The Sales And Marketing Disconnect
With Guest Lavall Chichester
A significant disconnect exists between sales and marketing teams, leading to misaligned promises and undeliverable outcomes.
The How To Sell More Podcast
October 31, 2023
In this episode of ‘How To Sell More’, host Mark Drager is joined by Lavall Chichester to share insights on how a disconnect between the sales and marketing teams can lead to misaligned promises and outcomes.
- Misalignment between sales and marketing can be detrimental to businesses.
- The core problem? A lack of shared goals.
- Prioritizing lead quality over quantity is crucial.
Meet Lavall Chichester, a standout in the marketing world who's been named in AdAge's "40 under 40" for his expertise in SEO and content marketing. Lavall has mastered the art of growing businesses and is ready to share practical tips from his impressive self-taught journey. Get ready to learn from a seasoned pro who knows how to bring sales and marketing teams togather to ensure the company comes out on top.
Links to This Episode
- The Importance of Sales and Marketing Alignment - Bridging the gap between these teams is crucial for ensuring consistency in messaging, understanding customer needs, and driving overall revenue.
- Unified Goals Drive Success - While marketing might focus on lead generation, sales aim to close these leads. This can cause friction if the leads aren't of high quality or don't align with the sales strategy.
- Centralized Leadership Can Bridge the Gap - A centralized leadership structure can foster better communication, goal-setting, and mutual understanding between sales and marketing teams.
Top 3 Reasons to Listen
Expert Insights: Lavall Chichester, a growth marketing expert, shares invaluable knowledge drawn from his vast experience in the industry.
Practical Solutions: Beyond just identifying problems, the episode offers actionable solutions to bridge the sales-marketing gap.
Real-world Examples: Lavall's anecdotes, like the misaligned promises scenario, offer real-world examples that many listeners can relate to, making the insights more tangible.
Follow Lavall Chichester on Social
More About Today's Guest, Lavall Chichester
CEO of GrowthSkills.co, AdAge 40 under 40, Black Belt, Bare Knuckle Karate Champ, and proud dad.
Lavall Chichester, the founder and CEO of Growth Skills, stands as a beacon in the advertising and marketing arena, having been distinguished as an AdAge 40 under 40 award recipient. Specializing in seamlessly integrating performance with lifecycle marketing, he has helmed transformative SEO & Content Marketing initiatives for iconic brands such as Apple, Seamless AI, MoneyLion, and Western Union. His expertise spans a diverse range of sectors, from tech and finance to cannabis, CBD, spirits, and gaming, with his insights frequently featured in publications like Forbes, AdWeek, and TheNextWeb. In 2022, Lavall's unparalleled strategies earned him accolades including the Best SEO Campaign from Search Engine Land’s Landy Awards and the Most Innovative SEO Campaign from the U.S Search Awards. Outside the professional sphere, Lavall, a second-degree black belt and bare-knuckle Karate champion, epitomizes "Full Contact Growth Marketing". He deeply values family, often collaborating with his brother Lamont, takes immense joy in fatherhood, and has a pronounced passion for food. Lavall proudly resides in Spanish Harlem, NYC.
A Transcription of The Talk
Mark Drager: So, Lavall, I was actually at an event last week, and the topic that we're covering today came up so many times. I was at an event filled with direct-response marketing people. And the number one complaint they said is, "Hey, make sure your sales team knows what you have out in the market." Because often, a sales team will get a lead, they'll call up the lead, and then they go like, "Wait, what did our company promise? What did we say was going to happen? What is going on?" And I can't believe that we still have businesses where sales and marketing aren't working hand in hand with each other. Because, I mean, it's a make or break for all of our businesses, right?
Lavall Chichester: Absolutely. And it goes the other way too. You know, I was the Chief Marketing Officer for an outsourced sales company. And right now, I run a company called Girl Skills, which is my own consultancy. But when I got there, the sales team would just sell whatever. And then by the time the marketing team had to come to deliver an agency function, for example, one time, they said, "Hey, we'll write 1000 pieces of content every month, 1000 articles every month." Obviously, the client bought that at a very ridiculous rate. But by the time it came to the marketing team to actually execute and write those articles, it was impossible. They don't do that as a company, right? So there's this very much disconnect between sales and marketing, and it goes both ways.
Mark Drager: So how do we bridge the gap? I mean, I believe it's just like, "Hey guys, it's like every romantic comedy ever. Why don't you just talk to each other?" Like, why does this exist? Why is it so common? Why is this something that we can't just be like, "Hey, guys, we're all grown-ups, talk to each other."
Lavall Chichester: There are two main reasons this happens. First, there are no single goals that both teams, both sales and marketing, have to ladder up to. The marketing team will say, "Hey, my goal is to get you a lead." And then the sales team, their goal is to close that lead. But marketing will celebrate and high-five when they send these leads to the sales team. However, the sales team gets frustrated with marketing because those leads won't close. They need to have the same goals. If both teams have the same goals, which means marketing is part of that closed sale, then all these issues go away. The goal should be a closed revenue sale, not just marketing getting a lead. The second solution is having one person that they report to. Often, the marketing team lead has different goals than the sales team lead, and they're essentially at odds. This conflict can escalate and cause issues.
Mark Drager: I could just imagine it. The marketing team is working stealthily, doing their thing, while the sales team is prepping for a "battle," ensuring they remain in charge.
Lavall Chichester: Exactly, it turns into a cultural thing. I started in marketing, specifically in search engine optimization. I learned sales later on when I took over a role where we built sales teams for companies like Twitter (now called 'X') and Alibaba. But even at that company, which was doing sales for others, the dysfunction was evident. Sales and marketing rarely communicated, and when they did, it was often confrontational. The marketing team would celebrate achieving their goal of producing 1000 leads, yet the sales team struggled because those leads were of low quality. It becomes a hostile environment, which could easily be avoided.
Mark Drager: I've seen this so many times. At Jump Crew, where you were the CMO, and in other organizations, the head of marketing often has a quota. For instance, the first company I worked for had a sales team of 180 people in franchise development. I was part of the franchise development marketing team. My VP once said that if we aimed for 18,000 leads a month, many would be of poor quality. The sales team acknowledged this but also wanted high-quality leads. So how do you address these cultural divides and challenges?
Lavall Chichester: That's the real challenge. It's about accepting a lower number of leads and focusing on their quality. Depending on the channel you're using, like Google ads, there's often a point of diminishing returns. It also depends on the ROI you're targeting for those leads. Marketing isn't magic. Another factor is the feedback the sales team provides to the marketing team regarding messaging and objections. Sales teams are on the frontline, hearing objections firsthand. This information should be incorporated into the ads and landing pages used by marketing to create synergy.
Mark Drager: So, for example, when you were at Jump Crew, can you walk us through the specific steps you took to fix this?
Lavall Chichester: When I was there, the first thing I did was create goals. I started by asking everyone a lot of questions to understand the existing dynamics, especially the apparent "war" between sales and marketing. Through this analysis, I discovered the issue: leads were coming in, but they weren't high quality. This led the sales team to sell practically anything, resulting in business churn. If the sales team sold something marketing couldn't deliver, it would inevitably lead to client dissatisfaction and loss. I noticed the company's website didn't align with its sales material, creating more confusion.
Mark Drager: So you're saying the overall look, feel, and message of the website didn't match with the sales material? This is common, as most businesses might update their website every few years, but their sales strategies and materials change frequently. So, you first spoke to everyone, identified the core issues, and then started aligning the brand and message across all platforms for consistency, right?
Lavall Chichester: Exactly. But before that, from an organizational standpoint, my role was purely in marketing. I didn't oversee sales. I suggested to the CEO that for a holistic solution, both teams should report to me. He agreed.
Mark Drager: So, you took over the sales team as well. Interesting move.
Lavall Chichester: Yes, for one specific product which was their full-funnel product. The head of sales and I collaborated closely. I asked him about all the challenges, and we both realized that for true synergy, both teams needed to report to me. He was on board with the idea because it was about succeeding as a team. After that, I laid out a plan. Surprisingly, for a product they had, there was no go-to-market strategy. I wasn't criticizing them; there were just many issues I needed to address, including defining the product itself. We established clear goals that both teams could align with, such as low customer acquisition costs, high upsells, and quality leads. We implemented lead scoring through Pardot, integrated with our Salesforce stack. It was crucial to track which services were closing and retaining business. Essentially, I functioned more as a Chief Product Officer during that period.
Mark Drager: This paints a clear picture of what's required. Many businesses face challenges with sales and marketing because they focus solely on tactics rather than a holistic approach. But from what you've shared, it sounds like you delved into more than just marketing or sales; you looked into pricing, business strategy, and product development, all by asking the right questions and making informed decisions.
Lavall Chichester: Absolutely. Understanding the margins of what you're selling is essential. For instance, at Prefer, an agency I previously worked with, I emphasized integrating search. For big clients like Western Union, we ensured they dominated both the top ad and SEO positions on Google, pushing competitors down. This strategy was crucial as Western Union didn't have the ad budget to compete with companies like PayPal. By merging both SEO and ad strategies, the company saw significant growth. Such strategies, combined with building margins into everything, allowed the agency to get acquired by IBG. For example, with one client, we charged them a 900k annual retainer for SEO, while the team's total salaries were about 200k. That's a $700,000 profit margin. Now, with my own agency, we operate with the same principles in mind.
Mark Drager: So, I was going to ask you about Growth Skills. Tell us what it is and help us understand how you approached this based on everything you've learned.
Lavall Chichester: In the past 20 years of doing this, I realized that there are a few things. Especially for companies doing e-commerce or even some B2B SaaS, they need to acquire a customer and then increase the value of that customer through retention. Our approach is growth marketing, where we're handling the SEO, paid search, and top-of-funnel engagement, then getting those leads to convert. We also use email marketing and CRM setups like HubSpot to increase the average order value, cross-sell, and upsell. Additionally, we have a learning platform, Learning IQ, to educate our clients about topics like search engine optimization. This is crucial, especially with the way AI is disrupting things with Google's new search experience. In the next six months, many companies will lose website rankings, traffic, and consequently, revenue and sales.
Mark Drager: So, are we on the brink of a new digital land grab for rankings? I feel a lot of people are going to be late to this game, especially with Google now accepting AI-written content.
Lavall Chichester: The key to rankings, even before this Google update, has always been execution. At Growth Skills, we own our brands. For example, we built Flavour FX, a platform for cannabis, CBD, and alcohol. We created this to help brands in these industries promote themselves on platforms where they traditionally couldn't, like Google and Facebook. Companies that execute and embed SEO and content into their business strategy, they'll always be ahead. That's why companies like Expedia and TripAdvisor succeed. They've integrated search into their business models. Now, with platforms like YouTube, LinkedIn, and TikTok, it's essential to understand that everything is a search engine. It's not just about Google anymore.
Mark Drager: We've covered so much ground. I feel like I could talk to you all day. To wrap up, what's your number one tip or strategy for selling more?
Lavall Chichester: Build a fantastic product. I recently discussed the Sriracha shortage on LinkedIn. The point is when you have a product so good that it becomes synonymous with the brand like the rooster Sriracha, sales and marketing become much more natural. Sometimes being too good at sales or marketing can blind you. If you think you can sell or market anything, you'll hit a wall when you come across a subpar product. So, the real point is to build an incredible product. Once you have that, sales and marketing will follow naturally.