At Unbabel, we are an AI-first solution helping organisations communicate in any language with their constituents. Unlike most solutions in this industry that use AI to make the human translators better, we start with MT, (Machine Translation), then use AI to determine the quality. The client can decide what isn’t good enough, then use humans to refine, optimise and correct only the content where necessary. This creates a better experience overall: it’s faster, cheaper and provides the same quality as if it were done 100% manually. And it’s a great flywheel; the more content we see the better the engines get.
Chat GPT has taken the world by storm in the last few weeks. It starts with AI to generate any content asked. I’ve asked everything from ‘yo, write a rap song about language translation’ to ‘please write a Seinfeld episode where a bad translation gets people into trouble’. The results were astounding.
So, in the spirit of Unbabel’s value proposition of using humans to make the machines better, and before Generative AI is so good that writing an interesting blog post just requires typing in the subject with no human intervention, I thought I’d pose a question that every SaaS company, at least initially, struggles with and let the experts ‘refine’ the AI.
To prove I’m not making this up, here’s a screenshot and then we’ll ‘refine’ below.
Now, I’d like to introduce some very smart colleagues to comment on how they address each point, where the machines may have gotten it wrong, or to add additional context and information.
The ‘humans in the loop’ today are:
Angela O’Connell: CMO at Juro
Sophie Vu: CMO at Unbabel
Paul Dodd: SVP Revenue at Enigma Technologies
To ensure that sales and marketing teams work effectively together in a SaaS company,there are a few key steps that companies can take:
Sophie: To work better together, every team needs a strong foundation of trust. There is trust in the fact that each member has a part to play and that success and failure are shared by everyone. Having a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other's functions goes beyond high-level job descriptions. Take a day or a week to experience the other's role if you have never reported to either of them. Have your marketing team try prospecting or cold calling, for example. Have your sales team develop a landing page or one-pager. Working with empathy and developing trust is a continuous process.
Jennifer: This sounds easy. I suppose AI wouldn’t really have the battle scars to know that there’s a difference between academically knowing something, and making it then happen. In practice, it can be challenging. Who hasn’t heard sales complaining about not having pipeline? Or marketing complaining sales isn’t following up fast enough on leads? (I’m not saying these are correct, they’re just common ‘complaints’.) EVERYONE is responsible for Pipeline Generation, full stop. But having agreed responsibilities and tasks, with expectations on what the outcomes will be that are discussed, documented and held to account go a long way towards building trust.
Angela: I think celebrating joint successes is important, particularly when developing trust as mentioned above. Testing a new channel, seeing that lead come in and close it a team effort and when both teams are focused on joint wins it can build a joint focus on teamwork and help the broader team get excited to tackle bigger initiatives in the future.
Paul: I have been lucky to have worked both sides of the aisle starting in marketing and then sales. In addition, I have been fortunate to be the single leader for both Marketing & Sales. I think I have made every mistake in both functions. This in an important factor in a successful “growth team”. I have been seen many toxic sales and marketing team cultures and teams. I tend to agree with Sophie in that trust is key. In fact, many of my teams have heard me say - “Trust is the currency.” There is no Chapter 11 for trust. Trust is built over time and via a share purpose or mission.
Sophie: Creating a culture of accountability requires all stakeholders to be bought in on the plan. A shared set of goals and objectives will ensure everyone is headed in the same direction. I suggest setting clear expectations on how long it takes to develop the program versus when it launches. Team members should work together while considering the time it takes to create, develop, and implement a product. Ensure that you reflect and learn from your strategy as a team to understand what worked and what didn't. QBRs are great for this (see Jennifer Bers’ QBR blog)
Jennifer: It’s also important to ensure that goals are aligned. MQLs are a start, but how many Opportunities do those translate to? Are there particular verticals and personas that are of higher focus (ie leads within the ICP)? Sales is often more focused on short term revenue numbers, and marketing is tasked with both driving demand gen and leads, as well as overall brand and awareness.
Angela: Segmentation is key here, which verticals are priority for the business and are the sales team equipped with relevant collateral to engage and guide SQLs through to close. With an ABM approach it is important that accounts or segments identified as strategic have enough of a runway to see success, ABM is an investment which can take several quarters to pay off.
Paul: This is where the AI failed. It feels like the AI returned some nice sounding words that really don’t say anything. The purpose of Marketing & Sales is to grow the business. Of course Marketing & Sales should work together but the needs of Marketing & Sales is to meet and exceed the business plan revenue targets. That strategy has to be a bottoms up to determine the waterfall of KPIs that will drive to the revenue targets. You have to account for segmentation, ICP, engagement, intent, education of prospects, sales and customer success enablement, win rates, pipeline build rates, sales cycles, average deal size, expansion rates, and retention rates. . Today Marketing & Sales have found new ways to co-work pipeline build via ABM, for example, but in the end it’s all to drive to revenue. The GTM strategy supports the business and the Marketing & Sales Teams have to be operate like a single unit focused on revenue.
Sophie: I wholeheartedly agree here. Having shared dashboards with metrics you can view weekly/monthly/quarterly will ensure visibility and enable teams to adjust to keep the plan on track or make key decisions to change the course.
Jennifer: If you can’t measure something, it’s really hard for people to understand what’s going well or not. Then it becomes subjective. Being agile, particularly in a tough economic climate is critical and giving everyone the ability to have a shared understanding of where things stand makes for a much better working relationship. As the KPIs and Goals are met (or missed), debrief on what worked, what didn’t and how you can adapt. Also, ensure your CRM is the source of truth. Let’s face it, there is an entire ecosystem of Unicorns that exist solely to augment the input and analysis of data into a CRM because sales reps just aren’t great at/hate the manual effort of entering information. Invest in a tech stack that automates what’s necessary so there is a true picture of where you stand and what needs to happen. The challenge is ensuring that the KPIs are aligned to what the business needs, as well as what each team is meant to deliver and can be held accountable for.
Angela: completely agree! Tracking not only pipeline and bookings, but also looking at conversion rates at all stages in the funnel help identify any issues early and gives both teams an opportunity to investigate and resolve.
Paul: Over the last 20 years I have seen more and more organization tracking KPIs but few still have a fully integrated, Marketing & Sales, run the business motion. In addition, I feel that you have to be fully aligned to a singular output goal which is… revenue. Everything else should be an input KPI. The input KPIs should have plan targets and everything should be reviewed Actual vs Plan variance and trends. The reason I feel strongly about the singular output goal is that you could be crushing your MQL & SQLs targets with the wrong mix of deals resulting in a negative revenue variance. There are many examples of this issue with many variations - wrong target segments with longer sales cycle, SQL with lower win rates, high churn deals, etc. The variance positive or negative should force function the right questions. Is this meeting the end goal? If yes, do more. If no, what actions should be taken.
Sophie: Teams that work well together speak the same language. It is not only important to provide training resources to sales and marketing, but the team should also do these together. For example, a salesperson should be familiar with how marketing develops messaging and positioning. The marketing department should understand the sales qualification methodology, i.e. MEDDPICC. Mutual understanding of each other’s roles will enable each team member to ask the right questions and align on strategy, plan and implementation.
Angela: it's critical that both sales and marketing teams not only have a shared understanding of each others roles and are keen to learn and share best practice but they also understand the key metrics of the business. With the current economic climate cac and burn rate are key measurements that marketing and sales team should have a deep understanding to help guide decision-making and efficiency.
Jennifer: I’m a big believer in investing in the team in the form of training. The challenge is ensuring that training is then reinforced and followed through. By cross training the teams, that helps embed the lessons and allows each team member to understand the ‘why’ behind what is happening.
Paul: I have always been a believer in the whole person training and development philosophy. I think we are now seeing the impact if you only view and train the “work person”. The AI clearly found the training is critical for consistent high performance but it failed to also call out personal development. The mental and physical health of your teams has a direct impact on performance. I believe you have to help develop your teams in both PERSONAL and PROFESSIONAL skill development. Those who make the investment into the whole person will see outsize gains in performance, consistently and over the long haul.
Sophie: Revenue operations! Gone are the days of marketing ops, sales ops and even CS ops working in silos. Shared goals and objectives across the entire GTM organization is key to creating a flywheel that is efficient, predictable and generates a strong and qualified pipeline. Centralizing revenue operations will enable teams to be more data-driven, less personal (no finger pointing) and transparent on how all the parts work together.
Jennifer: Honestly, RevOps and MarketingOps (MOps) aren’t ‘nice to haves’ anymore, they’re critical to the success of the Revenue and Growth function. The tech stacks have become more complex, the use of data is crucial and depending on your sales motion (PLG or Sales-Led) you’ll also need to be constantly optimising and refining. RevOps needs to be your best friend, and trusted advisor.
Overall, the key to ensuring that sales and marketing teams work effectively together in a SaaS company is to foster a culture of collaboration, communication, and continuous improvement. By taking these steps, companies can help both teams succeed and drive growth for their business.
Angela: it's important to build a culture where teams feel supported when they suggest improvements or new ideas to processes. Having shared goals gives a combined sense of accountability and adapting processes is an important part of that. Change management and rev ops are intrinsic to ensure process changes or new tool adaptation is successful
Paul: This once was my secret weapon but now it’s table stakes. To me it’s not Revenue Operations it’s Revenue Enablement. It’s not just semantics but a mindset. I want my Revenue Enablement team thinking across three key pillars: 1) Tech Stack & KPI Enablement 2) Risk Mitigation 3) Opportunity Amplification. This empowers the team to think thru the entire customer journey and find ways to minimize risk and amplify opportunities. This starts with the tech stack execution and the KPI business intelligence.
I’ll end with a limerick because what great blog post doesn’t inspire poetry.