February 12, 2021
OKR Framework Utility for Sales and Marketing: An Interview with Nolan Hout,
VP (Marketing), Unlock:OKR
Today, OKRs have really become one of the popular performance management strategies. The beauty of Objectives and Key Results framework lies in the fact that they are simple yet powerful to create shared business goals and achieve measurable results. Various organizational verticals such as Sales, Operations, Marketing, and others utilize OKRs with an aim to align the workforce against the right set of objectives, understand the company’s vision, and yield the best outcomes. This drives the overall collaboration and performance, while ensuring goal achievement and operational excellence.
Infopro Learning’s Unlock:OKR is a powerful framework that perfectly aids every business vertical to effectively set goals, focus on priorities, and achieve improve outcomes. With the right Focus, Alignment, Rhythm, Execution, Clarity, and Prioritization, Unlock:OKR helps to create the right set of shared objectives and yield the best possible results to unlock business success and growth.
We recently talked to Nolan Hout, Vice President (Marketing), Unlock OKR, to seek his valuable insights on the increased adoption of OKRs as an effective goal management tool for Sales and Marketing teams.
Q: To start with, can you put the spotlight on the increasing utility of OKR framework for different verticals, specifically sales and marketing?
A: I think OKRs are really a powerful and magical tool that creates the perfect alignment between sales and marketing. For all organizations, a pressing concern is always “how we can get our sales teams to engage with marketing teams or how can improve collaboration between different sales teams within an organization?” For instance, sales employees concentrate on getting new leads and that has the biggest impact for them. But how can we ensure that the product or service they are selling is what the market truly requires? This is something where the marketing team can help them and together achieve that elusive targets. So, there comes the need for alignment between both these verticals. But creating that alignment is not so easy and this is where the role of OKRs comes into play. OKRs enable organizations to create shared set of objectives. This is the most important component of Unlock:OKR and many other tools available in the market.
Let us consider an example: A sales teams get a shared objective to open new market in the Europe region. Key results for sales could be creating $5 million opportunity value, conduct 50 demos, and so on. But for the marketing team, while they do not need to close the deals, their contribution to the end goal of achieving the targets cannot be ignored. So, they can choose the same objective and attach their key results. Marketing can generate enough demand for the target of $5 million of opportunity growth. As all marketers have different demand metrics, they can analyze how those five million opportunities need to be driven -how many qualified leads are required, conversion rate of marketing lead to get in the European market and so on. All of this can be done with the use of OKR tool. So, even if you do not create an environment where marketing and sales teams talk to each other, just the fact of creating alignment between the two can greatly impact business growth.
With alignment of key results towards that common goal makes sure that the end goal is successfully achieved.
Q: You mentioned a very important point here about alignment. Once, we get them aligned, how can sales/marketing teams prioritize their goals with OKR framework?
A: Just creating OKRs creates the prioritization. A big part of marketing’s job is to determine and choose from multiple options, what would be the best solution for their brand. This activity becomes streamlined and gets executed well using OKRs to create prioritization.
Throughout the quarter, once the goals have been set and something happens to the market, there is a tendency to pivot and change what has been planned. And that can be okay, to a certain extent. But if the changes come fast, marketers find themselves pivoting without really understanding why they did it. And so again, I think for marketers, who have really the ability to do anything, the OKR framework gives the ability to think what they are going to achieve their goals.
A lot of people may think – why would sales even need OKRs? If they do not sell, they don’t make money! But the interesting part is that collecting money is the last thing that happens in a deal. Most salespersons must contact a client 15 to 20 times before getting a deal. So, the things that precede the sale are the real measures to put in OKRs – something that helps sales leaders to evaluate what is more important.
Q: Is there any specific industry where sales and marketing teams would get most out of the OKR framework? Does the size of the organization or the kind of industry it belongs to impact how well seasoned teams can adopt OKRs in their day-to-day practice?
A: Just by the nature of the complexity of deals, I think any industry that has a larger deal size should use OKRs. So, it is not necessarily the industry that would play a role than what its sales team is selling. If you are talking about a B2B company that is selling five million dollars widget, then this is a very in-depth sales cycle and might take six months to close. In those cases, there needs to tremendous alignment and prioritization, along with the focus between the sales and marketing teams on what they’re trying to do. Because even one mistake from sales or marketing, in the six months of work that was done to try to close this deal goes out the window. And so, I see that those being definitely the important ones.
There are some industries such as eCommerce like a B2B company which is always putting out something new. OKRs can be very important here as well. By analyzing how quickly sales and marketing can turn out new campaigns, OKRs bring the alignment, prioritization, focus, and the right rhythm to drive the expected results. So, eCommerce and Software Technology, are some of the rapidly changing industries that would require a platform like OKRs to set and refresh goals every quarter or even faster. Pharmaceutical is yet another vertical that is very important. With introduction to new drugs and change in regulatory procedures, a tool like OKR helps to create alignment between sales and marketing teams to have a better clarity around what they should be doing and what not.
Q: Sales and marketing was hit the most when we talk about the year 2020. So, how does the OKR framework help organizations in driving contactless selling and marketing during these unprecedented times?
A: OKRs worked really well during these times. As I mentioned earlier, in these types of environments where there is a rapid change and everyone wants an agile organization, OKRs won’t tell you that to achieve the best results, you should focus on this objective. It is not an analysis platform. When you decide what to do in a quarter, then by rating the key results, OKRs evaluate what worked and what did not. OKRs allow you to test your hypothesis.
Let’s talk about any department that thinks of an idea, push that forward to the people who execute marketing campaigns, communicate the idea to sales team, and so on. You try to hold a conference call, a training session, or an all hands meeting with the sales team who are working from remote locations. With time, this becomes quite frustrating. With OKRs, it is easier to manage every task as everything is being tracked.
Q: Lastly, how do sales/marketing OKRs improve workforce productivity? And how does all that helps to transform your businesses and ultimately increase revenues?
A: Every organization uses different kinds of project management tools. And depending on what division you are in, there are big tools as well as small tools. I consider OKRs as an effective project management tool for business results. As long as your organization has established a rhythm, cadence, and period reviews from managers, OKRs serve as the perfect project management tool to drive outcomes. I think there’s so much value from this tool when it comes to driving productivity and results. If you assign a task to somebody and they commit to a date of delivery – there’s is a clear digital record that he or she is committing to an objective at this date. For business results, if an employee has agreed to produce five million leads from webinars, then you can assess his or her OKRs to know if that goal has been accomplished or not.
So, whether there is increase in sales leads, decrease in production time, rise in sales, every metric is measured with OKRs. That’s the true measure of performance.
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