drive the conversation forward with questions. They would offer some high-level information, then ask a question. Give a little more, follow up with a question. There was a consistent exchange of information and every answer given would fuel another question digging deeper into a prospect’s needs.


Stronger salespeople also tended not to dominate, but instead control the conversation – steering it to various topics that might further demonstrate their value offering, but fell short in connecting their value proposition to the broader campaigns their marketing counterparts were employing at the booth to drive relevancy.


The marketer’s I spoke to, on the other hand, offered a comprehensive understanding of the industry and what motivated prospects, but often missed the mark in terms of delivery, failing to tie it all together and make it relevant to me.


Overall, it was hard not to see the value that both sales and marketing teams stand to gain by working collaboratively to build on the divergent skill sets that fuel progress on each side of the divide. 


3.     Perceived ROI

With a sales mindset, I left Cleveland already feeling positive about the return this event would bring to my team. I had pockets stuffed with business cards, a scanner filled with hundreds of leads, and hours of facetime with people who otherwise ignored me.


The number of requested follow ups were staggering, with dozens more meetings sure to trickle in. My team would be having good conversations with the right people because of attending Content Marketing World.


The marketing side of the house, on the other hand, left the event with the less tangible value of increased brand visbility, great conversations, and better understanding of the landscape they work within. More measurable indications of our marketing team’s success at the event would need to wait, with more work to be done in reporting out successes and missed opportunities with the longview.


My time exploring the sales floor at CMW made it clear the value that both marketing and sales teams have to gain by more closely aligning their efforts. From the very visible divergences in sales/marketing thinking around swag and conversation styles to the more personal perception of ROI, Skyler’s strategy seems like it is just what most of the teams I got to interact with need to take their efforts to the next level.

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