In collaboration with Bain & Company, we recently hosted two panel discussions for enterprise CMOs in New York and Boston. ZoomInfo CEO and co-founder Henry Schuck and Chief Marketing Officer Bryan Law led the discussions, along with Bain partner Rishi Dave.
Here are 10 of the strongest insights from the discussions, including the importance of effective go-to-market strategies across sales and marketing teams, and how the current wave of economic uncertainty is affecting companies’ ability to make the most of their market opportunities.
1. A recession can be a great opportunity to grow
It’s easy to panic when the market is shaky — and many companies do. They implement aggressive cost-cutting strategies and initiate layoffs. Some attempt to go after every customer imaginable and completely lose focus, while others freeze up and decide to do nothing.
The companies that take a more focused and targeted go-to-market (GTM) approach come out on top. They leverage their data resources — merging first- and third-party data to see where their biggest opportunities lie — and create scalable GTM strategies that connect their sales, marketing and product teams.
Dave noted that Bain research of past recessions showed a stark difference in the fates of businesses that remained assertive in a slow economy, compared to those that took a more conservative approach.
“Companies that reacted very negatively to the recession remained flat, while those companies that doubled down and took advantage of competitive moves to drive growth, actually had outsized growth coming out of a recession,” Dave said.
2. Sales and marketing organizations should be adequately aligned
While sales and marketing leaders increasingly agree on the need for tight partnership, most companies are not fully realizing this vision. This comes down to different goals and metrics, the fact that both departments normally aren’t using the same data as their source of truth, different perspectives on target accounts, misaligned messaging, and a lack of operational integration between teams. In short, a lack of go-to-market plays — coordinated, repeatable processes that can be run across companies to deliver key results for sales, marketing, or revenue operations teams.
Bain has found that companies that deploy GTM plays see a 15-20% growth in pipeline. ZoomInfo’s platform also allows for sales and marketing organizations to work from the same data and develop automated workflows across departments, bridging marketing and sales teams and helping them better target their prospects.
3. GTM teams need more than a playbook
An effective go-to-market strategy may revolve around tactical plays, but GTM teams need a lot more than a playbook, including:
- Clear strategic objectives
- A complete understanding of your offerings
- Repeatable sales and marketing motions
- Standardized training in executing plays, with a centralized team that administers automated ones
- Cultural change management to ensure that they’re using all the available tools
- Automation that allows them to scale the plays that work
- Leadership support and organizational alignment
And to truly succeed, there has to be room for iteration.
“Sales plays don’t have to feel like machinery,” Dave said. Your plays should be a living, breathing part of your strategy, and market conditions and general prospect and customer feedback should inform how your team takes your product or service to market.
4. Create a Go-to-Market Factory
A cross-functional team of sales, marketing, operations, and product should build plays in real-time by leveraging available data. This coordinated effort creates alignment and removes a lot of all-too-common silos.
“Ensuring marketing, sales, operations, and product are running a coordinated playbook within an enterprise is where magic happens,” Schuck said.
For each play, these teams create a standard bill of materials that includes the following:
- What’s the mission of the play?
- What are the assets that we’ll create?
- Who are we targeting?
- What is the cadence?
- How will we coordinate sales and marketing activities?
- What’s our message?
- Which events or activities should trigger the play?
Once several plays have been put in motion, you can build your account plans for your sellers and marketers to increase your team’s overall success.
“That’s how you bring new sellers up to speed, and how you take your average sellers and make them your best sellers,” Dave said.
5. Set up a Win Room
A Win Room is the follow-up to your GTM factory where you talk through process, results, and goals with your cross-functional teams to identify the plays that are working.
“The Win Room is where you actually see how the plays are performing in the market, looking at the pipeline data and the analytics,” Dave said. “It’s also where you decide what new plays you need to run based on the feedback you’re getting from the field.“
Creating this opportunity for teams to come together and review results is beneficial for continuous improvement. But be cognizant of putting an entirely new meeting on your sales team’s calendar. If possible, use an existing pipeline review meeting to go over revenue-driving results.
6. Rearchitect your business for efficiency
Businesses should be concentrating on profitability, regardless of an impending recession. That often means sifting through operations, dollar spend, and headcount to find inefficiencies. But it’s not just about cutting spending — efficiency is about using every dollar more effectively.
We recently went through this process at ZoomInfo when Law came on board as the new CMO. By using data and analytics, he and the team identified shifts in programs and spending to maximize profitable revenue and ROI.
“We said, why don’t we take these dollars and redeploy them in more efficient channels to see if we can increase the conversion rates and get a better outcome?” Schuck said. “And I think that CEOs and boards are going to want to see you doing that across your company.”
7. Track company news through intent data
Using news and market data — which you can find in ZoomInfo’s Scoops feature — to inform your sales efforts is a great way to gain insight and expand your knowledge of a specific business’ needs.
In combination with intent data, you can create workflows that are more prescriptive in outreach. It’s even possible to target and win buyers that are in final conversations with competitors. The value of news and trends informing your plays is unmatched, because it shows your understanding of the challenges your customers are facing.
“When you can marry a company who’s engaging with your content to a company that’s spiking on intent for your particular products or services, that becomes really powerful,” Schuck said. “Much more powerful than either one on their own.”
8. Produce ads based on what your customers are saying
You can use a conversational intelligence platform to hear in real time what people are saying about a certain topic and devise advertising and marketing strategies around it. Law explained how ZoomInfo recently did this for recession planning.
“With this economic downturn, we knew we needed to speak more directly to how ZoomInfo can drive efficiencies,” Law said. “We went into Chorus, our conversational intelligence product, and set up a boolean search that said, ‘When people are talking about the economy, what are the things that they’re saying?’ We used that to inform some of the ads that we created.”
Using this strategy helps your team create extremely relevant and targeted ad messaging that will perform better across your channels and save you money in the long term.
9. Investing in sales enablement is more crucial than ever
Over the past two years, ZoomInfo has grown tremendously — more than half of our sales and account management staff was hired during this time. Training and onboarding in a virtual environment has created plenty of obstacles, especially for new sales reps.
A lack of sales enablement not only puts stress on your sellers, but can create a poor customer experience. Because digital fatigue is still alive and well in our hybrid work environment, customers won’t tolerate an under-enabled sales rep.
“Customers are going to be especially fatigued by showing up to a call where their account manager doesn’t know their business, doesn’t know their own business, can’t be consultative, and can’t help them get to the next stage,” Schuck said.
Giving your team the right tools, training, and support helps everyone. With proper ongoing investment, you can build great employees who know your product and customers better than anyone else.
10. Everyone should listen to sales calls
Remote work has created gaps in information-sharing, especially among sales teams. Luckily, technology has made great strides in bridging this gap by delivering real-time data and the ability to share the best sales calls.
Conversational intelligence tools like Chorus can record, transcribe, and tag calls between prospects and sales reps. You can even create playlists around common objections or questions like pricing, competitors, and integrations.
Exposing your team to both good and bad calls helps train them to become better salespeople. Listening to objection handling helps them craft thoughtful responses and prepare to win deals that otherwise could have been lost.
You can also expand who listens to your sales calls to improve your entire company. We’ve talked about the importance of product and engineering teams joining sales calls, but there are dozens of other use cases for teams and individuals. This can be a strategy for cross-functional alignment, campaign building, leveraging certain plays, and even M&A.
“We’ve done 15 acquisitions since 2015,” Schuck said. “If I want to know what people really think about a product, I just go listen to calls.”
Consider setting a goal for each employee to listen to a few sales calls a month and note their takeaways. This takes only a small amount of time, but can have a huge business impact, helping the entire organization better understand your product and customer desires.
“It takes anecdotes and gives you actual reality based on those anecdotes. It’s just valuable all across the organization,” Schuck said.
Data is driving the future of revenue growth. Understanding how to harness the data at your fingertips is the first step in creating effective go-to-market plays. If you’re looking for more resources on creating a modern data-driven sales strategy read our guide here.