Usually I don't care to discuss the sales and marketing divide because, quite frankly, it's boring. It's a tired issue that many people seem to have given up on, deciding that it's just the way things are. It's like being Charlie Brown in a Peanuts cartoon--when all he hears is blah, blah, blah. However, after reading a related Forrester study and witnessing some recent changes myself, I feel compelled to say that I believe things are finally evolving in the relationship between marketing and sales. The new reality is that these two functions are starting to collaborate out of sheer necessity forced on them by the buyer.
Marketing and sales are from different planets. Those who love marketing would never sell and vice versa. I'm one of those odd people, though, who has been in both marketing and sales and enjoy both. I can see things from either side and understand very well the challenge that lies in this collaboration. Granted, much of the challenge has to do with company culture and measurement--in other words, measuring sales based on revenue goals while measuring marketing based on brand identity (can you even measure that?), content creation, and lead generation. Of course, I'm simplifying these functions, but you can see even from these initial points that sales and marketing goals are not aligned. More to the point, there is a huge gap between the lead that marketing is generating and the revenue sales is responsible for, thus the famous chasm.
An evolution is occurring, but only because the buyer is forcing it from the outside. B2B purchasers of products and services are changing their buying style--they're now going through 60 percent of their buy cycle without ever talking to the vendor (according to the Corporate Executive Board). This means that even more power is now in the hands of the buyer, and the purchasing process is no longer sales-driven. Do companies just sit around and wait until the buyer is willing to take a call? Of course not--we still need to engage the buyer throughout the buy cycle to stay top of mind. This engagement needs to be done in a manner that the buyer will accept, however. If the buyer is at the research phase of the buy cycle, sending thought leadership content (articles, whitepapers, and third-party statistics) is appropriate. Sending product material full of features and pricing information would certainly be a turnoff at this point.
What this all means is that the traditional leads that marketing has been passing to sales are now no longer effective (and yes, I hear lots of salespeople saying they never really were, but let's move forward). If these leads won't talk to the salesperson in the new buying paradigm, what good is it to pass them to sales? Moreover, how expensive is it to have salespeople each make five to seven calls to leads that will not talk to them, at least not at this time? Salespeople are a very expensive resource to be wasting on leads that aren't interested in talking. To further this thought, how expensive is it for marketing to generate and send these leads, only to have sales stop trying after a number of calls, complaining they aren't any good? How many lead generation dollars are wasted by marketing because of such leads "leaking" out of the funnel? And what happens to these leads once they are dropped by sales?
So, if the dynamics are shifting, how can marketing and sales adjust to take advantage of this new buying approach? The answer can be found in marketing automation.
A Forrester Research survey conducted to assess collaboration between the marketing and sales departments within organizations found that marketing automation and related processes drive collaboration among marketing and sales, leading to increased revenue generation. An interesting stat from the survey: Fifty-seven percent of the marketing automation adopters who responded reported strong collaboration in capturing insight from customers and prospects, compared to just 41 percent of those who were not automated. And we all know that with these new insights, sales teams have a much better chance of contacting the right person at the right time when content is relevant. In turn, this drives more opportunities for sales teams to get their times at bat with their prospects.
Granted, marketing and sales collaboration is not an overnight adjustment. But there are techniques that, when applied, can help to effectively implement the automation and processes required to drive such collaboration. At LeadLife Solutions, we have worked with customers in making this adjustment. We've implemented some of our customers in phases, allowing sales to start seeing the new sales intelligence they're receiving for each lead, something that is coming from the nurturing that marketing is doing. They soon start to understand the scoring applied to leads and, in effect, start calling the "hotter" ones. Eventually, sales teams become accepting of the new reality--that genuine "sales-ready" leads are being sent to them while marketing is holding on to the other leads that aren't yet ready to buy. Marketers also start to understand how automation helps them take responsibility for early-stage nurturing. They start understanding the power they receive from the tracking and interpreting of new digital behavior, something that gives both them and sales greater insights into the buyer.
Technology, people, and processes across marketing and sales must align to gain these benefits. It's nice to see proof of marketing automation's advantages starting to surface, along with the acknowledgment that companies of all sizes can reap the rewards.
Lisa Cramer is the cofounder and president of LeadLife Solutions (www.leadlife.com). For the past three years, she has been named among the “Top 50 Most Influential People” in sales lead management, and was named one of the “Top 20 Women to Watch” in sales lead management by the Sales Lead Management Association.