I’m a life-long baseball fan, and a life-long fan of the Atlanta Braves from way back when I was a boy growing up in Winter Park, Florida.  I grew up when the Braves were the closest thing a young baseball fan in central Florida could root for.

I’ve also had a career long association with B2B enterprise sales and how it relates to B2B marketing.  Baseball and B2B marketing and sales have a lot in common.

Like baseball, many characteristics of B2B marketing & sales today are no different than they were 25-30 years ago.   But because of technology, “big data” , & “the cloud”, much is different.  Baseball has entered an era of situations, tendencies, and data driven strategy & tactics, and the same can be said of B2B sales & marketing.

And all of those things have brought marketing and sales closer into convergence and balance than ever before.

For example, in baseball, home runs are sexy, but winning is even sexier. Anyone paying attention the last few years knows that the teams that eventually capture the World Series title have balance.  They can manufacture a run as easily as clearing the bases with the long ball.  They’ve got the strong starting pitching, the table setting bullpen, and the 99 mile an hour flamethrower to close things out.  The recent success of the San Francisco Giants, Kansas City Royals, and St. Louis Cardinals are perfect examples.  Even the Red Sox bombers from Boston that have won 3 World Series in the last 11 years had balance when they won.

My beloved Atlanta Braves tried to go the strictly long ball non-balanced approach the last few years, and ultimately it failed miserably.  So now they’ve gone back to the basics…. Balance, small ball when necessary, and some solid pitching may make for an improved more successful product in the future.

Sales and Marketing balance is a lot like balance in baseball.  You can’t rely on the home run too much or you’ll have too many highs and lows in your results.  You need someone to set the table so your closer can come in and nail down the month and the quarter.  I’ve seen many published blogs and articles in recent months discussing the severing of the duality between sales and marketing.  It is undeniable that this is not only happening, it’s accelerating due to the cloud based, “big data”,  virtual world we all operate in.

In today’s enterprise sales & marketing environment, marketing has become a more measureable critical component in that partnership.  Some may argue, even more important.  I like to think they’re now equal partners, where one cannot be successful without the other.

Marketing sets the table….tees the ball up…plays the set-up role just like a late inning relief pitcher does for the closer.  The campaigns marketing runs are the same as the leadoff man getting on base and the #2 hitter bunting him to 2nd or getting him to 3rd on a hit & run, all so that the big cleanup hitter can bring them home.  It’s no different than a digital marketing team providing high quality MQL’s to those big closers on the sales team to convert to an opportunity, and then a sale.

And both marketing and sales, like today’s baseball teams, have more technology tools to optimize not only their ability to do their jobs, but to work together more effectively as well. 

Sales has enablement tools like LinkedIn, InsideView, Avention, and marketing has enablement tools like Eloqua, Marketo, & Pardot.  Sales & Marketing both have access to B2B data that goes beyond SIC, size, & industry or beyond title level & function.  Social enriched data, like the data my company, Social123, provides can augment targeting & segmenting.  Predictive analytics, predictive lead scoring, & Account Based marketing platforms like 6Sense, LeadSpace, Lattice Engines, Demandbase, and Everstring can point your sales & marketing teams directly to those buyers that are in market and searching for your product or solution at this moment in time.

All of this has put sales and marketing more into a state of convergence and alignment and made them equal partners in an enterprise’s success.

But even all the best data and tools won’t help a team succeed if the fundamentals aren’t followed.

Great sales people have always been able to source their own leads and create their own success.  However, the knowledge they hold can be very helpful to marketing in communicating clearly who the best target accounts are, the appropriate contacts at those targets should be, and the right message to resonate and create interest.  There’s varying levels of talent and experience on a sales team, just like there is on a baseball team. And the same holds true for a marketing team.

If there’s no balance between marketing and sales because of poor communication, with the sales team relying on its own cold efforts to source leads, or the marketing team isn’t messaging or targeting correctly, the whole team is doomed to wild swings in performance and ultimate failure.  Individuals may succeed, but the enterprise doesn’t, just like in baseball.

A baseball team must have hitting, fielding, and pitching all working in balance to create a winner.  Similarly, today’s sales and marketing enterprise must team together to create leads, convert them to clear opportunities, and close the big sales to create a winning month, quarter & year.