By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

It’s another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio, (live every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Pacific). It’s just 30 minutes long, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.

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This week, Liz Michaud joins me in an episode I entitled “The power of relationship selling: New research, insights and opportunities for B2B organizations”.

Matt:  Well thank you everyone for joining us on another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. We’re very excited to have you here if you’re listening to us live on the funnel media radio network. Thanks very much for joining us in the middle of your workday. Very honored to have those of you listening in. If you’re joining us on the podcast feed, thanks so much for subscribing. Always exciting to see our numbers continue to grow. We’re over 55,000 downloads and growing so very excited to have all of you with us. And you can catch every episode of Sales Pipeline Radio, past, present and future is always available anytime on demand at salespipelineradio.com. Every week we are featuring some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing and today is no different. I’m very excited to have with us. Liz Michaud. She is the senior product marketing manager at Microsoft and Liz thank you so much for joining us.

Liz:  Thank you for having me.

Matt:  I’m excited to walk through this. We finished a research project together. We did a Webinar. Wanted to get you on the radio show as well to talk about the results, because we’ve been thinking a lot here at Heinz Marketing about sort of relationship selling and the impact your relationships in B2B sales and marketing. As we see more A.I. introduced into sales and marketing, as we see more automation happening, we really wanted to get a sense for how important relationships selling was and how technology in many cases can actually sort of enhance and augment some of those personal relationships. Talk a little bit about from Microsoft’s perspective kind of what you guys are doing or what we’re doing with Dynamics and with LinkedIn and why this research was so important.

Liz:  Yeah. So I think we’ve seen a trend in sales technology lately where a lot of the improvements that have been made to sales tech over the past 5, 10 years have been to make sales teams more productive. There are plenty of tools that are doing a really great job with that. I obviously work on Dynamics 365 so we’ve got some sales tools there and are working together with tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator and all of that.

So we’ve really made some great strides in how productive a sales team can be, but with some of the trends that are happening in the marketplace such as role specialization, telesales, kind of the rise of all of that, we’ve seen that maybe there was an overemphasis that a lot of teams were taking on the productivity piece. And they were losing a little bit of that personal touch and losing some of the strong relationships that a salesperson used to have to have when they were doing all of their selling via phone or in person back in the day.

And so what we’re thinking about when we’re developing this technology is how do we actually make sure that the relationships are still front and center for the sellers so that they can be successful? Because we know that buyers have extremely high expectations right now. We’re in this challenging environment where business buyers are actually weighing their sales experience against the consumer buying experiences they’ve had. There are amazing strides there and personalization and all of that. So they’re bringing those same very high expectations to the B2B buying process. And so it’s really important that the sellers can deliver to those high expectations, and that means having those strong relationships, doing personalization of the content and pitches that they’re giving to these buyers, et cetera.

Matt:  You bring up a number of really important points. We’re going to talk a little later about the importance of scale, but despite the proliferance of technology around us, we’re still people buying from people, right? And I think we still value the relationships we have within that. And I want take that a level deeper because I think what we found in the research is that this buying committee we talk about with large deals where you’ve got multiple people engaged in the buying process. That buying committee is not only growing in size for enterprise deals, but it’s growing in importance as well. And so your ability to build relationships is not just with between buyer and seller. Your ability to understand relationships amongst members of the buying committee became important as well. Talk a little bit about what the research found in terms of the importance of engagement with that entire buying committee.

Liz:  We saw that it is really important to building strong relationships across the buying committee. So like you said, it’s not just one person that we can go to and do the deal anymore. Over 80% of our respondents in the study who said that they were effective at building relationships across the buying committee with multiple people, they were the ones who also said that they were effective at achieving their desired sales goals.

Matt:  I think that making that tie together, right? Like being able to actually engage that entire buying committee critically important. And obviously like how you get at that data is important to know. We ask the question in the research “what are the tools you’re using?”, “what are the capabilities you have?”, and it was interesting cause I mean the number of tools continue to proliferate across the marketing and sales technology landscape. But we found some interesting insights into companies that were successful and those that were not successful in terms of the tools they were using.

Liz:  We found that most of the successful organizations that we talked to, so we asked people how successful are you at achieving your revenue goals? Since we know that’s what sales organizations care about. And the organizations that said they were successful really thought it was key to synchronize data across multiple platforms. So while we have seen this proliferation of the sales tool set and there are many ways to get at the activities that a seller would do out of day to day basis, it’s so important that we’re orchestrating that data, that the data is all coming together to generate insights so that a seller can do their job effectively. They’re not having to dig around and try and kind of play hunter or scientist within their own dataset.

Matt:  Well and at the risk of making this a commercial, which we don’t want to make it, I think what Microsoft’s doing with CRM and LinkedIn, the ability to actually naturally integrate those together. I mean I know I spend time in CRM and LinkedIn literally every day. And so the ability to integrate those together does create not only, it gives us that information, but it also creates that efficiency for the sales rep to get back out of the tool and get back to actively selling.

Liz:  That’s our goal. And I think another important element of that is looking at sort of the other tools that a seller’s using day to day. So we’re also trying to bring in a lot of the productivity data that happens when a seller is communicating with a buyer such as what they’re doing in email, who they’re meeting with, who they’re talking to, and so bringing that all together, give them a better picture of the relationship that they have with these buyers and helps them kind of advance the deal.

Matt:  Talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio with Liz Michaud, she’s the senior product marketing manager for Microsoft and talking about some new research we have just finished between Heinz Marketing and Microsoft on the power of relationship selling in 2019. If you want to get more information on this study, if you want to get a copy of this study, check out the notes from this podcast. We have it linked in the notes we have it up on the salespipelineradio.com. We also have a link to this research at heinzmarketing.com.

Let’s talk about cross platform and why working cross platform is so important and I think you know it was interesting to see the dramatic difference in companies that were enabling their teams across platforms that were successful versus those that were not creating that cross platform opportunity. Talk a little bit about why that’s so important, not only to hit your number but also to drive greater efficiency and effectiveness of the sales organization.

Liz:  Yeah, I touched on it a little bit just now, but I think that it’s bringing about those important data points together so that a seller really is having a full picture of the buyer when they’re going into a conversation. Whether they’re getting ready for our sales meeting, when they’re getting ready to make a pitch to a customer on a call or an email. They need to have all of that in place and being able to synchronize the data together is so important.

We saw that a significant proportion of the successful sales organizations that we talked to, they said that synchronization across different tools and platforms, was the number one thing that was a key capability that they needed. And that was one of the most effective aspects of their selling tool set. Second to that was the ability to synchronize and manage the data effectively across contacts, leads, accounts, and opportunities. So really bringing all of that together is incredibly important for the successful organizations.

Matt:  Speaking to bring it in all together. You know, we talk about data, we can talk about integrations of tools, but let’s talk about sort of how sales and marketing work together on this. I think historically we’ve seen sales or marketing may have strategically the same goals, but operationally and tactically they’re not really working closely together. We saw very stark difference in results when we asked for effectiveness of sales and marketing integration and we compared that to whether organizations were successful or not successful in hitting their number. Liz, what did their research show on that?

Liz:  Successful sales organizations that we talked to, over 75% of them said that their sales and marketing alignment was really well aligned. And then not so successful organizations were more likely to say that there are sales and marketing, they were only somewhat aligned across sales and marketing. They really thought the key elements to a successful and strong alignment between sales and marketing were around having a mechanism that would be able to provide a constructive criticism and feedback between the two teams. Right. It is so important that a marketer knows the tactics and strategies that they’re using are actually working. And you can bring in all the leads in the world, but if they’re not quality, then your sales team, is going to be pretty unhappy. So that was one sort of element of a really strong relationship and tie between the sales and marketing teams. They also, and not too surprisingly, pointed to things like share reporting and insights that made the relationship strong and effective as well as having a coordinated sales process that they could both lean on so that they’re kind of supporting the same goals.

Matt:  Well, let’s go a little deeper on what that research said. I mean we ended up asking, and we’re going to take a break here in a couple of minutes but, we asked people to tell us what elements of sales and marketing alignment were most important. And the two things that were at the top of the list were the ability to provide constructive criticism and feedback between teams and shared reporting and insights. And I thought this was fascinating that the most successful teams said that they had shared reporting and that they felt culturally like they could challenge each other and provide feedback to make each other better. Talk about what that means and talk about the implication there in terms of the cultural implications of creating better sales and marketing alignment.

Liz:  Humans have to have these effective mechanisms to deliver feedback and that can take a qualitative form and it can take a quantitative form and it should probably be both. I know for my day to day role, I’m obviously in a product marketing role, so the feedback that I get from my sales team and the people who are on the ground talking to customers every day is so essential to what I do. I can’t overstate its importance. I get sort of verbatim comments back from them. I get questions. People will reach out to me and so really great to be able to hear what’s coming up for them and the market. So that’s kind of the qualitative side.

And then on the quantitative side, being able to measure and see are our strategies working from a marketing perspective? Are our selling strategies working? Like where are we hitting our numbers, where are we not hitting our numbers? And being able to drill into that so that we have the same views. And I think also having sort of a a database perspective too it helps the collaboration because you’re all looking at the same information.

Matt:  Absolutely. Well, we’re going to have to take a quick break, pay some bills. We’ll be right back with more with Liz Michaud, she’s the senior product marketing manager at Microsoft. Talk more about the impact of relationships in selling and a little more on the alignment between sales and marketing in making that relationship selling work to help companies hit their number. We’ll be right back on Sales Pipeline Radio.

*Break*

Matt:  All right, welcome back to Sales Pipeline Radio. Thanks for joining us again. If you like what you’re hearing here today and this new research we have on relationship selling with Microsoft Dynamics 365, you can definitely find a copy of that. We’ve got links to get a copy of that in the show notes for this podcast. We’ve got links up at Sales Pipeline Radio. We also have links to that it’s heinzmarketing.com. So you can get a copy of that for sure.

But wanted to get a little more with Liz Michaud, she’s a senior product marketing manager at Microsoft specifically focused on dynamics 365. It’s been pretty exciting Liz, I know we’re a little biased cause I know we worked together on this. To watch sort of the growth of Dynamics 365 with the Microsoft acquisition, with the increased market share or you’re getting, just with the evolution of the product, and really doing that based on deep understanding of sellers and how sellers operate. Can you talk a little bit about how sort of deep customer insights have been at the core of how Microsoft is building and developing and improving Dynamics 365 as a sales tool?

Liz:  Microsoft is an incredibly data driven company. So that is at the foundation of almost everything we do, and that’s why we’re building a lot of capabilities that we have been building in our products. It’s to make use of all that data that’s out there, harness the right pieces of it, surface it as insights to a sales team and kind of streamline what they’re getting to do day to day so that they can focus on, like I said a little bit earlier, building those strong relationships.

We also really eat our own dog food here at Microsoft. So it’s really fun for me to work on a product that our sales team here is actually using day to day. And you alluded to the LinkedIn acquisition as well. One of my favorite parts of what I do is getting to collaborate on the joint market that we have across Dynamics and Sales Navigator and seeing those two tools and data sets come together working across the team. So the LinkedIn team has great expertise when it comes to dealing with salespeople. And so there’s a really nice synergy there across the two products sets.

Matt:  Well and you mentioned sort of eating your own dog food. I’ve heard some people describe it as you’re drinking your own champagne and you know certainly there’s a relationship between sales and marketing and then you’ve got multiple organizations selling together and that gets very complex. Talk a little bit about as you see the impact of this research in your own organization, how does having greater customer insights, how does having better integration and communication between sales and marketing teams in Microsoft, but also between Microsoft and LinkedIn, how does that help you become more efficient? How does that help the sales team be more effective in what they’re doing?

Liz:  On the marketing side, we’re getting really prescriptive about who we’re targeting and how we’re getting to them. And then on the sales side, were enabling capabilities for them to really focus their day to day activities. So instead of having them get up in the morning and they come to work and they might log in to the Dynamics 365 and instead of having to look through a big list of leads or opportunities that they’re working on and kind of have to make that decision about what do I do first, who do I reach out to? We’re actually starting to give them insight into which opportunities should they be prioritizing. What are kind of the top things that they should do day to day. We’re implementing a lot of this stuff with our inside sales team in particular and so that’s a really kind of exciting thing to see what’s going on. Leveraging a lot of the AI capabilities that Microsoft has built and that we’re building into our Dynamics 365 for sales product as well.

Matt:  Even though this research is really focused on sales and focused on sales organizations hitting their numbers. It strikes me that a lot of these insights, and just hearing your last answer as well, this really has an impact on the broader organization for all customer facing teams. In your mind, does this have an implication? Do these insights reach an impact customer success and account management teams as well?

Liz:  Yeah, just as important and just it’s necessary to have those feedback mechanisms and the insights and reporting is on the customer success side as well. So making sure those are really tied at the hip.

Matt:  Yup, that sounds great. Well, we’ll wrap it up just a few more minutes here with Liz Michaud. She is the senior product marketing manager at Microsoft with Dynamics 365. And again we’ve been covering some highlights from the relationship selling a research that we recently completed. You can get a copy of that in the show notes for this podcast as well as salespipelineradio.com. We usually ask this of a lot of our guests, as you continue to evolve and grow in your career, who are some of the people that you’ve looked for, you’ve found and spent time with to learn from? Who are some of the mentors or influencers that you’ve read, that have been professors, or managers, or authors that have really sort of impacted your growth? You might recommend other people check out as well.

Liz:  I certainly learned a lot from the folks that I worked with day to day throughout my career. So you know, previous managers I had. I’ve had I think a really interesting path within my marketing career in that I started out doing PR and social media. I’ve done little bit of market research. I worked at some startups for a while where I got to have my hands in almost everything in marketing. And so the different leaders and managers that I had along the way, like a lot of the times they were taking a chance on me to do something and take on tasks that I hadn’t necessarily done before.

I’ve learned so much just from working with those people day to day and kind of picking up on what they’re doing. In terms of who am I reading these days and who do I sort of go to for insights outside of the workplace? I have to say the team at TOPO research has been really helpful to me, so shout out to Craig Rosenberg. I’ve learned a ton from him. I love reading what he has to say, they’re super plugged in in the sales and marketing space. Really recommend checking out their blog if you guys haven’t read that one yet.

Matt:  Yeah, I would agree with that. I love your answer in terms of where you’ve come from as well. I mean A I think managers, good managers can sometimes be some of the best people that you have access to on a daily basis. But also I resonate with your background. I came from a PR background and I was a journalism major at UW and my first real job post journalism was in a PR firm. It’s been interesting to sort of to see how marketing has evolved since then, but also, I’m curious, how has your perspective on marketing changed from being more sort of focused on PR and social to now being really immersed in the midst of the marketing technology space in a midst organizations that are really integrating sales and marketing together. Has marketing changed? Has your perspective changed? Is it little bit of both?

Liz:  It’s definitely both. I think that the influence of technology on marketing, I’ve seen that just grow so much over the past several years, probably the past 10 years even. With the advent of social media and this concept of not just branding that comes from like an official sort of marketing team perspective where it’s a little more prescriptive about this is our brand and this is how we talk and now there’s more of this personal brand and people are bringing that to life. I see actually a lot of sellers are doing that really effectively and that’s helping them in their careers in a way that I think 10, 15 years ago it just wasn’t as common. So that’s been a really interesting evolution to see throughout my career.

Matt:  Absolutely. I want to thank our guest again, Liz Michaud. She’s a senior product manager at Microsoft Dynamics 365. If you’d like to learn more about the study we’ve been talking about here today, a lot more detail, a lot more of the data behind it. You can find a link to that in the show notes for this podcast. You can find it on Sales Pipeline Radio. We’ve got a link to it up at heinzmarketing.com as well. Do join us next week and each week, we’re here live on Thursday 11:30 pacific, 2:30 eastern. We got a lot of great guests coming up, talking more about B2B sales and marketing. But for today on behalf of my great producer Paul, this is Matt Heinz. Thanks so much for joining us on another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio.