Guest Column | May 6, 2020

How To Identify And Fix Gaps In Your Sales And Marketing Operations

By Asif Khan, MST Solutions

Services Marketing: You Can’t Build A Strong Marketing Strategy On A Weak Foundation

The pains of poor marketing and sales performance can be felt almost immediately. It’s easy to tell there’s a problem, harder to detect precisely what the problem is and how to fix it. But being able to diagnose, and fix, gaps in your marketing and sales functions is critical to growth, scalability, and sustainability.

This is where understanding how to run a health check or gap analysis will help you identify where your systems, structures, people, processes or technologies may not be living up to their potential and use that information to create a roadmap for success. But where do you look and what do you look for, what questions should you ask, and how do you use that information to chart the path to reach your desired state?

Analyzing The Gap Analysis

A gap analysis is a critical tool in understanding the chasm between your current state and your desired or future state. In other words, it helps you look critically at where you are and what it will take to get to where you want to be, accounting for potential risks, and additional requirements and resources you may need, such as training, budget or tools.

It’s like a health check on your operations or organization. It can be strategic in which it focuses on planning and execution, or it can be operational in which the focus is on workflows, teams or departments. A gap analysis will serve as an important guide to ensure you’re exploring and thinking critically through the entire process –– whether a strategic endeavor or you’re examining an operational function.

In the case of marketing and sales, a gap analysis can be used strategically to uncover new market opportunities and guide strategy, or operationally to reveal why key performance indicators (KPIs) aren’t being met. It will provide insight into the specific areas that are keeping the team from meeting desired outcomes. The process of conducting a gap analysis also helps create internal alignment, as it necessitates you consider the needs of your stakeholders, and it uncovers potential roadblocks before they become issues.

Performing A Health Check

Before getting into how to perform a health check, there is one common challenge to address. In some cases, analyses can come back inconclusive or inaccurate. You may find a potential cause for poor performance but fail to reveal the why.

For instance, we had a client who was struggling to increase the velocity of their sales pipeline and sell more diverse products. An initial analysis might show that only a few products within the portfolio were being offered by sales reps and these didn’t always meet the need of the customer. But upon deeper analysis, we discovered it was because sales reps didn’t always have access to product knowledge or to specialists who could help guide what products would best solve for the customer’s unique need. By uncovering the what (new products were not being recommended) and the why (lack of access), we were able to build an effective solution.

To avoid this challenge, you must involve all stakeholders throughout the entire process. The success of a gap analysis is directly tied to the breadth and depth of knowledge you have of your people and processes. Bring marketing and sales teams together to get their input on what’s working and what’s not. What pain points are they experiencing in their day-to-day? What do they feel is making their jobs harder? Where do they see opportunities for improvement in their workflows?

Start the gap analysis by identifying where you’re not meeting desired outcomes. For example, this could include, marketing qualified leads (MQLs) or sales qualified leads (SQLs) are not converting, sales cycles are too long, or leads are dropping off between the marketing to sales handoff process.

We commonly see gaps in three core areas among marketing and sales teams: onboarding, execution, and review. Reasons for these gaps often include:

  • Marketing and sales teams don’t fully understand the company and its customers and are not aligned on clearly defined goals and strategies resulting in maturity gaps.
  • There’s no single source of truth like a CRM for customer information (data silos), which typically means the team is also lacking a 360-degree view of the customer.
  • Marketing, sales, and customer success are operating in silos often resulting in breakdowns during the handoff (operational silos).
  • There isn’t a clearly defined service-level agreement between marketing and sales.
  • Leading performance indicators are not defined and regularly reviewed to course-correct before it’s too late.

Explore the process from start to finish to identify where breakdowns are occurring. Once you’ve identified the area that needs to be analyzed, work backward to discover the causes that are contributing to targets not being met.

With some of the potential causes in mind, map out where you want to be. What is the desired future state and how does this stack up against your current state? At MST Solutions, we call this your “To-Be” and “As-Is” state. By identifying both states, you can then start to identify what it will take to get to the “To-Be” state.

The Roadmap

Getting the train on the right track requires first defining the final destination. In other words, your organization’s long-term vision. Is the vision clearly defined? How well is it being articulated and put into action? Does the “To-Be” state align with the vision?

As you go through the process of revisiting or establishing your vision, get your stakeholders involved. Does everyone on the team understand who the customers are and what their journey looks like, how your company makes money, who the competition is and what your organization’s unique value proposition is? Importantly, do they understand how all of this fits into the overall vision?

When all stakeholders are involved throughout the entire process, it creates alignment and ensures that the goals set will drive toward the fulfillment of that vision. It also helps reveal risks, weaknesses, potential threats and gaps from a technological, operational or maturity perspective that could obstruct goals from being met.

With everyone aligned on a singular focus and set of goals, the next step is to look at the execution process. This will start by breaking annual goals down into more manageable quarterly and monthly goals and establish a weekly cadence to review how the team is tracking toward these. Look at:

  • Leading indicators versus lagging indicators as this will be key to establishing accountability and enable the team to pivot before it’s too late
  • Sales forecasting and pipeline coverage
  • Win-loss rates and why deals were won or lost

Of course, achieving marketing and sales goals will be dependent on how well the team knows and understands the unique needs of the ideal customer. Do you have a well-defined buyer’s journey and know the triggers that move them through that journey? Do you have goals and KPIs defined for each stage of that journey?

At what point are marketing leads handed over to sales? And is everyone in agreement on what that looks like? Most importantly, is everyone operating from a common platform like a CRM to serve as a central source of truth for all customer and prospect data? This is imperative to providing a 360-degree view of the customer and ultimately identifying new, upsell, cross-sell and renewal opportunities.

Once you’ve identified the gap and articulated it in a roadmap, get feedback on it. Before moving forward on bridging the gap, the team must agree about the findings and proposed course of action. And as you begin to implement changes, whether it’s to the tech stack or workflow process, establish a review and feedback cadence. This allows for agility and supports successful outcomes. You don’t want to reach completion only to find out the solution doesn’t work.

Aside from not having the right people in the right seats, the biggest contributor to poor marketing and sales performance is often a lack of alignment and collaboration. Marketing, sales and customer success must come together as one team, and that can only happen when they are aligned on the vision, a clearly defined set of goals, and have a technical infrastructure that supports collaboration. If this is not the current state for your organization, you must identify what’s blocking it.

About The Author

Asif Khan is VP of Customer Success at MST Solutions.