Common Friction Points in Your GTM Strategy (And How to Fix Them)

Common Friction Points in Your GTM Strategy (And How to Fix Them)

One of the biggest frustrations companies experience is finding their GTM plan that looks great on paper just doesn’t execute. They want to know what went wrong, and how to fix it. We’ve seen this time and time again, and have found that GTM strategy failures often come down to friction points that weren’t addressed up front.

Here are the five most common problems companies run into, and how to get ahead of them to unleash revenue.

But First, What is a GTM Strategy?

A Go To Market (GTM) strategy is the approach a company takes to deliver their value and solutions to the market. When developing a GTM strategy, all resources are taken into consideration and an overall plan is created and shared so that the entire company understands.

It is the ultimate plan for taking your products, services, or solutions to market.

Friction Point #1: Everyone Goes in Their Own Direction

It’s the start of a new year or quarter. Your team has its target metrics, and everyone goes rushing off to hit them. But how do those targets all align and contribute to the overall company strategy?

All departments (sales, marketing, product groups, legal, HR, finance, etc.) need to understand the company direction and strategy. Everyone must be aligned, otherwise one group sees their job as “Go, Go, Go”, and another sees their job as reining them in. When each team creates its own GTM strategy, it’s a recipe for failure.

Silos start forming that become almost impossible to break down. One business unit or another may win their battles, but it comes at the expense of winning new customers and advancing the overall business.

To mitigate this common problem, a company-wide alignment must happen where key priorities, initiatives, and targets are agreed upon. The organization’s objectives and strategies need to be communicated, and over-communicated.

Our measure of whether we’ve done this successfully is to randomly call people in the organization to see whether they’re all able to accurately articulate the main priorities and initiatives.

In the past, we’ve sent out the mission, vision, and strategies to the entire team, and announced that we will be making “secret shopper” calls so the team knows these calls are coming. This way, each person has the “official” document and they can can practice putting the key messages into their own words.

Friction Point #2: Silos with different goals Prod mgmt vs. field

A company needs each department to do its part in getting a solution to the customer. In an ideal world, all groups work together seamlessly toward the same goals, for the common good of the organization and the customer. Each team understands how they fit into the overall GTM, and how their contributions cascade up to the top level company objectives, mission, and vision.

Unfortunately, that scenario isn’t always how it goes. We often see companies where each department silo has set their own goals and measurements, and is charging ahead.

What happens in this situation? At best, we see confusion (what are we aiming for anyway?). At worst, at least one group feels frustrated and angry. Hopefully all of this dirty laundry will be kept away from customers, but that isn’t always the case.

We’ve seen product teams celebrate because they met their profit target, while sales teams were frustrated they missed their quotas since the product teams wouldn’t authorize any discount.

We’ve also seen the reverse, where sales exceeded their revenue goals but the product group missed their profit goals.  We’ve seen marketing teams celebrate delivering twice the number of leads they committed to, while sales says none of the leads were valid.

It is critical to gain alignment on metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs). Each group’s metrics should be designed so they contribute to the overall performance. This means the “right” things need to be measured, with regular cross-functional review. At the most granular level, each individual’s KPIs must also reflect their contribution to the big picture results.

Friction Point #3: Direct and Indirect Team Plans (and Compensation) are Not Aligned

The customer is ready to buy. All of their objections have been overcome, they’ve seen the demos and have gone through a proof of concept, and they’ve been convinced your solution is the best one.

Then, the direct and indirect teams start competing for the order, sometimes right in front of the customer.

This is a company’s worst nightmare. Infighting in front of a customer, wasting precious time and discount winning a deal that is already won, and duplicating efforts all represent a loss in both real dollars and opportunity cost.

To avoid this scenario, a company needs to have a channel operating policy that outlines the rules of engagement for direct and indirect sales, marketing, and support. You need to determine:

  • Where do you want partners to sell and offer services (industries, customer segments, geographies, etc.)?

  • Where will your direct team sell?

  • What resources (systems engineers, demos, or marketing expertise) are available to partners?

  • What is the escalation path for conflicts?

The compensation plan is a key component supporting a vendor’s rules of engagement. It should reflect the company’s GTM and be crystal clear as to when and how the direct rep and indirect rep get paid.

There is no one-size-fits all guideline here beyond ensuring that your compensation plan is consistent with your rules of engagement.

For example, we’ve seen effective policies state that if a partner fulfills a deal in the direct rep’s remit, the direct rep would get full quota and compensation credit for that deal. Conversely, if a direct rep takes a deal outside of their remit, they would not receive credit.

Friction Point #4: Finger Pointing Over Pipeline and Leads

We always hear there are never enough leads, and the sales pipeline is never big enough. But, what we don’t hear is if there’s been agreement as to which teams own pipeline responsibility.

Suppliers tell us they give all their leads to partners and partners don’t return the favor. Partners tell us the same thing; that their sales efforts are all on behalf of their vendors with no leads in return. Sales complains that marketing doesn’t build pipeline, while marketing says the sales team isn’t responsive to the leads they send over.

To avoid this finger pointing, two things need to happen:

  1. An alignment on pipeline responsibility.

  2. A process to track pipeline contribution.

We typically use a formula that allocates a third of the pipeline to sales, a third to marketing, and the final third to partners. This may work for your business, or you may need to tweak it a bit. Once you determine pipeline responsibility, it needs to be communicated clearly so each team understands their expectations.

Regular tracking of contribution rates, close rates, etc. can help you determine which campaigns are working, where you need to focus, and where you need to adjust. By referencing data and tracking results, these conversations move from assumptions and feelings into facts, becoming far more productive.

Friction Point #5: Sales vs. Marketing on Spend Priorities  

We’ve been in meetings where sales is surprised by where and how the marketing team is spending their budget, while the marketing team is surprised to learn of the sales team’s priorities. These gaps have been about the type of marketing spend (e.g., social vs. traditional events), as well as the focused priorities, whether customer segments, industries, geographies, or even products.

To avoid misalignment, it’s essential to get all relevant leaders together to agree on all aspects of spending priorities, since there is never enough budget to spread across all industries, customer segments, products, regions, or solutions.

Together, the leadership team needs to prioritize the top few industries where marketing should target. This is where they will be proactive in their marketing time, effort, and budget. Ditto with the top few solutions, customer segments (e.g., enterprise, mid-market, small), and territories which will get the lion’s share of funding and attention.

This doesn’t mean the company will never sell to a customer who doesn’t fit the defined target, but it does mean marketing will not be allocating resources outside of this defined space.

Once these priorities have been identified, discussions about the type of spend becomes more clear. Now, the marketing team can use its expertise to recommend the best channels and content to reach the target customer.

Again, once the conversation moves away from personal opinions to data on how to best reach personas, the entire conversation becomes more productive.

The Bottom Line: Anticipate Friction Points Up Front For an Effective GTM Strategy

Conflict will occur, and you can’t always know when or where. But, anticipating the friction points up front can limit the number speed bumps down the road. Gaining alignment from the leadership team, creating shared goals and metrics, documenting and sharing rules of engagement,  and over-communicating roles, guidelines, and expectations are good steps to take to ensure your GTM strategy runs as smoothly as possible.

Since it’s impossible to anticipate every issue that could occur, an escalation path is a good rule of thumb. Who can partners call with questions or concerns? Where do your direct reps go with their questions? Everyone wants to know that they will be heard.

What other friction points have you seen? How have you overcome them? Let us know in the comments.

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