Jack is
back. With a new season of
24, Kiefer Sutherland (aka Jack Bauer) is back on TV
taking out bad guys. Should you care? I think so. Here’s why: Every week, this fast-paced
drama offers us insights into the new world of enterprise – and, more
specifically, sales and marketing.
24

Stay with
me.
  

It’s my sense that the show’s
Counter-Terrorism Unit (CTU) offers an interesting portrayal of how a
front-office “command center” must actively work with its “field agents” to
achieve mission success.

In this case, marketing resembles the command center
while sales resembles field operations. Success, as I see it, will increasingly
revolve around these groups becoming increasingly focused, intelligent and collaborative.

The problem
today in B2B sales and marketing often is that disproportionate resources are
devoted to field sales operations, while marketing remains relatively
undeveloped and unsophisticated in terms of influencing what happens “on the ground.” Marketing teams may even end up devoting
themselves primarily to branding, public relations or various other marcom
roles rather than becoming an essential enabler of results in the field.

But that’s
starting to change.

As marketing organizations introduce new practices, adopt
new technologies and hire new talent, they are learning how to provide more
valuable guidance and support to field sales personnel. They can provide them
not only with qualified (or “sales-ready”) leads but vital intelligence about a
prospect that can dramatically enhance sales conversations and interactions.

In the show,
Jack Bauer relies on CTU’s command center to engage in situation analysis that
helps him make smarter moves in the field. CTU has access to intelligence
gathered from satellites, communication intercepts, street cameras, and all manner of databases.
Intelligence analysts like Chloe O’Brien provide real-time reports and recommendations to
help the field agent take down the right enemy or avoid walking into an ambush.
It’s when communications between command and the field are down that the field
agent is most blind, uncertain and vulnerable to a mistake.

It’s my view that something like this is starting to happen in B2B front offices.

Marketers are not only charged with providing better leads, they are expected
to provision the field sales team with better intelligence.

Marketing can even
use this intelligence, which might be gathered from research or insight into
the prospect’s digital behavior, to engage prospects in interactions and conversations
that guide them further down a decision cycle.

This enables sales personnel, in
turn, to focus on further client evaluation and custom solution development – an
increasingly sophisticated role given the demanding nature of today’s complex
sale. Sales, for its part, will be expected to provide more feedback to marketing that
can then be used to refine targeting, positioning and outreach.
    

That’s kind of what is
going on in the world of
24. It’s a real-time feedback and learning loop. If you watch the
show, think about the interactions between the command center (which is peopled
with super smart analysts as well as some out-of-touch bureaucrats) and the
field (where agents must act in the moment — hopefully with the support and
analysis of CTU).

These dynamics now apply to business. Indeed, it’s now time for our
front office command centers to become more active, intelligent and results-driven
while enabling our field operations to become more specialized and
skilled. We may even accelerate our move in this direction by smartly
outsourcing key aspects of these efforts.

In the coming years, expect
to see rapid evolution in the front office arena as companies recognize that
customer-facing activities now represent a powerful opportunity for redesign and reinvention. But remember: We are all up against the relentless clock.
Just ask Jack.