Sales Best Practices

Customer Post: Using Outreach to Create a Collaborative Sales and Marketing Plan

Stephanie Ristow, Senior Marketing Program Manager, Charter School Capital's Avatar

Stephanie Ristow, Senior Marketing Program Manager, Charter School Capital

Building a marketing plan that aligns with sales metrics, marketing leadership’s expectations, existing programs, and – you know – “reality,” is tough. But it’s not impossible!  

I have been responsible for bridging the divide between sales and marketing at a number of organizations where I have managed demand generation strategy. Having a tool like Outreach in our arsenal is what helps us tie it all together and go from planning to actually getting things done.

Follow these 5 steps to create a Demand Generation plan that aligns sales and marketing, scratches exec’s itch for data, provides a programmatic framework for your year, creates a predictable pipeline of sales, and cures your sugar addiction*.

*Okay, it doesn’t actually do anything about your sugar addiction. Or mine for that matter. Can someone help me with that please?!

Step 1: Build your Demand Generation Framework.

This is the step you’ve likely already been doing year over year. But this time, it’s just the starting framework. Your Demand Generation Framework should include:

  • Overall Objectives
  • Qualitative Goals (like cultivating brand recognition)
  • Quantitative Metrics (including benchmarks)
  • Audience Firmographic and Demographics (leverage persona details if available)
  • Programs (like conferences, webinars, PR, etc.)

Here's a quick peek of the framework we're using - feel free to use it for your team:

Stephanie-demand-gen-framework.PNG#asset:6701

Because we don’t work in silos and we’re smart, multi-channel marketers, there’s going to be overlap in programs, but that doesn’t matter. Get all the STUFF you already know you’re going to be doing for the year down on paper – or rather, digital “paper.” This is just where we start.

Implementing it with Outreach

Make sure you’re listing all the standard Outreach sequences you know you’ll building for the year - form triggers, meeting set-ups sequences, calendar-based conference invites, etc.

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Step 2: Begin your Listening Tour.

First, meet with sales leadership. Identify 1) their goals for the year, 2) what metrics they’re closely following, and 3) if they have a new business plan. Guess what: many of them DO! And they often forget to share these golden nuggets with Marketing. If you can incorporate important parts of this plan – metrics, new state entry, etc. – into your marketing plan, you’ve already taken a huge step in developing that alignment.

Once you’ve gleaned what you can from sales leadership, speak with individual territory owners one-on-one. These guys and gals have a wealth of knowledge in their territory that can be leveraged in the marketing department, and they are your best resource for qualitative information on where the deals are sticking. For me, these meetings are often only 30-60 minutes. Identify some quick wins for your sales team that you know you can fix. And fix them. This helps you build trust and engagement with your sales team (once they know that their concerns go answered, they’re likely to be more supportive and vocal about opportunities they see in the market) and it helps our shared goal – win the business.

Here are some example questions to take with you on your Listening Tour:

  • What’s your goal for the year?
  • Have you created a target account list that you want to go after? Could you?
  • How’s the current lead volume? Are they qualified enough or should we throttle the scoring more?  
  • If marketing could give you one thing in the next 6 months to make your job easier or help you close more business, what would it be?

Implementing it with Outreach 

Leverage individual reps’ Outreach metrics as a touchstone for quantitative data on what is or isn’t working from last year’s programs. They’ll have anecdotes for why they didn’t use certain programs or what they heard back from clients, while you can point to A/B tests that indicated a higher open or response rate on winning content.

Step 3: Dig into your metrics.

At many companies, you already have the key marketing metrics tattooed to your arm. If not, get at it. Proactively dig into these numbers. If you’re using a marketing automation tool, you can typically look into the life cycle metrics to understand how leads are moving through the funnel. When you’re using Outreach, leverage the dashboard and reporting tools to understand which sequences, sales-people, territories and language are performing best. We let Outreach be the quantitative force for understanding what works with our audience.

Outreach-Image.png#asset:6705

This is our master view of our Outreach Analytics that tells us everything we need to know about performance, at a glance.

Know these numbers (well, your team's version of these numbers), become familiar with their flaws, and discuss them with both sales and marketing leadership. Does something seem wonky? Does your marketing qualified to sales accepted conversion stink? Identifying these holes in your funnel is the quickest way to help sales with their numbers. Here are some examples of metrics I follow and measure our programs against:

  • Lead acquisition: How many new leads have come in month-over-month/ year-over-year?
  • Lead engagement: What percentage of leads are engaging enough to become qualified? How does that compare to last year?
  • Lead acceptance: What percentage of qualified leads are being accepted by sales? What percentage is replying to Outreach sequences? What number of qualified leads are being accepted by sales? What lead sources are providing the highest and lowest number of recycled or rejected leads?
  • Opportunity creation: What percentage of accepted leads are turning into opportunities? What number of accepted leads are being accepted by sales? Which lead sources are providing the highest numbers/ largest opportunities?
  • Won Opportunities: Which lead sources are responsible for last year’s opportunities? What programs or Outreach sequences are touching the contacts on those accounts before they close?

In other words: what’s worked? Do you have metrics on all of this? Because if you don’t, you probably should. This process is time consuming and frustrating. But it’s important to identify your benchmark, establish shared goals and metrics with sales, identify the holes in your tracking, and optimize.

Implementing it with Outreach

Outreach should be a primary component of these metrics. While Marketing automation is great for top of the funnel understanding, Outreach provides the best metric-driven insights to what works, what’s converting, and how the sales team is using your leads. See our snapshot above for how we're using Activity-Based Analytics in Outreach to track everything.

Step 4: Create your Actual Plan.

With your starting Demand Generation framework in tow, your new business strategy from the sales team, a multitude of notes from your listening tour, and a lot of quantitative data, you now have the information you need to create your real Demand Generation Plan, and prioritize your programs.

  • Pull in relevant information from the new business plan provided by sales leadership.
  • Based on your territory discussions, build in specifically targeted ABM programs using Outreach-tagged accounts to address a specific demo/geo/firmographic. A healthy balance of ABM and traditional demand generation helps feed the pipeline while strategically aiding in truly important account opportunities.
  • Incorporate the metrics you pulled from your deep dive as the benchmark and highlight what you hope to achieve in the new year. Use Outreach data as your context for the decisions in your plan.
  • And build timelines around everything in your plan – even if it’s fairly rough.

Implementing it with Outreach

Get into the weeds and incorporate all the Outreach sequences, trigger opportunities, lead conversion SLAs, and templates (using your marketing collateral). The more detail you have here, the more the sales team will understand and trust what you’re planning on doing.

Step 5: Share, accept feedback, and optimize.

Now comes the hardest part of the process: sharing your baby with the world. Or rather, your plan… with your sales and marketing departments.

The objective of this meeting is to get sales excited about the year to come, to solicit feedback on the programs you’ve identified, and to review shared metrics noted.

Refine the plan after meeting with your stakeholders and incorporating feedback, and send it out. This is a living, team-owned document, so be careful not to hoard it or chisel it in stone. We meet with our sales team bi-weekly to discuss new programs and how to use them, and we bring up the program list from our plan to see how we’re charting to it. Things will change, but as long as we’re still addressing the objectives of our teams and communicating regularly, we’re maintaining trust and providing value to the sales team.


Stephanie Ristow is the Senior Marketing Manager at Charter School Capital and has spent time supporting marketing efforts for WebMD, Nike, and Microsoft in various capacities. For random thoughts from Stephanie (or photos of her toddler), follow her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram.

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